Web links: Chapter 17
Finding Written and Oral Questions
It is possible to search for written questions and answers by session, date, MP or keyword through parliament’s written questions database. There is also an archive which hosts questions from 1997 – 2017 which can be searched by date. Minister’s responses to oral questions are printed in Hansard in the same manner as parliamentary debates, where they are listed under the heading ‘oral answers to questions’. See for example, questions to the Department for International Development in the Commons on 17 January 2018 or Lord Foulkes’ question on membership of the Lords on 10 January 2018. This also illustrates the different style of questions in the Commons and Lords. In the Commons, each department answers questions on a rota basis. You can see the departments due to be answering questions here as well as the deadline for the tabling of questions to different departments (note that this is just a few days beforehand).
Prime Minister’s Question Time
On Wednesdays, Questions to the Prime Minister begin at 12:00 and are recorded in Hansard in the usual way. PMQs typically follows a departmental question time. Theresa May’s first PMQs took place on 20 July 2016, following Northern Ireland Questions. You can read the transcript here. It is often interesting to compare the styles of different Prime Ministers. Watch for instance Gordon Brown’s first PMQs and compare this with that of David Cameron on 2 June 2010.
Tony Blair’s final PMQs as Prime Minister is also useful to watch. Here, he explains the importance of coming to the House of Commons.
Urgent questions can be quite tricky to find as they do not appear on the Order Paper. They usually occur straight after departmental questions in the Commons (with the exception of sitting Fridays when it will be at 11am). See for example Richard Burgon’s Urgent Question on prison policy on 12 October 2017 and the minister’s response. You can also use the sessional returns to see the number of Urgent Questions in each session.