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'Super Saturday': Other times MPs have sat in the Commons on a weekend

MPs haven't sat on a Saturday since Margaret Thatcher informed them the Falklands Islands had been invaded. Credit: PA

On 'Super Saturday' - 19/10/19 - MPs sat in the House of Commons for only the fifth time since World War II.

Brexit is often described as the biggest issue facing the UK in recent years so it seems appropriate that the first Saturday sitting in 37 years was held with the aim of resolving it.

Saturday sittings are only called in times of emergency. As parliament.uk says, while these sessions are "possible, weekend sittings are very rare".

Here's a list of the other times MPs have met on a Saturday since the Second World War:

  • September 2 1939 - Outbreak of World War II
Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany on September 3 1939. Credit: PA

September 1, 2 and 3 1939 were perhaps three of the most tense days in the House of Commons in the past century.

On Friday September 1, after Britain had warned them not to, the Nazis invaded Poland.

That evening MPs met in the Commons at 6pm, with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain saying "the time has come when action rather than speech is required".

Several emergency war measures were passed that evening, before MPs returned for another sitting at 2:45 on Saturday September 2.

There were several second readings of war measures before Cabinet met at 4:30 and decided to give the Germans an ultimatum: leave Poland or war will be declared.

The next day MPs sat on a Sunday for the first time in history.

After telling the nation from Downing Street there had been no response and the country was at war with Germany, the PM headed to the Commons to give a similar address.

  • July 30 1949 - Summer adjournment debates – last sitting of the summer

On July 30 1949 MPs met on a Saturday for the last sitting of summer before the Commons was adjourned for recess.

The House was recalled weeks later in order for MPs to discuss devaluation of the pound.

As parliament.uk says, an "adjournment debate is held on the motion 'that the House (or sitting) do now adjourn'."

  • November 3 1956 - Suez Crisis
Port Said burns, as seen from a British Navy ship on November 11 1956. Credit: PA

After Egypt's president, Colonel Nassar, nationalised the important shipping route running through his country, Britain aimed to strike back at the state it once had under colonial control.

The House sat on a Saturday to discuss what measures to take.

British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden is recorded as saying in Hansard: "It may be argued that the Canal Company is an Egyptian company and that in nationalising it Colonel Nasser is only exercising his sovereign rights; that he is only doing what we have done here."

He then continued to say "Nationalisation is, indeed, a wholly inappropriate word to apply to Colonel Nasser's action," and suggested the word "seizure" would be more accurate.

The sitting followed a turbulent week in Parliament, with the Commons being suspended for thirty minutes for 'grave disorder' after opposition Labour MPs attempting to force PM Eden to answer a question on whether war had been declared against Egypt.

The following day a mass rally was held by the National Council of Labour in London's Trafalgar Square, with British troops storming Port Said at the entrance of the canal in northern Egypt in the succeeding days.

A mass rally held by the National Council of Labour in response to the government's handling of the Suez Crisis. Image taken in 1956. Credit: PA
  • April 3 1982 - Falkland Islands invasion

On Friday April 2, after days of rising tensions Argentina invaded the Falklands Islands and established control.

But commutation with officials on the Islands was difficult and Falklands officials were only able to confirm the invasion the following day.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher summoned MPs to the Commons to inform them of the news and her planned next steps.

Margaret Thatcher boarded HMS Hermes after Argentina surrendered in the Falklands War. Credit: PA

As the PM told MPs in the Commons on Saturday April 3, a situation of "grave gravity" had arose because, for the "first time for many years, British sovereign territory has been invaded by a foreign power".

The next Monday a British naval task force engaged the Argentine army and a 10-week undeclared war followed.

The Argentines surrendered on June 14 1982.