Quorum of the House
20.59Forty Members, including the Speaker, form the quorum of the House; but the absence of a quorum does not entail the termination of a sitting, it being provided by Standing Order No 41 that the House shall not be counted at any time.1
Standing Order No 41 provides, however, that if at any time it appears, on a division, that fewer than 40 Members (including the occupant of the Chair and the tellers) have taken part, the business under consideration stands over until the next sitting of the House and the next business is taken.2 In a division on the question ‘That the House sit in private’ (formerly, ‘That strangers do withdraw’), the lack of a quorum results in the underlying business standing over until the next sitting day;3 where such a motion is moved before the House has embarked on the first order of the day, there is no underlying business before the House and an inquorate division has no consequences for any other business on that day.4 If a motion to commit a bill to a Committee of the whole House is not decided owing to the absence of a quorum, the bill stands committed to a public bill committee.5 Should the inquorate division have taken place in Committee, the Chairman leaves the Chair to report the fact to the House, and the Speaker declares that the Committee stands over until the next sitting, under the terms of the Standing Order.6
- 1. If, therefore, 35 Members vote in a division, the House is quorate: see eg HC Deb (2002–03) 407, c 654. For a description of the former ‘count’ procedure by which the absence of a quorum might be established, see Erskine May (18th edn, 1971), pp 293–301.
- 2. For example, HC Deb (1983–84) 57, c 563. In a division on a closure, SO No 41 becomes effective rather than SO No 37, eg HC Deb (1982–83) 33, c 1151; ibid (1989–90) 171, c 646; ibid (1993–94) 243, c 1076.
- 3. CJ (1993–94) 72, 362; ibid (1996–97) 270; ibid (1999–2000) 316; ibid (2000–01) 45; ibid (2002–03) 160.
- 4. CJ (2003–04) 464 (though, since the motion ‘That the House sit in private’ may only be moved once in a sitting, an inquorate division will still prevent the remaining business from being disrupted by such a motion).
- 5. CJ (1989–90) 235.
- 6. See, for example, on the Second Reading of a Private Members Bill when the Deputy Speaker declared that the question was not decided because, one Member having voted in both lobbies, fewer than 40 Members had taken part; Votes and Proceedings, 17 January 2014.