Tuesday, October 24, 1961: Prime minister's questions

After a trial run in July, Prime Minister's Question Time is made a part of England's parliamentary proceedings. The format allows members of Parliament to ask questions directly to the prime minister in the House of Commons. An information sheet prepared for Parliament says the questions are meant "to seek information, to press for action and to hold the Government to account." The sessions take place twice a week, for 15 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. (In 1997, Prime Minister Tony Blair would change it to a single 30-minute session weekly.)

Harold Macmillan, prime minister in 1961, described it this way:

"You have to know who is your questioner ... like a prep school, there are boys who are popular, whom you must never slap down, even if they are asking a silly question. then there are the unpopular, the tiresome, and the House rather enjoys their being slapped down ... You must remember that, like a school, on the whole it dislikes the front bench (the masters) ... often you can turn an enemy into a friend, by some slight recognition. Always keep your temper ... and always have a good control of questions and supplementaries ... in many ways it is the most anxious work; I would never have lunched out on question day."

The photo is from 2007; Prime Minister Tony Blair is at center left.

* History and procedure (from www.parliament.uk): @
* Explainer (from BBC): @
* Explainer (from www.number10.gov.uk): @
* Explainer (from www.parliament.uk): @
* "50 Years of PMQs" (from The Independent newspaper): @
* "Prime Minister's Question Time celebrates 50 years" (from The Telegraph newspaper): @
* "What's the art of answering a tricky question?" (from the BBC): @
* Videos of questions from 2008 to present day: (from www.parliament.uk): @

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