Written questions and answers

In addition to oral questions, MPs and Peers can ask government ministers written questions. These are often used to obtain detailed information about policies and statistics on the activities of government departments.

House of Commons written questions

'Ordinary' questions

In the House of Commons 'ordinary' questions do not have to be answered on a specific date. An MP will date a written question for two days after they have tabled it.

The convention is that the MP can expect it to be answered within seven days of the question being tabled. However, there is no parliamentary rule that states ordinary written questions have to be answered by a certain date.

'Named day' questions

'Named day' questions only occur in the House of Commons. The MP tabling the question specifies the date on which they should receive an answer. The MP must give a minimum of two days' notice for these types of question. MPs may not table more than five named day questions on a single day.

Oral questions not answered during question time

Questions originally tabled for oral answer that do not get answered at oral question time are submitted to the government department as named day questions and given written answers.

House of Lords written questions

Lords enter questions on the Order Paper via the Lords Table Office. Lords may table up to six questions each day and can expect an answer within 14 days.

Finding written questions and answers

Written questions and answers service

From the 2014-15 session onwards all written questions waiting to be answered, and the answers given, in both the Commons and the Lords, can be searched for via the Written Questions and Answers service.

Questions are published on the service the day after they have been tabled. Answers are usually published within 90 minutes from being given.

An RSS feed can be created based on your search terms and filters.

A daily report is also available in pdf for browsing.

Lists of tabled questions

Questions tabled by MPs in the House of Commons are also published in the Questions Book.

Questions tabled by Peers in the House of Lords are also published in a cumulative list of unanswered questions for written answer

Hansard

Commons Written Answers up until 12 September 2014 can be found in Commons Hansard.

Lords Written Answers are also published in Lords Hansard

'Will write' answers

Occasionally Commons questions are answered in Hansard with 'I will write to the Hon Member ...' The subsequent letters are not published in Commons Hansard but are placed in the House of Commons Library. The House of Commons Information Office can supply copies of these.

Written Ministerial Statements

Until 2002 the Government often used written answers to make statements but these are now published separately within Hansard.

Image: PA

Related information

Table or Tabling: When MPs or Peers hand in questions, amendments to Bills or notices of motions; or when a document is formally placed before either House.

Did you know?

Written questions account for the vast majority of parliamentary questions. For example, of the 27,391 answers printed in Commons Hansard in the 2009-10 session, 25,467 of them were written answers.

Read written answers

Read current and past written answers in Hansard.

Video and audio

View live and archived video and audio footage from Parliament.