House of CommonsShort guide to procedure and practice


When the Speaker puts a question, Members shout Aye or No, and the Speaker says 'I think the Ayes [or Noes] have it'. If this is challenged by further shouts of No [or Aye], the Speaker calls a division, saying 'Clear the lobbies'. Division bells ring, and the exit doors from the lobbies are locked. Tellers are appointed by each side to count the votes (one from each side for each lobby).

Two minutes after first putting the question, the Speaker puts the question again. If the Speaker's statement of the result is not challenged, the division is called off. Otherwise the Speaker announces the names of the tellers. Once they are in place, the exit doors from the lobbies are opened and Members begin to pass out of the lobbies. Three Clerks in each lobby record the names of those voting (doing names from A to F, G to M and N to Z); Members should give their name to the Clerk even if they believe the Clerk knows who they are. The tellers count aloud as Members leave the lobbies. Eight minutes after the question was first put, the Speaker orders that the entrances to the lobbies be locked.

A Member who votes in the wrong lobby by accident cannot undo that vote, but can cancel its effect by crossing to the other lobby and voting on the other side. There is no way of recording abstentions.

The lists in Hansard of those voting constitute the official record. Any corrections should be given to the Public Bill Office.

Deferred divisions

For certain types of business, after 10 p.m. (or 7 p.m. on a Thursday), any division is deferred until the following Wednesday at 3.30 p.m. In such cases, the questions to be decided by deferred divisions are listed on a ballot paper in the Vote Bundle, and Members may vote in the No Lobby at any time from 3.30 to 5 p.m. (with extra time if such voting is interrupted by ordinary divisions). The result is then announced in the House. Members may not normally hand in a ballot paper for another Member.

Many types of business are not covered by these arrangements, including proceedings on bills, and a Minister may move that the arrangements shall not apply to specified motions. The types of motions on which deferred divisions are most likely are those relating to statutory instruments and EU documents, whether debated on the floor of the House or dealt with without debate.

Contact: Public Bill Office, 3253.

Further information: Factsheet No. 45, 'Divisions'; on deferred divisions, sessional order of 20 November 2000 (printed in the volume containing the standing orders).


© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 14 February 2001