Citizenship GCSE: How do MPs vote in the House of Commons?

How do MPs vote in the House of Commons? What pressures must they balance when voting?

Voting in the House of Commons is called a ‘division’. When a division is called, bells ring out across the Commons and MPs must head to the chamber to vote in person.

We look at this process through the vote on the Government’s controversial high speed rail project that would link London to the North: HS2. We meet MPs who are voting against their party, known as rebels.

They tell us about having to weigh up party loyalty on the one hand with a duty to their constituents on the other. We see the vote as it happens, as hundreds of MPs stream through two rooms called the voting lobbies.

Former Labour Leader Ed Miliband tells us how the voting lobby is a place for MPs from all parties to catch up and talk business. But is this form of voting outdated? Should it be replaced with an electronic system?

This short film is from the BBC series, Exploring the House of Commons. This series goes behind the scenes of the House of Commons to explain some of the processes that drive British politics.

NB This series was filmed in 2013 - 2015 and some of the political figures shown no longer hold their positions.

Teacher Notes

GCSE or Scottish National 5:

This short film could be used to introduce students to how the House of Commons works.

What does an MP have to consider before they vote?

Pupils could also consider the merits or HS2 and draw up a list of potential pros and cons of a high speed rail link between London and the north.

A level or Scottish Higher:

This could be used to introduce how a bill becomes law.

Pupils could consider the different pressures on MPs when they are voting in the House of Commons and make a list of reasons why an MP might rebel.

Curriculum Notes

This short film will be relevant for teaching classes about Citizenship. It will be suitable for GCSE or A Level, and Scottish National 5 or Higher.

More from Exploring the House of Commons

How does an MP change the law?
What is a Private Members' Bill?
What is Prime Minister's Questions?
Changing Britain's Constitution
Public perceptions of British politicians
Why do MPs rebel?
What is a Government Whip?