I wish to see online, for any past Bill of Parliament, in the House of Commons:

which MPs (in the House of Commons) and which peers (in the House of Lords) voted in favour and in opposition.

For instance, I desire this information for Bills that failed to abolish slavery:

But time was lost during the lengthy inquiries by the privy council committee for trade and plantations (1788) and by the Commons itself (1789-1790), and Wilberforce's motion for abolition was disappointingly defeated by 163 to 88 votes in 1791. In the following year, a compromise was reached in the Commons whereby the trade was to be prohibited from 1796.

These were partial measures which only slightly improved the horrific conditions experienced during the notorious middle passage.

The House of Lords stalled the motion pending its own inquiry, which was eventually allowed to lapse because of the wars against revolutionary France. Wilberforce introduced an abolition motion in most subsequent sessions, and these were occasionally lost by only narrow margins, including by only four votes in 1796, when several supporters had deserted the chamber for the pleasures of the opera house.

and the successful Slave Trade Act 1807:

The effect of Stephen's 1806 act was to reduce the trade by two-thirds, paving the way for the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in February 1807. The Prime Minister, Lord Grenville, introduced the Slave Trade Abolition Bill in the House of Lords on the 2nd January 1807 when it received a first reading. The House of Lords, voted for the abolition of the slave trade on 5th February by 100 votes to 34; after an impassioned speech by the Prime minister, despite opposition from the West India Lobby. The bill was debated for ten hours in the House of Commons on 23rd February. At 4am the next morning the House voted in favour of the Bill by 283 votes to 16. Finally on 25 March 1807 the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act received its royal assent, abolishing the slave trade in the British colonies and making it illegal to carry enslaved people in British ships.

  • 3
    You can't, for obvious reasons. Most of the Commons archive was destroyed in 1834. The Lords archive is in tact but only back to 1497. And either way, bills could have been passed by acclamation with no rolls taken. So it's impossible to know who voted how for "any past Bill".
    – Semaphore
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 7:45
  • Its fairly common under Roberts to have voice votes, and only bother to count if the issue is close.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 14:17
  • @T.E.D.: Of course, Roberts' Rules of Order are used only in the United States. Bourinot's Rules of Order are used by the Canadian Parliament and most other Canadian legislative bodies, while Erskine May wrote the first authoritative book on Rules of Order for the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Substantive differences exist in regards filibustering, and the allowance of off-topic riders and amendments to bills, just for starters. Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 22:10
  • Whatever records exist are available in the historical Hansard transcripts: hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 22:11

1 Answer 1


These records are not kept, and never have been kept, because Divisions of the House (both Lords or Commons) are not, and never have been, by roll call. The exact procedure is nicely summarized in Wikipedia, but the crux is that only total votes for and against have ever been recorded, and those only when a voice vote has been unclear.

In the case of the Commons, after the Speaker has made the first announcement of a division, due to a voice vote being unclear, the bells are rung continuously to summon members to vote, until eight minutes later when the doors of the House are locked. The members then file through doors into two separate division lobbies, counted as they pass through.

In exceptional cases a process known as nodding through makes special provision to count Members who can be verified to be physically within the boundaries of the Palace of Westminster, and alive, but physically unable to actually walk through a door of division:

I remember the famous case of Leslie Spriggs, the then Member for St. Helens. We had a tied vote and he was brought to the House in an ambulance having suffered a severe heart attack. The two Whips went out to look in the ambulance and there was Leslie Spriggs laid there as though he was dead. I believe that John Stradling Thomas said to Joe Harper, "How do we know that he is alive?" So he leaned forward, turned the knob on the heart machine, the green light went around, and he said, "There, you've lost - it's 311.".

More commonly, Members who know they will be absent for an upcoming vote will pair off with a Member known to support the opposite side, both agreeing not to participate in the upcoming vote so that one or both may travel from the vicinity of Westminster to attend to official Parliamentary business. The respective Party Whips will enforce the pairing off, as this practice is beneficial to all parties, averaged over time.

The process for the House of Lords is structured similarly but varies in some of the details.

The historical Hansard transcripts record the results of Divisions, but a quick search was unable to find one where the tally of the votes for and against was recorded - presumably it is recorded whenever a voice vote was insufficient to determine the Motion.

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