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Rules of Decorum

A number of rules and traditions are enforced by the Speaker in order to ensure that debate proceeds in a civil and orderly manner. A Member must be in his or her place to take part in any proceedings in the House and must address his or her remarks to the Chair. In order to prevent unnecessary interruptions when a Member is speaking, no other Member is permitted to cross between the Chair and the Member who is addressing the Chair. The only interruption permitted is for a Member to raise a point of order.

As nothing should come between the Speaker and the symbol of his or her authority (the Mace), no Member is to pass between the Chair and the Table, or between the Chair and the Mace when the Mace is being taken off the Table by the Sergeant-at-Arms. A Member must sit down when the Chair Occupant rises.

When Members cross the floor of the House or otherwise leave their place, they should bow to the Speaker. When the House adjourns, Members are expected to stay in their seat until the Speaker has left the Chair, although in practice most Members merely pause, whether standing or sitting, during the procession out of the Chamber.

In the Chamber, Members may refresh themselves with glasses of water during debate, but the consumption of any other beverage or food is not allowed. Smoking has never been permitted in the Chamber. The use of cellular phones or cameras of any kind is not permitted in the Chamber. Members are permitted to use laptop computers and other communications technologies in the Chamber provided that their use does not cause disorder or interfere with the Member who has the floor.

The Speaker usually turns a blind eye to the many incidental interruptions, such as applause, shouts of approval or disapproval, or heckling that sometimes punctuate speeches, as long as disorder does not arise. Excessive interruptions are swiftly curtailed, particularly when the Member speaking requests the assistance of the Chair. Speakers have consistently attempted to discourage loud private conversations in the Chamber and have urged those wishing to carry on such exchanges to do so outside the Chamber.

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