One of the most popular routes of direct democracy in the United Kingdom, a petition is a signed document that is designed to pressure politicians to change existing laws or policies.
Here’s a quick guide to how petitions work in the UK:
How Do You Start a Petition?
The government has a dedicated petitions service which can be accessed through the gov.uk website, while Change.org is another popular route. Petitions can be created by British citizens and UK residents only and must be related to an issue that the UK Parliament (not devolved bodies like the Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly) is directly responsible for. As long as these legal criteria are met, you can start a petition on almost anything, although requests based around active legal cases are forbidden.
How Many Signatures do you need for a Response?
Petitions which attract over 10,000 signatures must be responded to by the government. Any that are signed by more than 100,000 people will be considered for debate in Parliament. However, Parliament does not have to discuss issues raised in petitions, and even the most successful appeals have failed to have an impact on the laws and/or policies they were seeking to change.
Examples of Successful Petitions
Although petitions have been part and parcel of UK democracy for many years, the government’s e-petition site was first launched in November 2006. Since then, over 1,000 petitions have been started. Some of the most popular (regarding the high number of signatures) included a call for US President Donald Trump to be banned from visiting the UK and a bid for a re-run of the Brexit referendum.
A couple of examples of successful petitions include one which called for the release of Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran, and Caroline Criado-Perez’s petition calling for a woman to be depicted on UK banknotes.