Boris Johnson has had to be reminded to actually answer Sir Keir Starmer’s questions in a third of all Prime Minister’s Questions so far this year.
When the House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle admonished the Prime Minister twice at today’s session for not answering questions and instead offering his own, it was the seventh time in 19 PMQs since January in which he has had to do so.
‘It is Prime Minister’s questions’
Asked by Starmer to predict how many people would need to self-isolate every week if cases reached 100,000 per day, the Prime Minister failed to offer a number.
He instead asked the Labour leader whether or not he supports the plan to lift restrictions.
The speaker, intervened, saying: “It is Prime Minister’s questions, if we want opposition questions we’ll have to change”.
Later in the same exchange, after Johnson refused to say what his plan is to prevent people from deleting the NHS app to avoid having to self-isolate, choosing to instead question Starmer, the Speaker intervened again.
He said: “Once again, this is PMQs and the PM answers questions.”
On 9 June, the speaker said: “I remind the Prime Minister that this is Prime Minister’s questions,” after having said in January, “I just remind the Prime Minister: it is Prime Minister’s questions.”
In April he told Johnson, “I think we ought to at least try and address the question,” while in February he remarked, “we have to be somewhere near the question that was asked”.
In the first session of this year, on 13 January, the speaker said: “Prime Minister, there are questions and sometimes we have got to try to answer the question that was asked of you.
“To run through the history is one thing, but in fairness, it is Prime Minister’s questions. It was the final question.”
PMQs is intended to offer the leader of the opposition and others an opportunity to scrutinise the Prime Minister, and by-extension the government.
Prime Ministers have often done their best to avoid giving a direct answer to some questions, but Johnson has been criticised for so often failing to respond to scrutiny.