Public Business is the meeting where the weekly debates of the society are held.
Typically, these meetings are held on Wednesday Evenings and follow the weekly private business meeting. The meetings held discuss a variety of topics which are determined by convention at the term clerks meeting. This meeting is called by the Correspondence Secretary and are where the society decides democratically what the debates will be for the following term. Under the fundamental regulations of the society, topics of current politics and religion are not permitted to be debated by the society.
The chair sits in the centre of the house, and calls each speaker to the dispatch box one by one to speak, with the first speaker moving the motion and thus speaking in its favour. Each student speaker is permitted seven minutes to speak, while guest speeches are typically twelve minutes long. The first and last minute being what is called ‘protected time.’ During this time, individuals are not allowed to offer a point of information to the speaker so they can both begin and conclude their cases in a clear manner. At the discretion of the Auditor, floor speeches may be permitted. These speakers are decided on the night of the debate, and such speeches are typically four minutes in length. These speeches are also entitled to the protected time of all speeches in the house.
At the Public business meeting, the speakers who have been selected by the Correspondence secretary debate the topic of the night. The Correspondence Secretary is also responsible for securing a chair and guest speakers who are experts in the subject of the debate. The format of the debates is, as with all business of the society, that of the adversarial westminister model. Speakers sit around the table on their respective benches with those speaking for the debate sitting directly opposite those speaking in favour of the motion. Those speaking in favour of the motion sit to the left of the chair, while those speaking against the motion sit to the right.
Under certain circumstances, Points of information may not be offered to speakers. This includes for speakers who are addressing the house for the first time are considered, as with newly elected members of parliament, to be making their maiden speech. Given this, such speakers are offered, according to convention, what are referred to as maidens rights. This means that such speakers may not be offered a point of information, unless they choose to wave such rights. Other circumstances include ‘competitive’ debates, such as the maidens final, where, maidens rights are also not offered to speakers.
Following parliamentary convention, un-parliamentary language is not permitted by speakers, and the treasurer is responsible for ensuring good order in the nightly proceedings as well as keeping time. This stems from the convention of the treasurer being responsible for managing fines which would have been issued on members historically. As with all speeches to the house, speakers are expected by the laws to begin their speeches “Mr/Madam chair, Mr/Madam Auditor, Ladies and Gentlemen of the College Historical Society”, otherwise their speeches are not considered to be given to the house.
Once speeches have concluded the chair puts the motion to the house, calling on those who are in favour to voice assent by saying aye, and those against to voice dissent by voting nay. If the vote is considered close, the chair will call a division, the vote will be made by hand again and the Librarian will tally the votes on the motion.
Examples of previous motions:
This House Supports The Right to Bear Arms
This House Believes That The Me-Too Movement Is Succeeding
This House Would Unite Ireland Post Brexit
This House Supports the AI Revolution
This House, as the Roman Senate, Would Assassinate Julius Caesar
This House Regrets Happily Ever Afters