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What happens to Parliamentary Petitions?

Around a quarter of the UK's adult population have signed a petition to Parliament. It's one of the ways that UK residents can alert members of Parliament to concerns that matter to them and make their voices heard.

Petitions to the UK Parliament e-petition site ask for a change to the law or to policy. Since launching eight years ago, more than 30,000 petitions have been created, attracting more than 110 million signatures – and 350 of them have been debated by MPs. 

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Today, podcast host Catherine McKinnell MP, unwraps how the process works and ask how petitions can make a difference, through the experience of Andy Airey.

Andy is one third of ‘Three Dads Walking’ who petitioned Parliament to make suicide prevention a compulsory part of the school curriculum.

Andy's daughter Sophie took her own life in 2018, aged 29. He campaigns alongside Mike Palmer and Tim Owen, who lost their daughters, Beth and Emily, at the ages of 17 and 19.

They are joined by Nick Fletcher, the member of the Petitions Committee who opened the debate in the House of Commons. Nick is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Don Valley. 

A Professor of Politics at the University of Leeds, Cristina Leston-Bandeira works on how Parliaments engage the public, particularly through petitions. She sets out why petitions are important and how the UK compares to other countries and legislatures.

Your host, for the final time in this series, is Catherine McKinnell, the Chair of the Petitions Committee at the House of Commons and Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North.

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Catherine: Hello, and welcome to this special episode of Committee Corridor. Around a quarter of the UK's adult population have signed a petition to Parliament. It's one of the ways that UK residents can alert members of Parliament to concerns that matter to them and make their voices heard.

Petitions to the UK Parliament E-petition site ask for a change to the law or to policy. Since the parliamentary petition system was launched in 2015, we've opened 30,000 petitions with more than 110 million signatures. More than 1,700 petitions have received Government responses, and 350 petitions have been debated in Parliament.

Today we're going to discuss how the process works and why petitions can make a difference.

I'm Catherine McKinnell. I'm the Labour Member of Parliament for Newcastle upon Tyne North, and I chair the petitions Committee in the House of Commons.

Parliament's E-petition website allows members of the public to engage directly with the political process.

After 10,000 signatures, petitions get a response from Government. After 100,000 signatures, petitions are considered for debate in Parliament by our cross-party committee.

And like other select committees, the Petitions Committee can decide to inquire into topics raised by petitions, take evidence from expert witnesses and produce reports.

So, in today's special episode, we are going to hear from a father who was one third of a campaign to raise awareness of suicide prevention. Suicide is the biggest killer of those under age 35 across the UK.

Andy Airey is one of the Three Dads Walking who petitioned Parliament to make suicide prevention a compulsory part of the school curriculum.

We'll also hear from Nick Fletcher, the member of the Petitions Committee who opened the debate on Andy's petition in the House of Commons. Nick is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Don Valley.

And we’ll talk to Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira from the University of Leeds. She looks at the relationship between Parliament and citizens and how they engage with the public, particularly through petitions.

Cristina: Petitions are one of the easiest ways to get involved in politics. So, even just that should show why petitions are so important for our societies as a way of people bringing in issues, things that they really care about.

Catherine: But first, I want to welcome Andy Airey, our petitioner and Nick Fletcher, who presented his petition to the House of Commons. Andy's daughter Sophie took her own life in 2018, aged 29.

He campaigns, along with Mike Palmer and Tim Owen, who lost their daughters, Beth and Emily at the ages of 17 and 19. They walked 300 miles between their homes in 2021 and 500 miles in 2022 between the UK's four parliaments to raise awareness of suicide prevention.

Thank you both for joining me today.

Andy, I was going to come to you first. You, Tim, and Mike. The Three Dads Walking are some of the best-known petitioners we've known since the parliamentary petitions’ website was set up. Could you tell us a bit about your campaign and what you hope to achieve?

Andy: Hi, and thanks. Thanks for having us on here, Catherine. It's a great privilege to take part in this one.

