Why do some people in the British Parliament stand during the Prime Minister's Questions session?

Who are they? Why do they stand during the speech?

People standing during Theresa May speech

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    Given the answer to the question, flagging this to be migrated to Lifehacks.SE where people can answer how to bring one's own foldable chair to packed meetings
    – user4012
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 13:28

2 Answers 2


Those are MPs who presumably can't find space to be seated on the (government in this case, since I recognise Iain Duncan Smith and Jeremy Hunt) benches. Over the years the number of constituencies in the UK has grown to 650, but the Victorian era Palace of Westminster debating chamber only has seating space for something like four hundred. In most cases this wouldn't actually matter, since it's relatively rare for all MPs to attend a particular debate, but given the date on that video, this was a day of debate over the EU withdrawal bill, so turnout was naturally high.

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    Re last sentence: regardless of what else is on the agenda for that day, the House is always packed for Prime Minister's Questions. Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 9:52
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    These MPs didn't turn up early and reserve their space with Prayer Cards.
    – Phil
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 15:06
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    The current chamber was built in the 1940s after bomb damage, but deliberately kept to the same size as the old Victorian chamber. However, when the Victorian one was built, there were actually more MPs than there are today (656-8 depending which year you count), so it's not that we have more than we do then - it was a conscious decision to keep the chamber small despite the numbers. Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 21:54
  • @Andrew A conscious decision in both the 1940s and the Victorian era?
    – phk
    Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 17:07
  • I recall hearing/reading that Churchill objected to enlarging it because he wanted the chamber to look full even when not all MPs were present.
    – Thomas
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 7:18

The answer is of course correct. I just want to further support it by showing evidence that MPs stand not only in that particular place and in PMQ, but actually all over the place, and in any session. For instance, in this video, about a historic vote for holding the government "in contempt of Parliament" (happening on Tuesday 4th of December of 2018), you see the house "packed", with people even standing in doorways and back. Some captures:

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    They are standing for two different reasons. MPs also stand to indicate to the speaker that they want to ask a question.
    – Simd
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 12:48
  • There are plenty of open spaces to sit. Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 6:12

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