How the e-petition site works

The process for setting up an e-petition on the new website is simple. Here is a step by step guide adapted from the Governments website.

1. Submit – The title can be up to 150 characters (although if you want to tweet it you’ll want it be shorter) with the petition itself up to 1000 characters. When you write it consider the criteria that it’ll be judged against, including the need for a request for action.

You also need to specify the department responsible for the issue your petition is on and the length of time you’d like the petition to run for (3, 6, 9 or 12 months).

On the next page you’ll need to submit your details (name, address, email) which appear to require an individual rather than an organisation to create it.

2. Petition Checked – It’ll then take up to 7 days for your petition to be approved. During this process, the petition will be considered by the relevant government department to ensure:

  • there’s isn’t already an e-petition on the same issue
  • it contains confidential, libellous, false or defamatory statements
  • it contains offensive, joke or nonsense content
  • the issue is not the responsibility of the government
  • it’s about honours or appointments
  • it does not include a request for action

3. Get signatures – You’ll need to get 100,000 signatures for the petition to be ‘considered’ for debate in Parliament. The petition will be hosted on the e-petition site and submissions can only be made through the site (although a URL will be provided to promote it on social networking sites).

Anyone who signs will need to provide their name, address and email but these won’t be visible to anyone else. Signatories can also ‘choose to receive email updates from the government about the e-petition’. You petition can be open for up to 12 months.

4. Debate (potentially!) – If you reach the 100,000 target, your petition will be sent to The Office of the Leader of the House of Commons will check it against the terms and conditions for e-petition and the rules of the House of Commons.

Petition that pass this criteria will be passed to the  Backbench Business Committee who will decide if your issue will be debated in the House of Commons. The FAQ suggest that reasons for the petition not being debated include;

  • if the subject of the e-petition is currently going through legal proceedings, it may be inappropriate for a debate to be held;
  • if there has just been, or is about to be, a debate in the House of Commons on the same topic as your e-petition
But Leader of the House, Sir George Young suggested in the media on Friday that ‘parliamentary time is not unlimited and we want the best e-petitions to be given airtime’ which indicates another way of stopping petitions being debated.
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