Motion to Sit In Private — 14 Mar 2013 at 17:52
The majority of MPs voted against the motion:
- That the House sit in private.
This motion was moved as an adjournment debate drew to a conclusion at around 5.30pm on the 14th of March 2013. No explanation of the intent of motion was provided.
An article on the BBC website has suggested the motion may have been moved to in an attempt to keep the House of Commons sitting for longer so that amendments could be tabled prior to debates scheduled for the following week.
The vote took an unusually long time. MP Paul Flynn (Newport West, Labour) raised a point of order saying:
- My point of order was about the length of time the Division is taking given the small number of Members present. Are people playing games?
The Deputy Speaker who was in the chair, Nigel Evans MP, replied:
- Mr Flynn, I cannot believe that that could possibly happen. If somebody is playing games, I am not sure who it is. You made your point of order just as I was rising to ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in both Lobbies.
- I am on the verge of sending somebody to see where the Serjeant at Arms has gone. Has this got anything to do with Comic Relief by any chance? It is that time of year.
The timing of this motion to sit in private was unusual. Motions to sit in private are often moved first thing on a Friday morning, prior to the consideration of private members' Bills. The motion to sit in private can only be moved once per sitting day. Moving such a motion early on a Friday prevents it being used later to trigger a vote when few MPs are present. If a vote is held and fewer than forty MPs vote the debate ends immediately; so the motion to sit in private can be used as a means to prevent further debate on Private Members Bills if few MPs are still in Parliament to vote on a Friday afternoon.
The House of Commons' Standing Order No. 163 says:
- If at any sitting of the House... any Member moves 'That the House sit in private' the Speaker... shall forthwith put the question 'That the House sit in private', and such question, though opposed, may be decided after the expiration of the time for opposed business, but such a Motion may be made no more than once in any sitting.
Moving the motion to sit in private is almost always a procedural tactic. By ensuring the defeat of a motion to sit in private at the beginning of the sitting, the mover makes it impossible for any member to move the motion during a subsequent debate.
If a motion to sit in private is brought during a debate, and fewer than 40 MPs vote in it, then the debate ends immediately regardless of the result, (following Standing Order 44) as occurred on the 14th of March 2003. The points of order following that division show MPs questioning the appropriateness of the tactic.
See also What is a motion to sit in private? from the PublicWhip FAQ.
-  Labour forces last-minute delay to Commons adjournment, BBC Democracy Live, 15 March 2013
-  Paul Flynn MP (Newport West, Labour), House of Commons, 14 March 2013
-  Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans MP (Ribble Valley, Conservative), House of Commons, 14 March 2013
MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party are marked in red. Also shows which MPs were ministers at the time of this vote. You can also see every eligible MP including those who did not vote in this division.