MR Speaker’S Ruling (Presentation of Public Petitions by Ministers)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:14 pm on 23rd March 2015.

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The following Private Ruling given by Mr Speaker is published in accordance with the Speakers undertaking of 5 November 1981 (Official Report, c. 113)

When a Member of the House accepts appointment as a Minister of the Crown, he or she accedes to the convention on collective responsibility.

The procedures of the House depend on its being able to rely on the presumption that whenever a Minister speaks or acts in the course of its proceedings, he or she does so on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government. Ministers cannot choose to assume or divest themselves of their

status as Ministers of the Crown in the course of the House’s proceedings––this would introduce a degree of uncertainty and ambiguity which would be injurious to the clarity of its proceedings.

The specific question has been raised with me whether a Minister can present a public petition on the Floor of the House. The Government cannot present a petition, and a Minister cannot act as a private Member. I have therefore ruled that a Minister cannot present a public petition on the Floor of the House.

Ministers are, however, free to present a public petition informally (that is, by depositing it in the petitions bag at any time at which the House is sitting), but the Votes and Proceedings will not in such cases identify the Member who deposited the petition.