I watched the PM at the dispatch box from start to finish yesterday. He did not answer one question from any opposition MP. Is he, or any other MP (Gove's performance came a close 2nd), required to answer these questions?

And if they can't be compelled to answer, then what is the point of these questions, other than placing on public record that the question was asked and ducked? How can MP hold the government to account if the PM refuses to answer their questions?

  • Welcome to Politics.SE! I'm counting four different questions inside the body of your post. Which one question do you want to know the answer to? Please edit your question to make it clearer, otherwise it may end up getting closed.
    – F1Krazy
    Sep 26, 2019 at 9:52
  • I guess snubbing Parliament is part of the plan to get the elections he wants. It wasn't Johnson himself, but one his frontbenchers kept saying this is a "dead" Parliament. youtube.com/watch?v=-8SEZ10LVgg Sep 26, 2019 at 10:22
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    You may wish to edit in this from Ann Widdecombe to the then Speaker raising the same point about Blair: "On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am aware that you are not responsible for the contents of ministerial answers, or for the contents of any answer that the Prime Minister gives this House, but you do preside over a House whose duty is to hold the Executive to account. When a Member of this House asks the Prime Minister a straight question, and the answer is about as related to that question as to the habitats of African elephants, how are we supposed to hold the Executive to account?" Sep 26, 2019 at 16:31
  • @PeterTaylor: IMO commit that as an answer. Because it basically is the answer. Just add a note that it makes for good TV and you've a winner. Sep 27, 2019 at 20:47
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    I've a quibble with this question. Please cite one country where government actually responds to questions asked by MPs on a consistent basis. Sep 27, 2019 at 20:56

1 Answer 1


The short answer is "no", the Prime Minister is not required to give an answer that satisfies the person asking the question.

There is an expectation (not an obligation) that the PM attend the commons every Wednesday. It is now a standard part of the Parliamentary week, and most PMs relish the opportunity it gives to perform and communicate with both the Commons and the wider public.

Similarly there is an expectation that the PM will address the question asked. However, there is no requirement for the question to be "answered".

It is very common for opposition MP to ask loaded questions: "Considering X,Y,Z does the Prime Minister agree that the government is a shambles?" Well of course the PM doesn't agree, but that is not the point of the question. Also MPs might ask questions that the Prime Minister doesn't (and cannot) know the answer to. Or questions that he does know the answer to, but won't give a straight answer to, or for which there is no reasonable answer "Will the PM stop this damaging Brexit?" (is the answer "No, I will continue the damaging brexit?")

However if the PM doesn't answer there are 600+ MPs who can point this out, and there is the court of public opinion. So there is no need for the Speaker, or anyone else, to judge if a question has been answered. Questions to the Prime Minister is public and we can all make our own judgement on the PM's performance each week.

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    +1. Also it's common for MPs in the PM's party to ask questions to the effect of "given X, Y and Z does my Honourable Friend the Prime Minister think her Government is doing a wonderful job?"
    – Lag
    Sep 28, 2019 at 8:06

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