In Germany different debating styles are applied in student debating societies or at tournaments: about half of the debating societies apply the British Parliamentary Style (BPS), the other half applies the rules of the German OPD. Therefore, our weekly debates in German are carried out according to the rules of OPD and our debates in English – according to the rules of BPS.
British Parliamentary Style
The British Parliamentary Style (BPS) is probably the most important debating style in the world. It is not only the oldest style for parliamentary debating at universities but also the rules according to which most of the international tournaments including the World Championship are carried out. These rules have been applied and perfected for more than 200 years.
In a debate according to BPS there are four teams of two people each. Two teams are debating on the affirmative side (opening and closing government, or proposition), and two teams on the negative side (opening and closing opposition). Each speaker has got seven minutes to elaborate his or her arguments in a structured manner.
According to the topic the Prime Minister describes the current situation, makes a motion that will change the status quo, and presents arguments supporting the motion. The Opposition Leader has to rebut the arguments of the Prime Minister. He can either question that there is a problem with the current situation in the first place and thus rebut the arguments of the government entirely, or he can agree to that the problem exists and recommend a different solution. The Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Opposition Leader rebut the arguments of the opposing side and support their team’s point of view with convincing arguments.
The closing teams are not to contradict the argumentation of their side, but at the same time they have to develop an extension to the policy of the corresponding opening team and strengthen their point of view by presenting new arguments. The Member of Government has to develop a plan within the plan. The Member of Opposition has to rebut the extension of the closing government and criticise the entire government’s argumentation from a new point of view. The last speakers (Government and Opposition Whips) have to sum up the arguments of their side in an entertaining, almost polemic way in order to convince the audience of their case. The very last speaker, the Opposition Whip, is not allowed to introduce any new arguments.
To ensure interaction between the speakers, it is possible for the opposing side to make points of information (P.O.I). Points of information can be additional remarks or questions. They are allowed neither in the first nor in the last minute of a speech. To offer a point of information a speaker has to stand up. The current speaker may accept or refuse the point of information, but he or she is encouraged to accept at least one during the speech. Points of information must not exceed 15 seconds each.
A president supervises and judges the debate, gives time signals and ensures that every speaker obeys the rules. He or she opens and closes the debate and calls out the speakers.