Saturday 14 April 2007

Question Time - 16th April 2007

Parliament returns at 2.30pm (BST) on Monday. After prayers in the House of Commons, the first item will be Question Time. The weekly Prime Minister's Question Time, held at 12.00 on Wednesdays is well known, but there is an hour of questions every sitting day except Fridays.

You can follow Monday's Question Time Live via http://www.parliamentlive.tv/ or http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/bbc_parliament/default.stm or, if you can receive Freeview or Sky on BBC Parliament.

Questions will be taken from 2.30 to 3.15 by Ministers from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. (Questions are addressed to the Secretary of State, but she may delegate her junior Ministers to answer a specific topic). At 3.15 the House will move on to questions to the 'honourable Member representing the Church Commissioners and to the honourable Member representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission.'

The Questions are listed in 'Order of Business' (known by everyone as the 'Order Paper'). This is available at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmagenda/ob70416.htm.

To ask an oral question a member has to "table" the question [Note - a major difference between the Westminster Parliament and Congress - while in Washington 'to table' means to set aside (in effect to 'kill off') at Westminster it means to initiate - so MPs table questions, amendments, motions... as the start not the end of action]. Questions for oral answer (there are different rules for questions for written answer) - can be tabled any time after the previous question time for that Department up to 12.30pm three days (excluding Fridays, Weekends, Bank holidays and recesses) before the day they are due to be taken. [5 days for the Secretaries of State for Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Attorney General].

Questions can be tabled in person at the 'Table Office' or submitted electronically. As there are usually more questions than time available, the questions chosen for answer, and the order in which they will be taken is selected randomly by computer. This is still known as 'the shuffle'. There is a quota for each department (which is linked to the time allowed for answering - on Monday DCMS have 20). The quota is designed to ensure there are sufficient questions, but it is unlikely that the last one will be reached.

The answering Minister will give the prepared answer, but the MP who has asked the question can now ask a 'supplementary'. The Minister will not have notice of this - so must answer on his feet. (In reality a good guess about the supplementary can be made - and most Ministers prepare, and are prepared by their Civil Servants, for potential supplementaries).

Hope you enjoy watching PQs on Monday (if you miss it there is an archive at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Archives/). Later in the week I will review Monday's Question Time.

Order of Questions

1 Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) Cons
2 Tony Baldry (Banbury) Cons
3 David Amess (Southend) Cons
4 Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) Lib Dem
5 Philip Hollobone (Kettering) Cons
6 Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West) Lab
7 Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) Cons
8 David Taylor (North West Leicestershire) Lab
9 Graham Allen (Nottingham North) Lab
10 Sarah McCarthy-Fry (Portsmouth North) Lab
11 Mark Tami (Alyn & Deeside) Lab
12 Norman Baker (Lewes) Lib Dem
13 Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) Cons
14 David Hamilton (Midlothian) Lab
15 Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) Lab
16 John Grogan (Selby) Lab
17 Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow) Lab
18 Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) Lab
19 Bob Russell (Colchester) Lib Dem
20 Barbara Keeley (Worsley) Lab)