We are completely accidental campaigners. We didn't choose to come down this route at all. Our families were just trundling away living normal lives until our girls took their own lives, Sophie in 2018, and Emily and Beth, right at the start of lockdown in 2020.

We came together through a kind of quirk of fate the following year and decided that we would go for a walk just to raise money for Papyrus. That's what it was. And raise a bit of awareness of suicide prevention and maybe get more people introduced to Papyrus.

It was actually on that walk that we became these accidental campaigners because we met so many suicide bereaved parents who told us their stories of loss.

And critically, the thing that we kept hearing every day on that walk, people kept saying it was only after they lost their loved one that they discovered Papyrus. And it was then that they discovered that suicide's the biggest killer of young people in the country.

And invariably they said, why didn't anybody tell us? Why didn't anybody tell them, if suicide's the biggest risk to our young people, surely, we should be doing something about it.

So, it was off the back of that walk we wrote to the Government because we got back and looked at the school curriculum to find that there's great stuff on there regarding mental health and wellbeing. Certainly, radically different to anything that I experienced when I was going through school

But conspicuous by its absence was mention of the biggest single risk to our young people. So, we thought, well, we'll write a letter. And that prompted a reply from the Department of Education, an invitation from [the Department of] Health to go and see Gillian Keegan, who at the time was minister who had responsibility for suicide prevention.

So, that's kind of how we started. The petition kind of came about … it was always there. People often say, when you're doing something, you've got to start a petition, do it, write a petition.

But I can't say it was something that was at the forefront of our minds at all, but it just kind of rattled around. And then when we decided to go for a walk, it became something that we considered further. But it was definitely not at the forefront of our minds.

Catherine: So, the petition that you did bring to make suicide a compulsory part of the school curriculum, what was it that actually made you take that step to put it into a petition form as part of your really important campaign?

Andy: So, we talked about it for quite a while and we were slowly formulating something, but we actually put it on hold when [Sajid] Javid announced the 10-year strategy for suicide prevention. Because it kind of felt like the Government seemed to be pointing in the right direction.

And so, we thought, we'll see what happens. But what actually happened was by accident we'd bumped into Andy Burnham, Metro Mayor of Manchester and we ended up sitting in his office to talk about how he could help the campaign. And we wondered what he could do to help us along.

And almost the first thing he said to us was, “Have you got a petition?” To which we explained that we'd thought about it, but we kind of put it on the back burner.

And he said, well, from his experience when he was at Westminster, he said he found petitions a really useful tool. As a minister if you wanted to make a change, if you could show evidence that really was a groundswell of support on a particular issue, you could use that as a lever to really move the machinery of Government along.

So, it was Andy's prompt that brought us back to the petition. It was one of those things that we were going to throw it out there, and we had no idea whether people would pick it up, would react with it.

So, we just didn't know. We did understand the process that we had the threshold at 10,000 to get a response from Government and a hundred thousand for it to be considered for debate.

And because of the profile we had particularly with the support that we'd got from BBC Breakfast, we were pretty sure we'd get the 10,000. But 100,000 signatures did seem an awful long way away.

But as it happened, I think we ended up with nicely over 160,000 signatures. And more importantly, we got so many people talking about suicide prevention when we did the second walk across the country, which I’ve got to say was 600 miles as well, not 500. Don't do us out of 500 miles.

Catherine: Well corrected. Absolutely. Well, I mean, that leads me very much to bring in Nick, who opened the debate on the petition. Nick, do you want to just tell us about your role as a member of Parliament, as a member of the committee opening the petition?

Nick: Yes, thank you, and thanks for asking me to come and join today. And it's good to hear Andy again. I met Andy back in January with Mike and Tim and it was obviously they’re three very bubbly characters, even though they've been through such tragedy.

So, it was great to meet them all. But Catherine as being the Chair of the Petitions Committee that it's a fantastic way of people to get their issues in front of a minister.

And these petitions come to us, and then we have our regular meeting, and we decide who's going to lead each of these debates. And with some of the work that I've done with my All-Party Parliamentary Group on issues affecting men and boys, suicides come up such a lot. So, it is a subject that I'm really interested in.

