Tag Archives: british parliamentary

2015 Mahidol BP Open

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The tournament was held in the British Parliamentary debate format, in june 27-28th 2015.

Grandfinals motion: This house believes that the British monarchy should actively and openly influence local/national politics.
Semifinals: Assuming the technology exists, This house remove aggression from human behavior.

Round 1: This house regrets the Dutch court’s decision to grant the climate liability suit filed by activists. (Context: The climate liability suit decision requires the Dutch government to cut carbon emissions by 25% within 5 years)
Round 2: This house, as the indigenous community, would engage in ecological terrorism to protect its lands.
Round 3: This house, as the transgender community, rejects Dolezal’s transracial claim.
Round 4: This house supports prohibiting the sale and display of the Confederate flag except for educational purposes.

Points of information

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Points of information are, if you ask me, the thing that makes the British parliamentary debate interesting.

But let me start at the start.

A point of information (POI) is a question or a statement, that is raised while a speaker of the opposing team is speaking. You are allowed to raise a POI at any time in the speech, but not during the protected time. Protected are the first and the last minute of the speech. You will hear a bang on the table (or a similar sound) after the first minute of a speech and before the last minute of the speech. Now its the time to raise your POI.

So you stand up and say “Point of information” or “On this point”. This is almost everything that you are allowed to say, when raising a POI (stating what your point is going to be about is not allowed and you will get penalised for a point like “On the poit of China”). Now you wait. The speaker has to decide if she is taking your point or not. If yes, the speaker is going to allow you to state your point. If not, she is going to say “no”, “no thanks” or similar, and you will see that some speakers will just sit you down with a hand motion. If you got an OK, now you have 15 seconds, not more, to raise one point. So think about what you are going to say. And with that I mean that you have to know what exactly you are going to say even before you stand up. If you dont, it is very possible that you will mess it up. The point is going to be too long or you will not be clear. When I say that you are allowed to make one point, I mean one point, that means that you are not allowed to speak about two problems that they have, even if you believe that they are both equal important.

When to raise a point? Well there are different tactics. But if you would like to make your point, than you need to stand up, when the speaker makes a break. That means, before he/she is going to start to speak about a new argument, or a new issue. Otherwise you are likely not to get the point. But you also need to stand up if the speaker is in the middle of something, but you would like to make something obvious to the judges. That means, that if the speaker is saying something really weird, you stand up immediately, even if you know that she is not going to take the point. You will make it obvious to the judges that you know that the point that the speaker made, is not a valid one. Some speakers stand up at the last 10-5 seconds because they know that they are not going to be taken, but they have offered one more point. Most judges are going to record how many points you are going to offer.

You should offer at least 5 points in every speech of the opposing side, so that the judges see, that you are involved in the debate even if you are not speaking. This is even more important if you are one of the first speakers, because there will be almost an hour of the debate, but you will not speak any more. But don’t make too many points. That means that you should not be standing up and sitting down all the time, because you are going to disturb the speaker and the judges can penalise you for that.

I can also advise you, to try to make a point about the argument, that you are going to make. That means if you are the first speaker of the second government, you should make a POI about the argument that is going to be your extension, so that the argument gets into the debate early, and that way you can make it more important.

A good idea is, that you have a paper on the table on witch you write down the points that you would like to make and with that you share your points with your debate partner, and with that your debate partner is going to get an idea about what you think and about what things you are going to use in your speech.

At the end, let me say this. Use your points wisely. Be funny but on the point. Short but kill their argument with the point.

Here are more resources, if you have more questions about points of information in different debate formats:

Lecture on Points of information in debate – Sarina Selleck
Video lecture about Points of information by Rhydian Morgan on World Debate Institute
Lecture by Alfred C. Snider “Points of information class”

British parliamentary debate format

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# of people in the debate: 8

# of people in a team: 2

# of teams in the debate: 4 

Duration of the speeches: 5 or 7 minutes

Questions format: Points of information

Short description:The teams are divided into the “government” – affirmative and “opposition” – negative. The first two team, also called the first table start the debate, the second table teams have to extend the debate on a different level. This is also called extending the debate. The motions are normally plan motions, that means that the government has to propose a plan or a change in the policy. The adjudicators decide on the argumentation and style, also mostly important is the role fulfillment.

Used in: University student debate in the Europe and elsewhere. Europeans and Worlds are organized every year.

British parliamentary debate – roles of the speakers

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1. Government:

– defines the motion whichever way they like, do not complain about it!


– unreasonable definitions and bad debates which come from them go

  against them


– expectable cases are rewarded


THB that coke is it (you could debate 1. American culture and US policy, 2. Globalization and the spread of popular culture, 3. Cocaine, …)


THW send the boats back (you could debate 1. Immigration, 2. Fishing rights, …)


THB representative government has failed (you could debate: 1. The European Parliament (EP), 2. The house of commons, 3. US Congress, …)

THW get tough on crime (you could debate: 1. Mandatory prison sentences, 2. The 3 strike rule, 3. The death penalty, …)


Roles of each team/speaker:

First Table:

1.      Government:

         Defines the topic and provides a debatable case, not a truism,

         Should predict the oppositions arguments,

         Should cover as much controversy as possible,

         Should have the best possible arguments you can come up with.

