A motion of no confidence in Theresa May has been tabled.

"On Monday night, he tabled a motion calling on MPs to declare they have no confidence in the prime minister" : "No 10 has refused to make time for the motion"

And regarding a vote of no confidence in the government.

"Unlike a vote aimed at the prime minister, the government would have to allow a vote on this motion and, if successful, it could force a general election."

BBC article quotes taken from

So how long can May delay such a vote of no confidence in herself?

  • Note that a vote of no confidence in the government and a vote of no confidence in the PM are not the same thing Dec 18, 2018 at 20:11
  • @RichardTingle : I & the question (read it again, a bit more carefully this time perhaps) are aware of that :)
    – Pelinore
    Dec 18, 2018 at 20:14
  • 1
    @V2Blast : Changing any quote to something other than the actual words quoted would simply be wrong, while calling a suggested edit that would change a quote into anything other than the original words "fixed quotes" is at the very least shamelessly inexact if not deliberately mischievous, so I have to reject your suggested edit, please don't do it again.
    – Pelinore
    Dec 19, 2018 at 1:26

3 Answers 3


The government has no obligation to allocate any time at all to a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister. There is no time limit, they can ignore it forever.

The Fixed Term Parliaments Act requires a motion of no confidence in the government, issued with specific wording, to be allocated time. The Speaker of the House will see to that. But for whatever reason Labour decided not to do that, so it's largely a symbolic gesture.

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    @Pelinore it's likely an attempt to deflect criticism. The Tory party had a vote of no confidence in the PM and other opposition parties have been pointing out that Labour could but haven't. So Labour have fudged a motion that means nothing, and would definitely be ignored, so they can say that the PM is running scared or similar.
    – Alex
    Dec 18, 2018 at 10:43
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    I think more likely they did it to test the water. If there was more support for a motion of no confidence in the government they could have escalated. But the ERG and DUP didn't come on board so there was no point.
    – user
    Dec 18, 2018 at 11:48
  • Nitpick: the FTPA doesn't require any motion to be allocated time. It's a parliamentary convention that if the Leader of the Opposition asks for a VoNC (using the words defined in the FTPA), the government will make time for it. Dec 18, 2018 at 11:59
  • No, the Labour leader did it that way because the Party Conference laid down specific rules, one being that the Party can only go ahead with a motion to call a 2nd referendum if they have first tabled, and been defeated on, a vote of no confidence in the government. The Labour leader's policy is to avoid a Referendum, so he prefers to not table a confidence vote in the government unless he is reasonably likely to win it, which he can only win with the support of the DUP. Until he can get DUP support, he is highly likely to lose, and defeat would have practical repercussions for his policy.
    – Ed999
    Dec 18, 2018 at 16:00
  • This answer stands in stark opposition to Ty Hayes' answer which mentions an opposition day; could you explain why you do not think that the opposition day matters? Can the government infinitely delay the next opposition day? Dec 18, 2018 at 21:01

Until the next opposition day

The scheduling of debates in the UK Houses of parliament is generally up to the government to decide. However, a certain number of days are allocated to the opposition to debate (and potentially vote on) whatever the opposition decides to schedule. Corbyn would be free to schedule time for a debate on his motion during time allocated to the opposition, and if necessary call a closure motion on the debate in order to force a vote.


  • 4
    Note that "cloture" is the American spelling. In the UK it's typically spelled "closure". Dec 18, 2018 at 11:56
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    You'd think as a native (albeit reluctant, at the moment) Brit, and the fact it was mentioned in my source, I'd get that right. Thanks for pointing it out! (Now fixed.)
    – Ty Hayes
    Dec 18, 2018 at 12:00
  • Although the number of opposition days is fixed at at the start of the parliamentary session, they are scheduled by the government (source). As far as I can tell, there is nothing preventing the government from postponing all remaining opposition days until the end of the session.
    – user3490
    Dec 18, 2018 at 15:29
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    Standing order 14 of the House of Commons sets out the number of opposition days there should be in a session. Whilst you're right as far as I can tell that opposition days are announced on a weekly basis by the Leader of the House and so they could just not schedule the opposition days until the end of the session, to comply with the standing order they still would have to schedule them. As such, my answer stands - it's just that the next opposition day would be a long time away...
    – Ty Hayes
    Dec 18, 2018 at 15:42
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    Would you care to guess when the next opposition day is likely to be scheduled?
    – user3490
    Dec 19, 2018 at 12:38

It is useless for the Opposition to introduce any motion, because they are by definition the opposition. They do not have sufficient votes to pass any motion, so they cannot introduce a Guillotine motion to curtail debate and force a vote on their main motion! Thus opponents of the confidence motion could talk it out (a fillibuster), by continuing to debate it until it ran out of time, so that no vote on it was ever held.

So, Labour could table such a motion, could allocate it time, could even debate it; but the confidence vote will never be taken, because it needs only a single MP willing to talk it out, i.e. keep talking until no time for voting remains. Thus in practical terms the vote can be postponed forever.

Only government business falls within the guillotine powers of the government's business managers.

  • The MPs Guide to Procedure specifically mentions Opposition Day debates as being a common use of closure motions.
    – Ty Hayes
    Dec 18, 2018 at 16:50
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    I'm afraid this is wrong on at least a couple of issues: (1) "They do not have sufficient votes to pass any motion,": if all the opposition parties work together, they do have more votes than the government, though not by much. Labour is delaying probably because a VoNC requires DUP support, and that's not guaranteed yet. Dec 18, 2018 at 16:51
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    (2) I think you're confusing guillotine and closure. You're right that a guillotine is a non-starter. Closure, however: "A closure motion is a proposal that the Commons should stop debating and make a decision on the matter being discussed. It may be moved at any time during a debate if the Speaker allows it - but only once - and will only be successful if the majority in favour has at least 100 MPs." Dec 18, 2018 at 16:52
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    Support the Government not the prime minister. Yes, the DUP in theory should vote against a motion of no confidence in the government, but their confidence and supply motion has no bearing on a confidence vote on an individual minister, even the prime minister, or indeed on a closure motion.
    – Ty Hayes
    Dec 18, 2018 at 17:11
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    @Ed999: re confidence and supply: indeed, but the rumour is that, if the government cannot some reassurance from the EU about the backstop, the DUP may withdraw from the C&S agreement. If that happens, that is the point at which Labour will propose a VoNC. Dec 18, 2018 at 17:26

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