Image Credit : Free Range Stock – Geoffrey Whiteway

The public will be able to petition the House of Commons electronically for the first time, under proposals published by the House of Commons Procedure Committee.

The Committee’s report, E-petitions: a collaborative system, presents its recommendations for the joint e-petition system between the House of Commons and the Government which the House called for in May this year.

The system the Committee puts forward is based on the existing Government e-petition site, redesigned and rebranded to show that it is jointly run between the House of Commons and the Government. Crucially, it will be backed by the establishment of a new Petitions Committee, which will be able to hear petitioners’ concerns and scrutinise the Government’s response.

The Petitions Committee will consider both e-petitions and paper petitions presented under the existing procedures. When it identifies a petition meriting further action, it will:

  • correspond with petitioners on their petition;
  • call petitioners for oral evidence;
  • refer a petition to the relevant select committee;
  • seek further information from the Government, orally or in writing, on the subject of a petition; and
  • put forward petitions for debate in the House.

The Committee will be supported by a staff team with responsibility for advising and assisting petitioners and providing information to them on Parliamentary developments and activity relating to their petition.

Charles Walker MP, Chair of the Procedure Committee, said

Our proposals will enable the House to respond more effectively to petitions than it does now. Setting up a committee of MPs to consider the petitions presented to the House, hear petitioners’ concerns and scrutinise the Government’s response to them is a fundamental part of the system we propose. This should also improve the information available to the public about what the House of Commons does and the many ways in which MPs can respond to the people’s concerns. I hope these changes will bring some real and welcome improvements both for the House of Commons and the petitioning public.

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