Select Committee on Procedure Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex B

  1.  The Stationery Office (TSO) provides Departments with electronic and hard copies of both the whole Order Paper and individual Departmental Questions.

  2.  Parliamentary Branches identify the officials who will draft the answers to individual Questions and ask them to confirm (a) that this is the responsibility of the Departmental Ministers and (b) that they are the appropriate official to draft the Answer. If the official advises the Minister via the Parliamentary Branch that this Question is not the responsibility of a Minister in that Department, a Minister will then be asked to agree with this assessment before Parliamentary Branch open negotiations with another Government Department for the Question to be formally transferred.

  3.  When an official agrees to accept the Question, the Parliamentary Branch will normally make up a folder providing the text of the Question, the name of the MP who has tabled the Question and the deadline for return of a draft answer. In some Departments, this process is now managed electronically.

  4.  Parliamentary Branches will then record either manually or electronically who the Question had been allocated to, the deadline for return of the draft answer, the date the Question should be answered in the House and the name of the Minister who will answer the Question.

  5.  Parliamentary Branches then monitor the return of the Question chasing late returns normally on a daily basis.

  6.  Drafting officials will normally be advised to draft answers in line with guidance issued by individual Departments.

  7.  On receipt of draft answers in Parliamentary Branches, staff will check the answer for correct format, attachments etc before passing it for approval to the Minister, copying it to senior officials and other Ministers as appropriate.

  8.  Any questions or comments from the Minister on the draft answer will normally be handled through the Parliamentary Branch.

  9.  Once the Question is approved by the Minister, the Answer will then be issued on the same or the next Sitting Day. Currently Parliamentary Branches prepare up to 25 copies of the approved answer and distribute these to various offices in Parliament as well as supplying an electronic copy on a disk to the Official Report. The Cabinet Office Parliamentary Branch has answered the first ever written electronic PQ in answer to a Question from Lord Lucas on 27 March 2001 (WA, Col: 26).

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Prepared 26 June 2002