Prime minister:

         Defines the motion,

         States the case division/split between the speakers,

         Produces his positive matter (2 to 3 arguments)
→1 sentence to state your position

→explain it further

→2 major forms of support (examples, philosophical points, quotes, …)

→develop your arguments

→summarize this

         A powerful rhetorical conclusion

→so because we need to confront this challenge … we are proud to propose …

Deputy prime minister:

         Rhetorical introduction,

         Preview your speech,

         Answer the oppositions criticism,

         Point out what part of their case they didn’t deal with,

         Don’t be polite to the oppositions arguments,

         Continue with your part of the constructive case

         spend a half of your time on your constructive matter


1.      Opposition:

         Responds to the governments case,

         Creates its own positive matter,

         Covers as many of the opposing arguments as possible.

Leader of opposition:

         A powerful introduction

         Mention that you accept the governments definition, if you do,

         Preview your case,

         Rebut the government’s case,

         You need to be specific and organized,

         Spend no more than half of your speech on the governments arguments,

         Develop at least two of your arguments,

         Do not use defensive arguments (such as: not everyone will cooperate), but offensive ones (it is dangerous and harmful),


Deputy leader of opposition:

         Answer the governments defense (defend your attack),

         Spend more time on their new argument (rebut it),

         Sustain your speakers arguments,

         Present your new constructive matter.

Second Table:

         Plan but be flexible,

         Prepare for as many contingencies as possible,

         The government and the opposition both need an extension.


         Produce a new positive case,

         Is consistent with the first table, but provides a different perspective,

         It cannot contradict the first table (do not backstab),

Time allocation and sign posting

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Im going to do two articles in one, because the both things, that I’m going to write about, talk about what you should do in your speech.

A good time allocation means that you will do all of the roles, that you need to fulfill within your speech. Being the first government speaker means, that you have to present a problem, a solution, a model and arguments. If you plan your speech good, you will use around four minutes for your arguments, and the other time will be used to present the problem/solution/plan, and a half minute closing of your speech. The time allocation gets more interesting, when you need to do more in your speech. First opp speaker has to present own arguments and negate what the frist speaker has presented. For the first opp speaker it is more important to present own arguments than to negate. That means, that in a seven minute speech you will use up to four minutes for presenting your own arguments and the other time will be used for negation and for other things that you do in your speech (introduction, closing).

The same goes for the next two speakers. You need to think about your time allocation before you start your speech. You need to know at what moment you would like to be where. Plan, that you need to be at the start of the second argument at 4,5 minutes, and if you are not, you need to finish whatever you are doing and go to the next argument. Time allocation gets more interesting on the second table. Third government speaker has a lot to do, because presenting an extension will take a lot of time of her speech, and he also needs to take time to go through the first tables and make some more rebuttal of the previous opp speaker. The best way to do it is that you start with your most important stuff, in this case you need to start with your extension. After you finish, you will have time to do the rebuttal. You can decide to do it the opposite way, but it happens often, that people get just too much involved into negation, and with that they do not present the extension clear enough, and this will cost you a good placement in the debate.

The most important thing, that you need to do is the extension, and if you waste time on the other things, that are not that important, you will show, that its not you, who makes the decisions on the speaker floor, its the speech, that takes you, where it wants and that is not a good sign. As Im just at the extension speaker of the government, this is a good place to explain the sign posting idea. Sign posting means, that you should always explain the judge, what you will do in your speech. You need to do it at least three times. In your introduction you have to tell the judge, how your speech is going to look like. That does not mean, that you need to come up and start “Ladies and gentleman, I am the third speaker of the government and my role in the debate is to negate what was already said in the debate and to present an extension”. Most judges have a good idea about what your role in the debate is, so don’t repeat that, because you will bore the judge, and you don’t want to do that in the first sentence that you make. What you need to do is that you, while make your introduction tell the judge what your arguments will be about.

It is easier for the judges to follow, and it is fair to the opposite teams, so that have an idea, what you will speak about up front. In your speech, you should always tell, when you from one argument to the other, when you go from the negation to your own substantive material, when you go to your extension. Most of the judges wait for you to do your job, so they will react on you saying to them, what you are doing. So this is the second sign posting,that you need to do. The third sign posting that you need to do is at the end of your speech. You should sum up, what you have said in the debate. Do not repeat it too much, just go through the one most important thing for each argument.

To make the sign posting clear in one sentence: You need to tell, what you are going to do, than do it and tell what you are doing, and at the end you need to tell, what you have done in your speech. If you follow the ideas presented in this article, you will have a better structure, you will do your job as a speaker and the judges will follow what you speak about and it won’t happen, that you think you said something, but the judge just won’t get it. Comments to this article are welcome!