Parliamentary “requests”: Part 1

Asking questions, seeking clarification and making requests are all common practices in meetings.

Sometimes during a meeting, 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 incidental 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.

In Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, (11th ed.), these practices are covered in the last two chapters on incidental motions.

These are also other “requests” but they are very specific:

  • A request to be excused from a duty is used in cases where a member has an obligation to serve or to do something and must ask the assembly to be relieved of the requirement.
  • A request to withdraw a motion is a request by the mover of a motion to remove the motion from consideration.
  • A request to read papers is a request by a speaker to read from a book or a paper. No member has the right to read from books or papers if the assembly objects.

All requests and inquiries have an important role to play in meetings, and it is likely that they are being used more than you might think in an informal manner. According to, Pathways to Proficiency: Presidentially Speaking, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PARLIAMENTARIANS® 2013, the three most frequently-used motions are parliamentary inquiry, request for information and withdrawal of a motion. Requests to read papers and to be excused from a duty are used less often.

This article is part one of two. Article two will explore “requests” and how they work.

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 MSU Extension Government and Public Policy team offers professional training in Parliamentary Procedure.

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