E-petitions: a collaborative system - Procedure Committee Contents

Annex: Draft Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and the Chair of the Petitions Committee, and draft terms and conditions of the e-petitions site

Draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Leader of the House of Commons and the Petitions Committee relating to the submission and consideration of e-petitions

This MoU is agreed between the Leader of the House of Commons, on behalf of the Government, and the Petitions Committee, on behalf of the House of Commons, and relates to the submission and consideration of e-petitions.


1.  The Government will own and manage the technical infrastructure to deliver the e-petitions system, including the website, which will be managed through the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons.

2.  Government Digital Services (GDS) will provide hosting services and technical support, in cooperation and consultation with Parliamentary ICT (PICT).


3.  The cost of running, maintaining and developing the technical infrastructure will be shared between the Government and the House of Commons. The precise division of costs will be agreed between the Government and the House authorities.


4.  The publically accessible website text and overall design is to be agreed between both parties to the MoU, subject to consideration of relevant guidelines, including on accessibility. The Government will agree links between the e-petitions and Parliamentary websites in consultation with the Petitions Committee agents acting on its behalf.


5.  All e-petitions will be subject to terms and conditions and must adhere to set criteria for acceptance. The text and content of these conditions will be agreed between the Government and the Petitions Committee. The form in which they appear on the website, which has been agreed initially between the Government and the Procedure Committee, is attached as an annex to this MoU.

6.  Before being opened publicly to signature on the site, an e-petition must be approved as having met the terms and conditions. Petitions will be moderated by Petitions Committee staff, advised as necessary by officials of Government departments. The target for moderating e-petitions will be seven days following their submission.

7.  There will be a minimum threshold of 5 signatures for a petition to be submitted for moderation.

8.  Petitions Committee staff will be available to advise prospective petitioners and those whose petitions have been rejected on how to bring their petition into order, but will not enter into correspondence about whether a petition ought to have been rejected.

9.  E-petitions which are approved as meeting the terms and conditions of the site will stay 'open' for a period of 6 months from their creation.

10.  All e-petitions that reach 10 000 signatures will receive a response from Government.

11.  The Petitions Committee will consider all petitions submitted through the e-petitions site (as well as all paper petitions presented to the House) and, at its discretion, may:

·  Correspond with petitioners on their petition;

·  Call petitioners for oral evidence;

·  Refer a petition to the relevant select committee (without obligation on that committee to take any further action);

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

·  Put forward petitions for debate.

The Petitions Committee will not be able to take action on every petition submitted through the site, but will take decisions on which petitions to pursue based on factors including the subject of the petition, the number of signatories, the Parliamentary activity which has already taken place on the subject and any response by the Government.

12.  The Government will seek to meet reasonable requests for information from the Committee in relation to petitions. The Committee will only seek oral evidence from Ministers on petitions in exceptional circumstances, for example in the event of a failure to respond to requests for written information or to fulfil an undertaking made in response to a petition.


13.  The Government and the Petitions Committee will review this agreement annually.

14.  Any proposed change to the system that may impact upon the terms of this agreement will be agreed between the Government and the Petitions Committee.


15.  Except as specifically mentioned, this agreement does not relate to the House of Commons paper petition system.

Signed:        (Leader of the House of Commons)


Signed:        (Chair of the Petitions Committee)


Text of e-petition system terms and conditions

The purpose of e-petitions is to provide an easy way for you to make sure your concerns are heard by Government and Parliament. All e-petitions will be accepted and published on this website providing they:

·  call on the government and/or the House of Commons for a specific action

·  do not substantially duplicate an existing open e-petition

·  meet the further criteria below.


An e-petition may freely disagree with the government or call for changes of policy. There will be no attempt to exclude critical views. Decisions to accept or reject will be made on an impartial basis.

However, to protect this service from abuse, e-petitions must satisfy some basic conditions.

To create or sign an e-petition, you must be either:

·  a British citizen, or

·  a resident in the UK (you normally live in the UK).

