Page last updated at 15:00 GMT, Wednesday, 13 August 2008 16:00 UK

Censure motions

During the course of a Parliamentary session the Opposition may table a motion expressing a lack of confidence in the government and its policies.

This is a called a censure motion but is more often referred to as a "vote of confidence" or a "confidence motion".

If a motion of no confidence is carried, the government is in effect forced to resign and call a General Election.

The number of censure motions debated increased dramatically during the late 1970s when there was a minority Labour government which eventually fell after it was defeated on such a motion.

Votes on very important Bills are sometimes treated as matters of confidence and will be "three-line whip" votes, where all members of the governing party are ordered to vote with the government in order to demonstrate their confidence in it.

A proposed Labour amendment to the European Community Finance Bill was made an "issue of confidence" - though not an actual vote of censure - by John Major's government in November 1994.

The Conservatives scored a comparatively narrow victory of 27 votes which resulted in seven members of the party who had voted against the government having the whip removed, effectively expelling them from the Parliamentary Party.

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