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.310 In order to prevent unnecessary interruptions when a Member is speaking, no other Member is to pass between the Chair and the Member who is addressing the Chair.311 The only interruption permitted is for a Member to raise a point of order.312

As nothing should come between the Speaker and the symbol of the Speaker’s 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.313 A Member must sit down when the Chair Occupant rises.314 When Members cross the floor of the House or otherwise leave their places, they should bow to the Speaker. When the House adjourns, Members are expected to stay in their seats 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.315

In the Chamber, Members may refresh themselves with glasses of water, but the consumption of any other beverage or food is not allowed.316 Smoking has never been permitted in the Chamber. The use of cellular phones, video recording devices or cameras of any kind is not permitted in the Chamber.317 Since 1994, Members have been permitted to use laptop computers or tablets in the Chamber, provided that their use does not cause disorder or interfere with the Member who has the floor. On one occasion, the Speaker of the House made a statement about Private Members’ Business by using his tablet.318 In another case, a Member used text-to-speech software allowing his speech to be read by an electronic voice.319 On very rare occasions, Members have brought their infants onto the floor of the House, mostly for an unscheduled vote when unable to make alternate arrangements for their care, a practice to which the Speaker has turned a blind eye, provided no disorder results.320

The Speaker usually overlooks the many incidental interruptions, such as applause,321 shouts of approval or disapproval, or mild heckling322 that sometimes punctuate speeches, as long as disorder does not arise.323 Members have been called to order for whistling and singing during another Member’s speech.324 Excessive interruptions are swiftly curtailed, particularly when the Member speaking requests the assistance of the Chair.325 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.326

The House may elect to conduct its proceedings in camera. It may also order the withdrawal of “strangers” from the galleries of the House.327

Decorum During the Taking of a Vote

During the taking of a vote, no Member is permitted to enter, leave or walk across the Chamber or to make any noise or disturbance from the time the Speaker begins to put the question until the results of the vote are announced.328 Members must be in their seats to vote and must remain seated until the result of the vote is announced.329 Ordinarily, points of order and questions of privilege are postponed until after this announcement.330 Members who enter the Chamber while the question is being put, or after it has been put, cannot have their votes counted.331 In the same way, no Member may enter a Committee of the Whole while a division is in progress.332

On one occasion, the Speaker interrupted the calling of a vote to request that a leader of an opposition party remove a prop because of the disorder it was creating in the Chamber.333 The Speaker has also asked Members standing in the middle aisle to take their seats or to leave the Chamber in order that the House might proceed with the taking of a vote.334