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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

No to 70 million' e-petition

British MPs 'sympathetic' to immigration control e-petition debate
Members of the Commons Backbench Business Committee have taken on board the views of more than 100,000 people who have signed the 'No to 70 million' e-petition, but any resulting parliamentary debate will not be allocated time until a later point, it has emerged.

Frank Field, an MP who co-chairs the cross-party group on balanced migration, proposed the debate on immigration after the 'No to 70 million' e-petition passed the threshold of signatures required in order to be considered by the backbench committee.

Started by Migration Watch UK chairman Sir Andrew Green, the petition argued that "mass immigration" had persisted over the past ten years despite "very strong public opposition" and it called on the government to bring immigration under control.

It expressed "deep concern" that the UK population could reach 70 million within 20 years, arguing that uncontrolled immigration could have a "huge impact" on public services and quality of life.

Field proposed that the debate should take place in early 2012. But the committee made clear at the start of the meeting it currently had no available backbench time to allocate to any debates.

A Commons spokesman told Publicservice.co.uk that the committee was "sympathetic to a debate on the issue", and that the timing of a debate would now be considered at a future meeting.

The committee is currently awaiting notice of possible future available days from Sir George Young, the Leader of the House.

Natascha Engel, who chairs the committee, has previously complained that the government has allocated no additional time for e-petition debates, meaning that all qualifying e-petitions must come out of the 35 days allocated to backbenchers.

But she has warned that it isn't feasible to give a debate "priority just because something has 100,000 signatures on a petition".

She told Publicservice.co.uk during the summer that this posed a danger of raising public expectations.

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