The Speaker
Thursday, 18 July 2024 – 18:29

Petitions Committee hears evidence on Coronavirus impacts on students and on maternity leave

The House of Commons Petitions Committee has today heard evidence from petitioners and experts about how the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted on students and on maternity leave.

Oral evidence sessions were held on Thursday afternoon over Zoom, after hundreds of thousands of people signed petitions relating to the issues.

The evidence sessions discussed the issues behind petitions including one calling for the reimbursement of all university students of this year’s fees due to strikes and COVID-19, and another calling for the extension of maternity leave by three months with pay in light of COVID-19. The evidence sessions each lasted around an hour and involved discussions between a panel of experts and people impacted by the issues.

Following the evidence sessions, Catherine McKinnell, the Chair of the House of Commons Petitions Committee told The Speaker Media Limited;

“What we’ve heard today has really helped build our understanding of the issues faced by students and parents across the country as a result of the coronavirus crisis. As part of our ongoing inquiry into the outbreak, we will continue to question the Government, pressing for satisfactory answers to petitioners’ questions, and work with Ministers and other select committees to ensure the UK’s response to this unprecedented crisis represents the best interests of people right across the country.”

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 According to the committee, over 3.3 million signatures have been received on parliamentary petitions relating to the Coronavirus outbreak in recent months. The Committee has also been engaging with thousands of people through surveys, online forums and social media.

Ms McKinnell has encouraged people to continue to get involved through petitions and forums of discussion, saying “They can give voices to people on issues that may otherwise have been overlooked. We are determined to find innovative ways to raise public concerns, through correspondence and discussions with ministers, and through virtual evidence sessions and detailed inquiries.”

She added;

“I have been a member of the Petitions Committee since 2016 and Chair since January, and during this time, I have seen the Committee make real change as a result of successful petitions on important issues, including setting up specialist working groups on crucial health issues and improving Government guidance for employers on the 2010 Equality Act. We take our responsibility to represent petitioners very seriously, and in light of the COVID-19 crisis, this is more important than ever.”

You can watch back the evidence sessions on Parliament TV.

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