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Standards:Two Team and Four Team Parliamentary Debate

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Introduction

Parliamentary Debate is a team format modeled on the British House of Parliament, with one or more team representing the government, and the others speaking for the opposition. In general, parliamentary debaters have the freedom to offer both practical and philosophical arguments for their side (a combination of the Lincoln-Douglas and policy debate formats).

In addition to constructive and rebuttal speeches, speakers are allowed points of order, of privilege, and of information - interruptions that highlight erroneous claims and/or breaches of etiquette. Parliamentary debaters are also permitted to heckle one another with short, witty, and relevant comments, which challenge some aspect of the opponent's case and entertain the audience.

Parliamentary Debate is intended to help students:

  • Develop a broad knowledge base.
  • Improve argumentative abilities.
  • Speak persuasively and extemporaneously

General Parliamentary Debate Rules

The purpose of these rules is to ensure that all participants enter into debates sharing a common set of expectations, while at the same time allowing debaters a degree of creative freedom. Judges may not impose additional rules on debaters.

The judge's decision in a debate round is final. Violations of these rules may merit (at the judge's discretion) a reduction in points, or a loss in a given round. In the case of serious rule violations, a judge should consult with the Tournament Director before imposing sanctions on the debaters. The Tournament Director, or a committee designated by the Tournament Director, may impose penalties including reprimands and, in extreme cases, the removal of a debater or judge from the tournament.

Penalties may affect future rounds, but cannot reverse judges' decisions. Cases of intellectual dishonesty are the sole exception: in these cases, a Tournament Director may reverse a decision, provided that the reversal takes place prior to the scheduled start of the next round.

Tournament Directors (with the approval of the IDEA Accreditation Committee) are permitted to make minor changes to these rules. To gain the committee's approval, the changes must be submitted at least one month prior to the beginning of the tournament. The Accreditation Committee will then approve or reject the changes, and inform the Tournament Director of its decision.

Motions and Preparation

Topics and motions may be announced prior to the tournament, but specific motions will not be chosen until shortly before each debate round. A different motion will be used for each round, and will be presented to the debaters at a specified time prior to the round (to be determined by the Tournament Director). The amount of time is determined by adding 15 to 30 minutes to the time needed to walk between the most distant buildings at the tournament site.

Motions should be general enough to be debated by a well-educated high school or college student, and should identify two features that will define the debate:

1. An issue of substance on which the debate should focus, concerning a public, social, or philosophical topic of current interest.

2. The stance that the government team must take toward the issue. The stance identified by the motion may be one of fact (i.e. correct or incorrect, true or false), of value (i.e. right or wrong, moral or immoral), of relationship (i.e. one thing does or does not cause another; one thing is or is not similar to another), or of policy (i.e. some policy should or should not be adopted).

The government team has the option of using the assigned debate room for their preparation; if they choose to do so, the judge and the opposition must vacate the room until the debate begins.

During the preparation period, teams may consult individuals or written materials; however, such consultation is not permitted during the debate. Tournament directors may prohibit or allow access to electronic resources, in keeping with a student's right to access as outlined in the Student Bill of Rights.

The Role of the Judge

For guidelines in judging any speech or debate event, please refer to Judges Accreditation Process and Standards. For guidelines of specific events see IDEA Rules for Events.

1. Prior to accepting a judging assignment, a judge must agree to:

  • Conduct the debate on the basis of these standards;
  • Enforce all rules that fall within the judge's province;
  • Not add, enforce, or base a decision on any rules not included in these standards.

2. The judge should consult with tournament administrators in order to be aware of tournament rules regarding oral critiques and the disclosure of decisions.

  • If the judge is permitted to provide constructive oral feedback, the presentation of the feedback must be timed, and may not exceed 5 minutes (including the time needed to deliver the ballot to the tournament staff).
  • Under no circumstances may the judge change his or her decision or points on the basis of discussions with the involved teams.
  • A judge's decision should be based on the content of the debate, including the substantive arguments presented and the evidence used to support them.

A speaker's ability to clearly communicate ideas is of primary importance, although the style of speaking will inevitably affect his or her ability to persuade.

For example, while extemporaneous speeches may be more persuasive, speakers should not be heavily marked down for reading a speech, unless it impinges on their ability to convey arguments clearly and persuasively to the audience. Likewise, the use of sheets of paper instead of note cards should not be considered a major deficit.

