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House of Commons Hansard
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22 January 2016
Volume 604

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

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rose—

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A point of order?

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It is not a point of order, but I beg to move, That the House sit in private.

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Indeed. Other than by reason of formality and constitutional precedent, I cannot ordinarily imagine the hon. Gentleman “begging” anything.

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 163).

Division 172

22 January 2016

The House divided:

Ayes: 1
Noes: 56

Question accordingly negatived.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It does seem an awful waste of the House’s time to divide when only three Members support the motion, in order to close down the debate and prevent people from hearing what the House has to say. What chiefly worries me, however, is that when the voices are heard, there always seem to be more Members shouting “Aye”, that we should sit in silence—[Interruption.] I mean in private—[Interruption.] The Whips might think it would be better if we sat in silence, but when we sit in private no one can hear us, so we are effectively sitting in silence.

Let me return to my main point, about the shouting. I shouted “No” quite loudly. In the same part of the Chamber, there seemed to be a shout of “Aye”, yet none of the Members who are sitting here voted that way. I know that they do not have to, but is not the procedure a complete waste of the House’s time?

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The principle is that vote should follow voice. It is disorderly for a Member to voice in one direction and vote in another. However, it is not obligatory for someone who has shouted “Aye” to vote “Aye”. He or she is perfectly free to abstain. The same applies to a Member who votes “No”, a point that the hon. Gentleman acknowledged in his point of order.

That said, in an age in which we prize intelligibility and transparency, it is much to be preferred if Members are, and appear to be, consistent in what they do relative to what they say. I think we will leave it there for now. I hope that that satisfies the constitutional palate of the hon. Gentleman.