The 2015 parliament has seen the establishment of a new Petitions Committee and e-petitions system. Cristina Leston-Bandeira discusses the committee’s initial activity, arguing that it has achieved much in the space of six months and has the potential to pave the way towards a new kind of public engagement with parliament.
One of the novelties of the 2015 parliament has been the establishment of a Petitions Committee, which has the potential to pave the way for a new style of public engagement for parliament.
Following the approval of a motion to create a new Petitions Committee last February, and still with no elected chair, the new Petitions Committee’s team set out to establish the foundations of what would become the UK government and parliament collaborative e-petitions system, integrating also the traditional paper public petitions presented through MPs. On 18 June the committee’s chair, Helen Jones, was elected and a month later, on 20 July, the new collaborative e-petitions site went live. At the same time the old Downing Street e-petitions site closed down. Nine e-petitions were submitted on that first day, collecting between them 60,580 signatures on that single day. Less than two months later the committee led its first debate on a petition that had achieved over 100,000 signatures, on contracts and conditions in the NHS.
Cristina Leston-Bandeira looks back at a year spent considering the options for the use of digital in UK government. She highlights key lessons that emerged from the process and introduces the report published on 26 January 2015.
Last month’s launch of the report of the Speaker’s Digital Democracy Commission (DDC) marks the end of an extraordinarily interesting year for us Commissioners. The DDC was established by the Speaker of the House of Commons to explore the potential of digital technology to support a modern and inclusive parliamentary democracy. Throughout the year we have collated evidence, listened to people and organised workshops across the whole of the country from all walks of life, as well as internationally. The report reflects this. It shows the diversity of views we have received on many issues from the making of legislation to the language of parliament.
As an academic used to interacting mainly with students, other academics and parliaments (I know, a very secluded world…), it has been a truly fascinating year. To hear what people think (or more likely do not think) of parliament in so many contexts has been a true privilege. From this the main thing I retain is that for most of us parliament is indistinguishable from government; most people assume parliament is government. Although theoretically I already knew this, this past year has made this all the more patent and visible to me.