The House of Commons Petition Committee is holding two formal oral evidence sessions today to hear the impact of COVID-19 on students and people on maternity leave.
The House of Commons Petition Committee is a cross-party group of MPs independent of the government which considers petitions submitted both in paper format and online at petition.parliament.uk. It can gather evidence on particular issues to explore them further and help inform the committee’s constructive scrutiny of the government on behalf of petitioners.
The evidence sessions, which will run on Thursday afternoon, come following growing public concern about the impact of the Coronavirus. According to the House of Commons Petition Committee, over 3.3 million signatures have been received on parliamentary petitions relating to the Coronavirus outbreak in recent months.
In particular, there have been over 330,000 signatures on a petition to reimburse all university students of this year’s fees due to strikes and COVID-19. A number of other petitions have been created on the petitions website recently in reference to impacts on students due to university strikes and now the Coronavirus pandemic. The issues have also recently seen over 23,000 people completing an online survey in response to calls for evidence.
The government has responded to the petition, saying:
“Government recognises that students are very concerned by this unprecedented situation. We are working with universities and students to support them and enable students to complete their studies.”
This afternoon between 15:30 and 16:30, the Petitions Committee will be hearing from the creator of the petition, Sophie Quinn, National President of the National Union of Students, Zamzam Ibrahim, General Secretary of the Universities and Colleges Union, Dr Jo Grady and Professor Julia Buckingham CBE, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University London.
A session will also be held this afternoon from 14:30 to focus on a petition calling for the extension of maternity leave by three months with pay in light of COVID-19, which has received over 200,000 signatures. The Committee will be hearing from petitioners raising the issue, as well as Professor Elizabeth Meins, Department of Psychology, University of York, Emily Tredget, Co-founder of Happity and Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director of the Institute of Health Visiting.
Both of the evidence sessions will be broadcast live on Parliament TV.