Much ado about nothing : e-petitions
The Daily Mail apparently will run this front page in the morning : MPs to vote on death penalty
Perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that this is a little misleading.
You might be surprised to find out, just how wide of the mark it probably is.
The headline is a reference to the Government’s latest initiative – e-petitions.
This is an on-line method of petitioning parliament – you put a petition on-line, leave it for up to a year, and if it gets over 100,000 signatures, it becomes eligible to be debated in the House of Commons.
More specifically it’s a reference to high profile blogger Paul Staines, who “blogs” as Guido Fawkes, and his campaign to bring back the death penalty via an e-petition. Although clearly his intention is to embarrass parliament and increase his own notoriety as much as any desire to see criminals hung from Tyburn tree.
The Mail’s sub-heading is “MPs face being forced into a landmark vote on restoring the death penalty”
If the headline is misleading, then this statement is simply untrue.
Any petition placed on the site has to satisfy the conditions for eligibility http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/terms-and-conditions
One of the conditions is that it’s not allowed to be a “joke” – well Guido’s petition might fall there, but hey ho …
It then has to get 100,000 signatures – sadly Guido will have little trouble.
It then becomes “eligible” for debate.
It might be worth considering that ANYTHING is already eligible for debate by the House, should the House decide to debate it.
Just because it’s eligible though doesn’t mean it will be debated. The same is true for a petition on e-petitions with 100,000 signatures.
So who decides if it WILL be debated ?
That job falls to the Backbench Business Committee – who I’m sure will be excited by being
dumped with the job given the privilege of selecting which petitions get to be debated.
Note that they don’t have to select any of them. They can ignore them, and will ignore many. They can’t be forced to debate anything.
Even if they do debate it, they don’t have to have any kind of vote, and it doesn’t have to lead to any change in the law.
Pretty much the same as if nobody had signed the petition in the first place.
Oh and even if they did have a vote, don’t forget that there have been a great many votes on capital punishment in the commons since its abolition, and all have soundly rejected the idea. The last was in 1994 when re-introduction was opposed by 403 votes to 159, and there is little evidence to show that any other result would occur if such a vote were to take place in the current parliament (source UK Polling Report )
So no change there then.
- Speaker backs launch of e-petition website (guardian.co.uk)
- Government Launches e-Petitions Website Guido Submits “Restoration of Capital Punishment” Petition (order-order.com)
- Guido’s Petition to Bring Back Hanging: ‘What the Fawkes?’ (penalreform.net)
- (MONITOR) Tim Montgomerie: Should the centre right blogs unite behind a parliamentary petition campaign? (dreadnoughtuk.wordpress.com)
- The public may still want the death penalty, but it thinks the economy and pensions are more important (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)