Division bell

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This article is about the bell that is rung in certain legislatures. For the Pink Floyd album, see The Division Bell.

A division bell is a bell rung in or around a parliament to signal a division and thus call all members of the chamber so affected to vote in it.[1]

In the United Kingdom[edit]

Houses of Parliament Division bell

The bell is used in the immediate neighbourhood of Parliament to signal that a division is occurring and that members of the House of Commons or of the House of Lords have eight minutes to get to their chosen Division Lobby to vote for or against the resolution. The call for a Division is also displayed on the Annunciator screens throughout the Parliamentary buildings.

As some Members may be in nearby offices, restaurants, pubs or shops, some of these have their own division bells connected to those in the Houses of Parliament; others will use a system of pagers co-ordinated by the Whip's office of each party.

The headquarters of the major parties are all within reach of the division bell, and this area roughly defines the geographical limits of the Westminster Bubble.

A broadcast of the BBC's Antiques Roadshow in October 2007 from the Banqueting House in Whitehall featured the original Division Bell Transmitter (serial number 1) from the House of Commons. The programme's expert, Paul Atterbury, with the help of former House of Commons Speaker Baroness Betty Boothroyd, demonstrated the apparatus in use with one of the original Division Bells. The Show valued the transmitter at £15,000.

Three Division Bell Transmitters were made at the end of the 19th century by the GPO at the request of the Government. They were numbered 1, 2 and 3. Two were destroyed by a bomb in 1941 and replaced with copies bearing the numbers 4 and 5. Number 5 transmitter exists, but the whereabouts of number 4 is not known.

In Australia[edit]

Both State and Federal Parliament buildings use electronic division bells. In states with bicameral parliaments, and in the federal Parliament, red and green lights near the division bells flash to indicate which house is being called. Queensland and the Territories, which have unicameral parliaments, do not require the red light which indicates the Upper House. The bells are rung at the beginning of a sitting, because a member has challenged a vote (called a division), or because there are not enough members in the chamber to constitute quorum.

In the NSW Parliament, the division bell is electronic and rings differently for divisions in the Assembly and the Council.

In Canada[edit]

The electronic bell of the House of Commons sounds to call members of the House for a sitting, a vote, or to announce the lack of a quorum. In the case of a vote, it is referred to as the division bell.


  1. ^ UK Parliament glossary - division bell