What are the 10 most-signed petitions and what have they achieved?
The petition to stop Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK is already the second-most signed online campaign in the history of Parliament’s site.
The petition long since passed the 100,000 signatures needed to see Parliament consider the matter for debate – though Downing Street’s response to more than a million signatories has been to firmly reject the notion. It begs the question: do the most popular petitions lead to action by the Government?
Here are the top 10 most-signed Parliament campaigns, including what people argued for and the action that followed:
EU Referendum rules triggering a 2nd EU Referendum.
The referendum petition that a Leave supporter claimed to have started was backed by millions of Remain voters.
What was the petition arguing? – “We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum.”
Leave voter Oliver Healey claimed to have set up the petition before last year’s June referendum – fearing a narrow Remain victory – before it became a de facto protest petition by Remain supporters once the 52-48 majority vote for Brexit was confirmed.
How many people signed it? – 4,150,260.
Did it result in action? – The topic was debated on 5 September 2016 before the Government confirmed it would not be pursuing a second referendum.
“The European Union Referendum Act received Royal Assent in December 2015, receiving overwhelming support from Parliament. The Act did not set a threshold for the result or for minimum turnout,” the Foreign Office said.
Prevent Donald Trump from making a State Visit to the United Kingdom (still active).
A petition set up in November gained huge support after Donald Trump ordered a travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
What is the petition arguing? – “Donald Trump should be allowed to enter the UK in his capacity as head of the US Government, but he should not be invited to make an official State Visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.”
How many people have signed it? – Currently more than 1,630,000.
Has it resulted in action? – Parliament will consider the matter for debate but the chances of the Government taking action remains unlikely after Number 10 confirmed the state visit will still go ahead.
In response to the petition passing the million mark, a spokesperson said Prime Minister Theresa May was “very happy” to extend the invitation on behalf of the Queen, adding: “We look forward to hosting the president later this year.”
Give the Meningitis B vaccine to ALL children, not just newborn babies.
More than 800,000 people signed a petition calling for the child vaccination programme to be expanded to higher ages.
What was the petition arguing? – “All children are at risk from this terrible infection, yet the Government plan to only vaccinate 2-5 month olds. There needs to be a rollout programme to vaccinate all children, at least up to age 11. Meningococcal infections can be very serious, causing MENINGITIS, SEPTICAEMIA & DEATH.”
How many people signed it? – 823,348.
Did it result in action? – The topic was debated on 25 April, 2016 but the Government has not extended the child vaccination programme up to 11 year olds.
The Department of Health said: “MenB vaccine is offered to infants, free on the NHS, at 2 months with further doses at 4 and 12 months. The programme, as advised by independent experts, offers protection to those at highest risk.”
Block Donald J Trump from UK entry.
A petition was launched following Donald Trump’s comments about Muslims on the presidential campaign trail.
What was the petition arguing? – “The UK has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech. The same principles should apply to everyone who wishes to enter the UK. If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the ‘unacceptable behaviour’ criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful.”
How many people signed it? – 586,930.
Did it result in action? – The issue was debated on 18 January 2016 – almost a year to the day Trump would be inaugurated – but the Government refused to exercise exclusion powers that it said are “very serious and not used lightly”.
The Home Office confirmed then-PM David Cameron and then-home secretary Theresa May both rejected remarks made by Trump about Muslims during the US presidential campaign.
Stop all immigration and close the UK borders until ISIS is defeated.
The Government said closing borders would ‘create more problems than it would solve’.
What was the petition arguing? – “In February 2015 Dr Shea, Nato’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, warned there would be IS jihadists on the refugee boats. IS also threatened to flood Europe with 500,000 jihadists.”
“Allowing uncontrolled immigration and taking in these refugees potentially endangers the entire UK population. At any other time in our history this would be tantamount to a declaration of war and borders would be closed.”
How many people signed it? – 463,501.
Did it result in action? – The issue was not debated by MPs because a similar petition – “stop allowing immigrants into the UK” – had been held the month before, in October 2015.
