In recent years there has been a period of recess in the UK parliament to allow for party conferences. This year however parliament was prorogued and while this action was ultimately overturned it did mean that the main opposition party held its conference while parliament was not sitting.

This has led to an unusual situation where the all the opposition parties MPs are able to be in Parliament while the MPs for the Government (Conservative party) are likely to not be in attendance in great (any?) number.

Given this situation my question is a follows.

In the event a motion was tabled and a vote required does there need to be a minimum number of MPs from the party currently "in power" for this to take place? More generally speaking is there a minimum number required for anything that takes place within parliament? or could 1 person technically do everything?


2 Answers 2


There is a minimum number of MPs as a threshold for divisions (votes) in the House of Commons. That is set by Standing Order. The current quorum is 40. It doesn't matter what parties they are from.


(1)If it should appear that fewer than forty Members (including the occupant of the chair and the tellers) have taken part in a division, the business under consideration shall stand over until the next sitting of the House and the next business shall be taken.

(2)The House shall not be counted at any time.

There are other quorums:

The quorum at a sitting in Westminster Hall shall be three.

The quorum of the [Business] committee shall be four

The quorum of the programming committee is four.

The quorum of the programming sub-committee is four.

I imagine each other Committee has a quorum.


A quorum is the minimum number of MPs or members of the House of Lords needed for a division (vote) to be valid or for a parliamentary committee to function. Quorums for different types of business are set out in the standing orders for each House.


  • 2
    Wait, what? The House shall not be counted at any time. Then how would you know if you have enough people? Just because it "appears" that way? Seems pretty wishy-washy... Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 19:27
  • 3
    I'm no expert but I think that means the number of people who VOTE shall be counted, not the number of people in the house at the time of a debate. (I.e. if 2 people are sat in the chamber, it's irrelevant until a vote is required.)
    – JeffUK
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 20:46

As Lag's answer mentions, the quorum for a division is 40*. However, many decisions in the Commons are done by a voice vote, for which there is no quorum. For example, adjournment debates are sometimes attended only by the Speaker (or a deputy), the MP who secured the debate, the minister responding, and a government whip. At the end of the debate, the adjournment motion is then agreed by a voice vote - with 4 people present.

(* For a vote for closure (i.e. ending a debate), standing order 37 requires that there be 100 voting in favour of the closure motion.)

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