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What are Prime Minister’s Questions?

House of Commons

Prime Minister’s Question Time (often referred to as PMQs) is an opportunity for MPs from all parties to question the PM on any subject.

It takes place every week while Parliament is in session, on Wednesdays at 12pm. It lasts for about 30 minutes and usually focuses on the key issues of the day.

This means the PM answers questions for about two hours per month. This is twice as long as his chief cabinet colleages or their junior ministers.

PMQs were introduced fairly recently, in 1961, after a successful experiment while Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister.

The half-hour session starts with a routine question from an MP about the Prime Minister’s engagements.

Following the PM’s reply, the questioning member can ask a supplementary question about anything relating to the PM’s duties or any aspect of Government policy.

The Leader of the Opposition then asks a question, and is allowed three or four supplementary questions after that. The leader of the next largest party is allowed two.

The Prime Minister will often use PMQs as an opportunity to make a statement on Government policy or to give an official reaction to a topical issue.

You can watch the sessions live on the Parliament TV website, that also holds an archive of previous sessions.  Transcripts of all the questions and answers are also made available on the Parliament website, usually by late afternoon on the day of each session.