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22 July 2008 : Column 98WS

This process would help to retain a clearer distinction between petitions to the House of Commons and other petitioning or similar processes (Recommendations 7 and 12-14).


A vital aspect of e-petitioning, if it is to resonate with the public, is that petitioners should be able to see the effect of their pressure. At the same time, the structure should not raise expectations unrealistically.

As well as petitions generally leading to a Government response, the Procedure Committee proposes that e-petitions, as with traditional petitions, should be sent to Select Committees, which may choose whether or not to consider them further, and that provision should be made for debating certain e-petitions in Westminster Hall on three occasions each year (Recommendations 10-11).

The Government consider that there is a case for going further than this. One of the most effective features of the model of petitioning in the Scottish Parliament is the provision for some petitioners to be able to give direct evidence to an appropriate committee, usually in Scotland the Petitions Committee itself. Capacity at Westminster is already very stretched and it would not be appropriate to set up a specific committee. The existing departmental Select Committees are also stretched but could do this as one of their core tasks. The Government consider that over the course of a year it would be reasonable for them each to devote one day to the taking of oral evidence on petitions sent to them which they themselves had sifted for importance. They could then support the petitioners if they felt it appropriate. The mechanics for all of this would require further consideration. The Government would welcome the views of the Liaison Committee on this proposal.

Selection in committee would be a matter for the committee concerned, while the mechanisms for selection of any debates in Westminster Hall would be for further consideration. In both cases, selection would need to take into account all relevant factors (including other House and committee business). But while sheer number of signatures alone could not be the sole determinant—since this would fail to take into account the importance of the subject or the extent to which it had already been considered by the House—it would clearly be a significant factor.

Implementation and next steps

The Procedure Committee report emphasises that introduction of a new system will take time, not least because of the need to commission and procure the relevant IT systems. It proposes that debate on the proposals should be informed by a fuller estimate of likely costs and also that if the principle is agreed then the House service should also set up a programme for briefing Members and Members’ staff on their roles under such a system. Importantly, the Committee notes that the new system will require a structure of political governance with a Committee given an oversight role to resolve detailed issues which will need deciding or refining. The Procedure Committee has indicated that it is itself prepared to undertake this role. It may have to report to the House from time to time, in an iterative process, to seek the endorsement of the House for the more high level issues (such as proposed rules of order for petitions).
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Significant further work would therefore be needed before the system comes into operation. The Government agree with these conclusions (Recommendations 15-19).

The Government therefore envisage providing time later in the year for a debate on the Committee’s report and the proposed way forward. The debate would be on the basis of a Motion which would seek the House’s endorsement for the principle of e-petitioning on the basis set out in this statement, instruct the House service to begin the design and tendering process, and charge the Procedure Committee with oversight of the introduction of the system and with consideration of more detailed rules of order for petitions to make the system work and to report back to the House as necessary. The Committee would also identify areas in which Standing Order changes may be necessary to make the system work, which would be considered by the House nearer the time of introduction of the new system.

The Government hope that the House will endorse this way forward, allowing it to take a significant step forward in helping to promote better engagement with the public. The Government note that in due course the House of Lords may also wish to look at its own petitions procedures.

Prime Minister

Special Advisers

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): Listed below are the names of special advisers in post at 22 July 2008, the special advisers’ pay ranges for 2008-09, the number of special advisers in each pay band by Department and the total pay bill cost of special advisers for 2007-08.

All special advisers are appointed under terms and conditions set out in the Model Contract and Code of Conduct for Special Advisers to provide assistance on the full range of their appointing Minister’s departmental responsibilities.

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Appointing MinisterSpecial Adviser in post

The Prime Minister

Greg Beales

Theo Bertram

Nicola Burdett

Stephen Carter

Konrad Caulkett (p-t)

Matt Cavanagh

Dan Corry

Colin Currie (p-t)

Jo Dipple

Justin Forsyth

Michael Jacobs

Gavin Kelly

Richard Lloyd

Patrick Loughran

Damian McBride

Jennifer Moses (unpaid)

David Muir

Geoffrey Norris

Sue Nye (p-t)

Nick Pearce

Lisa Perrin

Paul Sinclair

Nick Stace

Stewart Wood

Cabinet Office Minister and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Polly Billington

Tom Restrick

Chief Whip (Commons) and Parliamentary Secretary of the Treasury

Michael Dugher

Emma Reynolds

Chief Whip (Lords)

Ben Coffman

Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

John Williams

John Woodcock

Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

Francine Bates

Alex Belardinelli

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Andrew Bagnall

Paul Richards

Minister of State (Housing)

Claire McCarthy

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Jennifer Gerber

Philip French

Secretary of State for Defence

Alaina Macdonald

John McTernan

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Mike Dixon

Beatrice Stern

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Madlin Sadler (job share)

Sarah Schaefer (job share)

Secretary of State for Health

Clare Montagu

Mario Dunn

Secretary of State for the Home Department

Sue Jackson

Andrew Lappin

Leader of the House of Commons, Lord Privy Seal and Minister for Women and Equality

Ayesha Hazarika

Anna Healey

Leader of the House of Lords, and Lord President of the Council

Philip Bassett

Jonathan Pearse

Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills

Josie Cluer

Andy Westwood

Secretary of State for International Development

Anthony Vigor

Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

Mark Davies

Declan McHugh

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Sebastian Dance

Oonagh Blackman

Secretary of State for Scotland

Tom Greatrex

Secretary of State for Transport

Julie Crowley

David Leam

Chancellor of the Exchequer(1)

Sam White

Catherine Macleod

Chief Secretary

Will McDonald

Secretary of State for Wales

Andrew Bold

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Blair McDougall

Lisa Tremble

Minister of State (Employment and Welfare Reform)

Graham Dale

Minister for the Olympics and London (Paymaster General)

Mandy Telford

(1)In addition, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has appointed Andrew Maugham, David Pinto-Duschinsky and Geoffrey Spence to the Council of Economic Advisers.

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Pay bands for 2008-09

The pay bands and pay ranges for special advisers for 2008-09 are as follows:

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Scheme Ceiling

£ 140,560

Pay Band 4

£87,651 - £105,285

Pay Band 3

£65,529 - £101,737

Pay Band 2

£51,443 - £68,242

Pay Band 1

£39,756 - £53,321

Advisers by Pay Band

At 22 July 2008, there were 73 special advisers in post. The number of special advisers in each pay band by Department is as follows:

Department Pay band
1234Up to Scheme Ceiling






Cabinet Office (Includes Minister for the Olympics and London, Paymaster General)



Chief Whips' Offices (Commons and Lords)




Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform



Children, Schools and Families



Communities and Local Government (Includes Minister of State for Housing)




Culture, Media and Sport






Environment, Food and Rural Affairs



Foreign and Commonwealth Office




Home Office


Leader of the House of Commons, Lord Privy Seal and Minister for Women and Equality



Leader of the House of Lords, and Lord President of the Council



Innovation, Universities and Skills

International Development


Justice (Lord Chancellor)



Northern Ireland Office



Scotland Office




HM Treasury(2)




Wales Office


Work and Pensions (including Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform)










(1)Plus one unpaid adviser.
(2)Includes the three Members of the Council of Economic Advisers who are employed on special adviser terms.
(3)This figure includes salary, severance pay and estimate of pension costs.

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