House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

House of Commons Procedure and Practice - 11. Questions - Contents and Introduction

11. Questions

Photo of a stone carving from the Grotesques Collection entitled 'Opposition MP Listening with Cupped Ear' in the House of Commons Foyer.


*    Historical Perspective

*    Role of the Speaker During Question Period

*    Conduct of Question Period

*    Points of Order and Questions of Privilege During Question Period

*    Principles and Guidelines for Oral Questions

Sub judice Convention

Questions Concerning the Administration of the House

Questions Concerning Matters Before Committees

Supplementary Questions

*      Historical Perspective

*    Replies to Oral Questions

*    Adjournment Proceedings

Historical Perspective


Selection of Questions to Be Raised

Length of Debate

Suspension or Delay of the Adjournment Proceedings

Points of Order and Questions of Privilege


*    Historical Perspective

*    Guidelines for Written Questions

Withdrawal of a Written Question

*    Replies

Questions Not Responded to Within 45 Calendar Days

Orders for Return

*    Effect of Prorogation on Written Questions


If the essence of Parliament is Government accountability, then surely the essence of accountability is the Question Period in the Canadian House of Commons.

Speaker James Jerome

(Mr. Speaker, p. 51)

The right to seek information from the Ministry of the day and the right to hold that Ministry accountable are recognized as two of the fundamental principles of parliamentary government. Members exercise these rights principally by asking questions in the House. The importance of questions within the parliamentary system cannot be overemphasized and the search for or clarification of information through questioning is a vital aspect of the duties undertaken by individual Members.[1] Questions may be asked orally without notice or may be submitted in writing after due notice.

Each sitting day, time is set aside for the purpose of asking oral questions. Question Period constitutes a unique and distinct part of the daily program of the House. Members who are not satisfied with the answer they receive to an oral question may pursue the matter at greater length during the Adjournment Proceedings, which occur every day except Friday at the end of the sitting.

Written questions, usually more detailed than oral questions, appear on the Order Paper after due notice. Responses are provided during Routine Proceedings under the rubric “Questions on the Order Paper”.

This chapter outlines the rules and practices of the House regarding oral and written questions, addressing the authority for each, their unique aspects and traditions, the current guidelines under which the House functions, and the role of the Speaker in these matters.

[1] “Nothing could more weaken the control of Parliament over the executive than the abolition or curtailment of the right of a Member of Parliament to ask a question in the House.” Wilding, N. and Laundy, P., An Encyclopaedia of Parliament, 4th ed., London: Cassell & Company Ltd., 1972, p. 627.

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