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Debates and early day motions


Debates can occur in the House of Commons and the House of Lords and typically take the same format. An MP or Member of the House of Lords puts forward a proposal for a debate, also known as moving a motion. The chair of the House will put the motion as a question to the House, which will then be debated. To end a debate, the chair puts forward the question again. Those who agree say ‘Aye,’ those who disagree say ‘No.’ If all members of the house say either ‘Aye’ or ‘No,’ a decision has been made without a vote. No clear result means a division is called, in which the members of the House physically divide into two separate areas in order to see a definitive result. However, post-coronavirus pandemic, electronic systems have come into place. 

Different types of debates

Westminster Hall debates allow MPs to raise local or national issues and receive an immediate response from a government minister. Motions are expressed as considering a matter, rather than a specific question that requires a vote. This means divisions cannot take place. E-petitions that are put forward for debate by the petitions committee take place in Westminster Hall. MPs can also apply for a Westminster Hall debate to take place, and Select Committee reports can be chosen to be debated 

Emergency debates occur in the House of Commons and are called at short notice on issues that require urgent consideration. An MP applies to the speaker of the House during sitting time. The speaker will decide whether to submit the application to the House. If the application is submitted, the House will agree on whether the debate takes place or not, and will often take place in the next sitting day. Similar to Westminster Hall debates, the motion will be expressed as considering a matter, rather than a question.  

Adjournment debates enable debates in the House of Commons to take place without a question in place. These debates take place at the end of each day and allow individual backbench MPs to raise an issue and receive an immediate response from a government minister. These debates can be on any issue and are applied for to, and chosen by, the Speaker through their office. In the House of Lords, a similar action can happen called ‘Questions for Short Debate.’ This allows a member of the House of Lords to ask a question at the end of business for the day, resulting in a short debate followed by a government reply. 

Early Day Motions

An Early Day Motion is a motion that has been submitted by an MP for debate with no fixed date. They are used to bring attention to a particular issue and allow other MPs to show their support for the issue by adding their signature to the motion. Because Early Day Motions do not have a fixed date, they are rarely debated. They are, however, useful to see which MPs support certain issues. 

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