And so, it was one of the debates that I offered to take.

I think it did raise a huge amount of awareness for the subject. Just like Andy said, I don't think many people realise how many people this is affecting. And that is the beauty of petitions. It does raise awareness more than anything else.

And so, I hope Andy, Tim and Mike were pleased with the way the debate went. And I know that I keep seeing them pop up on my Twitter feed and Facebook, and they're obviously continuing to press, which is I think the beauty of petitions is that there can be a springboard for further work. So, I hope they've found it a help. I'm sure they have.

Andy, do you just want to explain a little about Papyrus while we’re discussing this?

Andy: It turns out they do some fantastic work. They run a crisis line called HOPELINE247 where people in crisis can phone up or folk who are concerned, others, if you're looking for help and advice even professionals, police and doctors and mental health people who are struggling to deal with someone in front of them, you can actually phone up and ask for help.

So, they do that, but they also go out and deliver training. So, they're trying to equip young people with knowledge and skills that will help them to deal with the dark times.

And they also try and influence the decision makers. So, Ged Flynn,  who's the chief executive at Papyrus, does wander around the corridors of Westminster on a regular basis.

But we've found them to be just a fantastic organisation. And the feedback we've had with the stuff we've done with them; we know that they are directly responsible for saving lives on a daily basis.

Nick: Yeah, they're a fantastic charity. So, I speak with different governing bodies and charities and obviously the petitioners themselves. And I'll pull it all together. And then obviously, we lead on the debate.

Some petitions, there's obviously opposing views, but I think on this one that that the Three Dads Walking, there's not much opposition to what they're wanting to do, really.

So, as a lead petitioner, I try and take a neutral ground on things. But with this, obviously we wanted to get behind this with Andy , Mike and Tim and everybody was in the debate was all speaking in the same way, wanting this to happen.

Catherine: So, I know, Nick, you've done quite a lot of work on suicide in Parliament, and you mentioned your work with the APPG as well. Why do you think this issue is so important and how we approach it as a society?

Nick: It's because it is the biggest killer of people under 35. And I mean, it's taking 13 young men lives a day and three young women's lives a day. And it's an absolute tragedy.

And I've spoke with so many parents, and they all just want to make sure or do everything they can to stop other parents having to go through this. And obviously the young lives themselves. I mean, young people they’ve got so much going for them these days, and obviously they obviously don't.

So, I mean, one of the biggest things that we've heard is, especially with young men, is that they just don't talk enough. And obviously it's exactly the same with women. There's fewer of them, but that doesn't make each case any less tragic.

And it's raising this awareness because I think we all go about day-to-day business, and we can be busy parents, we can be busy sons and daughters, and we just go around as day-to-day business, and then all of a sudden something happens out of the blue and we're just not seeing it.

So, I think just that awareness of it. And obviously schools, it's important with schools because I mean, when you're a young person, the other authority figures in your life are teachers. And I think they can spot things just like a parent can spot things sometimes in a young person's life.

But then these young people need to know about this so they can help their friends as well. And obviously as they get older, if we’ve got this knowledge into the kids while they're at school, this knowledge would stay with them all the way through their lives.

So, they'd know the signs to look out for, know to ask that question. Are you okay? No, are you really okay? And that's what we need to be doing.

But I'm sure Andy would like to add some more to that. Because he's become quite the expert on this.

Andy: So, I was going to say, we are no experts.

Catherine: I was going to ask you, Andy, how is that experience for you seeing this issue that you have campaigned so hard on and brought in a petition and received quite overwhelming support from the public? How does it feel at that stage to have it debated in Parliament, to see it debated in that way?

Andy: It was an unbelievably emotional evening that Monday night. The committee room was pretty full. We didn't know what to expect at all. And Nick had explained the structure, so we knew how it was going to work, but also, we didn't know how many MPs were going to turn up and say anything.

But it was an absolute revelation to sit there and hear MP after MP stand up and talk about us three old blokes who'd gone for a walk and talk about our daughters and how they'd lo lost their lives and how that had then affected ours.

