Prime Minister’s Questions is televised and covered by the media and the right to question government ministers about the work of government departments is well known. The Parliament website describes it thus:

“In addition to oral questions, MPs and Peers can ask government ministers questions for written answer. These are often used to obtain detailed information about policies and statistics on the activities of government departments. ” Source: Written answers Parliament website.

The “Department” drop down menu on TheyWorkForYou search page reveals that your MP can ask questions of bodies that are not classed as Government Departments, I list these below with my comments (I have excluded Lord Chancellor and Government Law Officers from this list):

  • Administration Committeesearch – considers the services provided to MPs by the House of Commons.
  • Church Commissioners -search – manages an investment portfolio (mostly in company shares and property) to support the Church of England
  • Duchy of Lancastersearch – one of two Royal Duchies in England, see Wikipedia: Duchy of Lancaster
  • Electoral Commission Committeesearch – a body created under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 to scrutinise the Electoral Commission
  • European Communitysearch – it appears that MPs can ask the Lord Privy Seal questions about the European Community
  • House of Commonssearch – MPs have asked House of Commons about security arrangements, first aid and spam emails under this heading.
  • House of Commons Commissionsearch – the overall supervisory body of the House of Commons Administration in the United Kingdom
  • Leader of the Councilsearch – another name for Leader of the House of Commons, only one question found under this heading.
  • Leader of the Housesearch – MP has asked about the use of hand held devices in the Commons under this heading, another has asked about the time taken to answer written questions
  • Palace of Westminstersearch – no questions under this heading since 1981, when Mr. Garel-Jones asked the Lord President of the Council whether the State opening of Parliament would be televised.
  • President of the Councilsearch – many questions relate to work of Government but some questions relate to Parliamentary scrutiny e.g. in 2002 Mr Graham Allen submitted a question: “To ask the President of the Council if he will list for each Government Bill to be introduced this session the form of pre-legislative scrutiny to which it will be subject.”
  • Privy Councilsearch – The Privy Council essentially, a law making body through which the Queen makes Orders – see also Wikipedia:Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Most of these questions however appear to relate to the Government Department called the Privy Council Office
  • Public Accounts Commissionsearch – the Public Accounts Commission examines the National Audit Office Estimates and considers reports from the appointed auditor of the National Audit Office.
  • Public Accounts Committeesearch – only one question found under this heading and this dates back to 2001. The Committee of Public Accounts examines “accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted to Parliament to meet the public expenditure, …”

5 thoughts on “Who can your MP hold to account through written questions?

  1. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a Government Minister which seems to have been sufficient to ensure a minimum level of accountability over the years. The situation re Duchy of Cornwall is not quite as straight forward. I don’t know enough to answer the question put properly. I do note that you can ask Government ministers about the Duchy of Cornwall. see for example:

    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2011-03-14a.21.4&s=%22duchy+of+cornwall%22+section%3Awrans#g21.5 transport funding

    question re constitutional status: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2011-05-11a.214.4&s=%22duchy+of+cornwall%22+section%3Awrans

    Reply
  2. “Under the Duchy of Cornwall and Duchy of Lancaster Act 1838, the accounts of both Duchies are required to be presented to Parliament and they are therefore available for scrutiny by the Committee of Public Accounts. The Treasury has a statutory responsibility to direct the form of the Duchies’ accounts and, in respect of the Duchy of Cornwall, its approval is required for major capital transactions.”

    http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-archive/committee-of-public-accounts/pac280705-pn19/

    Reply
  3. Yes, MP and Lords can ask questions about the Duchy but the answers seem to be lacking a little honesty don’t you think. How can people claim it is a private landed esate when even a little constitutional research will show it is much more. Surely you of all people are aware that stating the Duchy of Cornwall is just a private landed estate is a total lie?

    Reply
  4. “stating the Duchy of Cornwall is just a private landed estate is a total lie” – I would have to agree. If it was simply a private estate Parliament would never require ‘Prince’s Consent’ to legislate as the Duchy:

    “If a Bill’s provisions affect the interests (hereditary revenues, personal property or other interests) of the Duchy of Cornwall, it is sometimes necessary to liaise with representatives of the Prince of Wales in order to obtain “Prince’s Consent”, as part of the parliamentary process.”

    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2011-02-28b.41612.h&s=%22prince%27s+consent%22#g41612.r0

    Reply

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