This Commons Library Briefing Paper gives an overview of public engagement activities undertaken by the UK Parliament and their reach.Jump to full report >>
In response to concerns about political disengagement in society, the UK Parliament has developed strategies to engage the public with its work and processes. This Briefing Paper provides an outline of public engagement activities in Parliament and discusses statistical information about numbers of participants and satisfaction with the activities.
Greater understanding of Parliament is generally seen as a precondition to greater engagement with it, and engagement activities often aim to provide clear and accessible information about what Parliament is, how it works and what it does. The website is a key platform for information provision and there has been an upward trend in the number of visitors since July 2010. The most visited page after the homepage is the page giving information about MP’s offices (including contact information). The website also hosts dedicated resources explaining different aspects of Parliament (for example, approximately 51,000 episodes of the Parliament explained podcast have been downloaded); and analysis to inform parliamentary and public debate. The resources available online are promoted through Parliament’s social media presence; as at 12 July 2017, the @UKParliament Twitter account had 1.28 million followers. Information is also provided directly in response to questions from the public, and to the media.
Parliament also organises outreach activities across the country for a variety of audiences. In 2016, just over 46,000 people attended these events. This includes workshops explaining the role of Parliament as well as more specific seminars, for example on how to submit evidence to a select committee. In addition, almost 3,000 school groups from across the UK visited Parliament in 2016/17 and about 550 students studied the Parliamentary Studies module offered jointly with 20 universities. In 2015/16, about 211,000 people visited Parliament through their MP or a peer, or to watch proceedings in the House of Commons; a further 223,000 paid to do a tour of the building.
Opportunities to take part in democratic processes directly are also provided by Parliament. For example, select committees engage with members of the public through special outreach events organised across the UK, and by offering online opportunities to share views with committee members. Through Twitter and Facebook (and other online forums), members of the public can share their views with MPs sponsoring debates in the Chamber; the debate on baby loss on 13 October 2016 reached more than 16 million Twitter accounts. Members of the public can also start or sign e-petitions, which receive a Government response and are eligible for debate in Parliament if they meet certain thresholds. In the 2015 Parliament, e-petitions were signed almost 32 million times.
Commons Briefing papers CBP-8158
Author: Elise Uberoi