Procedure Committee

23 June 2006 Session 2005-06 No. 11


New Inquiry: PUBLIC PETITIONS

The Committee is to conduct an inquiry into the arrangements concerning Public Petitions to the House of Commons. The procedure is perceived by many as unnecessarily restrictive and it has been suggested that the subjects of some petitions would benefit from closer scrutiny. Launching the inquiry, the Chairman, Rt Hon Greg Knight MP, said:

"People often take a great deal of time and trouble preparing their petition to the House of Commons. It is unacceptable that at Westminster, unlike other Parliaments, this does not even guarantee them a response to their concerns, let alone any action.

Although some government departments are to be commended for responding seriously to petitions, there is no mechanism to ensure that every petition receives the consideration it deserves. In addition, the involvement of Departmental Select Committees in the petitioning process is patchy. This means that many petitioners are left with a profound feeling of disappointment regarding the outcome of their efforts. The Committee therefore feels that the petitioning process is in serious need of review."

As part of this inquiry the Committee will examine such issues as:

€How could changes to public petition procedure improve communication between the public and Parliament? Do petitioners receive sufficient feedback after their petition has been presented?

€Should there be a committee on the merits of public petitions? What would be its remit and powers? Would it replace the presentation of petitions in the Chamber?

€How would any changes to procedure reflect the interests of individual Members of Parliament and their role in the petitioning process?

€Could Departmental Select Committees be more involved in the petitioning process?

€Could debates be held in Parliament on public petitions?

€Should the House of Commons accept petitions signed electronically? If so, what would be the appropriate procedure?

€Are the current rules on admissibility and orderliness of public petitions appropriate?

Written submissions are welcomed and should arrive no later than Monday 9th October 2006. Subject to the progress of the inquiry, some respondents may be asked to provide oral evidence. Submissions should be in Word or rich text format and sent by e-mail to [email protected] or by post to the Clerk, Procedure Committee, Journal Office, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. Further information can be obtained from the Clerk at this address or by telephone on 0207 219 3318.

Committees make public much of the evidence they receive during inquiries. If you do not wish your submission to be published, you must clearly say so. If you wish to include private or confidential information in your submission to the Committee, please contact the Clerk to discuss this. Committees are not able to investigate individual cases. Further information about the Procedure Committee, including the complete text of previous reports, can be found on these pages.