And it was a really unbelievably poignant evening, quite surreal at times to hear this. But the thing that was humbling really was the fact that MP after MP after MP stood up and like Nick, they'd obviously gone away and done a bit of research and dug into the background of what we've been talking about.

And without exception, they stood up and said, yep, “These guys are right. This is the biggest risk to our young people in the country. We've got to do something about it.”

And obviously we were pointing at a very specific target, which was a very small part of the school curriculum, because it's actually quite an easy target. Because it can quite easily show what's there in the curriculum, and it's very easy to point out what isn't there, that crucially, suicide prevention isn't there as a compulsory subject.

So, our question was quite simply, if this is the biggest risk to our young people, why aren't we doing something about it? And we’re yet to find anybody to give us a reason why we're not doing.

So, doing nothing is not an option. So yeah, it's a real humbling experience to sit and hear in that debate, everybody stand up and support what we're trying to do.

So yeah, it's another kind of surreal step along this accidental campaigning journey that Mike, Tim and have launched ourselves onto.

But I do have to say Nick's absolutely right that we were aware that the end of the petitions process, that was it that night. So, that was going to be the end of that particular road. But he was absolutely right that it was a springboard onto lots of other things.

Catherine: So, I have to say it's really powerful to hear you say that because as MPs, and I'm sure Nick would agree, it's incredibly humbling for us to have that role in being that voice of your petition in Parliament and especially to a campaign as important as yours and as successful, I would say as well in terms of raising awareness.

But I'd be interested, from your perspective, how important do you think the petition has been to the success of your campaign? Or do you think a petition is successful when it achieves its outcome? Or is it important in itself in just raising that awareness with lawmakers and the public as well?

Andy: That is a really good question. I think when we started we saw the threshold, we saw the 10,000 and the 100,000 threshold. And so, we knew we had to keep shouting to try to drive people towards our website and the Government website to click on the sign here button.

But it became a really useful tool when we were talking about our campaign because it was a direct call for action, and it gave people a reason to actually get involved with what we were doing and look to supporters in a positive way.

A bit like on the first walk, the call for action was give us some money because your money will save people's lives.

The second walk was, look at this, suicide’s the biggest killer of under 35s in the country, we need to do something about it. Here's something we can do; you can help us.

And it allowed us to get a different message out on the second walk. So, it wasn't a replication of what had gone on before. And obviously in terms of coverage, it allowed the BBC to cover us again, because it wasn't just more of the same. It wasn't just three lads, three dads trundling across the country trying to raise some money. We were out there with a different message, a different mission.

So no, it was a really useful tool to help us bang the drum and engage with different people.

Catherine: So Nick, I was going to ask you about petitions more generally, because you've mentioned before that sometimes petitions can be more controversial than others. This is one where everybody was singing with one voice, but sometimes there may be issues that we debate in Parliament that some people find quite offensive, which is quite challenging for our committee and for us as MPs.

Can you just talk a little bit about how you would deal with and how you do deal with a more divisive topic than this particular petition that we've been talking about with Andy?

Nick: Yeah, some of them can be quite difficult and quite controversial.

I do try wherever possible to look at it from both sides. And I think I've taken quite a few over this past couple of years. And I've managed to do it, but in fairness to all the other members of the committee, they've managed to do it too.

So, I think I would encourage all members of Parliament to join Petitions Committee. I really do think it's a great way of representing the people who don't necessarily have that voice.

And petitions, I would encourage as many people as possible to start those petitions because we can't know everything that's going off in this big wide world. It's only when people actually email us and tell us. But petitions, it brings them people together.

So yeah, bring them on. Controversial or not, I want to get them in the chamber. I want to get MPs talking about these things and we want to hear what the Government think about it too.

Catherine: Well, you're a great advocate for the Petitions Committee. I wanted to ask you one more question though, which is, what do you think, because you've talked about the things you find really positive about the work that we do as a committee, what do you find most challenging in terms of the work we do?

