Manner of asking oral questions

19.15As each Member is called, to ask the question standing in their name, they rise to call its number on the Order Paper, and the Minister then responds. A Member called to ask a question appearing on the Order Paper is also entitled to ask a supplementary question. Supplementaries should be short and relevant to the tabled question. The Speaker may also call other Members, who indicate a desire to do so by standing in their place, to ask supplementaries. The Speaker has deprecated the practice of submitting in advance requests to be called to ask a supplementary question.1 Opposition spokespersons by convention are permitted a certain number of supplementaries at each Question Time. It is normal practice for frontbench spokespersons to indicate to the Speaker those questions on which they hope to be called to ask a supplementary.

A Member may not rise to ask a question which stands on the Order Paper in the name of another Member;2 nor may the question be asked in an amended form.3 During the period of questions to the Prime Minister, and during periods for topical questions to departmental Ministers, the Members with the second and subsequent places on the list simply put their ‘supplementary’ question as soon as they are called by the Speaker.4 Supplementaries should not be read from notes.5 If the Member responsible for a question does not answer to the Speaker's call, a Minister may make such statement upon the question as the public interest demands,6 but it has been ruled that such a statement ought to be made at the end of questions.7 When a Member stated that it was not their intention to ask a question standing in their name, as the subject of it had been discussed in debate on a previous day, the Speaker refused to allow the Minister concerned to answer it.8 The Speaker also declines as a matter of course to allow a Member to ask a question standing in their name on the Order Paper, when that Member had been called to ask a supplementary question earlier in the same question time, regardless of the subject matter of the two questions.9 An attempt to raise a point of order on a question which had not been called has been ruled out of order.10 When a Minister in answering a question has referred to the answer to be given to a question which had not been asked, they have been allowed to give the answer to that question in spite of the absence of the Member in whose name it stood.11

The Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members (see paras 5.3, 5.11 ) recognises that during oral questions a declaration of interest is often impracticable. A Member giving notice of a question should, however, declare an interest (see above paras 5.12, 22.2 ).12


  1. 1. HC Deb (1977–78) 945, c 662.
  2. 2. Parl Deb (1883) 279, c 1756; HC Deb (1924) 172, c 1834.
  3. 3. HC Deb (28 March 2006) 444, c 672.
  4. 4. HC Deb (1997–98) 294, c 702.
  5. 5. HC Deb (2002–03) 405, c 41.
  6. 6. Parl Deb (1900) 84, c 286; HC Deb (1946–47) 437, cc 2187–88.
  7. 7. HC Deb (1971–72) 834, cc 430, 432–33.
  8. 8. HC Deb (1910) 17, c 20.
  9. 9. HC Deb (8 March 2005) 431, cc 1372 and 1380.
  10. 10. HC Deb (1946–47) 441, c 27.
  11. 11. HC Deb (1923) 163, c 1609; ibid (1964–65) 701, c 840.
  12. 12. The Code of Conduct together with the Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, approved by the House of Commons (most recently issued as HC 1882 (2017–19)).