Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:39 UK


The right of any UK citizen to petition Parliament is an ancient tradition of great constitutional importance.

A to Z: Petitions

In recent years, members of the public have also been able to petition the devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the European Parliament, whenever it would be more appropriate to do so.

The Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales have established Petition Committees to scrutinise submissions and decide whether action should be taken as a consequence.

In Westminster, only MPs may actually present petitions to the House.

Generally members will present all petitions drawn up by their constituents, even if they are personally not in agreement with the petition.

Petitions are normally presented on a Friday at the start of business after prayers and the member presenting it will generally take the chance to say a few words in support of his or her constituent's claim.

On other sitting days petitions are presented before the adjournment debate. This late evening slot is not so popular with publicity-seeking MPs.

Petitions must use a particular form of words and "respectful" language. The request, which is described as a "prayer", must be one which the House is able to grant.

When petitions are submitted to Parliament, they must be placed in the petition bag.

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