Presentation on theme: "Pulse Point PMQs. Prime Minister’s Questions Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow has written to the three main party leaders suggesting that the."— Presentation transcript:
Pulse Point PMQs
Prime Minister’s Questions Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow has written to the three main party leaders suggesting that the weekly Questions to the Prime Minister be reformed. Mr Bercow denounced the ‘yobbery and public school twittishness’ of MPs’ heckling and general rowdiness.
Prime Minister’s Questions Prime Minister’s Questions has been brought into question by a series of complains made about its barracking, school-yard style which, according to Labour leader Ed Miliband, needs to move away from party political point scoring and the adversarial politics which is so unpopular with the public. Nick Clegg has also initially supported the idea of reform, while David Cameron has been less forthcoming.
Prime Minister’s Questions Some backbenchers have blamed John Bercow’s speakership as being the problem, suggesting that he shows bias to his old party (Labour) which encourages dissent from the Conservatives. Alec Shelbrooke MP commented, ‘Betty (Boothroyd, former Speaker) never had the need to resort to whining’. Another recent complaint regarding PMQs is the increasing incidences of ‘planted’ questions, when willing MPs are given ‘helpful’ questions to ask by the government. This has led to much irritation from opposition MPs and may suggest the reluctance of the Prime Minister to fully embrace the idea of reform.
Prime Minister’s Questions In the meantime recent reports show that the ‘Punch & Judy’ style of politics of which PMQs is a prime example, continues to be deeply unpopular with the general public. Prominent MPs are also joining the call for the Westminster culture, and PMQs specifically, to change or risk alienating the public and putting- off prospective parliamentary candidates.
Pulse points What is the purpose of PMQs? Is PMQs ‘yobbish’? Does it need to change? Does the ‘barracking’ style of PMQs reflect badly on Westminster? Why might backbench MPs like PMQs? Why is it important that the Prime Minister is regularly called to parliament to answer questions? What are the disadvantages of an adversarial political style as displayed in PMQs?
PMQs Speaker announces Questions for the Prime Minister. The house is always full and it is the most popular session for tickets to the Strangers (public) Gallery. MPs put their name on a list 3 days before PMQs. They get picked at random to ask a question and a supplementary question. The Speaker (John Bercow MP) begins the session by calling on the first backbench MP on the list.
PMQs The MP says ‘Number One Mr Speaker.’ referring to the standard 1 st question ‘Will the Prime Minister list his engagements for the day?’ The PM gives his standard answer which is ‘This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.’ This is also the moment the PM may make a comment regarding a topical event eg the success of a national sports team or the death of a prominent figure.
PMQs The speaker then recalls the first backbencher to ask their supplementary question. Following the engagements question the next question may be on any subject and the PM does not know what will be asked, although he is fully briefed on every subject which is likely to arise. In between speakers some MPs will stand up and sit down again. This is how they let the speaker know that they wish to ask a question in the final part of the session, open to other questions.
PMQs Following the formalities of the opening question the speaker calls on the leader of the opposition, however as he alternates questions between the sides of the house, if the first question was asked by a Labour MP, then there would be a question from a Conservative backbencher before the Labour leader is called on. He has 6 questions he can ask the PM.
PMQs At a couple of points during the exchange between party leaders the Speaker is required to stop the debate to call order. At one point he reprimands the Education Secretary Michael Gove, and suggests that he should write a thousand lines about behaving during PMQs.
PMQs Following the Opposition leader’s questions the Speaker returns to scheduled questions. Theoretically the 1 st question is the engagements inquiry, but there is no need for the MPs to actually ask it. They can cut straight to their supplementary question. If it were to be asked again the PM will reply ‘I refer the honourable gentleman/lady to the answer I gave some moments ago’. In the last portion of the session the Speaker will call on other MPs who have questions. In this case Labour MP Pat Glass. She has spoken out about the barracking women MPs can get during PMQs, particularly if, like her, they have a regional accent.
Across the Dispatch Box Although backbenchers also ask questions, PMQs is often seen as a weekly clash between the party leaders. This style began with Edward Heath and Harold Wilson, whose mutual personal dislike changed the tone of PMQs which had previously been as civil as any other parliamentary session.
PMQs Questions to the Prime Minister is a constitutional convention. Towards the end of the C19 th, rules evolved giving a time limit, making the session on specific days and having the questions tabled in advance. In 1997 the sessions were combined into 30 mins on Wednesday at midday. On very rare occasions PMQs has been suspended. This last happened in 2009 when Prime Minister Gordon Brown requested the suspension following the sudden death of David Cameron’s son. The PM can refer a question to the relevant minister but, since Margret Thatcher, they now answer everything themselves. If the Prime Minister is not available, PMQs is taken by the Deputy Prime Minister or next senior member of the government.