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Debates and voting

Where to find guidance on taking part in proceedings during the current pandemic

On 4 June 2020, the House agreed a motion to enable certain Members to take part virtually in proceedings on Questions, Urgent Questions and Statements (“scrutiny proceedings”) during the current pandemic. These temporary arrangements came into force on 8 June and are due to remain in force until 7 July. Guidance on these temporary (partial virtual participation) arrangements can be found in the following places:

Pass reader division system

On 16 June 2020, the Speaker announced that the House would be introducing a pass-reader system for registering MPs’ votes in the division lobbies.

The section of this Guide on proxy voting has been updated to reflect changes to the way voting works in the House of Commons, including changes resulting from the current pandemic. Otherwise, all the guidance on this site relates to normal proceedings in the House of Commons.

Debates and voting

You can speak in debates in the Chamber and Westminster Hall. You should be aware of the Rules of behaviour and courtesies in the House, issued by the Speaker, before you do so.

The House reaches its decisions or highlights its opinions by debating motions. MPs argue for or against a specific motion and then reach a decision, with or without the need for a vote. Motions are listed on the Order Paper, along with the names of the MPs who support them.

A general motion is neutrally worded. It usually begins, “That this House has considered”. It lets the House discuss an issue without giving an opinion or taking action on it. You can’t amend this kind of motion.

A substantive motion calls on the House to take action or express an opinion. You can amend a substantive motion.

Although most motions that are debated are tabled by the Government, there are opportunities for backbenchers to hold debates too:

The main Opposition parties get a chance to hold debates on their motions on Opposition days.

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