To submit an e-petition, you must use the online form to provide:

·  the title or subject of the e-petition

·  a clear statement that covers the subject of the e-petition and what action you want the government and/or the House of Commons to take

·  the name of the person submitting the e-petition (the 'petitioner') —names of organisations cannot be accepted

·  the petitioner's email address (this will not be published on the website)

·  the petitioner's home address (this will not be published on the website)

You must also provide up to [ten] e-mail addresses of people who wish to sign your petition. An e-mail will be sent to each of these people inviting them to confirm that they wish to sign it. At least four of them must respond by clicking the link in the email to confirm that they wish to sign the petition before it can be published and opened for further signatures on the site.


All e-petitions must call for a specific action from the government or the House of Commons.

If an e-petition does not include a clear statement explaining what action you want the government or the House to take, it will be rejected.

When submitting an e-petition, you may not include the following:

Confidential, libellous, false or defamatory statements, or matters subject to active legal proceedings

·  Information which may be protected by an injunction or court order

·  Material which is potentially confidential, commercially sensitive, or which may cause personal distress or loss

·  Names of individuals if they have been accused of a crime or information that may identify them

·  Names of individual officials of public bodies, unless they are part of the senior management of those organisations

·  Names of family members of elected representatives, eg MPs, or officials of public bodies

·  References to cases in which proceedings are active in UK courts.

Offensive, joke or nonsense e-petitions

·  Language that may cause offence, is provocative or extreme in its views

·  Wording that is impossible to understand

·  Statements that amount to advertisements

·  Joke or nonsense content

Matters which are not the responsibility of HM Government or of the House of Commons

·  Party political material

·  Commercial endorsements including the promotion of any product, service or publication

·  Issues that are dealt with by devolved bodies, eg The Scottish Parliament

·  Correspondence on personal issues

·  Freedom of Information requests

Matters relating to honours or appointments

·  Nominations for honours. Find out how to submit nominations for honours at: www.gov.uk/honours This link opens in a new window

E-petitions that do not follow these guidelines cannot be accepted. In these cases, you will be informed by email of the reason(s) your e-petition has been refused.

We will publish the full text of rejected e-petitions, unless the content is illegal, offensive or confidential. The text of petitions which do not receive the support of at least four additional signatories will not be published.

It is not possible to alter a rejected e-petition, and no correspondence will be entered into regarding rejected e-petitions. Rejection of an e-petition does not stop you from submitting a new e-petition which meets the terms and conditions of the site. Advice on petitioning is available from the House of Commons Petitions Office [insert link and phone no.].


It will usually take up to seven days from the time the first four signatories are confirmed following the submission of an e-petition for it to appear on the website. During busy periods it may take longer.

Once accepted, e-petitions will be made available on this website for anyone to sign. Anyone signing the e-petition must provide their name, home address and email address. No personal details will be published on the site. This information will not be used for any purpose other than in relation to the e-petition.

The government or the House of Commons may contact you by email to:

·  confirm you have submitted an e-petition

·  confirm you have signed an e-petition

·  provide updates about the e-petition.

If you sign an e-petition (are a 'signatory'), you will only receive updates if you choose this option when you sign it.

All petitioners and signatories will receive a first email that asks you to confirm your email address.


The Petitions Committee of the House of Commons will consider the petitions submitted through the site and will have responsibility for confirming that they are suitable for presentation to the House. The Committee may also:

·  Correspond with petitioners on their petition;

·  Call petitioners for oral evidence;

·  Draw a petition to the attention of the relevant select committee;

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

·  Put forward a petition for debate, or draw the attention of the House to a petition which is relevant to a debate already taking place.

If the Petitions Committee decides to take further action in respect of a petition, the creator of the petition will be notified, along with any signatories to the petition who have chosen to receive updates. Information on the action taken by the Committee, and as appropriate links to information on other Parliamentary activity relating to the subject of the petition, will be published with the petition on the website.


The e-petitions system is not intended to replace the current paper based system of public petitions in the House of Commons.

For more information about the paper based Parliamentary petitions, you can visit the UK Parliament website This link opens in a new window.

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Prepared 4 December 2014