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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard


The Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.



Oral questionsNumber of legs to a question

SPEAKER: Members, last year I issued a ruling by email on the application of the convention that a question may only have two legs. Since this matter still arises frequently, I thought it would be useful putting this ruling on the parliamentary record and therefore making it available through Speakers’ Rulings.

Members are supposed to ask a single question. Questions that attempt to ask two or more questions disguised as one are out of order—Speakers’ ruling 165/3. Where I consider that a question has more than two legs, I invite members to choose the two they wish to retain in the question. My general rule of thumb is that if an element of a question could be answered separately, then it is a separate question. The question asking whether a Minister stands by all of his or her statements, policies, and actions can be answered separately about standing by statements, standing by policies, and standing by actions. That is, in effect, three questions in one. I have asked members and I ask members to limit themselves to asking two legs only—for example, statements and policies.

Added to the end of many primary questions that ask whether a Minister will do something is the question “if not, why not?”. That is a distinct question and must be answered separately from the main part of the question. If a question ends with “if not, why not?”, then it must only have one preceding leg. There is precedent for this approach. In 1998, Speaker Kidd ruled that the question “Is he proposing to convene a meeting of the multiparty accord on superannuation; if so, when, and if not, why not?” was not in order. I intend to resume that approach. A question that asks “If so when, and if not, why not?” as a second leg is not in order.