In video from the House of Commons, whenever John Bercow reads the results of a vote, he says “unlock” at the end. For example, from last night:

The Ayes to the right, 329. The Noes to the left, 302. So the Ayes have it, the Ayes have it. Unlock.

I’m guessing this is some bit of formal Parliamentary procedure – but what does it mean?

(I’ve tried to google for it, but I think I must have the wrong search terms – phrases like “uk parliament unlock” only turn up headlines about ‘unlocking’ the next steps of the Brexit process.)

1 Answer 1


If you follow the evening votes on any live stream, you'll notice that Bercow has the voting lobbies locked 8 minutes after putting the question.

Here's an excellent outline of how the UK parliament's division vote process works:


In the House of Commons, the Speaker says "The Question is that…", states the question and next says "As many as are of that opinion say Aye". Then, following shouts of "Aye", the Speaker says "Of the contrary, No" and similar shouts of "No" may follow. [...]

If a division is to be taken, the Speaker first states, "Division! Clear the lobbies!". [...]

Two minutes into the division the Speaker puts the question to the House again.[18] If it is clear that a division is still required, the Speaker announces the tellers, two each for the "Ayes" and "Noes". [...]

Eight minutes after the question has been put for the first time, the Speaker declares, "Lock the doors." The lobby entrances are locked, and only those within the lobbies may continue to vote. [...]

After all members have voted in the lobbies, the vote totals are written on a card and the numbers are read out to the House by the tellers. The Speaker then announces these numbers a second time, announcing the final result by saying "The Ayes/Noes have it, the Ayes/Noes have it". The Speaker then adds: "Unlock."

  • If the doors are locked, how do MPs manage to get into both lobbies as per politics.stackexchange.com/questions/39825/… or do they just have to get through the first lobby quickly?
    – Jontia
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 11:07
  • 2
    @Jontia: I would assume the latter, since the doors aren't locked in the 8 first minutes of a division. Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 11:19
  • 5
    @Jontia: only the entrance doors are locked, forcing MPs to leave via the only exit, which takes them past the clerks (who record their names) and the tellers (who count them). Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 12:53
  • 4
    @Jontia: and yes, if an MP is quick, he could pass through the first lobby before the doors of both lobbies are locked. It helps that, to reduce congestion, the exit from each lobby is close to the entrance of the other one (specifically, MPs travel clockwise, IIRC). Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 12:55
  • 1
    @Jasper: None in particular. The official one. The Guardian's politics live blog's one. RT apparently has one too. And a youtube search seems to yield a few others. Pick any of them and tune in around when the debates end and the voting starts. It's usually 6pm UK time; sometimes much later. You can check Twitter developments or live blogs to know what's currently getting voted on. Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 14:07

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