UK Parliament petitions website


The UK Parliament petitions website (e-petitions) allows members of the public to create and support petitions for consideration by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Although the UK Parliament's Petitions Committee considers all petitions which receive 100,000 signatures or more, there is no automatic parliamentary debate of those that pass this threshold. The Government will respond to all petitions with more than 10,000 signatures.

United Kingdom Parliament petitions website
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Process


Once a petition has been published on the website, it will be open to signatures for six months.[1]

  • At 10,000 signatures, the government will formally respond.
  • At 100,000 signatures, the request will be considered by the Petitions Committee for debate in Parliament.

On 1 November 2019, it was announced that all petitions were closed, including those that had been open for less than six months, because of the General Election. Petitions will not be re-opened after the election. When there is a general election, Parliament closes for a few weeks before the vote, for the election campaign. The petitions website is part of the official work of Parliament, so it has to stop too.[2]

Hosting and history of the website


The rights of petitioners and the power of the House of Commons to deal with petitions were expressed in resolutions of the Commons in 1669. The number of petitions being presented each year fell considerably in the twentieth century. In the early 2000s, both the Government and the House of Commons began to explore ways for the public to start and sign petitions electronically.[3]

The original e-petitions process was created by Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair in November 2006 and hosted on the Downing Street website. Petitions were directed to government departments rather than MPs. Within the first six months, 2,860 active petitions were created and one received over one million signatures.[4][5][6] The process was suspended prior to the 2010 United Kingdom general election.[7]

The e-petitions were relaunched by the Conservative–Liberal Democrat Coalition government in July 2011. Petitions backed by 100,000 signatures would now be considered for debate in Parliament and the website was moved to Directgov.[7] In the following year, a total of 36,000 petitions were submitted, attracting 6.4 million signatures.[8] After the closure of the Directgov website the e-petitions were moved to the new GOV.UK website in October 2012. Just over 30 petitions were debated in Parliament over four years. By 2012, research by the Hansard Society and discussions in Parliament proposed: giving more time for petitions to be debated by MPs outside the main Commons chamber, the petitions site being taken over by Parliament, and a Petitions Committee being established to look at how e-petitions work and which ones should get parliamentary attention.[4][9][10][11]

The House of Commons Procedure Committee produced a proposal in 2014 for e-petitions to be run jointly between the House of Commons and the Government and for the establishment of a new Petitions Committee to consider petitions for a debate in the House of Commons and scrutinise the Government's response.[12][13][14] The Petitions Committee was formed in 2015 during David Cameron's Conservative government and e-petitions were relaunched in July 2015 on the Parliament website.[15][16]

Since 2015, the website is hosted by Unboxed, a digital consultancy from UK,[17] which was often quoted in the national news surrounding the very popular petition of March 2019 which crashed the website database[18] and forced the provider to scale up its hosting and tweak its code.[19]

Notable petitions


As of March 2019 the petition with the most signatures, with 6.1 million signatories, is a petition requesting the revocation of Article 50 and for the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union. Started on 12 February 2019, it acquired more than 4 million signatures in 48 hours, between 21 March and 23 March 2019, following Prime Minister Theresa May's speech to the nation after the UK had requested that the Article 50 period be extended[20] and a public campaign by political groups. Internet traffic to the UK Parliament Petitions website was so high that the website crashed multiple times during the initial 24 hours of the petition's public campaign.[21][18][22]

The second most signed petition, with 4.2 million signatories, requested that Parliament hold another referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union if the result of the June 2016 "Brexit" referendum was "less than 60% based on a turnout less than 75%" (which threshold was not reached), but Parliament did not comply with the petitioners' request.[23] This petition had been started in May 2016 before the Brexit referendum, by a supporter of Brexit, who stated that he was unhappy that the petition was signed by supporters of Remain following the referendum result.[24]

A 2007 petition to oppose plans to introduce road pricing gathered 1.8 million signatures on an earlier version of the petitions website hosted on the Downing Street website. Prime Minister Tony Blair emailed all those who signed to inform them that trials would still go ahead.[5][6]

A petition in December 2015 sought to ban Donald Trump from entering the UK; this gained more than 550,000 signatories and caused the website to crash.[25][26][27] A subsequent petition launched in January 2017 called for Donald Trump to be banned from an official state visit to the UK following his election as U.S. president, and received over 1.8 million signatures.[28] Neither petition was successful.[29]

In March 2016, a petition calling for provision of meningitis B vaccine to all children in the UK received over 800,000 signatures, and the issue was subsequently debated in Parliament.[30]

In October 2020, footballer Marcus Rashford began a petition that gathered 1 million signatures. The petition called for the end of child food poverty with three demands: expand access to Free School Meals, provide meals & activities during holidays to stop holiday hunger & increase the value of and expand the Healthy Start scheme.[31]