Nick: I think it can be those controversial debates. It really can because the petitioners, it's their day. And as Andy said, the day was really, really important for him Mike and Tim.

And if there's another side of the subject that goes against what the petitioners want, but I feel it's only fair that I actually have to put that case forward as well. That can be really quite challenging.

And I mean, I've had it a few times and I've had to walk to the back because it's great when a petitioner actually comes to the chamber as well. I mean, comes to the Westminster Hall and doesn't listen to it on TV, actually comes into Westminster and listens to it. I think it's great.

But then sometimes when I've led a debate and you have to walk to the back and shake the petitioner's hand, and maybe it's not gone the way that they particularly wanted it to, that can be quite, quite challenging.

And I think the expectation is there sometimes, I mean, Andy, Tim and Mike knew that this wasn't going to create a piece of legislation. It's more of getting people to listen and getting ministers to understand what's out there.

But I think sometimes people get quite excited about it with a petition and think, even though you've said to them, look, it's not going to happen today. This is just the next stepping stone, the next springboard. They still think it might happen today. And I think it's just doing that.

But no, I mean, it's fantastic. Petitions is great, and I know when legislation is made, they look back to these petitions to see what's being said by other members of Parliament. And that helps form legislation.

I always say, as a member of Parliament, I mean Catherine, you'll know exactly the same thing as well. That what we do now, we do not know how that's helped somebody immediately. It might help some, somebody in 20 years’ time, might help somebody in 30 years’ time.

And it's exactly the same with what Andy, Tim and Mike are doing what they're doing now, they'll never know that they've actually helped somebody. But I know that they have, I know that they have and it's petitions has been part of that help.

Catherine: So Andy, what's next for the Three Dads Walking?

Andy: the Relationship, Sex and Health Education curriculum that's happening at the moment.

So, we're actively involved in that. And we hope to see the review being released or the recommendations from the review being released in the autumn. And then hopefully we're going to see a curriculum that will have suicide prevention added to the school curriculum as a compulsory subject happening early next year.

So, things do seem to be moving on. Everything do seem to have be falling into place very nicely. And I think the exposure we've received through the petition and being involved in the debate through the Petitions Committee has really helped us along the way.

But then also looking slightly farther ahead into 2024, we're going to go for another walk. Since we are three dads walking, we’re not three dads campaigning although we have been this year.

We are looking to - I'm not sure if celebrate is the right word, but Papyrus have really accelerated the footprint growth. They've always been national because of the HOPELINE247, but they're opening more offices across the country, partly because of the funds that we generated with the first walk.

So, we thought we would walk between a few of their new offices. So, we're going to look at coming down the east coast of the country, so we're going to walk through your constituency at some point. So, we'll have to invite you along.

Catherine: I would be absolutely delighted to join you in that. And I don't know whether you'd then touch on Nick's constituency further south in Doncaster, but I'm sure he would too.

What an incredible campaign you have all run. And I speak for Nick and I that we are genuinely honoured to be able to have played a part in supporting this very important work.

And thank you so much for spending the time today to talk through this experience for you from a petitions perspective. And also, Nick for sharing your experience and insights as well. It's been really good to talk to you. Thank you very much indeed.

Nick: Yeah, thank you Andy. Thank you, Catherine.

Andy: Thank you.

Catherine: E-petitions are an easy way to make your concerns heard if you want to see change to legislation or policy, which the Government or Parliament can address.

Like most other select committees, we have 11 back bench Members of Parliament drawn from across the House of Commons.

Sometimes we ask for more information in writing or in person. We can write to the Government or another public body to press for action. We can also work with other committees to look into the topic, or we can put forward petitions for debate by MPs.

I'm joined now by Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira, a professor of politics at the University of Leeds. Cristina is interested in understanding the methods parliaments have developed to engage with the public. In recent years, she's focused particularly on petitions.

Cristina, you've done a lot of work into the House of Commons petition system and the work of the Petitions Committee. Why do you think petitions are so important?

Cristina: Well, petitions are one of the easiest way to get involved in politics. So, even just that should show why petitions are so important for our societies as a way of people bringing in issues, things that they really care about to politics.

