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Ask effective questions

Decide whether you are pressing for action or asking for information and make this clear in the question.

  • Questions pressing for action normally begin with the words “To ask the Secretary of State if s/he will [make it her policy to/bring forward legislative proposals on/take steps to...].”
  • Questions seeking information might begin with a form such as “To ask the Secretary of State how many/how long/what steps he has taken/what her policy is on....”

If you are seeking information, think about what kind of information you want. Some questions are general enquiries about the Government’s policy intentions. Others seek specific information in multiple categories. For example:

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what his policy is on the use of depleted uranium weapons.
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many cold weather payments were made to pensioner households in the weather station area covering (a) York Central constituency, (b) York local authority area and (c) the UK in (i) 2013-14 and (ii) 2014-15; and what the total value of such payments was.

Double check that your question would be readily understood by a general reader. The Table Office will correct typos before tabling, but it helps if the intention of the question is clear. In particular, it helps if any unusual acronyms are spelled out in full.

The Table Office are happy to help you or your staff if you are struggling to put a particular question into words, or aren’t sure whether it conforms to the rules.

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