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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Find guidance on temporary procedures during the pandemic including voting, questions and statements. Members can find detailed guidance on participating virtually and voting on the Parliamentary intranet (please note: this link will only work if you have a parliamentary email account.)

Speaking in a debate

If you want to speak in a debate, let the Speaker’s Office know in advance and stand in your place every time a speech ends. There’s no published speaking list. There may be time limits on backbench speeches.

At the start of a debate, the Speaker calls an MP whose name is on the motion (a minister for a Government motion) to move it. The MP does this by saying “I beg to move”, and then reading out the motion or saying “the motion in my name on the Order Paper”. It’s possible to move the motion formally, without a speech.

Once the first speech is over, or if the motion has been moved formally, the Speaker ‘proposes the question’ to the House by saying “The question is as on the Order Paper”. This opens the debate. In the case of a Government motion, the Speaker will usually call a frontbencher from the official Opposition, a backbencher from the Government side, and a frontbencher from the third largest party to make speeches next. The Speaker will then seek to call MPs from each side of the House in turn.

Most debates end with speeches from the official Opposition and a minister. These are sometimes known as the winding-up speeches.

When everyone who wants to speak has done so, the Speaker then ‘puts the question’. This means asking the House to decide—through a vote if necessary—on the motion.

If the time set aside for the debate runs out while an MP is still speaking, the debate may end without the House taking a decision on the motion.

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