Structure is generally more important than communication style, as it determines whether the speaker has presented clear arguments. A good question for judges to ask themselves is: At the end of the debate, was the audience left with a clear impression of the team's arguments?

4. Judges should base win/loss decisions upon the performance of each team as a whole.

Some tournament directors may permit judges to award wins to teams that do not receive the highest total speaker points.

Two Team Parliamentary (American Parliamentary)

In two team Parliamentary Debate, the team supporting the resolution is referred to as the 'affirmative', 'proposition', or 'government' team. The team negating the resolution is referred to as the 'negative' or 'opposition' team. For consistency, these standards will use the terms 'government' and 'opposition'.

Interpretation of the Motion

1. The teams may interpret and define the motion as they see fit, provided that they do so in a reasonable fashion.

The government should interpret the topic as it would reasonably be interpreted in the public sphere. The government team is not required to provide a literal interpretation of the motion, and may instead create a metaphorical interpretation. The government team's objective is to make an adequate case for its interpretation of the motion. To this end, the team must introduce one or more arguments in support of the motion as they have interpreted it, and sustain their case throughout the debate.

2. The opposition team argues against the motion.

  • The opposition may counter the government team's interpretation of the proposition if they believe it is not reasonable (i.e. if the proposition team has misidentified some substantive issue, or taken a stance toward the issue that is contrary to the resolution).
  • The opposition team may challenge any aspect of the government team's case. For instance, it may challenge the interpretation of the resolution, the factual and analytical foundations of the case, the underlying assumptions of the claims, or any costs associated with the arguments.
  • The opposition team should also offer its own arguments against the government team's claims.

Rules During Two Team Parliamentary Debate

1. In-round research is prohibited.

Topic research must be completed prior to the beginning of the debate. During the debate, debaters may consult only the notes made during the preparation time, and a copy of these standards.

2. Internet research is permitted at the discretion of tournament administrators.

Tournament administrators may, at their discretion, decide to allow or prohibit Internet research prior to the beginning of rounds. If Internet research is permitted, tournament administrators should ensure that all teams have equal access.

3. No outside assistance is permitted.

During the debate, no outside person(s) may provide research, directly or indirectly, to the debater.

4. Debaters may use information that a knowledgeable individual could reasonably be expected to know.

Debaters may refer to any public information, and may request that their opponent explain specific information with which they are unfamiliar.

The Debate Format

1. Two team Parliamentary Debate consists of 6 speeches, which proceed as follows:


Speaker (Speech) Time
Prime Minister Constructive (1st Government Constructive) 7 Minutes
Leader of the Opposition Constructive (1st Opposition Constructive) 8 Minutes
Member of the Government Constructive (2nd Government Constructive) 8 Minutes
Member of the Opposition Constructive (2nd Opposition Constructive) 8 Minutes
Leader of the Opposition Rebuttal (Opposition Rebuttal) 4 Minutes
Prime Minister Rebuttal (Government Rebuttal) 5 Minutes


2. Each speech has a specific purpose:

Prime Minister Constructive (1st Government Constructive)

The Prime Minister Constructive makes a case for the motion by demonstrating that the motion is more probably true than false. The Prime Minister interprets the motion for debate, defines any ambiguous terms, and otherwise clarifies the foundation for the argument. The speaker may also establish decision-making criteria, or other evaluative tools to assist the judge.

The Prime Minister may also choose to offer a history of the issue in contention. This approach can assist the judge's appreciation of subsequent argument claims from the government team.

After providing a clear foundation for the debate, the Prime Minister presents a case. This will consist of a detailed exposition of arguments in support of their team's interpretation of the motion. The case typically consists of three or four main arguments, with corresponding examples or other forms of contemporary or historical evidence. The Prime Minister should draw on sound reasoning and sufficient examples to make concise, complete, and compelling arguments on each point of the case. A succinct interpretation of the motion is known as a 'case statement'.

Leader of the Opposition (1st Opposition Constructive)

The opposition team provides "clash" in the debate. Clash occurs when arguments directly oppose each other.

The Leader of the Opposition uses tactics of direct and indirect refutation to counter the government team's case. The Leader of the Opposition may challenge the definition of the motion, the government's decision framework for the debate, and/or the main arguments of the case. He or she might also offer counters to the examples presented in the government case.

