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Ministers and the House

7.102 In addition to its legislative function, another key role of the House of Representatives is scrutiny of the Executive. Much of this scrutiny, such as consideration of the Estimates, takes place in select committees (see paragraphs 7.108 – 7.122). Ministers are also directly accountable to the House through written and oral questions. They may be required to participate in an urgent debate on a matter of current importance, take the opportunity to inform the House about the government’s work in a General Debate, or make statements to the House on matters of significant public importance.

7.103 Further information can be found in the Standing Orders and the Legislation and House Procedure Handbook. Guidance for Ministers about participation in these processes is available from the office of the Leader of the House and from the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

Questions for oral or written answer

7.104 Questions for oral answer can be addressed to a Minister on any matter for which the Minister has ministerial responsibility. Questions are lodged with the Clerk of the House of Representatives in the morning of a sitting day, and notified to Ministers’ offices once the list for the day has been determined. The Minister’s office helps the Minister to prepare for answering the primary question and any follow-up (supplementary) questions that may be asked. Departments provide information to the Minister to support this process.

7.105 Questions for oral answer and supplementary questions are allocated according to the proportion of seats each party holds in the House. This means that a certain number of primary questions are available to be asked by members of Parliament from the parties represented in the government each sitting day.

7.106 Any member of Parliament can lodge a question for written answer. Questions must relate to an area of ministerial responsibility. They must be answered within six working days. All questions and answers are published on the Parliament's website, although the publication of replies is delayed to allow the member who received the reply to have first use of the information.

7.107 Further guidance on responding to questions is available on the ministerial intranet.

Last updated: 
Monday, 20 November 2017

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