The riots e-petition, calling for those “Convicted London Rioters to Loose their benefits” signed by over 240,000 people, is scheduled to be discussed by MPs in Westminster Hall, a far less high profile forum than the House of Commons.
At the launch of the e-petition site in August it was made clear that any petition attracting more than 100,000 signatures would be considered for debate by MPs. This could reasonably have been taken to mean it would be debated in the House of Commons, which is televised, unlike Westminster Hall debates.
A spokesperson for the Hansard Society, an independent political think tank, told the Huffington Post UK:
“It is a new system so it will take some time to bed in. However if this becomes the pattern the mechanism will need to be looked at again. There are plenty of other models to look at, for example the Scottish model which has a committee devoted to e-petitions.”
The Hillsborough Campaign’s (HJC) petition for the release of Hillsborough files, which has 138,576 signatures will be debated in the House of Commons. Steve Rotherham, MP, stood out in particular support of this. HJC said:
“We would like to thank those MPs who turned up in support of the recent e-petition. They have made the right decision in moving this forward to be debated in the House on 17th October.”
The Backbench Business Committee was not given more time to schedule debates, something they are campaigning for in the hope that it will make e-petitions more meaningful. A committee member said: "We will continue to press the Government to provide specific time for debates on e-petitions, so that there is an effective way for the public to engage with Parliament.”