Questions for short debate

25.43A question which may give rise to debate of limited duration1 is known as a question for short debate.2 It may be tabled for any day on which the House is sitting.

Such a question may be taken as business in the lunch or dinner break, in which case it is limited to a duration of one hour, or as the last item of business, in which case it is limited to one-and-a-half hours. In each case ten minutes is guaranteed to the questioner, and 12 minutes to the Minister replying. The Member of the Lords asking the question (since they move no motion) has no right of reply. Other speakers share the remaining time equally, no specific time being allocated to opposition spokesmen.3 The rules about interventions and speaking in the gap in time-limited debates apply (see paras 25.58 and 25.79 ).4

Questions for short debate are always entered last on the Order Paper (Standing Order No 40(9)), whether or not they are intended to be taken during a lunch or dinner adjournment. A second question for short debate should be put down only on a day when business appears to be light. Occasionally up to three questions for debate have been taken on one day when there is no other business.5 In such a case each is limited to one-and-a-half hours.

Questions for short debate may be taken in a Grand Committee with the concurrence of those concerned. No business of the House motion is required. Such questions are time-limited to one or one-and-a-half hours.6


  1. 1. LJ (1992–93) 582, 627.
  2. 2. Questions for short debate were known as unstarred questions until June 2006: LJ (2005–06) 886, 1054.
  3. 3. LJ (1992–93) 627–28; ibid (1993–94) 582, 682.
  4. 4. HL Deb (1990–91) 530, cc 706–9.
  5. 5. Minutes of Proceedings, 11 October 2010.
  6. 6. LJ (2006–07) 853.