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Part II. Parliamentary Procedure


Parliamentary procedure, which includes forms and methods of proceeding, rules of procedure, and recognized parliamentary conventions, is not covered by any comprehensive and authorative code.

Both Houses have their own standing and sessional orders, but these are supplementary to the unwritten rules of practice which have developed in the course of transaction of business in each House. Some of the old-established rules of practice were laid down in the 16-th century; modern practice in the House of Commons often derives from rulings given by the Speaker.

The process of debate is much the same in the two Houses: the subject of every debate originates in the form of a motion (a proposal) made by a member in order to elicit a decision from the House. When a motion has been moved and seconded, the Speaker proposes the question (in the same terms as the motion) as the subject of debate. At the end of each debate in both Houses of Parliament the question is decided by a vote, a simple majority being required to affirm or negate a question.

In the House of Lords the office of Speaker carries with it no authority to check or curtail debate. Members of the House of Lords do not address themselves to the Speaker during debate, but to their fellow members in the House. The Speaker of the House of Commons presides over the House. In debate all speeches are addressed to him, and he calls upon members to speak.

Voting in the House of Commons is carried under the direction of the Speaker, whose duty is to pronounce the final result. In the event of a tied vote, the Speaker must give the casting vote. A vote is taken by means of a division, that is to say, the separation into two lobbies of the members who wish to vote for or against a question. Members voting ‘Aye’ go out of the chamber in to the lobby on the right of the Speaker, those voting ‘No’ pass into the lobby on the left. Votes are recordered by four clerks, and four tellers. The voting procedure in the House of Lords is similar to that in the Commons except that the Speaker or chairman has an original, but not casting vote.

In the House of Commons a quorum is not required for the transaction of business. If, however, fewer than 40 MPs take part in a division, the business under consideration is held over until the next sitting of the House and the next item of business is taken.

A quorum in the House of Lords is three, but if, on questions relating to Bills and delegated legislation, fewer than 30 Lords have voted, the Speaker or chairman declares the question not decided and the debate stands adjourned to a subsequent sitting.

All proceedings of both Houses of Parliament are public, except on extremely rare occasions. The minutes and the speeches are published daily.



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