BUSINESS QUESTION – DEBATES ON PUBLIC PETITIONS – 28 April 2016
Dr Julian Lewis: May we have a statement on the treatment by the House of public petitions that attract a large number of signatures? As the Leader of the House knows, there will be a debate on 9 May about the petition to stop the Government spending public money on pro-remain propaganda in the EU referendum. As of a few moments ago, 217,072 people had signed the petition, but the debate on it, like others of a similar nature, will be held in Westminster Hall, where no vote can be held. Should it not be possible for the Backbench Business Committee to hold such debates in the main Chamber? Otherwise, petitioners will be disappointed to find that, although their concerns are debated, the House is unable to vote on them.
[The Leader of the House of Commons (Chris Grayling): My hon. Friend makes an important point, which relates to not only this subject but others. I would encourage discourse between the two hon. Members who chair the Petitions Committee and the Backbench Business Committee so that they can see how, when a petition reaches a certain number of signatures and clearly commands overwhelming public support, a debate can be brought to the Floor of the House.
Mr Speaker (John Bercow): For what it is worth, perhaps I can say from the Chair that I think that would be a very, very good thing. I would not dream of taking sides on the issues, but in terms of the link between Parliament and the people, it is very important that it be not just tangible but meaningful, and there is real scope for progress there, so I very much appreciate what the Leader of the House has said.]