Peers can table a question for short debate in order to gauge the opinion of the House and draw responses from an opposition spokesman and a government minister on a topical issue.
These questions for short debate are taken at the end of business or during the dinner break (usually about 7.30pm).
The debates tend to last for up to one hour, and usually involve just a handful of speakers.
The dinner break provides an hour's respite for those peers taking part in consideration of major legislation.
Until 2006, short debates were referred to as "unstarred questions".