It is understandable that the Government and Parliament is a very busy place right now with all of the challenges that have been caused by COVID-19 and some of the Political problems that have arisen externally or been introduced by the Government itself. Inevitably the views of most Ministers and some of our MPs are being heard and implemented in our nation. Inevitably these actions or announcements have led to a myriad of responses and experiences emerging across the country, many of which come from people who are not politicians and therefore cannot easily provide any feedback to the decision makers based in Westminster. Clearly in some constituencies the residents or workers may have an MP who is willing to take their views forward. Sadly that is not the case in a large number of settings as has been demonstrated over the current Dominic Cummings situation based on some of the replies or lack of replies by certain MPs to their constituents. Even where an individual MP does carry forward the view of their constituents, they are one amongst 650 MPs and due to the political structure of Parliament, they may not be well positioned to get their words taken seriously.
However where an individual is able to persuade a group of people they know or that they can contact over the internet to agree to a particular point of view and then sign a formal petition, it is clearly important that if the numbers involved are as high as 10,000 for the Government to respond initially and if they then reach 100,000 for Parliament to also respond. These responses depend on the arrangements that are set out by Boris Johnsons team in the first stage and Jacob Rees-Mogg in the second stage. As we can see in the above list which came from this website there are a significant number of Petitions that have been raised by people across our nation and behind this there are literally many millions of signatures so the need for appropriate responses is vital. However it appears that while Johnson has failed to respond to 20% of the petitions that Jacob Rees Mogg has prevented Parliament from responding to any of the petitions which is very concerning and both of these men need to be held accountable. Indeed even Dominic Cummings claims to have a strong view about accountability as he stated a week ago “I think the people like me who helped to make the rules should be accountable for their actions.”
Of nearly 9,000 petitions that were submitted in recent months, once the Civil Service had reviewed them considering a range of criteria and reasons, a massive proportion was rejected and only 11% were treated as being credible. Again the majority of these credible petitions have been ignored by most people and only 18% of these acceptable petitions have so far been signed by more than 1,000 people. Inevitably many of these that passed 1,000 then grew very quickly and 42% rose to 10,000 and 10% to the 100,000 level. This does not necessarily make the petitons realistic or even achievable but since the Government started to count these petitions, there are now 72 that have passed 10,000 and 17 that have passed 100,000 based on that data. However there may be some more that are not on this list based on another piece of information mentioned below.
So Johnson has 15 that his team need to respond to, one is 37 days since it reached 10,000 which is clearly very concerning, even though its content is very questionable “Delay 5G in the UK until there’s been an independent investigation” but it does have nearly 50,000 signatures now. Then there is one which calls for “Make it mandatory to wear a face mask in public during Covid-19 Pandemic” which certainly deserves a response and it has been on the list for 34 days and the third one is 30 days old and calls for “Change the Furlough Support Scheme to include new hires after 28th February.” The rest of the list are only 21 days or less old and one might accept that 3 weeks is not too long to wait although sometimes one could argue that a week is sufficient!
The reason why Parliament has so far failed to respond to any of the petitions is explained in this Parliamentary website which includes a comment from Catherine McKinnell, Chair of the Petitions Committee, who has called on the Government to end the suspension of Petitions Committee debates to ensure “thorough, proper scrutiny” of Government policy. As she explains in her letter to Rees-Mogg, there are actually 22 petitions which is why it would appear that some are perhaps from before the General Election or certainly from before this set of data was published. However even the ones on the list include “Close Schools/Colleges down for an appropriate amount of time amidst COVID19” which has been on their list for 85 days and currently has 683,574 signatures and there is one that is 82 days old which is “Include self-employed in statutory sick pay during Coronavirus” and has 697,431 signatures.
It is clear that on Tuesday when Parliament reopens, that there will need to be an urgent response to all of these petitions, the most recent of which is only 16 days old and only has 105,782 signatures but is calling for “Refund university students for 3rd Semester Tuition 2020”