Parliamentary procedure

Last updated
A gavel often symbolizes parliamentary procedure. CourtGavel.JPG
A gavel often symbolizes parliamentary procedure.

Parliamentary procedure is the body of ethics, rules, and customs governing meetings and other operations of clubs, organizations, legislative bodies and other deliberative assemblies.


In the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other English-speaking countries it is often called chairmanship, chairing, the law of meetings, procedure at meetings or the conduct of meetings. In the United States, parliamentary procedure is also referred to as parliamentary law, parliamentary practice, legislative procedure or rules of order.

At its heart is the rule of the majority with respect for the minority. Its object is to allow deliberation upon questions of interest to the organization and to arrive at the sense or the will of the assembly upon these questions. [1] Self-governing organizations follow parliamentary procedure to debate and reach group decisions—usually by vote—with the least possible friction.

Rules of order consist of rules written by the body itself (often referred to as bylaws), but also usually supplemented by a published parliamentary authority adopted by the body. Typically, national, state/provincial and other full-scale legislative assemblies have extensive internally written rules of order, whereas non-legislative bodies write and adopt a limited set of specific rules as the need arises.


The term gets its name from its use in the parliamentary system of government. [2]

In the 16th and 17th century, there were rules of order in the early parliaments of England. [3] In the 1560s Sir Thomas Smyth began the process of writing down accepted procedures and published a book about them for the House of Commons in 1583. [3] Early rules included

Westminster procedures

The Westminster parliamentary procedures are followed in several Commonwealth countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa.

In Canada, for example, the House of Commons uses House of Commons Procedure and Practice as its primary procedural authority. Others include Arthur Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms of the House of Commons of Canada, Sir John George Bourinot's Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, and Erskine May's The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament from Britain. [5]

American procedures

The rules of the United States Congress were developed from the parliamentary procedures used in Britain. [6] The American parliamentary procedures are followed in many nations, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Mexico and South Korea.


The procedures of the Diet of Japan have moved away from the British parliamentary model. In Occupied Japan, there were efforts to bring Japanese parliamentary procedures more in line with American congressional practices. [7] In Japan, informal negotiations are more important than formal procedures. [8]

Written codes of rules govern in Italy the life of the Houses of the Parliament: the Constitutional Court is judge on the limits beyond which these regulations cannot go, exceeding the parliamentary or political function (judgement n. 120 of 2014), [9] and on their bad application when a law is passed through. [10]

Parliamentary authority usage patterns

Parliamentary procedure is based on the principles of allowing the majority to make decisions effectively and efficiently (majority rule), while ensuring fairness towards the minority and giving each member or delegate the right to voice an opinion. [11] Voting determines the will of the assembly. While each assembly may create their own set of rules, these sets tend to be more alike than different. A common practice is to adopt a standard reference book on parliamentary procedure and modify it through special rules of order that supersede the adopted authority.

A parliamentary structure conducts business through motions, which cause actions. Members bring business before the assembly by introducing main motions, or dispose of this business through subsidiary motions and incidental motions. Parliamentary procedure also allows for rules in regards to nomination, voting, disciplinary action, appeals, dues, and the drafting of organization charters, constitutions, and bylaws.

Organizations and civic groups

The most common procedural authority in use in the United States is Robert's Rules of Order . [12] Other authorities include The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure (used by some medical and library organizations) [13] and Demeter's Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure . [14]

A common text in use in the UK, particularly within trade unions, is Lord Citrine's ABC of Chairmanship .

In English-speaking Canada, popular authorities include Kerr & King's Procedures for Meeting and Organizations. The Conservative Party of Canada uses Wainberg's Society meetings including rules of order to run its internal affairs.

In French-speaking Canada, commonly used rules of order for ordinary societies include Victor Morin's Procédures des assemblées délibérantes (commonly known as the Code Morin) [15] and the Code CSN .


Legislative assemblies in all countries, because of their nature, tend to have a specialized set of rules that differ from parliamentary procedure used by clubs and organizations.

In the United Kingdom, Thomas Erskine May's Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament (often referred to simply as Erskine May) is the accepted authority on the powers and procedures of the Westminster parliament. There are also the Standing Orders for each House. [16]

Of the 99 state legislative chambers in the United States (two for each state except Nebraska, which has a unicameral legislature), Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure governs parliamentary procedures in 70; Jefferson's Manual governs 13, and Robert's Rules of Order governs four. [17] The United States Senate follows the Standing Rules of the United States Senate, while the United States House of Representatives follows Jefferson's Manual .

