Parliamentary “requests”: Part 2

Differentiating between a Parliamentary Inquiry and a Request for Information.

As discussed in the previous article, “Asking questions, seeking clarification, and making requests are all common practices in meetings,” there are times during a meeting when a member who does not currently have the floor may wish to ask a question about the business at hand or about meeting processes. And although we are taught that only those members who have obtained recognition from the chair may speak, there are two motions that enable a member to interrupt a speaker and request the floor to ask for information or seek clarity.

  • A parliamentary inquiry is a question directed to the presiding officer concerning parliamentary law, rules of order or the organization’s rules as they apply to the business at hand.
  • A request for information is directed to the chair or through the chair to others, about items of business that are not parliamentary in nature.

Susan Leahy interviews Lorenzo Cuesta, PRP on this informative short video explaining the correct uses of parliamentary inquiry and request for information:

A parliamentary inquiry elicits an opinion, not a ruling, from the chair. Because of this, the chair's answer to a parliamentary inquiry is not subject to appeal. However, if you raise a point of order after getting an answer to your parliamentary inquiry, the decision, or ruling, of the chair on the point of order is subject to appeal.

Characteristics of a parliamentary inquiry:

  • Can interrupt a speaker who has the floor.
  • Does not need to be seconded.
  • Is not debatable.
  • Cannot be amended.
  • Requires that no vote be taken.
  • Cannot be reconsidered.

A request for information relating to the pending business is treated just as a parliamentary inquiry, and has the same characteristics. It must be addressed to the chair or through the chair. The goal of this motion is to get information. When you have the information you seek, business can proceed.

According to RONR 11th Edition p. 294-295, the inquirer rises and says, "Mr. Chairman, I have a request for information," or, “A point of information, please”, whereupon the chair directs him to state his question about the information he desires and the procedure continues as in case of a parliamentary inquiry.

If the information is desired of the speaker, instead of the chair, the inquirer upon rising says, "Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask the member a question." The chairman inquires if the speaker is willing to be interrupted, and if he consents, he directs the inquirer to proceed. The inquirer then asks the question through the chair, thus, "Mr. Chairman, I should like to ask the gentleman," etc. The reply is made in the same way, as it is not in order for members to address one another in the assembly. While each speaker addresses the chair, the chair remains silent during the conversation. If the speaker consents to the interruption the time consumed is taken out of his time.

Members who use parliamentary procedure correctly can get the business of the organization accomplished efficiently. At the MSU Extension Parliamentary Procedure Resource Page you will find articles to help answer your parliamentary questions and links to helpful references and activities.

The Michigan State University Extension Government and Public Policy team offers training for elected and appointed officials for improved effectiveness in several areas, including various public policy issues and effects of government programs, regulation, incentives, strategies and more. By working together with local elected and appointed officials, and interested citizens, MSU Extension is able to provide education on critical local and state issues. The Michigan State University Extension Government and Public Policy team offers professional training in Parliamentary Procedure.

Other articles in this series:

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