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.
Once a petition has been published on the website, it will be open to signatures for six months.
- 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.
Hosting and history of the website
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. The process was suspended prior to the 2010 United Kingdom general election.
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. In the following year, a total of 36,000 petitions were submitted, attracting 6.4 million signatures. 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.
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. 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.
As of March 2019 the petition with the most signatures, with over 6 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 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.
The second most signed petition, with more than 4.1 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. 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.
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.
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. 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. Neither petition was successful.
Petitions with more than a million signatures
|Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU (Petition 241584)||6,083,018
(as of 18 May 2019[update])
|Open||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.|
|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.|
The Guardian newspaper questioned the value of the website in 2014, saying that it created false expectations. Of the ten campaigns that received most signatures in 2016, four were denied a debate and none achieved their intended outcome or led to real change. The Hansard Society argued e-petitions are an effective mechanism for civic education, and previously highlighted other uses for e-petitions and potential issues from these uses. The petitions website can be effective at bringing attention to smaller and 'mid-sized' issues that otherwise might have not received parliamentary attention. The BBC reported successful petitions cited by a professor of politics at the University of Leeds include those to increase funding for brain tumor research and improve legal protections for police dogs and horses on duty. Many petitions have gained over 10,000 signatures and therefore received a response from the Government. On occasions, the Petitions committee has asked the Government to clarify their response if the Committee feels it has not addressed the question asked by the petitioner.
Several claims have been made as to how petitions can be hijacked by internet bots and non-British citizens living outside the UK, to artificially increase the number of signatures to petitions. To sign a petition requires a person to be a UK resident or British citizen, and requires the signature to be verified by clicking a link within a confirmation email. This extra step is considered by security experts to make it harder to use bots to sign the petition. It has also been noted that British citizens living abroad are allowed to sign petitions and would register as having signed from abroad.
A petition in 2017 titled "Stop Fake Petitions being debated in Parliament. Stop mass signings by "Bots"." was rejected as it was not clear what the petition was asking the UK Government or Parliament to do and the Government noted that "all petitions are already checked for fraudulent activity, using both automated and manual checks. The checks prevent fraudulent signatures being added to petitions by individuals trying to repeatedly sign, or automated attacks (bots)."
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- Jones, David Millward and George (21 February 2007). "Blair rebuffs 1.8m who signed road petition". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
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- "Public figures call for biggest ever UK protest to oppose Trump visit". The Guardian. 1 February 2017.
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- "Meningitis B vaccine petition gets date in parliament after record 800,000 signatures". Liverpool Echo. 4 March 2016.
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- "Government squandered public education opportunity with dismissive response to anti-Trump state visit e-petition". www.hansardsociety.org.uk. 19 February 2017. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
- "Corbyn's 'Save Our Steel' e-petition shows why the rules governing the recall of Parliament need to change". www.hansardsociety.org.uk. 31 March 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
- Cristina Leston-Bandeira (7 February 2017). "What is the point of petitions in British politics?". www.lse.ac.uk. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
- Cheung, Helier (26 March 2019). "Brexit debate: Do petitions ever work?". Retrieved 26 March 2019.
- Kleinman, Zoe (22 March 2019). "Why bots probably aren't gaming the 'Cancel Brexit' petition". BBC. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
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