The Leader of the Opposition may also argue indirectly against the government case. Indirect argumentation involves issues that are not formally included in the opening speech by the Prime Minister, but which are related to consideration of the issue. These arguments include disadvantages, counter-plans, and critiques.

The optimal opposition strategy in this speech is to present some combination of direct and indirect refutation, carefully selecting from among all available opposition arguments the more effective ones.

The opposition is not obliged to disagree with every argument of the government's case. Agreement may focus the discussion on those points in genuine controversy, or may support a different and more powerful position for the opposition team

Member of Government (2nd Government Speaker)

The Member of Government speech is the government team's last opportunity to introduce new arguments. This is a particularly important speech for the government, as it immediately precedes two consecutive opposition speeches, which amount to 12 consecutive minutes of arguments.

The Member of Government should refute all of the major objections to the case as offered by the Leader of the Opposition. In addition, he or she should re-establish the principles of the case presented by the Prime Minister in the first government speech. In doing so, he or she might supplement his or her colleague's reasoning, offer additional examples, or otherwise amplify the opening presentation.

Member of the Opposition (2nd Opposition Speaker)

This is the opposition team's final constructive speech in the debate. The opposition team may introduce no new arguments or issues after this speech.

The Member of the Opposition has several options for his or her speech. He or she may continue the objections of the Leader of the Opposition; present new arguments (these arguments may be either direct or indirect refutation); defend and expand the opposition's counter-plan, disadvantages, critiques and other indirect argumentation (if they have been presented); or evaluate inconsistencies between the arguments of the first and second government speakers.

During this speech, it is vital that the speaker both expand upon the arguments presented by the Leader of the Opposition, and respond to the key issues raised by the Member of Government speaker.

Leader of the Opposition Rebuttal (Opposition Rebuttal)

This part of the debate is the summary speech for the opposition team, the last opportunity this side will have to explain winning arguments. Rebuttals are an opportunity to contrast the main lines of argument presented by the government and the opposition. The speaker should select from among the issues of the debate, focusing attention on two to four major issues that may tip the debate to the opposition's favor. Multiple, independent winning arguments will increase the probability that the opposition succeeds in the debate.

These arguments must have a foundation in the constructive speeches; new arguments may not be presented. The speaker should carry through important issues from his or her opening speech in the debate, as well as his or her partner's constructive speech. The speaker should be cautious to avoid a rote repetition of the second opposition speech.

Prime Minister Rebuttal (Government Rebuttal)

The government has the final speech, and it should effectively summarize the entire debate. The Prime Minister should extend the argument from the constructive speakers, taking care to answer the major arguments by the opposition speakers (particularly from the opposition's final stand on the floor.)

This speaker is allowed an exception to the rule forbidding the introduction of new arguments during rebuttals: new arguments made in the second opposition constructive speech may be answered in this speech, as it is the government team's first opportunity to refute them.

3. Debaters may speak only during their assigned speeches, with the exception of points of information (see below).

4. Points of Information and Points of Personal Privilege are permitted.

  • Points of Information.
A debater may request a point of information (either verbally or by rising) at any time after the first minute, and before the last minute, of any constructive speech. The debater holding the floor may accept or refuse points of information.
If accepted, the debater making the request has fifteen seconds to make a statement or ask a question. During the point of information, the speaking time of the floor debater continues.
  • Points of Personal Privilege.
At any time, a debater may rise to a point of personal privilege when he or she believes that an opponent has personally insulted one of the debaters, made an offensive comment, or grievously misconstrued another's words or arguments. The judge will then rule on the admissibility of the comments.
A point of personal privilege is a serious charge, and debaters may be penalized for raising it spuriously. The time spent on a point of personal privilege will not be deducted from the speaking time of the debater with the floor.

Four Team Parliamentary (British Parliamentary)

Naming Conventions

The team supporting the resolution in four team Parliamentary Debate is referred to as the 'affirmative', 'proposition', or 'government' team. The team negating the resolution is referred to as the 'negative' or 'opposition' team. For consistency, these standards will use the terms 'government' and 'opposition'.

Information

Debaters may use information that a knowledgeable individual could reasonably be expected to know.

Debaters may refer to any public information, and may request that their opponent explain specific information with which they are unfamiliar.

