The Hull Daily Mail is encouraging people to sign a petition on the Government’s e-petition website calling for action on jobs being lost at the BAE plant in Brough. They report that, if 100,000 people sign the petition, the Government is ‘obliged’ to arrange a debate in the House of Commons. As readers will know, there is no such obligation. The Government sends the petition to the Backbench Business Committee of the House of Commons and it is a matter for the committee as to whether to schedule a debate. Its latest guidance suggests that, if an MP promotes a debate and several indicate they will take part in a debate, there is a good chance it will be selected. However, it is not automatic and each proposal has to be considered against others. As the committee has emphasised, it has not been supplied with any additional time for debates on petitions.
This confirms the confusion that exists about petitions submitted via the Government e-petition site. There needs to be greater clarity about the process and, if there are to be debates in the Commons triggered by petitions, then the whole process needs to be in the ownership of the House of Commons.