Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords

Contents




 

CHAPTER 7

DIVISIONS


General principles

7

7.01  At the end of a debate on a motion or amendment which has not been withdrawn, the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair puts the Question to the House ("The Question is ...") and then says:

    "As many as are of that opinion will say "Content". The contrary "Not-content"."

If there is a response from only one side, the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair then says:

    "The Contents [Not-contents] have it."

The Question is agreed to or disagreed to accordingly.

7.02  If there is a response from both sides, but one side appears more numerous than the other, the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair says:

    "I think the Contents [Not-contents] have it."

If this expression of opinion is not challenged, the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair says:

    "The Contents [Not-contents] have it."

The Question is then decided accordingly. A motion or amendment that is decided in the negative without a division taking place is described as having been "negatived".

7.03  If this expression of opinion is challenged, the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair may repeat it until the challenge is abandoned or until satisfied that a division is inevitable.[1] This process is known as "collecting the voices". If the challenge is maintained, even by only one member, a division must be called.[2] The Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair says:

    "Clear the Bar."

7.04  The area immediately behind the Bar of the House and the division lobbies are then cleared of visitors. The galleries, the space within the rails around the Throne, the Clerks' box, the officials' box, and the seats below Bar are not cleared, unless the House so orders. The doors at the ends of the division lobbies are locked.

7.05  During the three minutes after the order has been given for the Bar to be cleared, two Tellers are appointed by the members wishing to vote "Content" and two by those wishing to vote "Not-content". The Tellers give their names in at the Table where they receive their Tellers' wands and they state to the Clerk whether they are appointed by the Contents or the Not-contents.[3]

7.06  One Teller from each side and two Clerks go to each lobby to record the numbers and names of those voting. Once two tellers and two clerks are in place in a lobby, the tellers have discretion to start counting members through that lobby, and the doors at the exit from the lobby are unlocked. At the end of three minutes, the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair again puts the Question, and if the doors at the exit from one or both lobbies have yet to be unlocked, they are unlocked at this point.

7.07  If only one side replies when the Question is repeated after three minutes, the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair says:

    "The Contents [Not-contents] have it."

and no division takes place.

7.08  If one or more voices from each side shouts "Content" and "Not-content", the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair proceeds with the division by saying:

    "The Contents will go to the right by the Throne. The Not-contents to the left by the Bar."

7.09  The members wishing to vote "Content" then go through the door to the right of the Throne through the lobby on the spiritual side, and re-enter the House through the door beyond the Bar of the House. The members wishing to vote "Not-content" go through the door beyond the Bar on the temporal side and re-enter the House through the door to the left of the Throne. Members voting divide into two streams in each lobby.[4] They must give their names to the Clerks. Members do not bow to the Tellers.[5]

7.10  A member may, usually on the ground of disability, vote in the Chamber.[6] Such votes, and those of the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair, are taken in the Chamber by the Clerk.

7.11  A member may vote in a division even if not in the House to hear the Question put.[7]

7.12  At the end of eight minutes from the time when the Bar is ordered to be cleared, or longer at the discretion of the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair,[8] the House or committee is again informed of the Question which is the subject of the division. The doors of the Chamber are locked; and from that moment only members who are already in the Chamber or the lobbies may vote.[9] When the Tellers are satisfied that all members who wish to vote in their respective lobbies have done so, they return to the Table. They tell the Clerk how many votes they have recorded. The Clerk adds the vote of the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair, and any member voting in the Chamber, and hands the result to one of the Tellers for the winning side. That Teller gives it to the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair who reads it to the House or committee in this form:

    "There have voted:

    Content: —

    Not-content:—

    And so the Contents [Not-contents] have it."

7.13  The three other Tellers remain at the Table until the numbers have been announced, at which point all four hand back their wands.

7.14  For details of the procedures to be followed by Tellers, see appendix A.

7.15  Division lists showing how members voted are published online. They are included in Hansard and in the Journals.[10]

Voting in wrong lobby

7.16  Any member who by mistake votes in the wrong lobby must wait until the others in that lobby have voted, and then ask the Tellers not to count his or her vote. The Tellers then accompany the member concerned to the Table, and tell the Clerk what has happened. They then ask the member which way he or she wishes to vote. That vote is taken by the Clerk in the House, and recorded accordingly.[11]

Voting in both lobbies

7.17  If any member votes in both lobbies in one division, his or her name is struck off the list of those voting in that division, and the vote is disregarded.

