By Julian Lewis
The House Magazine – 15 May 2023
During the pandemic, unless you won a place on the Order Paper for Oral PQs – and most MPs do not – you could not take part. Attention therefore alighted upon Written PQs, which occasionally attract headlines when some hapless chump is tricked into tabling one for cash. Therefore:
- Never table a WPQ which has any link with you, your family or any external organisations with which you are financially or commercially involved. Having avoided that obvious pitfall, then proceed as follows:
- Be clear what you are driving at and focus your WPQ accordingly.
- Be certain which Department is responsible for answering – or you will waste time while it is transferred to the correct one.
- Use the five WPQs which MPs are can table on each sitting day for ‘named day’ response, if you want them answered promptly. (Sometimes, you will receive a ‘holding Answer’ apologising for delay, but the substantive Answer usually follows soon.)
- Where several WPQs are to the same Department on the same general subject, you can combine them in successive clauses in a single Written PQ, thus keeping more of your daily allowance available to explore other subjects.
- You can table up to 20 ordinary WPQs on each sitting day, if you are in no hurry for replies.
- Questions must either seek information or press for action, and the tone must be non-argumentative, dispassionate and calm.
- Nevertheless, factual WPQs can be devised which clearly indicate what you are trying to achieve – most notably, by using the formula: “To ask the Secretary of State if he will make it his policy to do X”.
- Aim high and, one day, you will finally draft a WPQ which passes through the Table Office without alteration. Yes, it really can be done!