Chairing a debate on a motion

Someone asked how to chair a motion debate in the Labour movement. Here is how I do it. …

  1. Announce the speech time limits, which may differ between movers and other speeches but may not be longer than 5 minutes.
  2. If an emergency motion, Chair rules if an emergency or not, if an emergency, it needs to be confirmed by simple majority, otherwise it may be subject to challenge requiring ⅔ those present to support the challenge.
  3. Ask the mover to move, when done ask for a seconder who may speak, move formally or reserve their rights to speak. If not seconded, the motion falls.
  4. Ask for amendments, if none ask for speeches against; if none move to the vote, mover gets no summing up rights. (P = 0.01%)
  5. An amendment must be in writing and must not be of such a nature that voting against the motion has the same effect.
  6. If an amendment is moved
    1. Ask for a seconder to speak, if none the amendment falls
    2. Ask for speeches against
    3. Ask for further speeches balancing the numbers in favour and against
    4. The chair determines the time to be spent on an amendment and moves to the vote when ready. Opinion be divided as to whether amendments get summing up rights. A proposal to move to the vote may be made from the floor, in some places, these may not be moved by people who have already spoken, but Labour’s rules are silent, as I believe is Citrine.
  7. Amendments are dealt with one at a time.
  8. When all amendments have been moved and voted on, the resulting motion is known as the substantive motion.
  9. Ask for a speech against and then in favour, and more if necessary.
  10. Procedural motions can be moved to move to the vote on an amendment, or on the substantive motion, these require a simple majority. In some places, these may not be moved by people who have already spoken, but Labour’s rules are silent, as I believe is Citrine.
  11. The original motion mover gets summing up rights and then move to the vote. The chair gets a casting vote only, and motions have to get more votes than oppose. i.e a draw means the motion is not carried. Only points of order may be moved after the summing up has been started i.e. no further speeches may be taken. Ask people to quote the rule they are bringing a point of order on before speaking. You should be very harsh on the points of order raised at this time as they are often deliberate attempts to disrupt the speaker and based on an attempt to have the last word in the hope that the last word will carry more weight.

One thought on “Chairing a debate on a motion

  1. The Chair should neither speak to or against the motion, nor offer their opinion on the matter under debate. John Bercow is not a good example to chairing Labour debates. The Chair does not get a deliberative vote, although, the casting vote is theirs to use as they see fit, unlike the Speaker who by convention always votes for further discussion or with the Govt, depending on your sources.

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