26 June 2016
The House of Commons petitions committee is investigating allegations of fraud in connection with a petition calling for a second EU referendum.
Its inquiry is focused on the possibility that some names could be fraudulent – 77,000 signatures have already been removed.
More than 3.2 million signatures are on the petition, but PM David Cameron has said there will be no second vote.
The UK voted by 52% to 48% to leave the EU in Thursday’s referendum.
Helen Jones, who chairs the cross-party petitions committee, said in a statement posted on Twitter that it was taking the allegations “very seriously”.
‘A range of views’
“People adding fraudulent signatures to this petition should know that they undermine the cause they pretend to support,” she said.
The committee will consider the petition at its meeting next week and decide whether to schedule a debate on it, Ms Jones said.
“That doesn’t mean that the committee will be deciding whether or not it agrees with the petition – just whether or not it should be debated.
“Any debate would allow a range of views to be expressed.”
A number of people on Twitter have pointed out that some people appear to have signed the petition from outside the UK.
Only British citizens or UK residents are permitted to sign the petition, including Britons based abroad.
The House of Commons petitions committee said it will continue to monitor the petition for “suspicious activity”.
The petition has more signatures than any other on the parliamentary website.
A House of Commons spokeswoman said the petition was created on 24 May. There were 22 signatures on it at the time the referendum result was announced.
The petition’s website states it was set up by an individual called William Oliver Healey, and says: “We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the Remain or Leave vote is less than 60%, based [on] a turnout less than 75%, there should be another referendum.”
Thursday saw a 72.2% turnout, significantly higher than the 66.1% turnout at last year’s general election, but below the 75% mark suggested by Mr Healey as a threshold.
In a statement posted on Facebook, a campaigner for the English Democrats party identifying himself as Oliver Healey says he started the petition “when it was looking unlikely that ‘leave’ were going to win, with the intention of making it harder for ‘remain’ to further shackle us to the EU”.
He says the petition has since been “hijacked by the remain campaign”.
BBC political correspondent Iain Watson says the petition has attracted a lot of attention but has no chance of being enacted, because it is asking for retrospective legislation.
Our correspondent says some referendums do have thresholds but those clauses must be inserted in legislation before the vote so everyone is clear about the rules.
You cannot simply invent new hurdles if you are on the losing side, our correspondent says.
Mr Cameron said on Friday he would stand down as prime minister by October following the leave result.
Update 21:15 26 Jun 2016
3M+ ‘Remain’ Petition Uses ‘Script’ To ‘Fake’ Signatures: 25,000 From North Korea, 2,800 From Uninhabitable Antarctic
Questions are being raised as to the true number of UK citizens signing a petition to urge another European Union membership referendum as evidence emerged that activists are encouraging foreign signatories. Some critics claim that a “bot” or “script” is being used to automatically generate names and signatories.
As of early Sunday afternoon, over 3.1 million signatures had been registered on the petition named: “EU Referendum Rules triggering a 2nd EU Referendum” which calls for the “Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum.”
But an analysis of the data on the petition shows that at least 6 per cent of the signatories, or nearly 200,000 are from foreign countries. While foreign-based UK nationals are allowed to sign UK petitions, some believe that many of these are fraudulent given that Remain activists are handing out post codes online in order to elicit more signatures from abroad.
— Raheem Kassam (@RaheemKassam) June 25, 2016
And some believe that a “script” or a “bot” is being used to automatically generate signatures for the petition. Twitter users are pointing to this PasteBin link which they claim is a script to automate sign ups. Breitbart London has been unable to verify such claims, but the rate at which signatures are being added to the petition may suggest at least some level of automation.
So people can use a script to sign the 2nd EU referendum petition here you go, not a chance it will ever pass pic.twitter.com/KNyoYS5qaQ
— Matty (@88MHILL) June 26, 2016
As of Sunday afternoon, around 41,118 signatories have come from Vatican City, 11,717 from the United States, and curiously, 24,855 from North Korea.
At least 19,000 signatures have come from France, and 2,735 from British Antarctic Territory, which has a population of just 250 people.
And even UK-based signatories are raising questions, with the petition attracting a curiously high number of signatures from constituencies with small populations.
Turnout in the 2015 General Election was 36,185 in the Cities of London and Westminster constituency. Yet over 40,000 are claimed to have signed the Remain petition from that constituency in the past few days. That would mean that more than every single person that voted in 2015 has signed the petition, including all voters from the UK Independence Party and the Conservative Party, the former of which is overwhelmingly Eurosceptic, and the latter of which is split in half over the issue.
The House of Commons petitions committee has today acknowledged that there may be fraudulent signatures on the petition, and has claimed that they will remove them.
We are investigating allegations of fraudulent use of the petitions site. Signatures found to be fraudulent will be removed.
— Petitions Committee (@HoCpetitions) June 26, 2016
The petition has been pointed to by Remain activists including Members of Parliament as a sign that UK voters did not want to leave the European Union and that another referendum must be held.
The same people have not yet commented on the allegedly fraudulent nature of many of the signatures.