Raising matters in the House of Commons

MPs can raise matters in the House of Commons on behalf of their constituents. They can do this by asking parliamentary questions, participating in debates or introducing legislation.

Asking questions

MPs can ask Ministers questions during Question Time or send written questions to them. Question Time takes place in the first hour of business each day. The government is required to answer parliamentary written questions. From the 2014-15 session onwards all written questions and answers, in both the Commons and the Lords, can be searched for via the Written Questions and Answers service.

Adjournment debates

The half-hour adjournment debate offers another opportunity for MPs to raise matters. Usually taken as the last business of the day, MPs must either win a ballot or be chosen by the Speaker to voice their concern.

MPs can also raise matters in debates in Westminster Hall. These are similar to adjournment debates in the Chamber but take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and may last for either half an hour or an hour and a half.

Backbench Debates

MPs can apply to the Backbench Business Committee to host a debate in backbench time in either the Chamber or Westminster Hall. The House has allocated at least 35 days of debate to the Committee in the current session.  Of these, at least 27 days have to be taken in the Chamber, with the remainder to be taken in Westminster Hall.

MPs are more likely to secure a debate in Backbench time if their subject of debate has cross-party support.

Debates can also be the result of e-petitions. E-petitions created on the UK Parliament and Government Petitions website can be recommended by the Petitions Committee for debate in Westminster Hall. These debates take place on Mondays.


Private Members’ Bills

An MP might introduce a Private Members’ Bill in an attempt to pass a new law. Few of these Bills are successful but they may draw public attention to the problem.

Restrictions

Ministers are restricted by a Code of Conduct and cannot raise certain matters in the House. Parliamentary Private Secretaries and opposition spokespeople may also be restrained by internal party rules.

If your MP becomes a government minister, or the Speaker or one of his deputies, they are still able to help with problems that affect their constituents. They will, though, use other methods rather than raising matters openly in the Chamber.

Contact the House of Commons Enquiry Service

The House of Commons Enquiry Service provides information on the work, history and membership of the House of Commons.

  • Telephone: 0800 112 4272 (Freephone) or 020 7219 4272
  • Email: hcenquiries@parliament.uk
  • Text relay:  Dial 18001 followed by our full number

Our telephone enquiry service is open between 10am-12 midday and 2pm-4pm (Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays).

Publications

The House of Commons Enquiry Service produces a series of free publications which you can read online, or contact us to request copies.

House of Commons on Twitter

Follow @HouseofCommons for updates on the UK House of Commons Chamber.

Related information

Adjournment debate: An adjournment debate is simply a way in the Commons of having a general debate without requiring the House to vote.

Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct helps MPs understand their responsibilities to Parliament and the public.

Read Hansard

Hansard Online makes the official report of parliamentary debates available from 1803 to date. Daily Hansard reports are also available from 1988 to 2016 - these include the text of written questions and answers for this period. Older hard copy editions of Hansard are held by the Parliamentary Archives.