Documents to download

Chart showing number of urgent questions by session since 1997

This chart is also available in the spreadsheet.

The urgent questions procedure, governed by  Standing Order 21(2), allows Members to apply to the Speaker to request that a minister come to the House to make a statement (and take questions) on an important issue at short notice. Notice of an application for an urgent question must be given to the Speaker’s Office in advance of that day’s sitting. The Speaker gives permission if in his opinion the question is:

  • of an urgent character and relates to matters of public importance

The Speaker’s Office contacts the Member to let them know whether or not their application has been successful but does not provide feedback on unsuccessful requests. The text of the urgent question, ministerial response and supplementary questions can be found by following the links in the document and sprradsheet.


  • Until 2002, Urgent Questions were known as private notice questions
  • Parliamentary sessions: 2010-12 and 2017-19 were extended sessions; 2019 was a short session.

Urgent Questions in the House of Lords

Urgent questions in the House of Lords are still known as private notice questions. Peers can apply to the Lord Speaker to ask a private notice question. If granted, the relevant government department is informed immediately and the question is asked at the end of Question Time.

Background on parliamentary questions

See the Commons Library briefing on Parliamentary Questions: recent issues for more information on parliamentary questions.

Parliament: facts and figures

This series of publications contains data on various subjects relating to Parliament and Government. Topics include legislation, MPs, select committees, debates, divisions and Parliamentary procedure.


Please send any comments or corrections to the Parliament & Constitution Centre. Suggestions for new lists welcomed.


Documents to download

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