At least two of the former members of the Conservative party (Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve), who had the whip withdrawn following votes against the Government in early September 2019 and who are now sitting as independents, are (as of 25th September 2019) apparently still sitting on the Government benches, and still being referred to by members of the Government (specifically, the Attorney General) as "my Right Honourable and learned friend".

What are the conventions around who sits on the Government benches? As far as I know, it is surely not simply a matter of pledging to support the Government in votes of confidence and supply, as the DUP sit on the Opposition benches despite being in a confidence and supply agreement with the Government. Meanwhile, during the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition the Lib Dems sat on the Government benches.

1 Answer 1


The only actual limit to my knowledge is that seats claimed at the beginning of a day (through the use of a reservation card placed into a slot on the back of the seat) belong to the claimee for the duration of the sitting day. Beyond that, there are no rules. The convention is that Ministers sit on the front bench to the Speaker's right, and Opposition leaders sit on the front bench to the Speaker's left. Backbench MPs of the respective parties sit behind their front benches:

Where Members sit and speak

By convention, Ministers sit on the front bench on the right hand of the Speaker: the Chief Whip usually sits in this row immediately next to the gangway. Parliamentary Private Secretaries usually sit in the row behind their minister.

Official Opposition spokespersons use the front bench to the Speaker's left. Minority or smaller parties sit on the benches below the gangway on the left.

There is nothing sacrosanct about these places and on occasions when a Member has deliberately chosen to occupy a place on the front bench or on the opposite side of the House from their usual position there is no redress for such action.


The latter paragraph highlights that members may sit where they please, and nobody can do a thing about it. Indeed there have been a number of stunts whereby members attempt to claim an 'unusual' seat to discomfort the people who would ordinarily sit there. Dennis Skinner had to fight off concerted efforts by the SNP to oust him from his customary seat (by arriving earlier than they did to claim it) for a significant period,

  • 2
    Each sitting of the Commons (and Lords) starts with prayers, and the reservation cards are called "prayer cards", because they "must be put in place before prayers take place each day and the MP must be in that seat during prayers." Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 14:53

You must log in to answer this question.

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