Speaker Denison's rule

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Speaker Denison's rule is a constitutional convention established by 19th century Speaker of the British House of Commons John Evelyn Denison, regarding how the Speaker decides on his casting vote in the event of a tie.

The principle is to always vote in favour of further debate, or, where no further debate is possible, to vote in favour of the status quo.[1][2] For example, the Speaker will vote:

  • In favour of early readings of bills
  • Against amendments to bills
  • Against the final enactment of a bill
  • Against motions of no confidence

The thinking behind the rule is that change should only occur if an actual majority vote in favour of change. So say a bill was introduced to ban all blue cars. If the vote in the House of Commons was 301-300 in favour, then Parliament wants to ban blue cars and blue cars are banned. But if the vote was tied on 300-300, then it cannot be said that Parliament wants to ban blue cars, so why should blue cars be banned?

Speaker Denison's rule is now a guiding principle in many other bodies which have neutral chairpersons.[3]


  1. ^ Michael MacDonagh, The Speaker of the House (1914)
  2. ^ United Kingdom House of Commons Information Office, "Divisions"
  3. ^ Parliament of New South Wales, "Exercise of the Casting Vote of the Chair"

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