House of CommonsShort guide to procedure and practice


(See also Debates and rules of debate.)

No places are allotted to particular Members, though by custom the two front benches are reserved for Ministers and spokesmen of the official Opposition. Seats can be reserved by obtaining a green 'prayer card' from an attendant in the Chamber (at any time between 8 a.m. and prayers) and leaving it upon a seat, indicating the Member's intention to acquire that seat by sitting there at prayers; by attending at prayers and placing the card in a slot above the seat, the seat is secured for the rest of the sitting.

Drawing of the Chamber

The two side galleries are technically part of the floor of the House, but Speakers have indicated that they would not usually call Members to speak from there. Members may not speak from below the bar of the House.

Other than when speaking or rising to catch the Speaker's eye, Members may not stand in the Chamber, except behind the Speaker's Chair and below the bar of the House. When entering or leaving, they should bow to the Chair. They should not cross between the Chair and the Member speaking.

Other rules: no eating or drinking; no smoking; no reading of newspapers; no electronic devices which make a noise; no bulky objects such as dispatch cases; men should wear jackets and ties.


Click for plan of
area around Chamber

Click for photograph of Chamber [25KB]


© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 14 February 2001