It’s about to get a lot harder for members of the public to petition the Senedd to debate popular issues after the Senedd petitions committee raised the threshold for debate to 10,000 signatures.
The move comes after what the Senedd petitions committee has called a “a significant increase in the number of petitions”, and limited opportunities for debate.
Under previous rules, petitions with more than 5,000 signatures are considered for debate. The rules changed on December 1, 2020.
At the moment, petitions with more than 50 signatures are discussed by the dedicated Senate Petitions Committee, but only those with the larger number of signatures are considered for debate.
The Senedd petitions website grew in prominence during recent Coronavirus restrictions after a petition that sought to allow supermarkets to sell non-essential items was signed by more than 65,000 people.
The issue was considered and later debated by the Senedd. But, despite being the largest petition the website has seen, the rules were not reversed.
The committee was set up in 2016, and its purpose is to “enable the public to highlight issues and directly influence the work of the Senedd.”
Petitions can be submitted through a dedicated website, though issues that the public are petitioning must fall under the competence of the Welsh Government; not all issues, of course, are devolved.
A similar system is in place to highlight issues to the UK Government. A higher threshold of 100,000 signatures is required for a debate in the House of Commons, however.
At the time of writing, the most signed petition is one calling for an end to child poverty. More than 1.1 million people have signed the petition so far, and although the government has responded, it has not yet been given a date for debate.
By comparison, the petition with the most signatures on the Senedd’s equivalent website has just 8,400 signatures, with members of the public seeking to protect Kenfig Nature Reserve
A spokesperson told the BBC that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic “has resulted in an unprecedented increase in the number of petitions received, including those with more than 5,000 signatures.”
“This makes it difficult for the committee to fulfil the demand for debates and it has therefore decided to increase the threshold above which it will consider referring petitions for a debate to 10,000 signatures for all petitions closing after 1 December 2020.”
At the time of writing, none of the active petitions on the website have enough signatures under the new rules to be considered for debate.twitter Follow @gairrhyddpol for all of the latest updates from the world of politics. Politics Morgan Perry