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Prime Minister's Questions and the role of the Speaker

Prime Minister's Questions

Perhaps the most famous weekly event in the House of Commons is Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). PMQs takes place every Wednesday when the House is meeting, at 12 noon, they last at least half an hour.

The Speaker calls on MPs in the order they are listed in the Order Paper. The Speaker is the servant of the House and can only operate within the powers which the House has granted him. This includes keeping order during debates, including PMQs. The Speaker can remind the House of the purpose and expected form of questions and answers, and to exhort Members and Ministers to bear this in mind. But Ministers, like other Members, take responsibility for their own remarks.

The ‘shuffle’

There are 15 questions on the Order Paper for Prime Minister’s Questions. Because more MPs want to ask a question than there are slots available, a ballot (known as the 'shuffle') is run on a computer programme. This decides by random which MPs will ask questions and the order they will be asked in. The MPs are listed in the Order Paper and the Speaker calls on MPs in that order.

In addition to the MPs drawn in the 'shuffle', the Leader of the official Opposition usually asks six questions, and the leader of the third largest party two questions.

Find out more about PMQs: