Prime Minister’s Questions in the United Kingdom

Article 3 / 9 , Vol 35 No 2 (Summer)

Prime Minister’s Questions in the United Kingdom

At Westminster every Wednesday when the House in session the Prime Minister responds to questions for about thirty minutes. In recent years there has been some discussion in Canada about the pros and cons of instituting a similar practice. This article outlines the history of the British procedure and some problems that have developed with it over the years.

For most of the public Prime Minister’s Questions is the shop window of the House of Commons. The media coverage of that thirty minute slot dominates all other proceedings in Parliament during the rest of the week. If the country comes to an adverse conclusion about the House because of what it witnesses in those exchanges, then the noble work of a dozen Select Committees will pale into insignificance by comparison. If we are serious about enhancing the standing of the House in the eyes of those whom we serve then we cannot ignore the seriously impaired impression which PMQs has been and is leaving on the electorate. It is the elephant in the green room.