Repetition of House of Commons urgent questions - Procedure Committee Contents


Repetition of House of Commons urgent questions

1.  The Committee has considered the procedure for repeating answers given to House of Commons urgent questions (the equivalent to private notice questions, or PNQs, in the House of Lords). This procedure is described in paragraph 6.36 of The Companion to the Standing Orders:

6.36  When the answer to an Urgent Question tabled in the Commons is, by agreement between the usual channels, to be repeated in the Lords, it is usually repeated in the form of a statement, synchronised with the answer in the Commons, and not taken by way of a PNQ in the Lords.

2.  Since the election of the current Speaker in June 2009 the number of urgent questions granted in the House of Commons has increased substantially,[1] as has the number of repeated answers taken as statements in this House. Earlier House of Commons sitting times now mean that such statements are normally taken immediately after oral questions on Tuesday to Thursday each week, and this has led to significant disruption of the main business before the House.

3.  In light of these considerations, we believe that it would be appropriate to adopt, on a trial basis until the end of the current session, a new procedure for repeating answers to urgent questions, combining elements of the existing PNQ and oral statement procedures.

4.  We recommend that the following procedure for repeating answers to House of Commons urgent questions be adopted, on a trial basis, until the end of the 2012-13 session:

  • The answer given in the Commons will be repeated in full, as a statement;
  • It will then be followed by ten minutes of question and answer (as for a PNQ);
  • The existing rules on the conduct of PNQs, set out in paragraph 6.35 of the Companion, will apply;
  • The first question will normally be asked by the Opposition front bench, unless the usual channels have agreed otherwise.

5.  If this recommendation is agreed, we will review the trial in spring 2013, with a view to making a further recommendation to the House on whether or not the new procedure should be made permanent.

1   From 2004 to 2008 between 2 and 11 urgent questions were asked each year; in 2011 40 urgent questions were asked. Back

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