Political groups to target fresh e-petitions site

A new e-petitions site set up by the Government could be hijacked by lobbyists to get their own agenda into debating chambers, according to a leading Conservative.

Political groups to target fresh e-petitions site

The Government has launched a revamped e-petitions site on its DirectGov site, with the promise that any petitions that attract 100,000 or more signatures bill be “considered” for debate in the House of Commons.

But with social media, obtaining 100,000 followers could be easy for well-connected groups, leading to orchestrated campaigns.

“Should Conservative Home and other blogs be thinking of using this mechanism to get a subject debated by MPs?” asked Tim Montgomerie, editor of the the Conservatives Home website, in a blog post.

Parliamentary time is not unlimited and we want the best e-petitions to be given airtime – so we will monitor the site closely

“Guido Fawkes has already promised to launch a petition to get capital punishment for child and cop killers debated. I’d be surprised if the Express didn’t try and get its campaign to leave the EU into the Commons timetable.”

The petition site replaces a Downing Street public opinion site that the Government closed down last year, with officials saying that a framework for getting popular topics in front of MPs would make it more relevant, even if the threshold needed tweaking in future.

“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,” said Sir George Young, leader of the Commons.

“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.”

Although the site is only partially up and running, with no search facilities available, it is open for submissions with political site Guido Fawkes confirming it had already submitted a petition.

“We petition the government to review all treaties and international commitments which may inhibit the ability of Parliament to restore capital punishment,” the site said in its submission.

The site went on to say it would be launching a separate website to support the campaign, highlighting how political movements could direct people to the petitions site.

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