Checking the Work of Government

Parliament examines and challenges the work of the government. Both the House of Commons and the House of Lords use similar methods of scrutiny, although the procedures vary. The principal methods are questioning government ministers, debating and the investigative work of committees. The government can publicly respond to explain and justify policies and decisions.

Questions to government ministers may be answered orally or in writing. Ministers from each government department attend the Commons on a rota basis to answer oral questions. The Prime Minister answers questions every Wednesday. In the Lords, the House questions government ministers at the start of each day's business, but there are no set days for government departments.

Debates in the Commons look at national and international issues and can be on any subject. Votes are often taken to see whether a majority of Members either support or reject any discussed proposals.
In the Lords, one day a week is set aside for general debates and short debates take place on most days (lasting one and a half hours). There are no votes on such debates.

Committees of smaller groups of MPs and/or Lords look at specific policy issues or legislation in detail. Different committees have different roles, ranging from offering advice to producing reports or altering legislation. Both Houses have permanent and temporary committees. MPs and Lords also work together in Joint Select Committees. The government issues responses to most committee reports.


Parliamentary Diary.