I’m sure for many of you this might seem quite obvious, but here’s some FAQs which have cropped up about our petition that we’ve cleared up with the HoC Petitions Office. I’ll update as and when new issues emerge, and email us if you have any further queries:
1) What should I put in the ’address’ section? This can be any postable address, so your home address, your university address (if you’re a student) or even your work address. It doesn’t mean an email address (… SOMEONE seems to think it did!) and it is compulsory. It has to be a postable UK address and they’d prefer a full address, but after a hectic and confusing day of phone calls with the Commons Petitions office and Clerk of Public Petitions, it turns out we only really need the post code. Please do provide other details if you can, but the post code is the only neccesary thing.
2) Do I have to be a UK Citizen to sign this? The text reads “a petition of citizens of the UK”, but E-Petitions are open to any UK residents. If you have a UK address, we welcome your signatures. Residents of other countries are sadly unable to sign, but we really appreciate your enthusiasm all the same.
3) I’ve made a mistake – should I cross it off? This is the weird one. The petitions office for some reason has a major issue with crossed-off or scribbled out words or text, which they claim could invalidate an entire sheet. If someone makes a mistake it’s best to leave the mistake there and have them re-write everything and sign again. However, they are in practice more lenient than they say on the website, so if you’ve already crossed off a mistake and added maybe 8-10 signatures below it, don’t worry.
4) Will you post things to our address? We promise not to use the address you’ve provided for any purposes at all, nor share it with anyone else. All we’ll do is send the completed sheets to Diana Johnson’s office, where they’ll remain until she submits to Parliament. Some political campaigns, I’m aware, like to go down the route of using people’s details to forward them more information. We feel this is completely counter-productive to the cause.
5) Is the return address freepost? Our address isn’t freepost (we tried to do go down this route and use Diana’s office as a freepost address, but sadly this wasn’t allowed). Any completed sheets will have to be sent, with a stamp, to our return address, though of course there’s no need for a 1st class stamp.
6) I disagree with the wording of the petition – can I change it? Pretty obvious, really, but any amendments to the text itself are impossible. If you don’t agree with the precise wording (I know some of you might have problems with the apparent aims towards “control” but it’s more subtle and ingenous than you might first think…) don’t hesitate to email us and I’ll be happy to have a chat.
However, please do bear in mind that this petition, once submitted, will not be converted into a Parliamentary Bill and so the actual wording isn’t too important. The aim is to raise the profile of the issue of conversion in Parliament, where it’s virtually never discussed, and in any event we’re hoping to supplement this with an Early Day Motion which will go into more detail about precisely how we want to change things.
7) Can I sign this petition digitally, say with a typed-up address and signature? This is a good question, but unfortunately the answer is no. We need hand-written signatures. You can see our reasons for a paper petition elsewhere on this site, but suffice it to say that a huge batch of written signatures will have a bigger impact than a more abstract online one, which is unlikely to get the magic 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a debate.
8) All signatures must be on a sheet containing the petition text itself: A signature is only valid if it appears on the same page of the text of the petition (the “to the house of commons, we believe etc. etc.” bit). Technically a double-sided petition sheet, with the petition text on one side, is valid, but it’s best to probably just print off the sheets we’ve provided and not try to alter anything . I’m just warning people not to try anything like devising makeshift tables on blank sheets of paper to accompany sheets with the petition text. Unless there’s our full text on the sheet, there’s no way of proving the list of names you’ve gathered are in any way connected with the petition.
9) Can I sign the petition more than once? Err… not really, no. If you have already, though, don’t worry. At worst this will only invalidate that signature, not the whole sheet. I do commend your enthusiasm, though.