Votes of the Lord Speaker, Senior Deputy Speaker and Chairman

7.18  The Lord Speaker and Senior Deputy Speaker are expected not to vote.[12] The Deputy Speaker, or Deputy Chairman, may vote, but does not have a casting vote.

Discrepancies

7.19  If the Tellers' figures, as announced in the House, do not tally with the totals recorded by the Clerks, the following action is taken:[13]

(a)  the responsibility for counting the votes rests with the Tellers, and once their figures have been announced to the House, these figures are authoritative, unless and until corrected by a further announcement in the House;

(b)  if a discrepancy is discovered between the Tellers' figures and the lists of the division Clerks, this should be reported as soon as possible to the Tellers with a view to reconciling the discrepancy;

(c)  if the Tellers agree that a correction is needed, this correction should be announced to the House at the earliest convenient moment from the Woolsack or the Chair;

(d)  if the correction involves the reversal of a decision of the House and the House has taken further action on the basis of the mistaken announcement, any proceedings taken on the basis of that announcement should be voided;

(e)  if after consultation with the Tellers no reconciliation is possible and the discrepancy remains unexplained, a note is added to the division list in the Official Report and in the Journals, drawing attention to the discrepancy between the numbers announced and the names recorded.

Insufficiency of Tellers

7.20  If after three minutes from the time when the Bar is ordered to be cleared, one side has appointed Tellers, but no Teller, or only one Teller, has been appointed by the other side, a division cannot take place;[14] and the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair declares the Question decided in favour of the side which has appointed two Tellers, using the following words:

    "My Lords, Tellers for the Contents [Not-contents] have not been appointed pursuant to Standing Order No. 53. A division, therefore, cannot take place, and I declare that the Not-contents [Contents] have it."[15]

7.21  If both sides fail to appoint Tellers, a division cannot take place and the Question is decided in accordance with SO 56 (see below). The Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair informs the House:

    "My Lords, Tellers have not been appointed either for the Contents or for the Not-contents pursuant to Standing Order No. 53. A division, therefore, cannot take place, and in accordance with Standing Order No. 56 [... adding the appropriate formula which will be supplied by the Clerk at the Table]."

Equality of votes

7.22  If the Contents and Not-contents are equal in number[16] or if both sides fail to appoint tellers, the Question is decided on the principle contained in SO 56 that legislation is allowed to proceed in the form which is before the House unless there is a majority in favour of rejecting or amending it; and that other motions are rejected unless there is a majority in their favour.[17] If there is an equality of votes on a division, the Clerk delivers the result to the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair, who reads out the numbers of those voting in the normal way and announces the result as follows:

(a)  on a motion for a stage of a bill, or on an amendment to such a motion:

    "There being an equality of votes, in accordance with Standing Order No. 56, which provides that no proposal to reject a bill shall be agreed to unless there is a majority in favour of such rejection, I declare the motion agreed to [the amendment disagreed to]."

(b)  on an amendment to a bill:

    "There being an equality of votes, in accordance with Standing Order No. 56, which provides that no proposal to amend a bill in the form in which it is before the House shall be agreed to unless there is a majority in favour of such an amendment, I declare the amendment disagreed to."

(c)  on an amendment to an amendment:

    "There being an equality of votes, in accordance with Standing Order No. 56, which provides that the Question before the House shall be resolved in the negative unless there is a majority in its favour, I declare the amendment to the amendment disagreed to."

(d)  on the Question in committee of the whole House that "a clause stand part" of a bill or that "this be a Schedule" to a bill, since the effect of resolving this Question in the negative would be to amend the bill:

    "There being an equality of votes, in accordance with Standing Order No. 56, which provides that no proposal to amend a bill in the form in which it is before the House shall be agreed to unless there is a majority in favour of such amendment, I declare the Question resolved in the affirmative."

(e)  on consideration of a Commons amendment, since the form of the bill before the House is taken to be the bill as amended by the Commons:

    "There being an equality of votes, in accordance with Standing Order No. 56, which provides that no proposal to amend a bill in the form in which it is before the House shall be agreed to unless there is a majority in favour of such amendment, I declare the Commons amendment agreed to."

(f)  on a motion to insist, or not to insist, on an amendment to which the Commons have disagreed, since the form of the bill before the House is taken to be the bill as amended by the Commons:

    "There being an equality of votes, in accordance with Standing Order No. 56, which provides that no proposal to amend a bill in the form in which it is before the House shall be agreed to unless there is a majority in favour of such amendment, I declare the amendment not insisted on."

