Mr Speaker Addington's decision of 1796: further discussion

20.91The first principle which guides a Speaker in giving their casting vote was explained by Mr Speaker Addington in 1796. On the third reading of the Succession Duty on Real Estates Bill, there having been a majority against ‘now’ reading the bill the third time, and also reading it that day three months, there was an equality of votes on a third question, that the bill be read the third time tomorrow, when the Speaker gave his casting vote with the ayes, saying:

‘that upon all occasions when the question was for or against giving to any measure a further opportunity of discussion, he should always vote for the further discussion, more especially when it had advanced so far as a third reading; and that when the question turned upon the measure itself—for instance, that a bill do or do not pass—he should then vote for or against it, according to his best judgment of its merits, assigning the reasons on which such judgment would be founded.’1

Similarly, the voices being equal on 24 February 1797 on the question for going into committee on the Quakers Bill, Mr Speaker Addington gave his vote with the ayes.2

In the proceedings taken against Lord Melville, 8 April 1805, which resulted in his impeachment, the numbers were equal upon the previous question (moved in the form ‘That the question be now put’)—that question being the motion on which Lord Melville's impeachment was based—Mr Speaker Abbot gave his casting vote in favour of the previous question, on the ground that ‘the original question was now fit to be submitted to the judgment of the House’.3

On 1 May 1828, the numbers being equal on the question that a bill be read a second time, Mr Speaker Manners-Sutton stated that as the bill had been entertained by the House, although they were now undecided as to whether it should proceed or not, he considered that he should best discharge his duty by leaving the bill open to further consideration and accordingly gave his vote with the ayes.4

The numbers being equal on the division on the third reading of the Tests Abolition (Oxford) Bill, 1 July 1864, Mr Speaker Denison said that he would afford the House another opportunity of deciding upon the merits of the bill, by declaring himself with the ayes; the (then) subsequent question that the bill do pass was negatived by a majority of two.5

On 3 April 1905, the numbers being equal upon an instruction to the committee on the London County Council (Tramways) Bill to omit certain tramways, Mr Speaker Gully stated that in order that the matter might be considered by the committee and that the House might have a further opportunity of coming to a more decisive conclusion, he gave his voice with the noes.6

On 12 April 1938, the numbers being equal upon the question of leave to bring in a bill under Standing Order No 23 (at that time No 10) to extend Palestinian nationality, Mr Speaker FitzRoy stated that he thought he ought to vote for the introduction of the bill so that the House could deal with it as the House thought fit.7 On two similar occasions, the Deputy Speaker has taken the same course.8


  1. Colchester i, 57; CJ (1795–96) 764.
  2. Ed G Pellew Life and Correspondence of Addington (1847) i, p 187; Colchester i, 85; CJ (1796–97) 335.
  3. CJ (1805–06) 201; Colchester i, 548.
  4. CJ (1828) 292.
  5. CJ (1864) 388; Denison 167.
  6. CJ (1905) 105. See also HC Deb (1975–76) 912, cc 761–62.
  7. HC Deb (1937–38) 334, c 947.
  8. (Licensing of Airports) HC Deb (1951–52) 502, c 2057; (Televising of Parliament) ibid (1979–80) 977, cc 1369–71.