What is Parliamentary Procedure? Ė Description and History


Parliamentary law originally was the name given to the rules and customs for carrying on business in the English Parliament, which were developed through a continuing process of decisions and precedents somewhat like the growth of the common law. This tradition stretches back over a 1,000 years. These rules and customs, as brought to North America with the settling of the New World, became the basic substance from which the practice of legislative bodies in Canada and the United States evolved. Out of early legislative procedure and paralleling it in further development has come the general parliamentary law, or com≠mon parliamentary law, of today, which is adapted to the needs of organizations and assemblies of widely differing purposes and conditions. In legislative bodies, there is often recourse to the general parliamentary law in situations not covered by the rules or precedents of the particular body‑although some of the necessary procedure in such a case must be proper to that type of assembly alone.


The kind of gathering in which parliamentary law is applica≠ble is known as a deliberative assembly. This expression was used by Edmund Burke to describe the English Parliament, in a speech to the electorate at Bristol in 1774; and it became the basic term for a body of persons meeting to discuss and determine upon common action. Acting under the general parliamentary law, any deliberative assembly can formally adopt written rules of procedure that can confirm, add to, or deviate from parliamentary law itself. The term rules of order, in its proper sense, refers to any written parliamentary rules so adopted, whether they are contained in a manual or have been specially composed by the adopting body. The term parliamentary procedure, although frequently used synonymously with parliamentary law, refers to parliamentary law as it is followed in any given assembly or organization, together with whatever rules of order the body may have adopted. But since there has not always been complete agreement as to what constitutes parliamentary law, no society or assembly should attempt to transact business without having adopted some standard manual on the subject as its authority in all cases not covered by its own special rules.


Extracted from the Seventh Edition of Robertís Rules of Order, Newly Revised


What Parliamentary Procedures is the Parliamentary Society of Toronto Interested In?


Our members have a broad base of interest in parliamentary procedure and many have become experts on a particular procedure. The following is a partial list of procedures of interest:



        Procedures for Meetings and Organizations, Kerr and King, Carswell

        Bourinotís Rules of Order, Geoffrey Stanford, McClelland and Steward Ltd.

        Meeting Procedures, Parliamentary Law and Rules of Order for the 21st Century, James Lochrie, Scarecrow Press Inc.







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