Procedure Committee Review of the Backbench Business Committee

Back in March, I wrote about a motion adopted by the UK House of Commons which changed how members of the Backbench Business Committee (BBCom) are elected: The current members of the Backbench Business Committee were elected by the entire membership of the House of Commons. Members of most of the other Select Committees were elected only by their own caucuses, meaning Labour MPs serving on a committee were elected only by Labour MPs, Conservative members of committees elected only by their fellow Conservative MPs, and the same for the Liberal Democrats (there are no members of smaller parties on any committees). Backbenchers argued strenuously that the BBBCom was different, and that it was right that its members be elected […]

E-petitions with 10,000 signatures will now get a response

In a written ministerial statement, Leader of the House, the Rt. Hon. Andrew Lansley announced that any e-petition which received 10,000 or more signatures would receive a response from the Government: Once an e-petition has passed 10 000 signatures, departments will provide a  response  that will appear on the website and  be e-mailed to all signatories who opted-in to receive updates on that petition.  Responses will include a statement of the Government’s policy on the issue, and details of any relevant Parliamentary processes that are ongoing. All e-petitions currently open for signature on the site, which  have more than 10 000 signatures, will receive a response from departments; we expect most of these to be published before the House returns […]

E-petitions prove to be popular in their first year

A year after the launch of its e-petition site, the UK Government has released some interesting data which gives some idea of the popularity of e-petitions. Over the past twelve months, 36,000 petitions have been launched, attracting 6.4 million signatures. This of course doesn’t meant that 6.4 million different people have signed them – some people have probably signed multiple petitions. According to the Government, that averages out to 12 people signing a petition every minute. The e-petitions website averages 46,500 visits a day, for a total of over 17 million visits over the course of its first year. While those numbers are impressive, they are also a bit misleading. It seems that the popularity (or at least, the novelty) […]

Parliamentary reform would work

In a recent article, Don Lenihan argues that parliamentary reform won’t “force a government to engage in meaningful debate” and reverse the fact that Parliament is, in his words “broken”. Lenihan writes: MPs like Michael Chong and Nathan Cullen remain hopeful. They think that the right combination of rules and procedures can fix Parliament. Unfortunately, if “fixing” it means rekindling meaningful debate, they are wrong. House Speaker Andrew Scheer’s ruling on the F-35s last week inadvertently shows why. Scheer argues that a minister cannot be charged with misleading the House unless it can be proved that he/she intended to do so. Intentions, however, are slippery things. (…) Scheer’s point is that, when a minister declares that he/she is not lying, […]

Has the Backbench Business Committee been too successful?

Previously, I wrote a post in response to search queries from people wondering if the Backbench Business Committee (or BBBCom) has been a success. In that post, I noted that it was a bit difficult to answer that question because I wasn’t certain how one would measure  – or even define – success in this context. Recent events in the UK House of Commons are perhaps a greater indication that indeed, the BBBCom has been a success. So much so that perhaps the Government felt a need to try to curtail it to a degree – or at least, that is what some think might be going on. On Monday, 12 March 2012, the Government moved a motion that would […]

Why there won’t be a debate on the Drop the Health Bill e-petition

On 28 February 2012, the UK House of Commons Backbench Business Committee declined an application to hold a debate on an e-petition calling on Parliament to drop the Government’s bill to reform the National Health Service (NHS). The e-petition had received over 100,000 signatures, and the request for a debate was brought to the Committee by Labour MP Jonathan Reynolds and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas. The reasons why the debate was refused centred primarily on two important considerations: the bill had received, and would continue to receive, debate in Parliament, and the request for a debate on dropping the bill would be better suited to an Opposition day debate rather than a Backbench business debate. As explained on the […]