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Study Notes

Parliamentary debate

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

A debate in general is a formal discussion on a particular matter taking place in a public meeting or in the case of politics a legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward, followed by a vote.

Debates are held in both Houses of Parliament. Members discuss government policy, propose new laws and talk about topical issues of the day. They are designed to assist MPs and Lords in reaching an informed decision on a subject. The aim is mostly to pass or reject a proposed new law or to give the House’s opinion on a subject, which is achieved by a vote (called a ‘division’) at the conclusion of the debate. These debates are recorded in a publication called ‘Hansard’ – which can be found online or in print form.

Debates give the opportunity for MPs and Lords to voice the concerns and interests of their constituents with regards to government policy. Commons debates can be very lively. MPs intervene on each other’s speeches to support or challenge what they are saying, responding to the points made by other speakers as opposed to simply reading out formal, set-piece speeches. Lords debates tend to be longer as they have greater flexibility and time to examine issues. Many Lords Members have considerable experience in industries, professions and organisations and so are able to put this experience to good use during chamber debates.

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