Opinion: Is PMQ's effective?
Prime Ministers Question time - A chance to vote, or gloat?
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The Prime Minister’s Questions known by the abbreviation 'PMQ’s', is a weekly tradition that has occurred for decades. It is a weekly chance for the leader of the opposition to challenge the prime minister and for other members to ask questions directly to the prime minister. The now common Wednesday half an hour - midday session was introduced by Tony Blair at the beginning of his first term in government, before then it had been one quarter hour sessions on a Tuesday and a Thursday.
Parliament is seen as the democratic body of the United Kingdom, however, the ballot system in which members are chosen to ask a question is completely random. There are ten questions chosen at random, this means the chances of an MP getting picked is very very low, this is very undemocratic as important issues that need to be raised by constituents either have to wait and hope, or try another method.
The leader of the opposition automatically receives 6 questions to ask the prime minister and the third largest party’s leader receives 3 questions. Members of the government mostly use the time not to ask meaningful questions, but to promote the governments ‘achievements’, which is wasting time and prevents ‘real’ questions being asked. Jeremy Corbyn has been trying to turn it back in to a time to hold the government to account by asking for questions from the public, this has seemed to engage voters.
Nowadays Prime minister’s questions has descended into a shouting battle, of which side can jeer the loudest. This issue was raised by the Speaker, John Bercow, who has frequently raised the issue shouting over MPs to calm themselves and allow the question and the answer to be fully heard. However, there is also the issue of whether the Prime minister actually answers the question. On multiple occasions David Cameron has failed to answer the question either (probably) down to not knowing, or not wanting to admit that something hasn’t happened.
A prime example of the Prime Minister failing on the basic role was the last Prime minster’s questions is when Douglas Carswell, the only UKIP MP, got his first chance to ask a question - the first time in four months - and instead of answering the question, the Prime Minister decided to lodge a personal attack at him. This was essentially wasting an important question being asked on behalf on his Clacton constituents and the other 3.8 million UKIP voters.
This and other similar failings shows that maybe PMQs has become less of a chance to challenge government decisions and more a chance for MPs to freely shout and point score.