The rules of parliamentary procedure used in English-speaking countries originate with the English Parliament, but have developed along different paths in different countries. Robert's Rules of Order, with which most Americans are more-or-less familiar, are based on the rules of the United States House of Representatives, which, in turn, are derived from the rules of the English House of Commons. Citrine's Rules, the prevailing parliamentary rules in the British labor movement, are also based on the rules of the English House of Commons, but also, according to the introduction to The Labour Chairman, English company law, and the traditions of English debating practice. Although the basic procedures and structures are the same in both traditions, there are a number of significant differences.
With the holding of the 2008 General Assembly in London, England, I thought it would be useful for members unfamiliar with British meeting procedure to have some reference materials available to guide them through the proceedings.
This section begins with two simple tables from Citrine's The Labour Chairman. These are from the first edition (1921), and readers should note that the book has been republished many times since then, so the rules may have changed. I trust that British Wobblies will help their foreign Fellow Workers update the materials provided here, which are the best I could obtain on short notice. As I acquire additional materials, I will post them here.
I am just beginning to study Citrine's Rules, but at this point it appears (from a review of some web sites** on the subject) that the following are the chief differences:
Previous question: This is intended to postpone the subject to another time. It should be treated as an amendment and if carried then the meeting will move to the next item on the agenda. If lost, the motion must be voted on immediately, without any further debate. The Chair need not accept the "Previous Question" if she/he considers that the subject requires further debate. The "Previous Question" cannot be proposed when an amendment is being discussed.
The equivalent motion under Citrine's Rules appears to be
That the question be put: This is designed to resolve the debate without any further discussion. It takes precedence over all other business even if it interrupts a speaker. If seconded, it must be voted on without any further discussion. If carried, the mover of the original motion may reply to the debate before the vote. If "that the question be put" is moved during debate on an amendment and carried, it only refers to the amendment and does not affect the original motion, nor prevent any further amendments being moved.
Note that in Robert if a motion for the Previous Question passes, the mover of the motion does not get to reply to the debate before the vote. There are other differences, but these are the main ones I notice on looking over the web sites.
Yours for the One Big Union,
Secretary of the 2001, 2002, and 2003 General Assemblies
22 August 2008