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Committee Chairs welcome motion to restore Westminster Hall debates

26 February 2021

The Chair of the Petitions Committee Catherine McKinnell MP and Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, Ian Mearns MP, have welcomed the Government’s motion to allow hybrid proceedings on Westminster Hall debates.

On 25 February, the House of Commons agreed a motion put forward by the Leader of the House, Rt Hon Jacob Rees Mogg MP, to introduce hybrid Westminster Hall debates.

Following the closure of Westminster Hall in January, debates previously scheduled by the Petitions Committee on petitions that have more than 100,000 signatures were postponed. Now the motion to introduce hybrid Westminster Hall debates has been agreed by the House, the Petitions Committee will reschedule as many debates as possible. The Backbench Business Committee will similarly resume debates on backbench business.

Since Westminster Hall has been closed, the Petitions Committee has held several virtual e-petitions sessions, which allowed petitioners’ concerns to be discussed by MPs, including those who are shielding.

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP, comments

“On behalf of the millions of our constituents who have started and signed the 41 petitions currently awaiting debate, I welcome the House’s agreement to resume Westminster Hall debates, and for them to be hybrid, helping to keep Parliament Covid-secure and ensure that as many Members as possible can take part in our debates. 

“It is vital for the safety of the staff who are in Westminster keeping the House safe and functioning that we minimise attendance as much as we can, while ensuring we can all represent our constituents in debates. To achieve this, I urge the Government to maintain hybrid proceedings until it is safe for everyone working here to return.”

Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, Ian Mearns MP, comments

“I am incredibly relieved that the Leader of the House has tabled a motion to bring back sittings in Westminster Hall. The loss of a second debating Chamber in this period has meant we have been unable to facilitate many timely debates, and Backbench Members have experienced frustration in being unable to speak on such crucial issues.

“My Committee will now get to work on reducing the backlog of debates waiting to take place whilst ensuring that Backbench voices can continue to be heard in a safe and secure way”.

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