Mason's Manual, originally written by constitutional scholar and former California Senate staff member Paul Mason in 1935, and since his death revised and published by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), governs legislative procedures in instances where the state constitution, state statutes, and the chamber's rules are silent. [18] [19] [20]

According to the NCSL, [19] one of the many reasons that most state legislatures use Mason's Manual instead of Robert's Rules of Order is that Robert's Rules applies best to private organizations and civic groups that do not meet in daily public sessions. Mason's Manual, however, is geared specifically toward state legislative bodies.


In the United States, individuals who are proficient in parliamentary procedure are called parliamentarians (in other English-speaking countries with parliamentary forms of government, "parliamentarian" refers to a member of Parliament).

Several organizations offer certification programs for parliamentarians, including the National Association of Parliamentarians and American Institute of Parliamentarians. Agriculture teachers who coach teams in the National FFA Organization (formerly Future Farmers of America) parliamentary procedure contest can earn the title Accredited Parliamentarian (AP). Parliamentarians perform an important role in many meetings, including counseling organizations on parliamentary law, holding elections, or writing amendments to the constitution and bylaws of an organization.

See also

Related Research Articles

A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members who use parliamentary procedure to make decisions.

<i>Roberts Rules of Order</i> Book on parliamentary procedure by Henry Martyn Robert

Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, commonly referred to as Robert's Rules of Order, RONR, or simply Robert's Rules, is political book written by Henry Martyn Robert. It is the most widely used manual of parliamentary procedure in the United States. It governs the meetings of a diverse range of organizations—including church groups, county commissions, homeowners associations, nonprofit associations, professional societies, school boards, and trade unions—that have adopted it as their parliamentary authority.

Committee Body of one or more persons that is subordinate to a deliberative assembly

A committee or commission is a body of one or more persons that is subordinate to a deliberative assembly. Usually, the assembly sends matters into a committee as a way to explore them more fully than would be possible if the assembly itself were considering them. Committees may have different functions and their types of work differ depending on the type of the organization and its needs.

In deliberative bodies a second to a proposed motion is an indication that there is at least one person besides the mover that is interested in seeing the motion come before the meeting. It does not necessarily indicate that the seconder favors the motion.

A parliamentary authority is a book of rules on conducting business in deliberative assemblies. A group generally creates its own rules and then adopts such a book to cover meeting procedure not covered in its rules. Different books have been used by organizations and by legislative assemblies.

In parliamentary procedure, the previous question is generally used as a motion to end debate on a pending proposal and bring it to an immediate vote. The meaning of this specialized motion has nothing to do with any question previously considered by the assembly.

<i>Masons Manual of Legislative Procedure</i>

Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure, commonly referred to as Mason's Manual, is the official parliamentary authority of most state legislatures in the United States. This 700+ page book has been "Adopted as the authority on questions of parliamentary law and procedure in California, it is to legislatures what Robert's Rules of Order is to club groups. Gleaned from court decisions and legislative precedents, salted by practical experience, it is... [used] by legislatures throughout the U.S. and its territories."

Deliberative assemblies – bodies that use parliamentary procedure to arrive at decisions – use several methods of voting on motions. The regular methods of voting in such bodies are a voice vote, a rising vote, and a show of hands. Additional forms of voting include a recorded vote and balloting.

In parliamentary procedure, reconsideration of a motion may be done on a matter previously decided. The motion to "reconsider" is used for this purpose. This motion originated in the United States and is generally not used in parliaments. A special form of this motion is reconsider and enter on the minutes.

Paul Mason (1898–1985) was an American author, parliamentarian, historian, and assistant Secretary of the California State Senate in the first half of the 20th Century. Mason wrote the first edition of Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure in 1935.

In parliamentary procedure, a motion to appeal from the decision of the chair is used to challenge a ruling of the chair.

In parliamentary procedure, a motion is a formal proposal by a member of a deliberative assembly that the assembly take certain action. Such motions, and the form they take, are specified by the deliberate assembly and/or a pre-agreed volume detailing parliamentary procedure, such as Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised; The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure; or Lord Critine's The ABC of Chairmanship. Motions are used in conducting business in almost all legislative bodies worldwide, and are used in meetings of many church vestries, corporate boards, and fraternal organizations.

