British Parliamentary Debating

INTRODUCTION The British Parliamentary form of debating is a highly subtle art, featuring four teams, of two members each. The teams are classified as the ‘Proposition’ and the ‘Opposition’, based on whether they are supporting or speaking against the motion, respectively. In effect, two teams will, by virtue of their stand on the motion being debated upon, be classified as the proposition and the remaining two as the opposition. However, what is important to note here is that all of them are competing against the others (even the ones on the same side of the house) and hence, their functions, and subsequently, their positions, in the debate, are rather well-defined--the two teams up first, debating on the motion, are classified as the ‘Opening Teams’ and the teams, extending upon the debate are classified as the ‘Closing Teams’. What make this form of debating a particularly difficult art to master, are essentially: a.) More emphasis on knowledge (no specific knowledge rules). One simply needs to have more information and relevant examples to define the debate broadly, and to deepen or extend the debate. b.) The idea of having to better without beating, which essentially means that the closing teams have to stand out with their arguments, without contradicting the position of the Opening Teams on the same side of the house. This roughly translates into more constructive and analysis burden for speakers. FORMAT The speaking order is as follows:

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Prime Minister - First Speaker, Opening Government (OG)/ Proposition Leader of the Opposition- First Speaker, Opening Opposition (OO) Deputy Prime Minister- Second Speaker, (OG) Deputy Leader of the Opposition- Second Speaker, (OO) Member of the Government- First Speaker, Closing Government (CG)/ Proposition 6. Member of the Opposition- First Speaker, Closing Opposition (CO) 7. Government Whip- Second Speaker, (CG) 8. Opposition Whip- Second Speaker, (CO) Basic Team Responsibilities & Points of Difference from other formats
Opening Proposition1.PM 3.DPM


Opening Opposition2.LOP 4.DLOP

Closing Proposition5.MoG 7.Govt Whip

Closing Proposition6.MOP 8.Opp Whip

Opening Proposition: Defining the resolution, laying out a proposition focus and presenting a “model” from which Proposition will approach the debate, setting the framework from which Opposition can work. The second speaker should ideally continue constructive material after refuting the First Opp. Speaker. The case should be broader, in order to make it more difficult for 2nd Prop to expand. As much ground, as is possible, should be covered. The case must be contentious enough to last for eight speeches.

Opening Opposition Laying out the Opposition focus, the points of clash with First Prop’s model and constructive. Opposition needs to have more construction than normal, with an equal burden between speakers. Opposition is expected to bring up substantial constructive, with relevant examples and deeper arguments. The main strategy is to take 1st Prop out of the round, while building an Opposition case that will be tough for 2nd prop to refute and 2nd Opposition to better. Closing Proposition Extending the debate, moving the proposition case in a different direction with an explicit “extension.” The 2nd Proposition is expected to make the case narrower or broader, expand to a different region, approach with a different philosophy- anything that is a new element to the debate. The main goal for a closing team is to differentiate itself from the opening team, but still support them. Refuting the last speaker on First Opposition team. The Proposition Whip should not, ideally, bring up new matter in her/his speech. The debate should be moved forward, and the first Proposition’s case supported-the 2nd team should never go against the 1st Proposition’s case. Closing Opposition Analyzing the Second Prop’s extension and refuting it. Expanding the debate for Opposition by adding new substantive matter in the 1st speaker’s speech. Essentially, the 2nd Opposition is expected to deal with the refutation of the 1st Proposition’s case in a manner, that is better than the 1st Opposition, and totally take out the 2nd Opposition’s case. The Opposition Whip is essentially required to provide a summary of the debate, and prove, through it, the strength of their arguments over anybody else’s, without adding any new material. Essential Points:  Preparation & Timing:  The preparation time is, generally, 15 minutes, during which the Opening Proposition is allowed to prepare its case, in the room allotted for the debate. Printed/written material is permitted in the preparation of a case. However, they may not be accessed by a speaker holding the floor. The use of any sort of electronic media, electronic storage or retrieval devices, for any purpose, is strictly prohibited during a debate, starting from the preparation time, till the results are declared to the teams and the oral adjudication concluded.  Each speech is, generally, 7 or 5minutes long, with a grace period of 30minutes. A speech which crosses the grace period is considered a serious breach of BPD rules and the marks the offending speaker receives will reflect that breach. The first and last minutes are protected time. This means that no Points Of Information (POIs) may be offered during this time. The POIs should be posed in a time-frame of not more than 15seconds. There are no Points of Order, or Points of Personal Privilege.

Definitional Challenges:  The definition is the interpretation of the motion as put forward by the Prime Minister, in his opening remarks. The onus for establishing how the definition ties in

with the given motion lies completely upon the Prime Minister. The other speakers of the Proposition have a purely clarification-wise (if any) role in this regard. The only speaker who can object to the OG definition is the LO. If the LO doesn't object, no one else can. If the LO objects to the definition then they must substitute their own. The remaining debaters then have to decide which definition to use. If the remaining debaters use the LOs definition then the debate can continue on like normal. If there is still disagreement about the definition then the closing teams must decide which definition to support, or whether to substitute their own. The essential challenges are the same as in any other format, namely- status-quo definitions, truism, tautology, time-set, place-set, squirrel and specific knowledge.  It is legitimate to define where no definition has been offered. Here, the first opposition speaker takes on the burden of establishing the debate, at short notice. Credit will be given to her/him for this problem. The opposition remains the opposition, though the opposition continues to oppose change to the status quo. Knifing: The second teams in BP debates must not contradict the material set out by the first teams on their sides (neither the principle, nor the policy, nor the examples, nor anything else). If done to a significant extent, it’s called “knifing” and will greatly harm the offending team.
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Result & Decision Making:  The teams are ranked 1st to 4th, with the points for each position being1st Place-3 2nd Place-2 3rd Place-1 4th Place-0  After a British Parliamentary debate, the judge(s) deliberate, and a discussion occurs between the panel of judges if there is more than one judge (it is to be noted that this is different from other formats, where the judges may vote on a result without conferring). The Chair / Chief Adjudicator controls and directs the discussion. This discussion always aims for unanimity. If unanimity is impossible, then a majority is sought. If a majority cannot be reached, then the chief adjudicator decides. All judges have an equal vote. In an open round, the speed ballot goes in to the organisers before the commencement of the oral-adjudication session.  In the case of oral adjudications, one of the judges will tell the teams, the positions they have been given but not the points allocated to individual speakers. She/he will also give a brief rationale for the result, which should not be interrupted. Teams, wanting clarifications from the adjudicator, must wait till the adjudicator finishes her/his feedback, before posing any questions in this regard. The adjudication is given by the chairman of the panel unless she/he is dissenting, in which case the adjudication is given by a member of the jury selected by her/him. Any personal feedback, if required, should be sought in private, from one or the entire adjudication panel, after the debate. In obtaining that feedback competitors must be polite and non-confrontational.

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