The "Meaningful Vote" that was scheduled for today has yesterday been delayed by the government.

Would there be any procedural way for the UK Parliament short of ousting the government to vote on the current negotiated Brexit deal within the next days?

The website of the Parliament just states that the debate is still going on. So I wonder, could MPs ignore the governments decision and do a vote on this issue or are they forbidden to hold a vote on this issue unless government asks them for one?

Is this a direct consequence of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018?

1 Answer 1


Would there be any procedural way for the UK Parliament short of ousting the government to vote on the current negotiated Brexit deal within the next days?

No. Other than certain very limited exceptions, the government has the sole right to decide what legislation and non-legislative motions are put before the house.

For example, Commons Standing Order 14 begins:

(1) Save as provided in this order, government business shall have precedence at every sitting.

...and SO 27 says:

The orders of the day shall be disposed of in the order in which they stand upon the paper, the right being reserved to Her Majesty’s Ministers of arranging government business, whether orders of the day or notices of motion, in such order as they think fit.

In particular, only those items which appear on the Order Paper may be discussed. Its contents are decided by the government, and it's normally published the evening before the date in question.

In this instance, the Leader of the Opposition was able to apply for an emergency debate under SO 24, on the "Government’s management of the meaningful vote debate". However, such motions can only be used to express the opinion of the house, and place no obligation on the government to do anything.

It is possible that a private members' bill could be used to introduce legislation to, for example, stop Brexit. However, to have any chance of success, a PMB ultimately requires the government to provide some of its time in the schedule (as well as significant support from MPs in general), which is why so few PMBs ever become law.

  • Thanks. Does it mean that, in general, the UK Parliament cannot vote on anything if the government doesn't present anything to vote on? Dec 11, 2018 at 10:36
  • 2
    That's correct (other than private members' bills, but see my edit above). Dec 11, 2018 at 10:37
  • 2
    @SamuelRussell: the house can suspend standing orders - but only on a motion on the order paper, which must be put there by the government. However, if the Leader of the Opposition requests a confidence vote, the government is obliged to put that on the order paper. Dec 12, 2018 at 7:59
  • 1
    I acknowledge that that is correct, but once standing orders are suspended the house regains its supremacy to debate as it pleases, no? (Obviously this involves a major back bench revolt, which normally wouldn’t exhibit itself as a suspension of standing orders and debate on a newly introduced motion.) Commons is supreme over its own conduct of debate, no? Dec 12, 2018 at 8:06
  • 2
    @SamuelRussell: Motions to suspend standing orders specify which SOs are being suspended or modified. For example, the motion which set out the timetable for the Meaningful Vote debate mentioned a number of SOs which were to be modified or suspended (41A, 24, 36 &24B) during that debate. All other SOs are unaffected. Dec 12, 2018 at 9:46

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .