Legal Dictionary

vote of no confidence

Definition of vote of no confidence


vote of no confidence

  1. (politics, law) A parliamentary motion representing the lack of confidence of a parliament in the standing government. A passed motion of no confidence usually results in the government's fall.


  • vote of confidence

Further reading

A motion of no confidence (alternatively vote of no confidence, censure motion, no-confidence motion, or confidence motion) is a parliamentary motion traditionally put before a parliament by the opposition in the hope of defeating or weakening a government, or, rarely by an erstwhile supporter who has lost confidence in the government. The motion is passed or rejected by means of a new parliamentary vote (a vote of no confidence).

In the British Parliament it generally first appears as an early day motion, although the vote on the Queen's Speech also constitutes a confidence motion.[1]


Typically, when parliament votes no confidence, or where it fails to vote confidence, a government must respond in one of two ways:

This procedure is either formalised through constitutional convention, as is the case with the United Kingdom and Canada, or explicitly stated in a written constitution, as is the case with Germany and Spain.

Where a government has lost the confidence of the responsible house (i.e., the directly elected lower chamber which can select and dismiss it; in some states both houses of parliament are responsible), a head of state may have the constitutional right to refuse a request for a parliamentary dissolution, so forcing an immediate resignation.

Often, important bills serve as motions of confidence, when so declared by the government. This may be used to prevent dissident members of parliament from voting against it. Sometimes a government may lose a vote because the opposition ends debate prematurely when too many government members are away.

In the Westminster system, the defeat of a supply bill (one that concerns the spending of money) automatically requires (by convention) the resignation of the government or dissolution of Parliament, much like a no-confidence vote, since a government that cannot spend money is hamstrung. This is called loss of supply.

Where the Upper House of a Westminster system country has the right to refuse supply, such as in Australia, the events of 1975 the convention becomes a grey area as Westminister governments are not normally expected to maintain the confidence of the Upper House

Governments often respond to a motion of no confidence by proposing a motion of confidence which, according to parliamentary procedure in the Westminster system, takes precedence and so replaces the motion of no confidence.


  1. Microsoft Word - M07 - Parliamentary Elections.doc


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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