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Million-busting road pricing petition draws UK.gov shrug

Debate is good, dribbles transport secretary

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Updated Tony Blair's latest online inclusion experiment may be in the process of backfiring*, with more than one million people signing onto his nascent petitions website to protest against the mooted introduction of road pricing.

At time of writing a petition, entitled "Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy", had garnered support from 1.15 million punters. It closes next Tuesday.

The campaign aims to scupper moves to install tracking devices in all road vehicles and price use of the national road network by the mile. It was initiated by Shropshireman Peter Roberts who believes the scheme would introduce an unfair barrier to transport to the less well-off and infringe civil liberties.

A Register reader wrote: "I, for one, would like to see this petition spectacularly crash the server and thereby get some additional publicity!" He might feel that way, but we couldn't possibly comment. We do note, however, that the petitions website was behaving in a somewhat wobbly manner today.

The BBC hauled transport secretary Douglas Alexander out of bed early for this morning's Today to non-respond to the upwelling of opposition to the road pricing scheme, which was proposed by his predecessor Alistair Darling in 2005. He said: "Ultimately, it will be a matter for parliament to make decisions but it is important that people have the chance to have their say and no doubt people will offer a range of opinions during that debate."

Alexander further summed up democracy with the Plato-esque dictum that it is important to "deliberate, discuss" and then take a decision.

The BBC is reporting the secretary's comments as a pledge for a debate in response to the petition. The vapid "pledge" will unlikely put campaigners' minds at ease, who are aware of that no legislation reaches statute without a some sort - however pointless - of debate.

Tellingly meanwhile, a Number 10 spokesman said: "Debate in itself does not produce policy". ®

*Update

Oh dear. Make that has backfired. The Evening Standard reports "senior government ministers" spitting that the communications whelp who came up with the idea was a "prat", and had caused a PR disaster.

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