Since their introduction in 2015, parliamentary e-petitions have become an important channel of political participation. In their first year alone, more than 6,000 e-petitions were published by the House of Commons Petitions Committee, which attracted over 20 million signatures from around 10 million unique email addresses. More recently, a petition to revoke Article 50 has hit the news when, in a matter of days, it was supported by over over 6 million signatories.
However, whilst parliamentary e-petitions have captured the public imagination, the extent to which they have enthused legislators and inspired policymaking is much less clear. This paper therefore addresses this important gap in our knowledge, exploring the extent to which Members of Parliament have engaged with parliamentary e-petitions and the effects of e-petitions on MPs’ various activities.
Drawing upon a series of surveys and interviews conducted under the auspices of a Parliamentary Academic Fellowship, this paper addresses two interconnected issues. The first is the electoral connection, which focuses on MPs’ perceptions of the parliamentary e-petitions process and the impact of e-petitions on their constituency and legislative workloads. The second strand builds on this, and considers the policy impact of e-petitioning in terms of their direct and indirect effects on policymaking.
Dr Felicity Matthews is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Sheffield. Felicity’s research focuses on exercise of power in the policy process, and the relationships that exist between government, parliament and citizens. This paper draws on her recently completed ESRC-funded Parliamentary Academic Fellowship, which was hosted by the House of Commons Petitions Committee.