Questions for written answer
22.4Members may table questions either for ordinary written answer or for written answer on a named day.1 A Member who wishes to receive a written answer on a named day may indicate this when tabling the notice of question provided that they do so at least three days (excluding Saturdays and Sundays) before an answer is required, and that the day named for answer is a sitting day. A Member may table up to five such questions on any one day.2 Under Standing Order No 22(4), the Minister shall cause an answer to be given to the Member on the date for which notice has been given.3
There is no limit to the number of questions for ordinary written answer which a Member may ask on the same day,4 although only 20 questions for written answer of any sort may be tabled by each Member via the digital tabling facility each day. In the absence of an indication to the contrary, written questions are put down for answer on the second sitting day after the day on which they are tabled. The answer will not necessarily be given on that date; the House has, however, endorsed the view that Ministers should endeavour to answer such ordinary written questions within a working week of their being tabled.5 The Speaker has repeatedly stressed that responses to questions for written answer should be timely.6
Tabling a question for answer on the next day was used in the past as a mechanism for allowing the Government to make a short written statement. This practice has now been almost entirely superseded by written statements (see para 19.26 ). Questions for answer the following sitting day are now rare and only accepted if the relevant answering body acknowledges it is aware of the question and plans to respond the following day.
- 1. Arrangements for tabling questions digitally were set out in the Procedure Committee's Third Report of Session 2012–13, E-tabling of Written Questions, HC 775, and approved by the House in March 2013, HC Deb (26 March 2013) 560, c 1604.
- 2. This restriction may be set aside when the House adjourns for more than three days. See SO No 22(4).
- 3. SO No 22B provides for Members to table up to five such questions on each of three days in September, during the summer adjournment, for answer on one of three other specified days in September, but the provision has not been used since the revival of September sittings in 2010.
- 4. SO No 22(4)(b).
- 5. HC 393 (1971–72) p xiii; CJ (1972–73) 84.
- 6. HC Deb (29 June 2009) 495, cc 42 and 839; ibid (5 November 2009) 498, c 1005.