A question must relate to an area of policy or administration for which a minister is responsible and can be held to account.

This excludes:

  • activity of a minister in their private, constituency or party political capacity
  • matters of history (over 30 years ago)
  • work of devolved bodies, including the responsibilities of the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; the Mayor of London; local government; other independent statutory bodies; the private and voluntary sectors
  • operational matters not determined at ministerial level (for example, police investigations or postal delivery patterns)
  • interpretation of the law (this is a matter for the courts)

In deciding what falls within a minister's responsibilities, the Table Office will take into account recent answers to parliamentary questions, policy announcements and ministerial statements, which will normally indicate matters for which a minister can be said to have accepted responsibility. This includes matters which a minister could reasonably be assumed to have considered in the course of policy development, such as relevant international comparators and recommendations of reputable non-governmental organisations or international bodies of which the UK is a member.

Questions are also allowed on the oversight and work of public bodies on which Ministers have previously provided answers (such as the Post Office and the Highways Agency).

In the case of the Foreign Secretary, questions are allowed on the internal affairs of foreign countries where they are of international interest or might have an impact on the UK.