House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …
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13. Rules of Order and Decorum

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 address his or her remarks to the Chair. [305]  In order to prevent unnecessary interruptions when a Member is speaking, no other Member is to cross between the Chair and the Member who is addressing the Chair. [306]  The only interruption permitted is for a Member to raise a point of order. [307] 

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. [308]  A Member must sit down when the Chair occupant rises. [309]  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. [310] 

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. [311]  Smoking has never been permitted in the Chamber. The use of cellular phones is not allowed in the Chamber. [312]  Since 1994, Members have been permitted to use laptop computers 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, [313] shouts of approval or disapproval, or heckling [314]  that sometimes punctuates speeches, as long as disorder does not arise. [315]  Members have been called to order for whistling and singing during another Member’s speech. [316]  Excessive interruptions are swiftly curtailed, particularly when the Member speaking requests the assistance of the Chair. [317]  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. [318] 

Decorum During the Taking of a Vote

During the taking of a vote, no Member is permitted to enter, walk out of or across the House or make any noise or disturbance from the time the Speaker begins to put the question until the results of the vote are announced. [319]  Members must be in their seats to vote and must remain seated until the result of the vote is announced. [320]  Members who enter the Chamber while the question is being put, or after it has been put, cannot have their vote counted. [321]  As is the rule in the House during a recorded division, no Member may enter a Committee of the Whole while a division is in progress. [322]

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. [323]  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 could proceed with the taking of a vote. [324] 

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