Parliamentary procedure

body of rules, ethics and customs governing meetings and other operations of legislative bodies and other deliberative assemblies

Parliamentary procedure is a commonly accepted way in which a group of people work together to discuss and make decisions.[1] It is a set of rules for meetings.

The gavel is a common symbol of parliamentary procedure.


The term gets its name from its use in the Parliamentary system of government.

In the 16th century, there were rules of order in the early British Parliaments.[2] In the 1560s, Sir Thomas Smith published a book about the procedures in the House of Commons in 1583.[3] Early rules included

  • One subject should be discussed at a time (adopted 1581)[4]
  • Personal attacks are to be avoided in debate (1604)[5]
  • Debate must be limited to the merits of the question (1610)[5]
  • Division of a question when some seem to be for one part but not the other (1640)[5]

Westminster proceduresEdit

The Westminster parliamentary procedures are followed in several Commonwealth countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa. In Canada, for example, Parliament uses [House of Commons Procedure and Practice as its primary procedural authority.[6]

American proceduresEdit

The rules of the United States Congress were developed from the parliamentary procedures used in Britain.[7] Variations of the American parliamentary procedures are followed in many nations, including Indonesia, the Phillipines, Mexico and South Korea.


In contrast, the procedures of the Diet of Japan have moved away from the British parliamentary model. After the end of World War II, there were efforts to bring Japanese parliamentary procedures more in line with American congressional practices.[8] In Japan, informal negotiations are more important than formal procedures.[9]

Robert's RulesEdit

In the US, the most widely used set of rules is Robert's Rules of Order.[1]

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