A parliamentarian is an expert on parliamentary procedure who advises organizations and deliberative assemblies. This sense of the term "parliamentarian" is distinct from the usage of the same term to mean a member of Parliament.

In parliamentary procedure, a suspension of the rules allows a deliberative assembly to set aside its normal rules to do something that it could not do otherwise. However, there are rules that cannot be suspended.

Debate in parliamentary procedure refers to discussion on the merits of a pending question; that is, whether it should or should not be agreed to. It is also commonly referred to as "discussion".

In a deliberative assembly, disciplinary procedures are used to punish members for violating the rules of the assembly.

In parliamentary procedure, requests and inquiries are motions used by members of a deliberative assembly to obtain information or to do or have something done that requires permission of the assembly. Except for a request to be excused from a duty, these requests and inquiries are not debatable nor amendable.

The history of parliamentary procedure refers to the origins and evolution of parliamentary law used by deliberative assemblies.

Parliamentary procedure is the body of rules, ethics, and customs governing meetings and other operations of clubs, organizations, legislative bodies, and other deliberative assemblies. General principles of parliamentary procedure include rule of the majority with respect for the minority.

In parliamentary procedure, the verb to table has the opposite meaning in different countries:


  1. Robert, Henry M.; et al. (2011). Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press. p. l. ISBN   978-0-306-82020-5.
  2. Robert III, Henry M.; et al. (2011). Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief (2nd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press. p. 5. ISBN   978-0-306-82019-9.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Robert, Henry M.; et al. (2011). Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press. pp. xxxiii–xxxiv. ISBN   978-0-306-82020-5.
  4. Slater, Victor Louis. (2002). The Political History of Tudor and Stuart England: A Sourcebook, p. 72.
  5. Government, Canadian (2011). "Parliamentary Procedure – General Article – Compendium of Procedure Home – House of Commons. Canada". Retrieved 15 February 2011.
  6. Jefferson, Thomas. (1820). A manual of parliamentary practice for the use of the Senate of the United States, p. vi.
  7. Reischauer, Edwin O. and Marius B. Jansen. (1977). The Japanese Today: Change and Continuity, p. 250.
  8. Mulgan, Aurelia George. (2000). The Politics of Agriculture in Japan, p. 292.
  9. The "functionalist" criterion (set by the Bill, on the initiative of Senator Maritati: Bill n. 1560/XVI) identified – inside parliamentary Institutions – acts of political bodies which, on the one hand, are not linked to the functions (legislative, political address or inspection) but which, on the other hand, are not classified as high-level administration: Buonomo, Giampiero (2014). "Il nodo dell'autodichia da Ponzio a Pilato". Golem informazione.  via  Questia (subscription required)
  10. (in Italian) G. Buonomo e M. Cerase, La Corte costituzionale ancora irrisolta sul ricorso delle minoranze parlamentari (ord. n. 17/2019), Forum di Quaderni costituzionali, 13 febbraio 2019.
  11. Robert 2011 , p. li
  12. Sylvester, Nancy. "The New Version of Robert's and Why You Should Care" . Retrieved 2015-12-05. Since approximately 95% of the organizations in the U.S. prescribe Robert’s as their parliamentary authority, the 11th edition is most likely the parliamentary authority for all organizations you are involved in.
  13. Slaughter, Jim (2012). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parliamentary Procedure Fast-Track. New York, IN: Alpha. p. 2. ISBN   161564220X.
  14. Slaughter, Jim; Ragsdale, Gaut; Ericson, Jon (2012). Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules, Fourth Edition. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. p. 154. ISBN   0809332159. Archived from the original on 2014-06-16.
  15. Code Morin at University of Victoria; retrieved 2013-1-13.
  16. "Standing Orders - Glossary page". UK Parliament.
  17. Using Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure: The Advantages to Legislative Bodies , National Conference of State Legislatures.
  18. See, for example, Standing Rules of the California Assembly, in HR 1, 2007-08 Regular Session.
  19. 1 2 National Conference of State Legislatures web site
  20. National Conference of State Legislatures (2000). Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure . Denver, CO: NCSL. ISBN   1-58024-116-6.