The British Parliamentary Debate Format
Robert Trapp, Willamette University
Yang Ge, Dalian Nationalities University
A debate format consists of a description of the teams in the debate and the order and times for the speeches that make up that debate. The British Parliamentary debate format differs from many other formats because it involves four teams rather than two. Two teams, called the “First Proposition” and the “Second Proposition” teams, are charged with the responsibility of supporting the proposition while two other teams, “First Opposition” and “Second Opposition,” are charged with opposing it.
Two speakers represent each of the four teams and each speaker gives a speech of seven minutes. The following chart describes the basic format and time limits. As you will see from the chart, each speaker is given a unique title.
British Parliamentary Debate Format
|Speaker |Time | |Prime Minister |7 minutes | |1st speaker for 1st proposition: | | |Leader of Opposition |7 minutes | |1st speaker for 1st opposition: | | |Deputy Prime Minister |7 minutes | |2nd speaker for 1st proposition: | | |Deputy Leader of Opposition |7 minutes | |2nd speaker for 1st opposition: | | |Member of Government |7 minutes | |1st speaker for 2nd proposition: | | |Member of Opposition |7 minutes | |1st speaker for 2nd opposition: | | |Government Whip |7 minutes | |2nd speaker for 2nd proposition: | | |Opposition Whip |7 minutes | |2nd speaker for 2nd opposition: | |
As can be seen from the table above, the first four speeches are delivered by the First Proposition and the First Opposition teams then the last four speeches are delivered by the Second Proposition and Second Opposition teams. Therefore, the First Proposition and First Opposition teams generally are responsible for the first half of the debate and the Second Proposition and Second Opposition teams have the responsibility for the second half.
The table above describes all of the formal speeches but it does not describe one of the most important and dynamic parts of the debate: points of information. Points of information provide opportunities for members of each team to interact with members of the teams defending the opposite side of the motion.
Points of information can be requested after the first minute of a speech and prior to the last minute of the speech. The first and last minute of each speech is “protected” against interruption. The point of information can last no more than fifteen seconds and may take the form of a question, a statement, or an argument.
Only a debater defending the opposite side of the proposition as the speaker can request a point of information. In other words, the debaters for the proposition can request points of information of members of the opposition teams and vice versa. To request a point of information, a debater rises and politely says something like “point of information please,” or “on that point.”
The debater giving the speech has the authority to accept or to refuse the request for a point of information. In general, debaters should accept a minimum of two points...