What are Prime Minister’s Questions and why is everyone bobbing up and down?
PMQs are held every Wednesday for half an hour. It is the opportunity for MPs to put questions to the Prime Minister and to hold the government to account over their actions. MPs use PMQs to ask questions about national issues and often use it as an opportunity to mention issues affecting their constituency.
MPs wishing to ask a question must enter it into a ballot system.
Entries are selected at random and put at random onto the Order Paper which the Speaker of the House calls out. The question is asked; the Prime Minister gives an answer.
Tradition dictates that PMQs starts with a question about the Prime Minister’s engagements. This is called Question Number One.
The Prime Minister will usually reply;
“This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.”
The first MP to ask a question will ask “Question Number One” then follow that with their own query.
This question is usually followed by the leader of the opposition. The opposition leader (currently Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party) is allowed six questions in total. The opposition leader is the only person allowed to come back with further questions.
Those not selected for the Order Paper can attempt to “catch the eye” of the speaker to ask an extra question. This is achieved by standing and sitting immediately before the Prime Minister makes his answer. This is known as “bobbing”. There was us thinking they’d just had an electric shock.
The format of Prime Minister’s Questions has changed over the years. In 1881 a time-limit for questions was set. Then in 1961 PMQs were made permanent as two 15 minute slots on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When Tony Blair was Prime Minister he changed the format again to the 30 minute slot on a Wednesday which we have today.
Prime Minister’ Questions has been criticised as being childish. MPs from both sides cheer their leaders and bray at the opposing side. The Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition usually trade thinly veiled insults.
The speaker of the House John Bercow has called PMQs “embarrassing”. The “histrionics and cacophony of noise” meant several MPs had said they would not attend Prime Minister’s Questions.
In the past the behaviour was much more civilised. In a speech to the House John Bercow notes that “while exchanges could be lively, contemporary accounts do not record them being remotely raucous.” Former speaker Selwyn Lloyd blamed the rise in bad behaviour personal animosity between Harold Wilson and Edward Heath.
New Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has promised to change Prime Minister’s questions. He wants it to be less “theatrical” and for a real debate to take place.
Queen Elizabeth II becomes the UK’s longest serving monarch. Earlier this year a report was released detailing how much the Royal Family costs. Are they really good value for money or should we get rid? Scenes of Reason broke down the debate so you can get the info.
In the UK: At present we have a monarch, Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. She is now the UK’s longest serving royal. Well done, Liz!
Though the Queen is meant to stay out of politics and remain impartial, as head of state she has several duties. These include overseeing the opening of parliament and signing acts of parliament. Important stuff.
The Queen and the Royal Family also look after visiting royals and officials, and make visits to other countries. This strengthens diplomatic and economic bonds between the UK and other countries. Getting chummy; so we get their money.
The official royal website also describes the role of head of nation as “providing a focus for national identity”. Whatever the hell that means.
The Queen gets money from the government each year to pay for the running of her official duties.
This is done through the Sovereign Grant. In 1760, the Crown Estate (lands owned by the Royal Family) was handed over to the state. These lands owned by the state include farms, mines and public land. In return the Royal Family receives a payment each year to live on.
Currently: Each year the Queen gets the equivalent of 15% of the Crown Estate’s profits. Last year profits were £252.6 million, so the Sovereign Grant given to the Royal Family was = £37.9 million. Cor Blimey.
Sovereign Grant Act 2011 Sections 1(1) & 1(6) – Royal Finances paid by Treasury from funds voted by Parliament. pic.twitter.com/Cc9IlDz8MV
— Andy Wightman MSP (@andywightman) June 24, 2015
Earlier this year newspapers reported that Scotland will be reducing the amount of money given to the Queen.
Myth: With some of the Crown Estate being handed over to the Scottish government, the Scots will be keeping the profit money for themselves and won’t give any to the Queen.
This is untrue. As seen above, and reported on Buzzfeed the money comes directly from the treasury. Not actually from the profits of the estate. Sorry newspapers, you got it wrong.
Only 43 countries in the world are ruled by a monarchy.
Anti-Monarchy groups like Republic want to get rid of Queenie and the Royal Family. If this happened, the UK would likely become a Republic. The people and their elected representatives would nominate the head of state rather than a monarch.
“We call for an elected head of state to perform an important constitutional and ceremonial role. This is like the way it’s done in Ireland. This would give us an effective and independent head of state who can play a real role in national life.” – Republic
The Prime Minister is one alternative. Another option, favoured by Republic, is an elected head of state independent from the government. So, someone who is chosen by the people to represent the country, but not govern it. In theory, anyone should be able to put themselves forward for the position, just like MPs.
The Royal Family isn’t that expensive when you think about it. According to Buckingham Palace the Royal Family costs each person 56p a year. Bargain!
The Royal Family is good news for:
Tourism. Money brought in by tourism each year by the Royal Family is estimated at £500 million a year.
Charity. Around 3000 charities have a royal as their patron, boosting their profile and giving credibility to the cause.
Making connections. The Royal Family attend 2,000 official events each year in the UK and abroad.
Supporters of the Royal Family also say that we should sympathise with the Royals. They don’t get a choice in what they do and are expected to behave and live in a certain way. Life is so unfair.
And last time we got rid of the monarchy, in the English Civil War, it was only 11 years before we re-instated a King.
£500 million may sound good but according to the i100 Bees actually bring in more money than the Royal Family. That’s gotta sting.
You can’t sack the Royal Family. Having an elected head of state would hold them to account. If you do something you shouldn’t – you’re out!
Having a republic works for Ireland. Enough said.
As well as the day-to-day costs, we’re also going to have to fork out for a £150 million redecoration of Buckingham Palace. Lots of people are suggesting the Palace should be opened to the public, which would pay for the work.
And lastly, we really can’t call ourselves a democracy, when the head of state isn’t elected. Is it fair that a Royal is paid for by us, just because of who they are?