Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Lay on the Table Definition:

Also “to table”; a term of parliamentary law and procedure which refers to a motion in regards to another motion being actively debated, but intended to defer a final disposition of the pending motion.
A resolution to effectively postpone, indefinitely, the consideration and decision upon a motion that is on the floor of a meeting.

"The effect of the motion (to lay on the table), if carried, is that the business which is currently being discussed is postpone temporarily...

"No definite time or date is fixed for the resumption of discussion on the particular matter, and indeed, the meeting may never consider the matter again.

"If the meeting later decides to resume its discussion of the same question, a motion to resume consideration of the motion is necessary."

These are the instructive words found in William Craig's 1966 treatise.

The reason for such a motion is to suspend a debate although the motion is not dependent on any reason or rationale. It is simply put to a vote.

The effect of this motion is to adjourn another pending motion and with no set time limit. It must carry with a majority vote and the result of such a vote, it to effectively shelf a pending motion.

In this way, a voting on a motion can be deferred indefinitely.

Because this motion is generally not debatable, it is often used as a delay or "dilatory" tactic for a variety of reasons. For example, good political reasons may emerge from the debate to suggest that either the organization is not yet in a position – or ought not in any event - to issue a resolution on the sensitive motion being so tabled. The group may wish to await the attendance of a knowledgeable member, or assess the motion in light of a forthcoming event or simply prefer a "wait and see" policy.


  • Craig, William Graham, The Law and Procedure of Meetings in Canada, (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1966), page 50.
  • Kerr, K. and King, H., Procedures for Meetings and Organizations,  (Toronto: Carswell, 1996), page 193
  • Robert, H., Robert’s Rules of Order, 10th Edition (Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Publishing, 2000), §17.
  • Taggart, W. J., Horsley’s Meetings – Procedure, Law and Practice, 2nd Edition (Sydney: Butterworth, 1983), ¶915.

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