Point of order
A point of order is a call to attention of a violation of the rules in a meeting of a deliberative assembly.
Explanation and uses
|In order when another has the floor?||Yes|
|Debatable?||No (but chair can permit explanation), unless it is submitted to the assembly for a vote|
|May be reconsidered?||No, unless it is submitted to the assembly for a vote|
|Vote required||Is ruled by the chair, unless it is submitted to the assembly for a vote (then it requires a majority vote)|
A point of order may be raised if the rules appear to have been broken. This may interrupt a speaker during debate, or anything else if the breach of the rules warrants it. The point is resolved before business continues.
The point of order calls upon the chair to make a ruling. The motion is sometimes erroneously used to ask a question of information or a question of parliamentary procedure. The chair may rule on the point of order or submit it to the judgment of the assembly. If the chair accepts the point of order, it is said to be sustained or ruled well-taken. If not, it is said to be overruled or ruled not well-taken.
Generally, a point of order must be raised at the time the rules are broken or else it would be too late. For example, if a motion was made and discussion began on it, it would be too late to raise a point of order that the motion was not seconded. If such a motion was adopted without a second, it remains valid and not having a second becomes irrelevant.
Exceptions to the rule that a point of order must be raised at the time of violation include that a point of order may be raised at any time a motion was adopted in violation of the bylaws or applicable law, or in conflict with a previously adopted motion (unless adopted by the vote to rescind it), or in violation of a fundamental principle of parliamentary law.
"Seated and covered"
Until recently in the British House of Commons it was required that a member raising a point of order while the House is voting be wearing a hat so they could be easily seen, and two opera hats (collapsible top hats usually worn for full evening dress) were kept in the House for members to don on such occasions. In 1992 a number of MPs registered an official complaint about this practice, with some commenting that it "has undoubtedly been retained to deter honourable Members from raising points of order during divisions by making them appear ridiculous and feel acutely embarrassed". In 1998 it was recommended that the opera hat be abandoned, since "although some Members may feel that they look particularly fetching in it, it makes the House of Commons look ridiculous when someone wearing the hat is trying to raise a point of order from a seated position while everyone else is milling around and going to vote." The practice was abolished in accordance with the findings of the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons.
In the United States Senate, the chair's ruling may be appealed by any Senator. The Senate votes on the appeal and the chair has been frequently overturned. Points of order with regard to the Budget Act or annual budget resolution may be waived by 3/5 of the Senate's entire membership. Rule XVI, which prohibits normal legislation in appropriations legislation, may be waived by 2/3 of the Senate.
In the Irish Oireachtas (parliament) a point of order is "a submission to the chair in respect of a decision he has not yet taken with a view to influencing that decision by presenting certain facts or arguments." This cannot arise in relation to a decision already taken and must relate to a procedural item in the House or on the Standing Orders. A point of information cannot be raised when the Chair (Ceann Comhairle or Cathaoirleach) is:
- dealing with disorder
- putting a question
- addressing the House or
- dealing with an order of the house.
These rules come mainly from precedent and common practice, as there is no provision in the official Standing Orders for Points of Order. They are, however, usually dealt with in the standing orders as motions.
- Robert, Henry M. (2011). Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 11th ed., p. 249-250 (RONR)
- RONR, p. 253
- RONR, p. 250
- RONR, p. 37
- Robert III, Henry M.; et al. (2011). Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief (2nd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-306-82019-9.
- RONR, p. 251
- RONR, p. 258
- Early day motion 1623
- House of Commons Hansard Debates for 4 Jun 1998 (pt 19)