Petitions with more than a million signatures

Petition Signatures Status Request Year Outcome
Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU (Petition 241584) 6,103,056 Closed The government repeatedly claims exiting the EU is 'the will of the people'. We need to put a stop to this claim by proving the strength of public support now, for remaining in the EU. A People's Vote may not happen - so vote now. 2019 On 26 March 2019 the Commons Petitions Committee approved the motion for debate in Parliament, along with two other motions from smaller petitions concerning Brexit, on 1 April 2019. At the time of this decision the number of signatures stood at 5.75 million. The government responded immediately following this announcement, and prior to the debate, rejecting calls to revoke Article 50. The Government's response: "This Government will not revoke Article 50. We will honour the result of the 2016 referendum and work with Parliament to deliver a deal that ensures we leave the European Union." The debate took place on 1 April 2019.[22]
EU Referendum Rules triggering a 2nd EU Referendum (Petition 131215) 4,150,262 Closed We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum. 2016 Rejected after debate in Parliament. with the Government response: "The European Union Referendum Act received Royal Assent in December 2015, receiving overwhelming support from Parliament. The Act did not set a threshold for the result or for minimum turnout."
Prevent Donald Trump from making a State Visit to the United Kingdom (Petition 171928) 1,863,708 Closed Donald Trump should be allowed to enter the UK in his capacity as head of the US Government, but he should not be invited to make an official State Visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen. 2017 Rejected after debate in Parliament. with Government response "HM Government believes the President of the United States should be extended the full courtesy of a State Visit. We look forward to welcoming President Trump once dates and arrangements are finalised."
Oppose plans to introduce road pricing 1,792,116 Closed We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy. 2007 Rebuffed by Prime Minister Tony Blair; the trials went ahead although the schemes were later abandoned following strong public opposition.
Do not prorogue Parliament (Petition 269157) 1,722,935 Closed Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK's intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled. 2019 Boris Johnson's request to prorogue parliament for five weeks from mid-September was approved by the Queen. But was later ruled unlawful by the UK Supreme Court.
End child food poverty – no child should be going hungry (Petition 554276) 1,110,000+ Open Government should support vulnerable children & #endchildfoodpoverty by implementing 3 recommendations from the National Food Strategy to expand access to Free School Meals, provide meals & activities during holidays to stop holiday hunger & increase the value of and expand the Healthy Start scheme 2020

References


  1. "Find out more about e-petitions". UK Parliament. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  2. "House of Commons Petitions Committee on Twitter". UK Parliament. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  3. "A Brief History of Petitioning Parliament". Erskine May. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  4. Connor, Gary (30 October 2015). "Are e-petitions a waste of time?". BBC Website. BBC. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  5. "PM denies road toll 'stealth tax'". 21 February 2007. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  6. Jones, David Millward and George (21 February 2007). "Blair rebuffs 1.8m who signed road petition". Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  7. "Popular e-petitions will now be debated in Parliament". Daily Telegraph. 29 July 2011. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  8. Rath, Kayte (17 August 2012). "E-petitions get 6.4m signatures". Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  9. Fox, Dr Ruth (2012). "What next for e-petitions?" (PDF). Hansard Society. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  10. "E-petitions - Hansard". hansard.parliament.uk. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  11. "Revisiting Rebuilding the House: the impact of the Wright reforms (12th March 2013)". publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  12. "E-petition plan for the Commons". 4 December 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  13. "E-petitions: a collaborative system, Procedure Committee publishes proposals - News from Parliament". UK Parliament. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  14. "House of Commons - E-petitions: a collaborative system - Procedure Committee". publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  15. "New e-petitions website opens". 20 July 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  16. "New House of Commons and Government petitions website launched - News from Parliament". Parliament of the United Kingdom.
  17. https://unboxed.co/product-stories/petitions/
  18. Hern, Alex (21 March 2019). "Petition to revoke article 50 exceeds 1m signatures amid site crashes". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  19. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/21/petitions-site-crashes-after-thousands-back-call-to-revoke-article-50
  20. "Brexit: 'Tired' public needs a decision, says Theresa May". BBC. 21 March 2019. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  21. "Brexit: Revoke Article 50 petition crashes Parliament website". BBC News. 21 March 2019.
  22. "Article 50: MPs debate six-million-signature petition". BBC News. 1 April 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  23. "Petition for second EU referendum reaches 4 million as hundreds attend anti-Brexit protest in London". Daily Telegraph. 29 June 2016.
  24. "Petition calling for second EU referendum was created by a Leave voter – and he's not happy that it's been 'hijacked' by Remain". Daily Telegraph. 27 June 2016.
  25. "The Ban Donald Trump petition crashed because so many people wanted to sign it". The Independent. 9 December 2015.
  26. "Trump UK ban petition passes 370,000 signatures". BBC News. 10 December 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  27. "UK Petition To Ban Donald Trump Breaks Record". Sky News.
  28. "Public figures call for biggest ever UK protest to oppose Trump visit". The Guardian. 1 February 2017.
  29. Swinford, Steven (14 February 2017). "Theresa May formally rejects petition calling for Donald Trump to be barred from making state visit to UK". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  30. "Meningitis B vaccine petition gets date in parliament after record 800,000 signatures". Liverpool Echo. 4 March 2016.
  31. Simmonds, Kadeem (15 October 2020). "Marcus Rashford starts parliamentary petition to #endchildfoodpoverty". Morning Star. Retrieved 16 October 2020.