Speaker's control of questions

22.7The Speaker is the final authority as to the admissibility of questions. Irregularities in a notice of a question are corrected in the Table Office or reserved for consideration. On attention being drawn to an irregularity, the Speaker has refused to permit a question to be asked although it stood upon the paper.1

The Speaker's responsibility for questions is limited to their compliance with the rules of the House. Responsibility in other respects rests with the Member who proposes to ask the question,2 and responsibility for answers rests with Ministers.3 When a question has been refused and the Member concerned wishes to make representations to the Speaker on the matter, the practice is for these to be made privately to the Speaker and not raised by way of a point of order in the House.4 On numerous occasions the Speaker has prevented a Member using the urgent question procedure to ask a question that had been refused by the Table Office, or to ask those parts of a question struck out by the Table Office.5 The Speaker has also prevented a Member from taking the opportunity when raising a point of order to read out a question which has been refused by the Table Office6 or refused as an urgent question by the Speaker.7 The refusal of a question should not be raised incidentally in the course of a debate.8

The Clerks in the Table Office have full power to sub-edit questions.9 The Speaker has called the attention of the House to an alteration made by his direction in a question.10

The Speaker is empowered to authorise changes of Table Office practice where they are consistent with the main rules for questions.11 In particular, the Speaker has the power to modify or halt the system of electronic tabling of questions, if it appears that it is being abused.12

Footnotes

  1. 1. HC Deb (1956–57) 569, cc 340–41.
  2. 2. Parl Deb (1880) 252, cc 1903–4; HC Deb (1961–62) 660, c 413.
  3. 3. HC Deb (10 June 2008) 477, c 161; ibid (30 October 2008) 481, c 1049; ibid (18 November 2008) 483, c 118; ibid (23 February 2009) 488, c 21; ibid (11 March 2009) 489, c 297.
  4. 4. HC Deb (1970–71) 803, cc 1365–66; ibid (1971–72) 827, c 1298; ibid (1986–87) 112, c 935.
  5. 5. Parl Deb (1881) 265, cc 879–80; ibid (1900) 82, c 432; HC Deb (1940–41) 368, cc 1227–28.
  6. 6. HC Deb (1928) 225, c 785; ibid (1984–85) 73, c 733.
  7. 7. HC Deb (1959–60) 617, cc 676–77; ibid (2002–03) 409, c 37.
  8. 8. Parl Deb (1903) 127, c 711.
  9. 9. Parl Deb (1906) 158, cc 1123–24; HC Deb (1920) 128, cc 408–9; ibid (1970–71) 819, cc 1771–72.
  10. 10. Parl Deb (1861) 161, c 342.
  11. 11. HC 687 (1992–93) paras 59–61.
  12. 12. CJ (2001–02) 778.