Starred Questions

Starred questions are questions for oral answer by Ministers. They are called 'Starred Questions' because they appear next to a star on the order paper. They can be tabled by any peer for the calendar month before the time specified for answer up to 24 hours before that time. In practice several weeks' notice is...Read More

Statements (Commons)

Statements are normally delivered first to the Commons at about 12.30pm. They are repeated to the Lords by a relevant Minister at a convenient time after that. The Minister reads out the text of the statement made to the Commons. Opposition spokespersons then make speeches in response to which the Minister responds. Brief questions from...Read More

Statements (Lords)

By convention, the House expects to be the first to be informed of important issues, including new government policy announcements and updates on developing situations. Ministers will, therefore, often address the House in a statement. Statements normally follow oral questions, but, with the agreement of the Speaker, can take place at any time. Depending on...Read More

Third Reading

This stage is normally at least three days after report and may last one or two days. Until Third Reading, the stages in the Commons and the Lords are broadly comparable. Whereas in the Lower House, the Third Reading is a debate looking back at the Bill’s progress and forward to its implementation, in the...Read More

Third Reading (Commons)

The Third Reading debate provides an opportunity for final comment on a Bill. Normally only those MPs who have been active in previous stages will speak. Due to programming, debates on Third Reading tend to come immediately after Report Stage and to last only one hour. After Third Reading, if the Bill started in the...Read More

Timeline of Key EU Events

1951: The Treaty of Paris is signed, establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), including Belgium, West Germany, France, Luxembourg, Italy and the Netherlands. The Treaty came into force in 1952, and expired in 2002. 1957: The Treaties of Rome are signed – one establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) and one establishing...Read More

Treaties (Europe)

European union has been promoted since 1951 by means of a series of treaties – agreements with the force of law reached between member states. The Treaty of Paris of 1951 established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which comprised Belgium, West Germany, France, Luxembourg, Italy and the Netherlands. The Treaties of Rome of...Read More


Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) is the newest of the unionist political parties. It was formed in 2007 by members of the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) who split from the DUP in protest at its decision to enter into the Northern Irish power sharing executive with Sinn Fein. The TUV says it stands for those who...Read More


The euroesceptic party has a tendency to do far better in local and European elections than it ever does in Westminster. The party briefly had an MP in 2008, when Tory Bob Spink quit the party. He soon clarified he was independent, only backing Ukip on foreign policy issues. Conservative difficulties over the Lisbon treaty...Read More

Ulster Unionist party

The Ulster Unionist party (UUP) arguably retains the greatest sense of unionist schisms across the last decade of all of Northern Ireland's parties. Unlike the more successful Democratic Unionist party (DUP), which was only formed in 1971, the UUP and its predecessors can be traced as far back as the days of William Gladstone's home...Read More

Voting (Commons)

Compared to other legislatures, voting in the Commons is perhaps the most archaic of its traditions. The chair puts a question to the House. If the chair cannot easily discern the opinion of the House ('on a general Aye'), then a vote is held. When a vote – or 'division' – is called MPs literally...Read More

Voting (Lords)

If the chair cannot discern the opinion of the House when a question is put then a vote is held. When a vote – or 'division' – is called peers literally divide into two groups, those in favour (Contents) and those against (Not-Contents). Tellers are appointed for either side and peers proceed into one of...Read More

Voting (Wales)

Voting in the Assembly is electronic and AMs can choose to abstain instead of voting for or against a motion. As voting is almost instantaneous, the opinion of the Assembly is frequently tested and unanimous outcomes are not uncommon.Read More

Voting and Decision Time (Scotland)

Voting in the parliament is electronic and almost instantaneous. MSPs can choose to abstain instead of voting for or against a motion. Voting normally takes place at decision time, which is usually at 5pm on days when the parliament is in plenary but it can be brought forward by a special motion if necessary. Votes...Read More

Westminster Hall

With time on the floor of the House for private members' debates curtailed in recent years, experimental sittings in Westminster Hall have quickly become part of the landscape for the Commons. These sittings take the form of a series of 'adjournment debates' of varying lengths, 30 and 90 minutes being the norm. Sittings take place...Read More

White Paper

White Papers are detailed statements of Government policy, which set the broad principles for legislation, although not all White Papers lead to new law. White Papers are produced from time to time by departments and their publication is always accompanied by an oral statement to the Commons by the Secretary of State. White Papers are...Read More

Work in Committees (Europe)

Along with the Council of Ministers, the EP constitutes the EU's legislature. Historically, the EP was purely a consultative body, but treaty changes have given it more and more power to amend and block legislation. When a proposal is referred to the EP, it develops and declares an 'opinion' – which has differing degrees of...Read More
£50 of Waterstones vouchers to be won

Work in parliament? Win £50 of Waterstones vouchers

We're giving away £50 of Waterstones vouchers to anyone signed up to our newsletter using a email account.Read More

Written Ministerial Statements

Invented to reduce the incidence of planted written questions, written ministerial statements are released by Ministers, at relatively short notice, when they want to make an announcement to the House but feel that its content does not warrant a full oral statement.Read More