What’s the difference between ‘a motion’ and ‘a resolution’?

A motion is proposed. If it passes it then becomes a resolution.

What types of motions are there?

A.    non-contentious issues: e.g. offering congratulations, support for other organisations, when appropriate
B.    issues internal to the GA: e.g. calling on the Executive Committee (EC) to do something; changes to procedure or organisation
C.    contentious or complex issues: e.g. issues to do with a social issue – treatment of asylum seekers, assisted dying legislation

Emergency Motions: are about issues of public concern which have arisen since the announced closure date for acceptance of motions.

Emergency Motions must be submitted:
A.    at the earliest opportunity
B.    in writing
C.    with the names of a proposer and seconder

They must be submitted to the Chief Officer either before the Meetings or at the earliest possible moment during the Meetings.

The Steering Committee will be asked to vet the motion, including whether it meets the criteria to be an emergency motion, and assist in refining wording and grammar as necessary.

The President will seek permission from the Meeting, without prior discussion, to admit an emergency motion to the agenda.  A two-thirds majority of those present and voting is required.

I’m thinking of submitting a motion. What do I need to think about?

  • Have we already passed a resolution on this already? If so, this motion may be unnecessary.
  • Is the motion saying anything helpful? No-one is against Freedom or Love, for example.
  • What are you hoping to achieve with this motion? Ideally, there should be some kind of indication as to some kind of concrete outcome (for example, a motion on environmental concerns could urge all GA congregations to undertake an energy audit).

I’ve decided to submit a motion. What should I do?

  • Read the latest version of Standing Orders for the Conduct of the Annual Meeting.
  • Check to see who can submit motions (see ‘Who can submit motions?’).
  • Check the procedure (see ‘What’s the procedure for submitting a motion?’).
  • Contact the Steering Committee and/or the Chief Officer to seek advice about the subject of the motion and the wording. They are also likely to know if someone else is preparing a motion on the same topic. Contact information on the current members of the Steering Group is available from Essex Hall.
  • Give plenty of time to do the research to prepare the background paper, especially with contentious or complex motions.
  • Ensure motions contribute to the work and purposes of the Unitarian community.
  • Consult as widely as possible within and without the Unitarian community to arrive at a consensus, especially with contentious or complex motions.
  • Work with another member group of the GA to formulate and to propose the motion.

What happens after my motion has been submitted?

A.    The motion will be checked to ensure that it fulfills the Assembly rules.
B.    The Steering Committee will check it for clarity and accuracy.
C.    The proposers may be asked to make adjustments accordingly before the meetings for major items or at the workshop at the meetings for minor ones.
D.    If another motion on the same topic is submitted the Steering Committee will ask the two proposers to form a composite motion.
E.    If this proves impossible one motion will be withdrawn.

Who can submit motions?

A.    Congregations, District Associations or Affiliated Societies on condition that they are supported by a majority of their governing bodies and evidenced by a signed copy of the appropriate minute.
B.    At least twelve individual Full Members of the Assembly (ministers, lay pastors, lay leaders on the appropriate roll; Honorary Members; Honorary GA Officers and members of the Executive Committee).
C.    The Executive Committee on its own authority.

What’s the procedure for submitting a motion?

Motions should be submitted to the Executive Committee, via the Chief Officer:
A.    in writing.
B.    with the names of the formal proposer and seconder (Note: The people speaking to the motion do not have to have the right to vote, but must have the right to speak or be granted the right to speak by the Chair).
C.    at least fifty-six days before the first day of the meetings for ordinary motions.
D.    for Motions requiring constitutional change, alterations or additions may be proposed by the Executive Committee on giving three months’ notice, or by not less than four Congregations, Societies or District Associations on the Roll of the Assembly on giving six months’ notice.
E.    motions must be accompanied by a background paper.
F.    motions on matters of United Kingdom law or public policy should, where appropriate, take account of the separate legal provision of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

How do I write a motion?

A. Keep the motion as simple as possible. Only include one topic in each motion.
B. A numbered form is better where: a) more than one matter must be included; or b) one part of the motion depends on the acceptance of another part. This will help delegates understand the effect of any proposed amendments to the motion.
C. Put the more general parts of the motion first and more specific parts later.
D. If the motion is internal to the GA, the EC or GA Officers, mandatory language may be used e.g. direct or instruct.
E. If the motion is aimed at member congregations, representative associations and affiliated societies, or to any body outside the Assembly e.g. H M Government, it should use non-mandatory language e.g. recommend, request, urge, ask, encourage, call upon, thank, congratulate, deplore.
F. Check the grammar. Make sure the motion does not contradict itself. Use short, simple sentences. Use inclusive language. Make the motion sufficiently informative but do not overdo it. Use the background paper to fill out the detail. Make it co-operative in tone rather than confrontational.
G. Ask someone outside the drafting group to read the motion without telling them anything about it first. The Steering Committee can be used for this. Do they understand what the motion is about? Does it say to them what it says to you? If they do not understand it then it is likely that others will not understand it.

How do I write a Background Paper?

A Background Paper should:
A. contain additional information about why the motion is being put.
B. indicate the likely implications (financial or otherwise) of the motion.
C. contain facts rather than opinions.
D. not include supporting signatures
E. Consist of under 1000 words. References to other supporting information, such as webpages or publications, may be used.

What happens at the Meetings?

The Annual Meetings detailed agenda will indicate when motions will be taken.

Proposers and seconders (P&S) should be ready, on time, near the appropriate microphone to be called by the President.

Speakers should give their name and the capacity in which they speak.

The P&S of a motion have 8 minutes between them to speak.

It is advisable for P&S to time their speeches beforehand so as not to overrun. The timetable is invariably tight. The Assembly, by a majority of those present and voting, may allow an extension to the time in any particular case, but this would be unusual.

The proposal will be followed by debate.  All other speeches have a maximum of 3 minutes.

Normally the President will close the debate (For exceptions see Standing Orders item 5 on Procedural Motions).

Proposers then have 3 minutes to reply following debate.

It is advisable to take note of points made during debate that you will wish to respond to.

A vote will then be taken and the result announced by the President.

If passed, the motion then becomes a resolution to be acted upon and becomes the property of the General Assembly.

What is the role of the Steering Committee?

A.    The committee comprises three people who respond to questions on the procedure for the conduct of the meetings.
B.    Before and during the meetings they offer advice on the formulation of motions.  They hold two workshops to help and advise proposers; one prior to the date for submission of motions (usually in January), and one on the first day of the meetings to clarify any wording and ambiguities or settle any disagreements.
C.    During the meetings reference is made to them by the President, if necessary, with regard to questions on the procedure for the conduct of the meetings.