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.
Types of written question
There are three main types of written parliamentary questions; 'Ordinary' questions, 'Named Day' questions and Oral questions not answered during Question Time.
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.
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