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Both Houses of Parliament hold debates in which Members discuss government policy, proposed new laws and topical issues of the day. 


Debates are designed to assist MPs and Lords to reach an informed decision on a subject. Votes are often held to conclude a debate, which may involve then passing or rejecting a proposed new law (legislation) or simply registering their opinion on a subject. All debates are recorded in a publication called 'Hansard' which is available online or in print.

Debates - General

A similar system for debates applies across the Commons and Lords. Subjects are introduced as a proposal, or motion, by Members, then debated according to strict sets of rules.

Why does Parliament have debates?

Debates are an opportunity for MPs and Lords to discuss government policy, proposed new laws and current issues. It allows MPs to voice the concerns and interests of their constituents, and Members of the House of Lords can speak about issues brought to their attention by the public.

Debates are designed to assist MPs and Lords to reach an informed decision on a subject. This decision is then often expressed in a vote (called a 'division'), for or against.

Debates in the Commons

Commons debates are often lively, with MPs intervening on each other's speeches to support or challenge what they are saying. It is a dynamic style of discussion, in which MPs generally respond to the points made by other speakers rather than reading out formal, set-piece speeches.

However, rules still govern debates. MPs have a right to be heard without overwhelming background noise, and unparliamentary language is not allowed.

Debates in the Lords

Many Members have considerable experience in industries, professions and organisations and they are able to put this experience to good use during debates in the chamber, which the public can attend.

The Lords is self-regulating. Therefore, there can be greater flexibility to examine an issue for longer than is typical in the Commons.

Related information

Use the Parliamentary Glossary to find out what Parliamentary terms mean

What's a Whip?

Whips are MPs or Lords appointed by each party to help organise their party's contribution to parliamentary business. One of their responsibilities is making sure the maximum number of their party members vote, and vote the way their party wants.

EDM database

Early Day Motions (EDMs) are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons. The EDM database contains up-to-date information on the latest EDMs and signatures added to existing EDMs.