What is a Westminster Hall debate?

Peter Smart, former Lakeman Fellow

Posted on the 22nd September 2022

You may not know, but there are Parliamentary debates that occur outside of the Commons or Lords and these occur in Westminster Hall. Here’s a quick primer on some of the key features of a Westminster Hall debate:

Westminster Hall Debates take place between Monday and Thursday and give MPs the opportunity to debate any issue, ranging from major constitutional questions to concerns about the local surgery closing, outside the Parliamentary calendar set by the Government. Westminster Hall debates tend not to actually happen in the Hall itself but in smaller committee rooms. When debating, MPs sit around a horseshoe-shaped table, this is designed to promote cooperation and is in stark contrast to the Commons chamber where rows of seats face off against each other.

MPs can apply to hold a 30, 60 or 90 minute debate through the Speaker’s Office. The Speaker’s Office then hold a ballot to decide which debates occur when. Debates in Westminster Hall are more informal than the House of Commons chamber. For example, there is no division to vote on the matter and there is no tabling of amendments.

Any number of MPs may attend a Westminster Hall Debate, but the debate is always chaired by a Deputy Speaker. Westminster Hall debates have no legal power and are not able to impact legislation, but they are still useful for MPs. These debates can be used to establish an MPs position on different matters, highlight political support and facilitate detailed discussion when there is not time in the main parliamentary chamber. Westminster Hall debates are therefore key to facilitating good political discourse in Parliament.

Westminster Hall Debate on proportional representation

If you would like to find upcoming Westminster Hall debates they will be listed here: https://whatson.parliament.uk/

If you would like to find historic Westminster Hall debates they are listed here: https://www.parallelparliament.co.uk/debates/search

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