Commons

6.51In the Commons no place is allotted to any Member, but by custom the front bench on the right hand of the Chair (called the Treasury bench or government front bench) is appropriated for the members of the administration.1 The front bench on the opposite side, though other Members occasionally sit there,2 is reserved by convention for the leading members of the Opposition.3 It is not uncommon for senior Members who are in the habit of attending in one place to be allowed to occupy it as a matter of courtesy.

Members who have no such claim to a seat must be present at prayers if they wish to secure the right to a particular seat until the rising of the House (Standing Order Nos 7 and 8). Members may leave cards upon seats to indicate that they intend to attend prayers (and so secure seats for the remainder of the sitting).4 These ‘prayer cards’ are dated and must be obtained personally by the Member who wishes to use them from an attendant who is on duty in the House for that purpose from 8 am until the House meets.

Footnotes

  1. On certain formal occasions the Members for the City of London have claimed the privilege of sitting on this bench. The separate constituency of the City of London was abolished by the Representation of the People Act 1948, and the right was exercised in subsequent Parliaments by the Members for the Cities of London and Westminster.
  2. HC Deb (1984–85) 77, cc 755–56.
  3. For the allocation of seats to a party by arrangement, see Mr Speaker's remarks HC Deb (1912–13) 44, cc 2267, 2507; ibid (1914) 58, cc 49, 1092; ibid (1919) 112, c 755; ibid (1939–40) 361, cc 27–28; ibid (1997–98) 297, cc 215–18; ibid (2001–02) 378, c 402.
  4. HC Deb (1983–84) 55, c 21. In addition, by Resolution of the House, Members serving on departmental or select committees may secure seats by fixing pink cards thereto (obtained from the attendants) (CJ (1888) 121; ibid (1927) 242). (The significance of the term ‘departmental committee’ in the resolution is not that given to certain select committees by SO No 152 (select committees related to government departments) but refers to certain committees established by government departments on which some Members served.) In 2015, this provision was extended to Westminster Hall Chairs on the authority of the Speaker.