A new government website is to be launched to replace the defunct Downing Street online petition page that will give the public a “megaphone” to make themselves heard, it has been announced.
House of Commons leader Sir George Young said any eligible petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures will be considered for debate in Parliament.
The new public e-petitions site, launched today, is aimed at “building confidence” in MPs’ work and Parliament.
It will be up to the Commons backbench business committee, which has the power to propose debated on non-government matters, to assess all petitions that qualify.
They will then decide whether they should be given time from the 35 days it is allocated each session for non-governmental business.
The previous e-petition site was suspended ahead of the 2010 general election and then shelved by the incoming coalition government.
The former scheme collapsed as most petitions seemed to be either jokes or represented niche interests.
It will now operate under the DirectGov portal rather than be linked to Downing Street and be moderated by government departments, with oversight from the Office of the Leader of the Commons.
Sir George said it was a ”step towards a more accessible and transparent” Parliament.
He added: “In recent weeks, Parliament has been at the centre of public interest, by leading the debate on phone hacking allegations.
“But this shouldn’t mean that Parliament becomes complacent. There’s much more that we can do to build confidence in the work of the House of Commons and we should continue to find new ways of encouraging people to engage.
“The public already have many opportunities to make their voices heard in Parliament, and this new system of e-petitions could give them a megaphone.
“Of course, parliamentary time is not unlimited and we want the best e-petitions to be given airtime – so we will monitor the site closely over the coming months to assess whether the 100,000 figure is an appropriate target.”
Petitions were first introduced to the Downing Street website by Tony Blair in November 2006, but none led to new legislation being passed.
In 2008, a Jeremy Clarkson for prime minister petition was backed by almost 50,000 people.
And the most popular ever, attracting nearly 2 million signatures, called on the Labour government to drop plans to implement road pricing.
The website can be found at www.direct.gov.uk/e-petitions
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