Monitoring unsatisfactory and late answers to written parliamentary questions

The Procedure Committee is investigating unsatisfactory and late answers to written parliamentary questions. Details of how this is done are set out below.

  • Members may refer to the Committee individual answers which they regard as inadequate to the question asked, together with any background material which might help the Committee reach a decision on whether to take further action in that particular case. Late answers may also be referred to the Committee in a similar way.
  • The Committee will consider each answer submitted and where it judges the answer to be unsatisfactory, it will ask the relevant department for observations within a set time. It is not anticipated that all answers referred to the Committee will meet this test. In these cases Members will be informed of the Committee's decision.
  • In the case of late answers, the Committee will consider the extent of the delay and seek observations from the Government where it deems it appropriate to do so.
  • The Committee will decide whether further action is necessary and will pass on the observations to the relevant Member.
  • Where the Committee identifies trends in bad practice, the department concerned will be asked for comment.
  • The Committee will produce reports on a regular basis, highlighting particular issues.

The Committee produced a report at the end of the 2012–13 session, "Monitoring written parliamentary questions" (HC 1095, Seventh Report of 2012–13). This report summarises the results of the trial exercise that was carried out on the monitoring of written parliamentary questions, and analyses in detail the performance of each Department in 2010–12. The report is available on this website, under Publications.

Proformas for the submission of answers to the Committee are available in the Table Office, on request from the Committee and on the intranet

Please note that a pro forma must be completed for each answer in order that it can be considered.

Members may send their answers to: and may seek further advice from the same address or from the Clerk of the Committee on x3319. If preferred, hard copy may be sent to the Procedure Committee, Journal Office, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

The Committee has undertaken to consider each answer submitted on a case by case basis, rather than setting hard criteria, but Members should note that they will be expected to have sought advice from the Table Office on what further action is possible to obtain the information they require before the Committee will usually consider a specific answer. Disagreement with the policy stated in an answer will not be accepted as a basis for deeming the answer to be inadequate. Similarly, the Committee will regard an answer to be late and worthy of investigation in the case of an ordinary question where no answer has been received 15 working days after the first possible date for answer.