In parliamentary procedure
Parliamentary procedure is the body of rules, ethics, and customs governing meetings and other operations of clubs, organizations, legislative bodies, and other deliberative assemblies...
, unanimous consent
, also known as general consent
, or in the case of the parliaments under the Westminster system
The Westminster system is a democratic parliamentary system of government modelled after the politics of the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom....
, leave of the house
, is a situation in which no one present objects to a proposal. The chair may state, for instance: "If there is no objection, the motion will be adopted. [pause] Since there is no objection, the motion is adopted" or in Westminster parliaments, "There being no objection, leave is granted." On the most routine matters, such as inserting an article into the Congressional Record
The Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress. It is published by the United States Government Printing Office, and is issued daily when the United States Congress is in session. Indexes are issued approximately every two weeks...
, the chair may shorten this statement to four words: "Without objection, so ordered" or even to two words: "Without objection." If no member objects the motion is adopted, but if any member does declare his opposition the motion is not adopted and cannot be agreed to without a vote.
Unanimous consent can greatly expedite business by eliminating the need for formal votes on routine procedural questions in which the existence of a consensus is likely. The principle behind it is that procedural safeguards designed to protect a minority can be waived when there is no minority to protect.
That a bill, treaty or nomination passes by unanimous consent does not necessarily indicate that every member of the body would have voted in favor of the proposal. It is sometimes used simply as a time-saving device, especially at the end of the session. Sometimes members do not want a formal recorded vote on the issue, or know that they would lose such a vote and not feel a need to take the time. Conversely, raising an objection does not necessarily imply that the objector disagrees with the proposal itself; he may simply believe it would be better to take a formal vote.
In non-legislative deliberative bodies operating under Robert's Rules of Order
Robert's Rules of Order is the short title of a book containing rules of order intended to be adopted as a parliamentary authority for use by a deliberative assembly written by Brig. Gen...
, the unanimous consent device is often used to expedite the procedural consideration of uncontroversial secondary motions
In parliamentary procedure, a motion is a formal proposal by a member of a deliberative assembly that the assembly take certain action. In a parliament, this is also called a parliamentary motion and includes legislative motions, budgetary motions, supplementary budgetary motions, and petitionary...
Sometimes unanimous consent can be assumed if the chair perceives that no one would raise an objection if he formally asked. For instance, if it is obvious that the members of an assembly are absorbed in listening to a speaker who has exceeded the time limits on debate, but is about to conclude his remarks, the chair may allow him to continue without interruption. Another example of this practice in the House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...
is when a series of votes has been interrupted by a speaker or other business. The chair will state, "Without objection, five minute voting will continue."
Certain rights of the minority can only be waived by unanimous consent. For example, in disciplinary procedures
Disciplinary procedures, in parliamentary procedure, are used to enforce a deliberative assembly's rules. RONR notes, "Punishments that a society can impose generally fall under the headings of reprimand, fine , suspension, or expulsion." If an offense occurs in a meeting, the assembly, having...
, "a single member can require the vote on the imposition of a penalty to be taken by ballot."
Government by unanimous consent
In his autobiography Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing...
recounts episodes of Thembu
The Thimbu are one of the handful of nations and population groups which speak Xhosa in South Africa. In Xhosa the name is abaThembu, aba- being a common prefix for peoples....
government under a local chief conducted along the lines of unanimous consent.
Quaker organizations also advocate this form of decision making.