Frank Field bids for e-petition debate on immigration

Another week, another controversial Commons debate on an e-petition. A petition calling for a debate on immigration and the prospect that, within 20 years, there may be 70 million people living in Britain, was put to the Commons Backbench Business Committee today, by a delegation headed by Labour's Frank Field. The committee doesn't have any debating time to award at the moment, but it is minded to hold the debate on the first available chamber day - likely to be in January.

Another e-petition, on the case of Baba Ahmad, will be discussed during a backbench debate on extradition already scheduled for Westminster Hall on Thursday 24 November.

But one issue that did not find favour was a call from Conservative MPs Jesse Norman and Aiden Burley to cut public funding for trade union officials - so-called "pilgrims". Mr Burley has been leading a parliamentary campaign on the issue, which produced a rather angry adjournment debate a fortnight ago...

His attempt to get a backbench debate failed because of a lack of cross party support - he had Liberal and DUP support, but no Labour MP backed his motion.

And because the motion was also signed by a number of ministerial aides - Parliamentary Private Secretaries - the Committee members suspected the hand of the government behind what is supposed to be a purely backbench exercise. Mr Burley told me that was a simple mistake - and he plans to continue pressing for a full-dress debate - although he concedes that getting the support of Labour members will be a tough ask...

The words "turkeys" and "early Christmas" were mentioned.

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