Table Office is responsible for the acceptance of Assembly business (which includes oral and written questions) on behalf of the Presiding Officer, who is the final arbiter on the acceptability of business.
Oral Assembly Questions (OAQs)
Oral questions enable Assembly Members to scrutinise the policies and actions of the Welsh Government and press Ministers to take action during Plenary meetings. Members are also able to table oral questions to the Counsel General and the Assembly Commission.
Processing oral questions begins on Monday, when Table Office conducts a ballot for each Ministerial question time taking place in Plenary the following week (Members are asked to indicate which ballots they would like to be included in at the start of each Assembly – with a separate list held for each Minister). Each ballot is then used to select the names of those Members who are notified soon after by Table Office that they have been successful. The selected Members for each ballot then have the opportunity to table a question (by the agreed deadline set out in Standing Orders – three working days before the questions are due to be answered for First Minister’s questions and five working days for all others).
The questions which have been tabled are then randomly shuffled by Table Office (with a separate shuffle being conducted for each Minister) to determine the order in which the questions are asked. The top 15 proceed for answer in Plenary the following week, the remainder fall. Table Office publishes questions as soon as possible the day after they have been tabled on the Assembly’s website, once they have been translated overnight.
Written Assembly Questions (WAQs)
In addition to oral questions, Assembly Members may also table questions for written answer by the First Minister, Welsh Ministers, Counsel General and the Assembly Commission. All written questions tabled by Members are published on the Assembly’s website the following morning. During sitting weeks, Members can table questions on any day and there is no limit on the number of written questions they can table.
Standing Orders state that a Member cannot expect an answer to a written question in less than five working days. By convention, Welsh Ministers aim to provide answers within seven to eight days but may take longer if they need to. All answers are published in full on the Assembly’s website and are sent directly by the Welsh Government to the Member who has asked the question.