Rules of order regarding form and contents of questions

22.11The purpose of a question is to obtain information1 or press for action; it should not be framed primarily so as to convey information, or so as to suggest its own answer or convey a particular point of view, and it should not be in effect a short speech. Questions of excessive length have not been permitted.2 Rules regarding the form and content of questions are set by the House from time to time. The cardinal rules governing the admissibility of parliamentary questions were examined by the Select Committee on Procedure in 1990–91; that Committee concluded: ‘We have not received any evidence critical of them (the basic rules) and we do not therefore recommend any modifications’.3

The Table Office assists Members in ensuring that their proposed questions conform with these rules. The current rules are set out in more detail below.

The Select Committee on Parliamentary Questions of Session 1971–72 expressed its concern that the cumulative effect of previous decisions relating to the orderliness of questions should not be allowed to become unduly restrictive. It therefore recommended that, while the Speaker should continue to have regard to the basic rules concerning the form and content of questions which are set forth in the pages which follow, a Speaker should not consider it necessary, when interpreting these rules, to disallow a question solely on the ground that it conflicted with any previous individual ruling. This recommendation was endorsed by the Select Committee on Procedure in Session 1990–91 and was subsequently approved by the House in 1993.4

Footnotes

  1. 1. Parl Deb (1893–94) 9, c 1620, etc; HC Deb (1995–96) 278, c 609.
  2. 2. Parl Deb (1887) 318, c 42; HC Deb (1967–68) 757, cc 1344–45.
  3. 3. HC 178 (1990–91) para 84; and see also Procedure Committee, Third Report of Session 2001–02, HC 622 para 5.
  4. 4. HC 393 (1971–72) p vii; CJ (1972–73) 84; HC 178 (1990–91) para 120; HC 687 (1992–93) para 59; CJ (1992–93) 853.