Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Thursday, 23 October 2008 10:54 UK

One important way Parliament conducts its business is through regular question sessions.

A to Z: Commons Questions

Every day (except Fridays) MPs put questions to ministers about various government policies.

Ministers from each government department must come to the House roughly once a month, on a rotational basis, to answer these oral questions.

The questions are submitted at least three days in advance, giving the minister and his or her civil servants time to prepare detailed replies.

After the minister's initial reply, the questioner is free to ask a "supplementary" question, as long as it is on the same general topic. Other members may then intervene.

The last 10-15 minutes are reserved for "topical" questions, when MPs can ask supplementary questions on any subject relating to the department's responsibilities, without giving notice.

Procedure for prime minister's questions is slightly different.

Peers are also able to put questions to ministers every day (except Friday) during a half-hour question session at the start of business.

But oral questions in the Lords are not restricted to one government department per session - on any given day, ministers from up to four different departments can be questioned in the chamber.

Written questions

A large number of written questions are also tabled daily by MPs and peers.

These questions are normally answered within one working week, although parliamentarians can specify the date on which they would like to receive the answers.

Answers are sent directly to the member who asked them, and printed in Hansard.

MPs use written questions to gather information and statistics from government departments.

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