The Debate Format

Four team Parliamentary Debate adheres to the following format (speakers may be referred to by different terms, depending upon geographical location):


Speaker (Speech) Time
Prime Minister (1st Government Team, 1st Speaker) 7 Minutes
Opposition Leader (1st Opposition Team, 1st Speaker) 7 Minutes
Deputy Prime Minister (1st Government Team, 2nd Speaker) 7 Minutes
Deputy Opposition Leader (1st Opposition Team, 2nd Speaker) 7 Minutes
Member for the Government (2nd Government Team, 1st Speaker) 7 Minutes
Member for the Opposition (2nd Opposition Team, 1st Speaker) 7 Minutes
Government Whip (2nd Government Team, 2nd speaker) 7 Minutes
Opposition Whip (2nd Opposition Team, 2nd Speaker) 7 Minutes


Each speech has a specific purpose:

Prime Minister (1st Government Team, 1st Speaker)

It is the duty of the Prime Minister to define the topic of the debate in a way that is clearly linked to the motion. The Prime Minister must propose some positive plan (as opposed to simply criticizing the opposition's case).

Opposition Leader (1st Opposition Team, 1st Speaker)

The Opposition Leader's role is to set out the opposition to the government's case. The Opposition Leader should outline and develop their case, address the points made by the government, and link the flaws in these points to their team's central thesis.

It is the Opposition Leader's responsibility to decide if the case is debatable. The Opposition may choose to make the case more debatable by offering an alternative definition that redefines or modifies the government's case.

Deputy Prime Minister (1st Government Team, 2nd Speaker)

The Deputy Prime Minister should rebut the Opposition Leader's speech, and further develop the government team's argument. The Deputy Prime Minister must support the Prime Minister; he or she may choose to do so through an explication that 'clarifies' the speaker's meaning.

Deputy Opposition Leader (1st Opposition Team, 2nd Speaker)

As with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Deputy Opposition Leader must support his or her teammate. The Deputy Opposition Leader should not abandon the case because he or she realizes that it is flawed, but should instead endeavor to fix it.

Member for the Government (2nd Government Team, 1st Speaker)

The Member for the Government is the first speaker in the second half of the debate. If there has been a valid redefinition, the Member for the Government has two options: he or she may either follow the government line, or switch to the definition offered by the opposition.

The Member must bring in an extension. An extension may consist of an amendment to the First Government's proposal, a new line of argumentation consistent with the original proposal, or both. This extension should be identifiable to the judge, but need not be labeled as such by the debaters.

The Member's role is to develop the government line, demonstrating the ways in which it links to and supports the original case.

Member for the Opposition (2nd Opposition Team, 1st Speaker)

This speech presents the speaker with a significant challenge in terms of strategy. The Member of the Opposition must set out and fully develop his or her team's case in such a way that it stands apart from the arguments of the other teams. The Member of the Opposition should concentrate on the Member of Government speaker in his or her rebuttal. While he or she must rebut what the 1st Government Team said, it is the Member's primary duty to address the extension provided by the 2nd Government Team.

Government Whip (2nd Proposition Team, 2nd Speaker)

Whips may be penalized for failing to sum up their own team's arguments, or for failing to rebut the arguments of the opposition. The Government Whip may develop his or her team's case to some extent, but the vast majority of time should focus on summing up the government case as a whole, and on rebutting the opposition team's arguments.

Opposition Whip (2nd Opposition Team, 2nd Speaker)

The Opposition Whip should not introduce new core arguments or information into the debate. In the rebuttal, the Opposition Whip may bring in new examples that relate directly to the points he or she is rebutting, but may not make them the central plank on which the entire argument is based.

Some Opposition Whips make the error of simply rebutting without offering a summation. Ideally, the Opposition Whip should use a summary of what has been said by the opposition prior to the rebuttal. However, he or she should also have a clearly defined period devoted to a summation of the debate.

Debaters may request a point of information (either verbally or by rising) at any time after the first minute, and before the last minute, of any constructive speech.

The debater holding the floor may accept or refuse points of information. If accepted, the debater making the request has fifteen seconds to make a statement or ask a question. During the point of information, the speaking time of the floor debater continues.

The judge will rank teams based upon the arguments made during the debate, with the highest-ranked team awarded four points, the second-highest, three points, the third, two points, and the lowest-ranked team, one point.

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