It sounds like there are many people who are upset about the Conservative government’s decision to prorogue parliament until after the Winter Olympics are over. Looking at the comments, it seems many people are making the argument, “It’s not so much that they are proroguing that’s the problem as to the length. Proroguing is almost always for a period of one day, and sometimes only an hour. Do some research, and you’ll see.”

So, I looked for the information. It’s not all that easy to find, but with a bit of work, I worked out all the values from the Wikipedia session information and came up with the following list:

Parliament Session Session
Start Date
Session
End Date
Session
Length
Prorogation
1 1st 1867-11-06 1868-05-22 198 328
1 2nd 1869-04-15 1869-06-22 68 238
1 3rd 1870-02-15 1870-05-12 86 279
1 4th 1871-02-15 1871-04-14 58 363
1 5th 1872-04-11 1872-06-14 64
2 1st 1873-03-05 1873-08-13 161 71
2 2nd 1873-10-23 1873-11-07 15
3 1st 1874-03-26 1874-05-26 61 254
3 2nd 1875-02-04 1875-04-08 63 308
3 3rd 1876-02-10 1876-04-12 62 302
3 4th 1877-02-08 1877-04-28 79 285
3 5th 1878-02-07 1878-05-10 92
4 1st 1879-02-13 1879-05-15 91 273
4 2nd 1880-02-12 1880-05-07 85 216
4 3rd 1880-12-09 1881-03-21 102 325
4 4th 1882-02-09 1882-05-17 97
5 1st 1883-02-08 1883-05-27 108 235
5 2nd 1884-01-17 1884-04-19 93 285
5 3rd 1885-01-29 1885-07-20 172 220
5 4th 1886-02-25 1886-06-02 97
6 1st 1887-04-13 1887-06-23 71 245
6 2nd 1888-02-23 1888-05-22 89 254
6 3rd 1889-01-31 1889-05-02 91 259
6 4th 1890-01-16 1890-05-16 120
7 1st 1891-04-29 1891-09-30 154 148
7 2nd 1892-02-25 1892-07-09 135 201
7 3rd 1893-01-26 1893-04-01 65 348
7 4th 1894-03-15 1894-07-23 130 269
7 5th 1895-04-18 1895-07-22 95 164
7 6th 1896-01-02 1896-04-23 112
8 1st 1896-08-19 1896-10-05 47 171
8 2nd 1897-03-25 1897-06-29 96 219
8 3rd 1898-02-03 1898-06-13 130 276
8 4th 1899-03-16 1899-08-11 148 174
8 5th 1900-02-01 1900-07-18 167
9 1st 1901-02-06 1901-05-23 106 266
9 2nd 1902-02-13 1902-05-15 91 301
9 3rd 1903-03-12 1903-10-24 226 138
9 4th 1904-03-10 1904-08-10 153
10 1st 1905-01-11 1905-07-20 190 231
10 2nd 1906-03-08 1906-07-13 127 132
10 3rd 1906-11-22 1907-04-27 156 215
10 4th 1907-11-28 1908-07-20 235
11 1st 1909-01-20 1909-05-19 119 176
11 2nd 1909-11-11 1910-05-04 174 197
11 3rd 1910-11-17 1911-07-29 254
12 1st 1911-11-15 1912-04-01 138 234
12 2nd 1912-11-21 1913-06-06 197 223
12 3rd 1914-01-15 1914-06-12 148 67
12 4th 1914-08-18 1914-08-22 4 166
12 5th 1915-02-04 1915-04-15 70 272
12 6th 1916-01-12 1916-05-18 127 245
12 7th 1917-01-18 1917-09-20 245
13 1st 1918-03-18 1918-05-24 67 272
13 2nd 1919-02-20 1919-07-07 137 56
13 3rd 1919-09-01 1919-11-10 70 108
13 4th 1920-02-26 1920-07-01 126 228
13 5th 1921-02-14 1921-06-04 110
14 1st 1922-03-08 1922-06-28 112 217
14 2nd 1923-01-31 1923-06-30 150 243
14 3rd 1924-02-28 1924-07-19 142 201
14 4th 1925-02-05 1925-06-27 142
15 1st 1926-01-07 1926-07-02 176
16 1st 1926-12-09 1927-04-14 126 287
16 2nd 1928-01-26 1928-06-11 137 241
16 3rd 1929-02-07 1929-06-14 127 251
16 4th 1930-02-20 1930-05-30 99
17 1st 1930-09-08 1930-09-22 14 171
17 2nd 1931-03-12 1931-08-03 144 185
17 3rd 1932-02-04 1932-05-26 112 133
17 4th 1932-10-06 1933-05-27 233 243
17 5th 1934-01-25 1934-07-03 159 198
17 6th 1935-01-17 1935-07-05 169
18 1st 1936-02-06 1936-06-23 138 205
18 2nd 1937-01-14 1937-04-10 86 292
18 3rd 1938-01-27 1938-07-01 155 195
