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Debates in the Assemblée nationale and its parliamentary committees proceed according to a set of rules derived from British parliamentary tradition. These rules ensure Members’ freedom of speech and their legal authority over the business of the State. They provide a framework for the Assemblée’s decision-making process.

Decisions can give expression to a wish or an intention: they are the resolutions of the Assemblée. If they are enforceable, they become orders of the Assemblée.

Triggering a Debate: Motions

A motion is a proceeding by which an MNA proposes that the Assemblée reach a decision to do something, to order something to be done or to express a wish, for instance.

Motions are submitted in writing, except for those motions whose terms do not vary, such as a motion to adjourn the debate, which can be presented orally.

A motion that is submitted to the Assemblée generally becomes a subject of debate. Parliamentary debates are deliberations (discussions which lead to a decision) held by Parliament in the exercise of its power to examine and pass laws and oversee the Government’s actions.

Debating: Rules

Addressing the House

An MNA who wishes to address the House stands and asks the President of the Assemblée for the floor. It is the President, who determines the speaking order during a debate.

The mover of the motion in question generally speaks first, followed by the next MNA to stand. The President alternates between speakers from the different political parties to ensure that all points of view are expressed.

In theory, an MNA cannot speak more than once on the same matter. A Member’s speaking time is limited and varies according to the motion being debated.


An amendment may propose to strike out, insert or substitute certain words in a motion, but must not reverse its principle.

Generally, an MNA who is addressing the Assemblée can move for an amendment to the motion being debated. However, some motions, such as a want of confidence motion, cannot be amended.


At the end of most debates, the mover of a motion has the right to a final address in reply to the other MNAs who spoke.

Except as otherwise provided, an MNA may speak for up to 20 minutes in reply. This closes the debate.

Length of Debate

Many debates do not have a time limit; they are over when no further MNAs wish to address the Assemblée or after all the Members have used their right to speak.

However, some debates do have a time limit. Such is the case of the debates on business standing in the name of Members of the Opposition, which are held on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. 

In this type of debate, the President apportions the speaking time among the parliamentary groups after meeting with the House Leaders. The presence of independent MNAs, i.e. Members who do not belong to a group, must also be taken into account.

Concluding a Debate: Voting

At the end of a debate, a motion is read by the President. It is then put to a vote by a show of hands unless at least five MNAs demand a recorded division.

Show of Hands

The name of this type of vote is misleading, since MNAs do not actually raise their hands. The President reads the motion and then asks if it is to be adopted. Members answer “adoptée” if they are in favour of passing the motion and “rejetée” or “sur division” if they are opposed. Usually, it is a group’s House Leader or Deputy House Leader who states whether or not the group is in favour of the motion.

If no Member is heard to oppose it, the President declares the motion adopted. If dissenting voices are heard, it is up to the President to determine which side carries the decision.

Recorded Division


  1. The President of the Assemblée reads the motion in question and directs the MNAs in favour to rise in their places.
  2. The MNAs rise in a set order, starting with the Leader of the parliamentary group.
  3. They take their seats after an assistant Table officer states their name and their riding.
  4. Once all those in favour have been named, the President directs those who are opposed to rise.
  5. The MNAs who are opposed rise, then take their seats in the same fashion as their colleagues who were in favour of the motion.
  6. The President asks if there are any abstentions. 

Once the vote has been taken, the Secretary General of the Assemblée reports the results to the President, who declares the motion adopted or rejected.

Time of Vote

Except where otherwise provided, the Standing Orders of the National Assembly allow the Government House Leader to request a deferral of the vote until later on the same sitting day or until the time allotted for deferred votes during the next sitting’s Routine Proceedings.

If the vote is to be held immediately following the debate, the President asks for all MNAs who are not present to be summoned, and the division bells are rung throughout the Assemblée. The proceedings of any committees then meeting are interrupted in order for their members to vote.


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