The debates

Spring Session 2024

25 Jan.  That this House supports the Government’s Rwanda Bill 

1 Feb.  That English Literature teaching should emphasise modern work    

8 Feb.  That successive governments cannot be held responsible for the Post Office/Horizon scandal

15 Feb.  That this House prefers the art of the Renaissance to that of the nineteenth century and beyond

22 Feb.  That conflict in Palestine cannot be resolved by the two-state solution

29 Feb.  That Sir Thomas More was no saint

7 Mar.  That Henry Kissinger did more harm than good 

14 Mar.  That this House has no confidence in His Majesty’s Government

Hybrid debates

The society’s experiment with hybrid debates is proving very successful, with increased numbers. Members and visitors can attend our meetings in person (in the debating hall) or virtually (via Zoom).

We shall encourage principal speakers to come to the meeting that evening, unless they live too far away for this to be possible.

For more details please email the Zoom officer:

The speeches

The Proposer and Opposer of the motion each speak for up to 20 minutes. The debate is then open to the floor of the House. Members and visitors speak on equal terms from the floor: once only, and for up to 10 minutes each.

The debate ends with the Opposer and Proposer each making summing-up speeches of up to 10 minutes each. Two votes are then taken: for members only, and for all persons present.

To round off the evening—and make any further points over a drink—a good number of debaters go off to the local pub.

Our style of debating

The structure of the debate has remained largely unchanged since 1886. It is formal in style: all remarks are addressed to the Chair rather than to those holding opposing views. This avoids any sense of personal animosity.

All speakers in the floor debate (after the Proposer and Opposer) speak once only, without interruption. This allows them to develop their ideas.

No heckling is allowed. This ensures that everyone, even the newest speaker, is given a fair hearing.

We believe that this formality enhances our debates, avoiding the free-for-all which tends to favour the loudest voices. The style soon becomes second nature, and there is plenty of room for a good deal of humour.

Topics for debate

Subjects range widely, from current political and educational issues, foreign policy and defence, to social matters and literary and historical topics.

A quick glance at the programme for 1901, seen on this page, shows the persistence of certain themes. Most of the subjects tackled then could occupy present-day debaters:

  • The Channel Tunnel
  • Retaining a conquered nation’s language after annexation
  • The licensing laws and alcohol
  • An offensive and defensive alliance with Russia
  • Import duties on manufactured items
  • A comparison of the Victorian and Elizabethan eras
  • MPs’ pay . . .


Our Autumn Session begins in mid-October 2024. We are at present on our long summer break.

When the programme is decided you can view the eight topics and their dates under The Debates.

Hybrid debates are proving very successful. Members and visitors can choose to attend in person or by Zoom.

List of motions for debate in the Spring Session 1901 Spring Session programme cover 1901, with members