Today the BBC is reporting on Government plans to press ahead with David Cameron’s pre-election pledge on petitions; made in his speech “rebuilding trust in politics” an extract of which follows below:-
“It’s absurd that a tiny percentage of the population craft legislation that will apply to one hundred per cent of the population. Instead of locking people out of this process, we need to invite them in. So we’ll create a right of initiative nationally, where any petition that collects one hundred thousand signatures will be eligible to be formally debated in the House of Commons. Any petition with a million signatures will allow members of the public to table a Bill that could end up being debated and voted on by MPs. “
Remarkably there are opponents to this attempt to rebuild trust from the opposition who deem it “foolish gimmick”. STOPHS2 sincerely hopes they are wrong and will remain committed to our petition to force debate on HS2.
The STOPHS2 petition will reach 24,000 signatures on line today (this doesn’t include the paper copies signed by those who are unable to access the online version; rapidly becoming known as the “lost society”). You can also view where people have signed from by clicking on maps which helps people understand the national objection to the scheme (warning – do not click if you have a slow internet connection).
The petition wording was written by Joe Rukin, our campaign director, in June this year.
“We urge the Government to scrap the HS2 proposal for High Speed Rail. The first stage of the plan, just to connect London and Birmingham, will cost on current estimates over £25,500,000,000, or over 2.8% of our ‘generational’ national debt.
The plan provides little benefit to the country and when you study the detail, it is evident that it will be environmentally damaging. It will reap untold damage to society and the environment and is simply an unaffordable luxury at this time. HS1 cost £5.8bn to build and now, after services have been cut because there is not enough demand, and it is up for sale at £1.5bn, just a quarter of its cost. It is a mistake which must be learned from.
There are many more things which will benefit the country more, and in these times of supposed austerity, other things should be prioritised instead.”
There are lots of unanswered questions about how these petitions will be examined for validity, appropriateness and how indeed the process will work but Leader of the Commons, Sir George Young, said today
“petitions which attracted at least 100,000 signatures could trigger debates and votes by MPs and peers. Government bills should also go through a “public reading stage” as they progress through Parliament, giving voters greater scrutiny…MPs and peers will decide how such schemes are to work”
A lot has happened since we launched our petition in June but not the fact that the Government persists in ignoring all their commitments to devolve power back down to local communities by forcing HS2 through come what may.
The personal commitment by David Cameron to allow a bill to be tabled and debated following a 100,000 signatures on a petition is something STOPHS2 intends to force the Right Honourable Mr Cameron to indeed honour.