The MP who presides over online petitions such as the one calling for an extension of the stamp duty holiday says she wants the government to find a way to address the issues highlighted by petitioners.
Catherine McKinnell - a Labour MP who chairs the all-party Petitions Committee - says she is disappointed that Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg has suspended the use of Westminster Hall, where such debates are usually held.
She wants all petition debates with over 100,000 signatures to be considered virtually, via Zoom or another online platform.
Rees Mogg has suspended the use of Westminster Hall for safety reasons during the latest phase of the pandemic.
McKinnell’s Petitions Committee has committed to tell petitioners by email and on Twitter when the government agrees to another process.
Back in March, during the first national lockdown, Westminster Hall was closed but the Petitions Committee held what were called ‘hybrid e-petition sessions’.
There are 33 petitions awaiting debate and McKinnell says: “On behalf of the millions of people waiting to have their petitions debated, I am disappointed that the government hasn’t made it possible for debates to continue virtually while Westminster Hall has to close.
“The Petitions Committee will continue to take action on petitions, including taking evidence, speaking to petitioners and holding our own virtual sessions, but I hope that in the coming weeks the Government will bring forward plans to make sure that petition debates can restart as soon as possible, and including as many MPs as possible.”
And she has told the Commons: “Hybrid debates may not be perfect, but surely the Leader of the House - who I know considers himself a champion of Parliament - would accept that some form of debate taking place safely, either in hybrid form or entirely virtually, is better than no debates at all.”
Meanwhile the petition is still gathering signatures - it's now reached over 117,000.