18 4th 1939-01-12 1939-06-03 142 96
18 5th 1939-09-07 1939-09-13 6 134
18 6th 1940-01-25 1940-01-25 0
19 1st 1940-05-16 1940-11-05 173 2
19 2nd 1940-11-07 1942-01-21 440 1
19 3rd 1942-01-22 1943-01-27 370 1
19 4th 1943-01-28 1944-01-26 363 1
19 5th 1944-01-27 1945-01-31 370 47
19 6th 1945-03-19 1945-04-16 28
20 1st 1945-09-06 1945-12-18 103 86
20 2nd 1946-03-14 1946-08-31 170 152
20 3rd 1947-01-30 1947-07-17 168 141
20 4th 1947-12-05 1948-06-30 208 213
20 5th 1949-01-29 1949-04-30 91
21 1st 1949-09-15 1949-12-10 86 68
21 2nd 1950-02-16 1950-06-30 134 60
21 3rd 1950-08-29 1951-01-29 153 1
21 4th 1951-01-30 1951-10-09 252 0
21 5th 1951-10-09 1951-12-29 81 61
21 6th 1952-02-28 1952-11-20 266 0
21 7th 1952-11-20 1953-05-14 175
22 1st 1953-11-12 1954-11-20 373 48
22 2nd 1955-01-07 1955-07-28 202 166
22 3rd 1956-01-10 1956-08-14 217 104
22 4th 1956-11-26 1957-01-08 43 0
22 5th 1957-01-08 1957-04-12 94
23 1st 1957-10-14 1958-02-01 110
24 1st 1958-05-12 1958-09-06 117 131
24 2nd 1959-01-15 1959-07-18 184 180
24 3rd 1960-01-14 1960-08-10 209 99
24 4th 1960-11-17 1961-09-29 316 111
24 5th 1962-01-18 1962-04-19 91
25 1st 1962-09-27 1963-02-06 132
26 1st 1963-05-16 1963-12-21 219 59
26 2nd 1964-02-18 1965-04-03 410 2
26 3rd 1965-04-05 1965-09-08 156
27 1st 1966-01-18 1967-05-08 475 0
27 2nd 1967-05-08 1968-04-23 351
28 1st 1968-09-12 1969-10-22 405 1
28 2nd 1969-10-23 1970-10-07 349 1
28 3rd 1970-10-08 1972-02-16 496 1
28 4th 1972-02-17 1972-09-01 197
29 1st 1973-01-04 1974-02-26 418 1
29 2nd 1974-02-27 1974-05-09 71
30 1st 1974-09-30 1976-10-12 743 0
30 2nd 1976-10-12 1977-10-17 370 1
30 3rd 1977-10-18 1978-10-10 357 1
30 4th 1978-10-11 1979-03-26 166
31 1st 1979-10-09 1979-12-14 66
32 1st 1980-04-14 1983-11-30 1325 7
32 2nd 1983-12-07 1984-07-09 215
33 1st 1984-11-05 1986-08-28 661 33
33 2nd 1986-09-30 1988-10-01 732
34 1st 1988-12-12 1989-02-28 78 34
34 2nd 1989-04-03 1991-05-12 769 1
34 3rd 1991-05-13 1993-09-08 849
35 1st 1994-01-17 1996-02-02 746 25
35 2nd 1996-02-27 1997-04-27 425
36 1st 1997-09-22 1999-09-18 726 24
36 2nd 1999-10-12 2000-10-22 376
37 1st 2001-01-29 2002-09-16 595 14
37 2nd 2002-09-30 2003-11-12 408 82
37 3rd 2004-02-02 2004-05-23 111
38 1st 2004-10-04 2005-11-29 421
39 1st 2006-04-03 2007-09-14 529 32
39 2nd 2007-10-16 2008-09-07 327
40 1st 2008-11-18 2008-12-04 16 53
40 2nd 2009-01-26 2009-12-30 338 63
40 3rd 2010-03-03

 
If my numbers are off somehow, I’d love to have someone direct me to better numbers (good numbers seem difficult to find).

It’s an interesting pattern. It starts out with short session lengths and long prorogation periods between, then in the mid 1960’s it closes in to one day or less until the 1980’s when the average becomes about one month of length. After the 1970’s are over, the longest period is 82 days (while the Liberal Party was in power). The number of sessions has generally declined to two or three sessions before an election.

So in terms of length, is the current prorogation of parliament unusual? Not terribly – although the percentage of prorogation to active session length is relatively high – but this is attributable to the first prorogation (which was unusual, doubtless) and to the fact that we are currently in the middle of it, so it hasn’t been evened out by the size of the third session yet.

Lots of posturing, to be sure – but that’s politics…

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