It doesn't take a lot of effort and they're easy to collect, to go round and get your friends and people you know. So, it's a really easy way to get involved in politics.

But then also another reason is that it becomes a key channel to bring issues to Parliament, which MPs may not be aware of. So, MPs have a very good quite close relationship, often with their constituents in their constituencies. They'll have issues brought to them, but they don't necessarily get that overall picture of how much is it affecting constituents at the national level.

And so, petitions are really good way of bringing issues to MPs, which they may not be aware. It's what we often refer to as the fire alarm function of petitions and to bring those matters to Parliament. And a really good example of that was a petition that we had on maternity care during lockdown.

So, lockdown, there was lots of regulations, policies coming through and very, very quickly because of the nature of the crisis we were facing at the time. And naturally there were lots of holes in those policies because there was not necessarily the time to think through how they would be implemented. And the petition on maternity care just showed that there were lots of issues related to that.

And for instance, I remember you questioning the Prime Minister about this at the Liaison Committee and saying at the time, something like it was easier to go down to the pub than to support your partners in hospital at a time just because of the regulations were done.

So, that's a good example of a policy that was brought in and Parliament became more aware of the issues through that petition.

It's also a way of the citizens shaping the parliamentary agenda and bringing issues to Parliament that are outside the party politics, party politics tends to shape our politics, and it's a way of citizens bringing in their own issues that they care about.

Catherine: I remember it very well. It was easier to go on a shooting trip than to visit your own baby's growth scans as I recall.

But you say it's one of the easiest ways to engage with Parliament, but I'm sure there are still challenges to taking part. What do you think are the main challenges seeking those, looking to use a parliamentary petition to bring about change?

Cristina: There's definitely challenges, and my research has showed that repeatedly, and I would summarise those challenges as four key challenges.

One of those challenges is what I would refer to as democracy literacy, in that a lot of people do not necessarily understand how Parliament works or the parliamentary processes associated with petitions.

And for instance, most people that's come through in my focus groups and interviews do not realise that change.org, for instance, is completely different to petitions submitted to Parliament. And that is a challenge in itself because if the people do not understand the process, they can't necessarily be involved and putting the pressure at the right moments.

Another challenge is IT literacy. So, obviously a lot of people have very good levels of IT literacy, use digital for everything. But we must not forget seldom herd groups such as people from low socioeconomic background who may have IT poverty, they may not necessarily be that familiar with using digital means and also elderly people. So, I've done some focus groups recently where this was very, very clear.

And then there's a process of making your petition matters. So, achieving those high thresholds of signatures, it's not necessarily that easy. You need campaigning, you need campaigning skills that you might not necessarily have.

And so, to get noticed, it's actually quite difficult. And in the UK system there are thousands, as you know, thousands and thousands of petitions. So, to get noticed is a real challenge.

And then I would say the final challenge is about the generating the campaign around the petition. I often say the petition itself is just a hook. The petition itself doesn't do a change. It's what you do with the petition, how you campaign with it.

And that's why the process associated with the petition is so important. But that again, it's a challenge for someone who's not necessarily used to doing campaigning.

Catherine: And given the hard work of campaigning and sometimes what feels like very slow pace of change, is there a risk that people just get frustrated with the petitions process?

Cristina: Absolutely. And this is something again that comes through in my research very clearly. I even have petitioners where the petition I would say has been taken seriously. They have had a debate in Parliament. The issue I know for fact is progressing but takes a long time.

And when it's something that you care passionately about something that affects your life very, very closely, whether it's access to medication, whether it's a process of access to children, whatever that may be, obviously every single day that passes through is really important and it's frustrating.

But that's why keeping constant communication with petitioners is so important and investing on understanding the process is so important. But also, the dispelling myths such as change.org being the same as Parliament, it isn't, but it's really, really important for petitioners to understand what the processes are.

Catherine: So, how do you think the UK petition system compares to those of other countries or legislatures?

