Parliamentary Questions (Right of Interpellation)
Under Art. 52 B-VG the National and Federal Councils may examine the activities of the Federal Government and interrogate its members on all matters of execution (right of interpellation) and demand all requisite information.
This also applies to all enterprises in which the Federal Government holds a majority interest. In principle, the persons interrogated are under the obligation to answer truthfully. If the desired information cannot be given the reasons must be stated.
Written questions may be addressed to the Federal Government or one of its members by five Members of the National Council or three Members of the Federal Council, and must be answered within two months. Answers are, as a rule, given in writing, but the Government member queried may also answer the question orally.
Brief Debates on Answers to a Written Question
In the National Council five members may, before entry upon the Agenda, call for a brief debate on the answer to a written question. Such is the case if an answer received is deemed insufficient or gives rise to new questions. In the course of such a debate Members may move that the National Council decide not to take cognizance of said answer.
Oral Questions (Question Time)
During Question Time, which takes place at the beginning of plenary sittings, all Members of Parliament may address oral questions to members of the Federal Government.
Once the government member queried has answered, the Member who has asked the question and Members belonging to other parliamentary groups may ask additional questions. The duration of Question Time is limited to 60 minutes but may be extended in exceptional cases.
An Urgent Question is a written question that the mover demands should be answered in the course of the sitting in progress.
In the National Council such Urgent Questions must be seconded by five Members and introduced before entry upon the Agenda. They must be dealt with after the Agenda has been exhausted but not later than 3 p.m. and not earlier than three hours after entry upon the Agenda.
The mover has to state his/her motivation for asking the question, and the question is then to be answered orally, or taken position on, by the government member queried. This is followed by a debate. No more than one urgent question may be asked in each sitting.
The number of Urgent Questions that may be asked is limited. Individual Members may sign only one such demand per year. In addition, each parliamentary group may in each year move another four urgent questions including the Urgent Motions introduced by Members or their parliamentary groups.
In the Federal Council, too, an Urgent Question has to be seconded by five Members. However, a Member may even sign two such demands made in one and the same sitting. Several Urgent Questions may be asked in one sitting.
If the demand is made before entry upon the Agenda it has to be dealt with by 4 p.m. at the latest. Urgent questions may, however, be put even after entry upon the Agenda.
Debates on Matters of Topical Interest
If five Members of the National Council so demand, a Debate on Matters of Topical Interest may take place at the beginning of a week of plenary sittings.
It serves to discuss current issues that regard the executive function of the Federal Government. The topics are determined by the parliamentary groups in rotation. From 2010 onwards there are also Debates on European Matters of Topical Interest, which serve to discuss current issues within the remit of the European Union.
From 2010 onwards Debates on Matters of Topical Interest may also take place in the Federal Council.