Do government e-petitions allow our voice to be heard – or stifle it?


“e-petitions are an easy, personal way for you to influence government and Parliament in the UK. You can create an e-petition about anything that the government is responsible for and if it gets at least 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in the House of Commons. You can find more information about how the House of Commons deals with e-petitions on the Backbench Business Committee website

That was a lie, wasn’t it?

How many e-petitions have been created since the site went up on August 4, 2011? How many of those have actually resulted in a House of Commons debate, let alone a change of government policy? Barring the WOW Petition debate, it’s hard to think of any. The debate on WOW’s forerunner, Pat’s Petition, only took place because Labour used one of its Opposition Day debates to get the issue aired.

According to this Guardian report, there were more than 1,000 visits a minute on the day the site went up – equivalent to more than 1.5 million visits a day. The site overloaded and went down in a matter of hours.

Would you like to know how many visits it gets now? At the time of writing, the top 12 petitions had received 189 signatures in the previous hour. The lowest-performing of those had just eight.

If those were the only petitions receiving signatures, then the average has dropped from 1,000 per minute to just three. Let’s be charitable and assume some other petitions have been signed. Let’s put it at five.

Why the tail-off?

Well, it’s hard to believe the spiel about influencing government and Parliament when a petition gathers enough signatures, wins a debate in the House of Commons, the vote goes the way the petitioners wanted… and then nothing happens. Nothing at all.

That’s what happened at the WOW debate. Vox Political ran a live blog on the day so you can read what happened for yourself. The motion was for a cumulative impact assessment into the effects on claimants of the Coalition government’s benefit ‘reforms’, and it was carried. Experts have explained to the government that such an assessment is well within their capabilities, but the government has denied these claims, despite producing no evidence itself.

Is it any wonder that people have lost faith in this system?

E-petitions were supposed to be a way for the public to influence Parliament.

Instead, it seems, they are a way for the government to sideline anyone who has a legitimate complaint about political decisions.

Alternatively, you might think this view is mistaken – so guess what? We’ll have another poll.

[polldaddy poll=8360902]

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19 thoughts on “Do government e-petitions allow our voice to be heard – or stifle it?

  1. Nick

    a complete waste of time if the government were serious about anything they would set up a forum for the public so they would be up to speed about their concerns

    as it is now you ask an mp anything and he or she will invariably reply ‘i haven’t a clue I’ll have to find out’ – hardly ideal when mps get paid £70,000 per year

    my mp says i know more then most for the simple reason I’m on the ball with blogs and forums so i know firsthand what’s on the public’s mind at any time

  2. Tony Dean

    38 degrees seem to have more effect than the government e-petition site does – I suspect because the government vets what petitions get put on its site.

  3. Chris

    The government e-petition are regularly ignored.

    Far more effective is the e-petition websites of 38 Degrees and that achieve the 100,000 signatures to bring about a debate in parliament.

    But some kind of organisation is needed to get sufficient signatures.

    Petitions about the loss of state pension payout at 60 to women have been going since 2010, before the actual year of the beginning of loss of payout of 2013. I signed the most recent big one, which has gained about 20,000 signatures.

    My petition is about the Pension Bill 2014 that brought about the Flat Rate Pension coming in 2016 to women born from 1953 and men born from 1951.

    This law brings about the abolition of the state pension for women
    housewives, divorcees or widows
    and the poorest workers
    and the bulk of those new claimants getting far far less state pension
    when the UK state pension is already the lowest state pension of the rich nations

    If people of all ages signed the petitions about the state pension and these petitions gained 100,000 signatures (they are not duplicates) then the public would be made aware that they will be left without food/fuel money for life by wealthy politicians, who have kept their works pension at 60 for women with the words ‘protected from reforms’.

    The over 50s are the bulk of the voters left in the UK.
    Half of over 50s are within the working poor and/or disabled/chronic sick, with those benefits being lost, that make up 97 per cent of the benefits bill when add in poor pensioners only on state pension and/or small works pensions far below the basic tax allowance.

    Thios is yet more fodder that Labour could use to get ahead in the election stakes, yet Mr Miliband ignores me and millions like me.


    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      If you treat him the same way you treat me, he’s probably tired of receiving large chunks of text saying the same thing in varying ways, day in and day out.
      I would not want to deny that you have a very important point to make, but you put me off with all this verbiage. I receive anything up to and beyond 200 e-messages (emails, personal messages, comments to the FB pages, tweets and so on) every day, so anything lengthy and involved is – well, it isn’t welcomed with open arms, let’s say.
      Ed Miliband is not the owner of a small political blog but the leader of the UK’s largest political party. I cannot begin to imagine the amount of correspondence he receives every day. If I were in his position, I would have very specific rules about the kind of contacts I handled personally, and I’d have to leave the rest to others. That’s not unkindness or dereliction of duty; it’s simple necessity due to the weight of numbers.
      If I wanted to get him on my side, I’d work very hard to convince him that I was on his.
      Sending huge wodges of text, day after day, doesn’t put that message across.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Only one of those petitions was on the HM Government e-petitions website – the food poverty petition. It didn’t change government policy and I doubt anybody would remember it if you asked people on the street about it at random. So did it really make a difference?
      Your link tends to make my point for me. It is the petitions elsewhere that have made all the headway; the e-petitions on the government site have made no difference at all. In that context, doesn’t it seem appropriate to question that site’s stated reason for existence?