(g)  on a motion to approve an affirmative instrument:

    "There being an equality of votes, in accordance with Standing Order No. 56, which provides that no proposal to reject subordinate legislation shall be agreed to unless there is a majority in favour of such rejection, I declare the motion agreed to."

(h)  on a prayer to annul a statutory instrument, a resolution to annul a special procedure order, or an amendment to a motion to approve an affirmative instrument, the effect of which would be to reject the instrument:

    "There being an equality of votes, in accordance with Standing Order No. 56, which provides that no proposal to reject subordinate legislation shall be agreed to unless there is a majority in favour of such rejection, I declare the motion/amendment disagreed to."

(i)  on any other motion or amendment:

    "There being an equality of votes, in accordance with Standing Order No. 56, which provides that the Question before the House shall be resolved in the negative unless there is a majority in its favour, I declare the motion/amendment disagreed to."

Quorum on divisions

General and procedural questions

7.23  There is no quorum for divisions on general or procedural questions.[18]

Bills and subordinate legislation

7.24  The quorum is 30 for divisions on bills and subordinate legislation, including procedural motions during such business such as adjourning a debate or resuming the House. There is no quorum for incidental motions such as "that the noble Lord be no longer heard".

7.25  If fewer than 30 members vote in a division on a bill or amendment or on any Question for the approval or disapproval of subordinate legislation, the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair declares the Question not decided, as follows:[19]

(a)  on a stage of a bill, on an amendment to a motion relating to such a stage, or on a motion to approve or annul subordinate legislation:

    "As it appears that fewer than thirty members have voted, in accordance with Standing Order No. 57, I declare the Question not decided and the debate thereon stands adjourned."

    The debate on the undecided Question is adjourned to a subsequent sitting. The House proceeds to the next business on the order paper. Members who have spoken are permitted to speak again on any subsequent proceedings.[20]

(b)  in Committee of the whole House:

    "As it appears that fewer than thirty members have voted, in accordance with Standing Order No. 57, I declare the Question not decided; and, pursuant to the Standing Order, the House will now resume."

    The debate on the undecided Question is adjourned to a subsequent sitting and the House is resumed. The next business on the order paper is taken. On any subsequent proceedings in committee on the bill, the committee proceeds with the consideration of the Question on which no decision was taken because of the absence of a quorum. Members who have spoken are permitted to speak again on any subsequent proceedings.

(c)  on the consideration of an amendment to a bill at any stage other than Committee of the whole House:

    "As it appears that fewer than thirty members have voted, in accordance with Standing Order No. 57, I declare the Question not decided and the further proceedings on the bill stand adjourned."

    The debate on the amendment and the remaining proceedings on the stage of the bill in question are adjourned to a subsequent sitting. The House proceeds to the next business on the order paper. Members who have spoken are permitted to speak again on any subsequent proceedings.

 

 

 




[1] Procedure 2nd Rpt 1981-82.

[2] SO 53.

[3] The procedure to be followed if the correct number of Tellers is not appointed is set out at paragraphs 7.21-7.22.

[4] Procedure 3rd Rpt 1992-93.

[5] Procedure 1st Rpt 1969-70.

[6] SO 54.

[7] In 2011 the House resolved, in respect of proceedings in the Grand Committee on the Welfare Reform Bill taking place in Committee Room 4A, that members with restricted mobility who (a) had given advance notification to the Clerk of the Parliaments, and (b) were present in the Grand Committee by the time the question was repeated three minutes after a division in the House being called, should be entitled to vote in their places in the Grand Committee. See LJ (2010-12) 1480. A similar procedure was agreed for members with restricted mobility on the Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee for divisions which took place during committee meetings: Minutes of Proceedings, 8 July 2015.

[8] Procedure 2nd Rpt 1992-93.

[9] Members who are already queuing to enter the Chamber when the Question is repeated after eight minutes are allowed to enter the Chamber before the doors are locked.

[10] SO 58.

[11] SO 55.

[12] Procedure 4th Rpt 2005-06.

[13] Procedure 1st Rpt 1966-67.

[14] SO 53(2).

[15] Procedure 2nd Rpt 1968-69.

[16] Procedure 1st Rpt 1962-63.

[17] SO 56 superseded the ancient rule, "Semper praesumitur pro negante".

[18] Procedure 1st Rpt 1958-59.

[19] SO 57.

[20] Procedure 1st Rpt 1963-64.

 
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