Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Standing Order Definition:

The rules of procedure of deliberative assemblies in the English parliamentary tradition.

In their excellent treatise which the Government of Canada has put online, entitled, simply, Parliamentary Procedure, the authors propose:

"The permanent written rules under which the House regulates its proceedings are known as the Standing Orders.

"The continuing or “standing” nature of rules means that they do not lapse at the end of a session or parliament. Rather, they remain in effect until the House itself decides to suspend, change or repeal them. There are at present more than 150 Standing Orders, each of which constitutes a continuing order of the House for the governance and regulation of its proceedings. The detailed description of the legislative process, the role of the Speaker, the nature of the parliamentary calendar and the rules governing the work of committees and private Members’ business are some of the topics covered in the Standing Orders. The House declares these continuing orders to be Standing Orders when it formally adopts them, and it periodically issues them as a publication for the guidance and use of all Members.

standing orders"When the House of Commons first met in 1867, the rules it adopted were largely those of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, itself created in 1840. While it can be said that the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada obtained its rules from the assemblies of Upper and Lower Canada, created in 1791, the vast majority of these came from the House of Assembly of Lower Canada. Of the many rules the Assembly of Lower Canada adopted in the first years of its existence, particularly in 1793, more than 35 have survived virtually unchanged and are still in effect today in the House of Commons. A further 40 also pre-date Confederation.

"Since 1867, there have been countless reviews of the Standing Orders. New Standing Orders have been adopted, while others have been significantly modified or deleted, leading on occasion to substantial renumbering."

In England which, like Canada, has an upper house (called the House of Lords) and a lower house (the House of Commons), another description was offered by the famous parliamentary law experts and one time clerks of the English House of Commons, Thomas Erkskine and T. Lansdale Webster in the 13th edition of their bible on parliamentary procedure used on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean entitled A treatise on the law, privileges, proceedings and usage of Parliament where, at page 149:

Both houses have agreed, at various times, to the standing orders for the permanent guidance in order of their proceedings; which if not vacated or repealed, endure into her one Parliament to another."

"It is not uncommon for members of parliament when given the floor by the speaker to commence his or her remarks with reference to standing order under which he or she is proceeding.

In many regards, standing orders are to Parliament what the rules of court are to a court of law.


  • Marleau, Robert and Montpetit, Camille, House of Commons Procedure and Practice( Canada 2000).
  • May. Erskine, A Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, 13th Ed. (London: Butterworth & Co., 1924).



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