Cristina: It compares really well in terms of innovation, in terms of volume of petitions. So, by any measure that you may measure it's got the highest volume of petitions and petitions considered by a long margin.

Even if you compare with large parliaments like the German Parliament, the Bundestag, which is a parliament with a very strong tradition in petitioning in Parliament those high numbers have problems in terms of the getting noticed, in terms of getting through. But it definitely compares very well in relation to other countries.

Other systems maybe like the Scottish Parliament has more of a focus on the individual petitioners in terms of hearing from the petitioners, the system in the UK Parliament in the House of Commons is more focused around maybe the issue, the debates.

But the system in the House of Commons in the UK Parliament has lots of innovation, particularly in terms of the engagement methods. And it has been a leading committee in terms of the work he has done since 2015.

And for instance, the way it links up to other business in Parliament is quite unusual. You don't necessarily see that in other parliaments. So, we see now, for instance, debates happening in the Westminster Hall, debates that are linked to people who have signed petitions on the same issue or linking it with committees.

So, for instance, we have the example of the petition on maternity care of black women who there was a petition on this and then the Health and Social Care committee had an inquiry.

And thanks to your understanding of the issue and of the petition, you were able to take those petitioners to that Health and Social Care Committee inquiry and to have an input from the petitioners and that link with the parliamentary business, that's quite unusual. And that's sort of area that other parliaments are not necessarily doing.

There's a few parliaments also that have modelled on the UK system. So, in Canada they introduced, it's very much modelled, on the UK system, Australia also obviously with some differences but modelled here.

And even somewhere like Brazil, Brazil doesn't actually have petitions. Latin America doesn't have petitions, they have other things, and their system is not petition, it's legislative ideas, ideas for legislation, but the process is the same. Even the thresholds are the same.

So, that's really interesting how it is quite different from other systems, and it's been modelled in many other countries.

Catherine: That's really interesting to hear and good to hear the things that we're doing well. But I'm sure you'll have some suggestions for how we can improve things.

Cristina: It's all about strengthening really that understanding about petitioning, which is so important in the process.

So, I would say very specific things, but a better linkage between the actual petition site and what the committee does. So, one of the things that comes through our interviews and focus groups is that people are not necessarily aware of all the activity that the committee's doing because they don't even know about the side of the committee.

More use of visuals and infographics to explain better the system for people who don't have the democracy literacy or the IT literacy, but also materials, printed materials.

Better IT systems to filter through the duplicate petitions because at the moment there's a high percentage of petitions that are not accepted because there's already one petition on the topic.

And even better integration with other parliamentary business that's already really good, but there's always more things to do. And that is not necessarily coming from the Petitions Committee, but coming from the other areas of the House so that MPs know more, or MPs start thinking about is there a petition on this topic? Let's find out what people think about it, that sort of thing.

Catherine: Well, that's quite a to-do list. So, thank you very much for your time today, Cristina. It's much appreciated.

Cristina: You're very welcome. And thank you for inviting me.

Catherine: My thanks to all my guests today. You can see the full range of petitions that are currently open and find out how to start your own on petitions.parliament.uk.

We've been talking about voter ID and how recent local elections have been a warmup for the next general election.

We've heard how the decline in local journalism challenges our local democracy and processes such as the courts.

Find all our past episodes by searching Committee Corridor plus UK Parliament. Committee Corridor aims to explain how select committees are at the heart of big conversations and sometimes drive them too.

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Suddenly sounds like there are children playing in the background?

Background noise from outside Andy’s window, no time to scrub it really.

Further information

 

Have you been affected by this issue?

Help and advice is available from the following charities:

Papyrus Prevention of Young Suicide offers a variety of ways to seek help, including a 24/7 telephone helpline.

The Samaritans offers a telephone and online chat support service.

Young Minds offers guides and advice on emotional well being.

Papyrus UK Suicide Prevention | Prevention of Young Suicide

PAPYRUS UK is a charity for the prevention of young suicide (under 35) in the UK | Call PAPYRUS HOPELINE247 on 0800 068 4141

 

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