  4. Malcolm Burt

    Although i voted in favour of taking to the streets,which has little effect if any, i still feel that the concept of a government web site could be advantageous if it was used for its proper purpose. We all know the utter contempt that the present shower hold for Joe Public, so it is no surprise that any petitions coming their way are not only stifled but are strangled. It is for the same reason that we never got anything done in respect of a recall of MPs behaving badly in public office. I have changed my own strategy in the light of these factors, & i am refusing to use my pension monies to buy a tv licence & the shortfall of my council tax. My next stop will be the DVLA, for the de-registration of my car. Can you imagine when a few thousand people start doing similar? it would certainly force a change one way or another.

  5. bebopalooba

    Amazon Associates
    Facebook Social Graph
    Google Adsense
    Twitter Badge .. i have never used twitter nor facebook but yet just clicked on your site to find my software blocking all this nonsense ??

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You’re telling me that you are blocking all the elements that help me to make a living from my site. How selfish.
      Thanks for nothing. Readers like you, I can do without.

  6. amnesiaclinic

    I didn’t vote because I don’t think taking to the streets in protests is the way forward. They are ignored by the media and parliament. 38 Degrees has organised people into areas to put out information about stopping TTIP this Saturday giving out information and collecting signatures to send to MP’s and MEP’s .
    That is one way but I think Malcolm’s direct action and non-compliance would make a huge difference and legally to stop paying taxes and council tax. Why should we pay billions to bomb people and not have enough for people to eat??
    If enough did it!!!

    1. Malcolm Burt

      I`ve just read your post & i do feel the need to clarify an important point concerning direct action,for any one thinking of taking a similar stance in respect of non payment of taxes.In the eyes of the judiciary,all taxes in the land are legal & must be complied with.Whether they are lawful is a different matter.Any Act or Statute passed by Parliament cannot be enacted upon without the consent of the governed,& in order to get your consent,they use legal,cleverly worded letters to achieve it.The t.v.licence is a classic example of this.We are all born sovereign beings or humans in a sovereign country under our constitution.We become a person from the time that our birth is registered,but we still have that freedom of choice whether we represent that person or not,we cannot be forced.That person only exists on paper,ie our birth certificate,created by the state when our birth was registered.It cannot act or think for itself & so it needs us to represent it.In a recent case opposing the installation of meters at my home on the grounds that it would push my family deeper in debt,i asked the Magistrate if she was sitting on her oath of office.Before answering my question she asked me if Mr.Burt was present in the court.I replied that he was & i produced my birth certificate,pointing out the crown copyright at the bottom.I was then advised that the court has now retired,leaving me to claim jurisdiction over the court,& at the mercy of their security guard who escorted me out of the court & off the premises.Should you wish to find out more,feel free to google strawman sometime.There are some startling revelations on there that i wished i could have found out about earlier in my life.I`d have saved a fortune instead of a life of penury,so i decided to award my own tax cuts,the ones that are helping my family to survive & keeping the roof over our heads.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Is this more of that ‘Freemen on the land’ stuff? Personally I find it highly suspicious and would not recommend acting on it to anybody else. Maybe it is possible to force the state to back down, but it would require both parties to be aware that this is possible in law, and that’s just the starting premise. I can foresee people getting into very sticky situations by following this way of thinking.

  7. Barry Davies

    It’s just a copy of the million votes to get a debate at the eussr, first time the million votes got hit for a vote on stopping the migration between strasbourg and brussells, given the state of the economy a good idea one would think, but it was instantly binned by a single unelected commissioner,because we can’t point out things like that.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      EUSSR, as I keep reminding you, is a Fascist term for the European Union originally coined by the League of Empire Loyalists. Your continued use of it is a reminder to all readers of UKIP’s real allegiances.

  8. paulmabbo

    What was it that Arthur Scargill had to say about “direct action”? he was right.

    To be honest, I’m surprised at your surprise Mike. Petitions per se, let alone those on the government site, are pretty much a device by which people can fool themselves that they’ve done something – they haven’t.

    Let’s man the barricades please 😉

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Who says I’m surprised? It just occurred to me that the government’s e-petitions website was a sham so I wrote an article about it.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        No worries. I think you’re right about manning the barricades. We should also sabotage the water cannons, you know…

Comments are closed.