On Wednesday 15 July, the Petitions Committee held its first ever hybrid e-petitions session to discuss petitions relating to the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
During the session, MPs discussed the Government’s approach to lockdown, in light of the large number of petitions about easing COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on certain sectors, businesses and activities. More than 287,000 petitioners have signed parliamentary petitions relating to easing lockdown restrictions, with the most popular - calling on the Government to Allow gyms and leisure centres to reopen - gathering more than 129,000 signatures. MPs discussed the following petitions:
The session was hybrid, meaning MPs were able to take part in person or remotely via video link. This was the first time that the Petitions Committee scheduled e-petitions for discussion in this new hybrid format.
This new format was devised because sittings in Westminster Hall (where e-petitions are normally debated) are still suspended as part of Parliament’s arrangements for adapting to the Coronavirus outbreak, and because the Government has not provided more time for debates on e-petitions in the main Chamber of the House of Commons.
The previous week, Petitions Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell wrote to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, to request a Minister to attend the session and respond to MPs' questions. The Government is obliged to do this for e-petitions debates in Westminster Hall. Chloe Smith, Minister of State for the Cabinet Office, responded to the session.
The e-petition session came as the Petitions Committee continues to press Ministers for their reaction to its two reports on the Government's response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
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