In the first oral questions to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland of the new Parliament, Owen Paterson answered MPs' questions on subjects including assistance for savers at the Presbyterian Mutual Society - which entered into administration in 2008 - and the level of security threat in Northern Ireland.
MPs also asked questions on:
- dissident paramilitary activity
- public inquiries into events involving deaths which took place during the troubles in Northern Ireland
- the recommendations of the report of the Consultative Group on the Past
- the death of Pat Finucane
- the system of dual mandates in the House of Commons and the Northern Ireland Assembly
- the Government's plans to publish their response to the consultation on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland
Question Time in the Commons
Question Time takes place for an hour, Monday to Thursday, after prayers. Each government department answers questions according to a rota called the Order of Oral Questions. The questions asked must relate to the responsibilities of the government department concerned.
Commons oral questions are tabled by MPs at least three days in advance of Question Time. The questions are then printed in the Commons Questions Book. The order in which the questions are asked is determined randomly by a computer.
MPs who are called by the Speaker to ask their question do not read it out, but simply call out its number. When the government minister has replied, the MP can ask another question (known as a supplementary) and other MPs may also be called to ask supplementary questions. The Minister must reply to each in turn. Supplementary questions must be on the same subject as the original question.
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