HS2 petition ‘will have to start all over again’

MCBH STOP HS2 elephant nick clegg by Joe Rukin
MCBH STOP HS2 elephant nick clegg by Joe Rukin

CAMPAIGNERS against HS2 who have been collecting signatures for several months for a petition to be handed into Parliament will now have to start from scratch after the Government relaunched its petition website.

In February, David Cameron, said any petition which collected more than 100,000 signatures would trigger a debate in the House of Commons.

Stop HS2 had managed to collect enough signatures through its online and paper petitions, but has now been told to get a parliamentary debate it will have to get 100,000 signatures on the Government’s e-petition website, which was relaunched on August 4.

Campaign co-ordinator, Joe Rukin, said the group had been preparing to hand in its petition when Parliament returned this month.

He said: “Then just as the consultation finished, the Government reintroduced their own online petition service, stating that they would only recognise petitions on this website, meaning we have to start all over again. It’s a real pain as not only will many people believe they have signed, so won’t do it again, but also it is clear from feedback we’ve had at stalls that many supporters don’t have internet access or an email address which is needed to verify signatures.

“It’s annoying that we’ve got to start all over again after all that work, especially as the website keeps breaking down, but we are confident we will get the numbers in the timeframe.”

Bernie Douglas, from Oxfordshire campaign group, VoxOpp said if that was the case, it was a ‘travesty of democracy.’

He added the group had been in touch with Bicester MP Tony Baldry to confirm what the situation was.

Mike Berridge of the Brackley anti-HS2 group said: “It is very frustrating.

“The problem now is many people have previously signed a petition and now we have to go back to them to start again. It’s somewhat annoying to say the least.”

Mr Berridge said the people most affected by the change in rules over the petition would be the elderly.

A spokesman from the Cabinet Office said the Government needed to be able to verify signatures from every email address and they could only do so via the new website.

He said: “The new system means any petition on the site which reaches 100,000 signatures goes forward to the back bench committee to be prepared for debate.”

He added other online and written petitions could still be handed into Parliament via MPs, but signatures from those petitions could not be added together to make 100,000.

The new petition can be signed via the Stop HS2 website, www.stophs2.org