The Standing Orders require the Government to respond within 45 calendar days to every petition submitted to it.
Under the authority of the Clerk of the House, the original petition is forwarded to the Office of Parliamentary Returns of the Privy Council Office, which makes arrangements with the appropriate government department or agency for the preparation and collection of a reply.
Each petition receives an individual response. Any Member who has presented a petition is provided with a copy of the response at the time it is tabled. After being tabled in the House, a Government response to a petition (unlike the petition itself) becomes a sessional paper and is recorded in the Journals. In the case of an electronic petition, the government response is also published on the House of Commons website with the petition.
If the tabling of a government response to a petition is done during Routine Proceedings, the government spokesperson, usually the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, simply informs the House that responses to a certain number of petitions are being tabled; no reference is made to specific petitions or the content of the responses, and the intervention is reproduced in the Debates of the House of Commons. The Government response to a petition may also be deposited with the Clerk.
The rules of the House make no provision for sanctions in the event that the Government fails to respond to a petition within 45 calendar days. However, the matter of the Government’s failure to respond is automatically referred to the standing committee designated by the Member presenting the petition. Within five sitting days of such a referral, the Chair of the committee must then convene a meeting to consider the failure of the Ministry to respond.
While most business of the House is terminated when Parliament is prorogued, Government responses to petitions presented in a previous session must be tabled in a subsequent session. The dissolution of Parliament ends any requirement for the government to respond to a petition.
Clerk of Petitions
Private Members’ Business Office
Room 314-C, West Block
House of Commons