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Wednesday 21 January 2004

What are Prime Minister’s Questions?

Houses of Parliament, Crown CopyrightPrime 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 lasts for about 30 minutes and usually focuses on the key issues of the day.

The PM answers questions every week that Parliament is in session – so 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 put a supplementary question about anything relating to the PM’s duties or any aspect of Government policy.

The Leader of the Opposition is permitted three or four supplementaries in succession to his or her first question. 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 this website. Alternatively a recording or transcript are available by the following day.

· Watch an archive of PMQs on Number 10 TV player
· Parliament UK (opens in new window)

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