Urgent questions

19.17Questions which have not appeared on the paper, but which are of an urgent character and relate either to matters of public importance,1 or to the arrangement of business, may be taken immediately after the end of Question Time or at 11 am on a Friday provided that they have been submitted to the Speaker2 ideally before 11.30 am on a Monday or after a periodic adjournment of over two days, or 10.00 am on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, 8.15 am on Thursdays3 (or, on a Friday when the House meets at 9.30 am, before 8.30 am)4 and have been accepted by the Speaker as satisfying the conditions imposed by Standing Order No 21(2), and provided that notice has been given to the Minister concerned.

Questions which are asked without appearing on the paper are governed by the same rules of order as questions of which notice has been given.5 Neither the submission of an urgent question nor its subsequent rejection by the Speaker should therefore be publicly referred to.6 The Speaker has ruled privately that a Member may not ask more than one urgent question on any day, though a Member may submit more than one. The Leader of the Opposition never puts a question on the paper for oral answer, but asks it by the urgent question procedure; in this case, the factor of urgency has not been insisted on.7

When an urgent question (other than one relating to business) is allowed by the Speaker, it is displayed on the annunciator and published on Parliament's website.8

The Minister responding to an urgent question is accorded up to three minutes for the response, and the questioner up to two minutes for their supplementary question. The Opposition spokesperson, where this is not the questioner, also has up to two minutes to speak and the third party spokesperson one minute.9 It is a matter for the Government to decide which Minister replies to an urgent question.10

Footnotes

  1. HC Deb (1935–36) 309, c 42.
  2. HC Deb (1917–18) 94, c 595; ibid (1920) 132, cc 942, 1636; ibid (1948–49) 462, c 37.
  3. HC Deb (1958–59) 595, c 196; ibid (1998–99) 323, c 307.
  4. HC Deb (1979–80) 977, c 440.
  5. Parl Deb (1892) 3, c 861; HC Deb (1921) 147, c 1028; ibid (1928–29) 224, c 1777.
  6. HC Deb (1974–75) 892, cc 28–30; ibid (1984–85) 71, cc 861–65, 881. For an example of the Speaker deprecating a Member raising a matter which had been the subject of an unsuccessful urgent question application, see ibid (20 April 2009) 491, 33; ibid (18 October 2010) 516, c 639.
  7. HC Deb (1957–58) 580, c 431; ibid (1972–73) 857, cc 1700–3; ibid (1987–88) 140, cc 21–27; ibid (1988–89) 149, cc 909–17; ibid (1990–91) 195, cc 757–58. This privilege is not automatically enjoyed by a Deputy in the Leader's absence, ibid (1989–90) 176, cc 688–89.
  8. On a Friday, the subject-matter of the question is scrolled across the bottom of the annunciator screen before it is asked.
  9. HC Deb (18 May 2016) 611, c 2.
  10. HC Deb (2002–03) 401, c 941; ibid (11 December 2006) 454, c 580.