A Call of the House

The Victorian Commons

When party management at Westminster was still being developed the only means of ensuring good attendance at parliamentary debates was to ‘call the House’, an event described in 1855 as ‘one of the most interesting and exciting scenes’ the Commons ever witnessed. At a time when MPs’ attendance at debates was often poor, the practice was employed when important questions required the full attention of the House.

The earliest authenticated call of the House took place in 1549, although the procedure is thought to have originated in a statute of Richard II. Usually MPs were given at least one week’s notice that a call was to take place, although the interval could vary between one day and six weeks. On the day appointed the order might be discharged (i.e. dropped), but if proceeded with the Members’ names were called over according to their counties, which were arranged alphabetically, the English…

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