E-petitions: a collaborative system - Procedure Committee Contents


On 8 May 2014, the House agreed a motion supporting the establishment, at the start of the next Parliament, of a "collaborative" e-petition system which would enable members of the public to petition the House of Commons and press for action from Government. The motion called on the Procedure Committee to work with the Government and other interested parties on the development of detailed proposals.

This report presents our proposals for the collaborative e-petition system which the House requested. The system we recommend will be based on the existing Government e-petition site, redesigned and rebranded to show that it is jointly owned by the House and the Government. The terms and conditions of the site will be broadly the same as those of the existing Government site, revised only insofar as is necessary to reflect the fact that petitions submitted through the site will be presented to the House. Petitioners will be required to include a clear statement of the action which they want the Government, or the House, to take as a result of their petition. A petition will need to attract the support of at least six people before it is opened for signature on the site. Petitions will stay open for signature for six months, after which they will be presented formally to the House.

Oversight of the joint e-petition system will be undertaken on behalf of the House by a Petitions Committee, chaired by a member elected by the whole House. The Committee will also assume responsibility for oversight of the paper petitioning system. The Committee will be able to consider petitions submitted by either means, and as appropriate, and at its discretion:

·  correspond with petitioners on their petition;

·  call petitioners for oral evidence;

·  refer a petition to the relevant select committee;

·  seek further information from the Government, orally or in writing, on the subject of a petition; and

·  put forward petitions for debate.

The Petitions Committee will be supported by a staff team with responsibility for moderating e-petitions, advising and supporting the Committee in its examination of petitions submitted, advising and assisting petitioners and providing information to petitioners on Parliamentary developments and activity relating to their petition.

Together with the rebranding and redesigning of the e-petition website, the establishment of a Petitions Committee with its own team of staff has the potential to produce a significant improvement in the information which is available to petitioners about what the House of Commons does and the many ways in which Members of Parliament use the opportunities the House offers them to respond to the public's concerns. The proposals we set out in this report should bring about a significant enhancement of the relationship between the petitioning public and their elected representatives, and we commend them to the House.

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© Parliamentary copyright 2014
Prepared 4 December 2014