The Home Office said border checks had intensified after terror attacks in Paris but confirmed: “The UK government has no intention of closing Britain’s borders, as this would create more problems than it would solve.”
Accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugee migrants in the UK.
Protests for Britain to admit more refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict were held in Parliament Square.
What was the petition arguing? – “There is a global refugee crisis. The UK is not offering proportional asylum in comparison with European counterparts. We can’t allow refugees who have risked their lives to escape horrendous conflict and violence to be left living in dire, unsafe and inhumane conditions in Europe. We must help.”
How many people signed it? – 450,287.
Did it result in action? – An emergency debate on the refugee crisis was held on 8 September 2015 before a further debate the following day.
Then-PM David Cameron confirmed 20,000 more Syrians would be resettled under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme during the Parliament and a further £100m would be spent in humanitarian aid.
“The UK has a proud history of providing refuge to those in genuine need of protection. We will continue to play our full part at the forefront of the international response to the crisis,” the Government said.
Consider a vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary.
Campaigners called for Jeremy Hunt’s tenure as health secretary to end.
What was the petition arguing? – “Mr Hunt recently gave totally inappropriate advice to Google conditions before seeking medical opinion. He referred to Paramedics as Ambulance Drivers and has caused the first Doctors strike in years of the NHS. Mr Hunt is destroying all staff morale in the NHS & will cause recruitment issues.”
How many people signed it? – 339,925.
Did it result in action? – The issue was not debated. The House of Commons Petitions Committee said it did not have the power to schedule debates on motions of no confidence and urged: “It is usually more effective to start a petition calling for a specific change to government policy or the law, rather than a petition about an individual Minister.”
Make the production, sale and use of cannabis legal.
The Government was urged to make cannabis legal after a number of cities changed their policy on the drug.
What was the petition arguing? – “Legalising cannabis could bring in £900m in taxes every year, save £400m on policing cannabis and create over 10,000 new jobs. A substance that is safer than alcohol, and has many uses. It is believed to have been used by humans for over 4000 years, being made illegal in the UK in 1925.”
How many people signed it? – 236,995.
Did it result in action? – The topic was debated on 12 October 2015 but the Home Office confirmed the drug would remain illegal.
“Substantial scientific evidence shows cannabis is a harmful drug that can damage human health. There are no plans to legalise cannabis as it would not address the harm to individuals and communities,” the department said.
Stop spending a fixed 0.7 per cent slice of our national wealth on Foreign Aid.
Campaigners called for overseas aid to be redirected towards ‘truly deserving causes’.
What was the petition arguing? – “Despite spending cuts at home the Government is committed to hand over 0.7% of national income in overseas aid, regardless of need. The Mail on Sunday believes voters do not want this and instead, we should provide money only for truly deserving causes, on a case-by-case basis.”
How many people signed it? – 235,979.
Did it result in action? – The topic was debated in Parliament on 13 June 2016 but the Government said it was committed to its manifesto promise on overseas aid.
“The UK’s aid commitment means we can be proud to be a country that not only meets its responsibilities to the world’s poorest, but in doing so best serves and protects its own security and interests,” the Department for International Development said.
To debate a vote of no confidence in Health Secretary the Right Hon Jeremy Hunt.
The petition against Jeremy Hunt came during disputes with junior doctors on pay and NHS timetabling.
What was the petition arguing? – “Jeremy Hunt has alienated the entire workforce of the NHS by threatening to impose a harsh contract and conditions on first consultants and soon the rest of the NHS staff.”
How many people signed it? – 231,136.
Did it result in action? – The first, slightly differently worded petition on Hunt’s position as health secretary was debated on 14 September 2015 but no action was taken.
The Department for Health did not address Mr Hunt’s position in its response, saying: “The Government is committed to delivering seven day services to make sure that patients get the same high quality, safe care on a Saturday and Sunday as they do on a week day.”