For the first time ever, members of the public will be able to electronically petition the House of Commons. Any British citizen or UK resident will be able to start or sign a petition, raising concerns about issues that either the Government or the Commons are responsible for.
This new initiative comes as a result of the work of the House of Commons Procedure Committee, which produced a report making recommendations for how an e-petitions system should function. With a focus on improving public engagement with the work of Government and Parliament, the new website will allow users to create, publicise and sign petitions, with actions guaranteed at certain points in the process.
Petitions submitted to the site will be considered by a brand new committee made up of 11 MPs. The Petitions Committee will be able to look at petitioners’ concerns and decide whether to investigate them further, by:
- asking petitioners for more information about their petition, in person or in writing;
- referring a petition to another select committee which has expertise in that topic area;
- asking for more information from the Government, orally or in writing, on the subject of a petition; and/or
- putting forward petitions for debate.
People who create and sign petitions will be kept informed about the progress of their petition, as well as being offered further information about the work of Parliament. Although each petition will be considered individually, all petitions with over 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government.
The Chair of the Committee, Helen Jones MP, said:
“I am delighted to be able to announce the opening of the new e-petitions website. First and foremost, it is an easy way for people to let MPs and Ministers know what they care about. What’s more, it gives us a chance to open up a new dialogue between the public and Parliament.
“I very much hope that the Petitions Committee will be able to bring forward issues that wouldn’t otherwise have been debated or investigated in Parliament. For the most pressing petitions, we will be able to schedule debates. We will also be putting the issues that people care about on the parliamentary agenda in other ways, either by investigating them ourselves or by asking other committees to look into them.
“Our other intention is that people who sign or create petitions are offered the chance to find out more about what Parliament does. This should help to keep them informed about debates, reports and research that relates to the issues they care about. It’s an exciting step for Parliament, and a visible demonstration of its commitment to improving public engagement with what goes on here. ”
The Deputy Leader of the House, Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, said:
“The new Petitions Committee builds on the reforms of the last Parliament to improve public engagement with politics. This is the first time voters will be able to petition Parliament electronically through the Petitions Committee for action by the Government on topical issues that really matter to people – and we will listen to what they have to say.”