65. In paragraph 45 above, reference is made to the power of the convener to suspend a meeting if a disturbance interferes with the conduct of business.
66. Conveners may also suspend meetings:
- in the event of an emergency
- where electronic equipment in the committee room breaks down (in the committee context this refers to the broadcasting/recording system)
- for a meal or other break
- if the agenda contains timings, where an item concludes before the time set for the start of the next item.
67. Conveners can find it useful to suspend meetings for short periods as witnesses or groups of witnesses leave and join the committee table. If there is going to be any significant break, suspension ensures that the microphones are not left open during this period. If the meeting is not suspended, the microphones are left open and comments and observations made by members will be broadcast. This includes comments made by conveners.
68. It is also for the convener to close the meeting. This will normally occur when the business specified on the agenda is concluded, but the convener has the power to close the meeting when he or she considers it appropriate. Committees will, however, normally try to conclude all the business specified on the agenda, particularly when this involves hearing witnesses who may have travelled some distance to attend the committee meetings. It is also important to bear in mind that members of the public gallery may have attended the meeting specifically to hear one item of business.
69. When suspending/closing/reconvening a meeting the convener must state this clearly. It is the statement by the convener that the meeting is being suspended/closing/restarting which will alert broadcasting staff to switch the system on or off for the purposes of the microphones and the Official Report. If it is not clear then there is a danger that the microphones will be left open and broadcasting will continue. Alternatively, if it is not clear that a meeting has recommenced, there will be difficulties in producing an Official Report of that section of the meeting.