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Brown calls for e-petitions to get debated in Parliament

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Gordon Brown has thrown caution to the web, and called for a new e-petitions system which would force Parliament to debate issues popular with internet users.

Buried in a wide-ranging parliamentary statement on constitutional reform yesterday, he said: "I also encourage this House to agree a new process for ensuring consideration of petitions from members of the public."

In a later briefing with journalists, the Prime Minister's spokesman explained that a consultation would be held on setting the threshold figure at which a parliamentary debate would be triggered by petitions.

As evidence for the consultation, we'd submit the fact that according to the 2001 census, 390,000 Britons claim to belong to the Jedi religion. Perhaps quite a high threshold would be best, then.

The Conservatives called for such an automated blog switch to be built into the machine of power during Blair's lame duck weeks in June, and at the height of a battle between the parties to out-web each other.

The toothless Downing Street e-petitions site, which is still in testing, embarrassed Blair over road pricing. More than 1.7 million Britons signed an e-petition against pay-as-you-drive proposals, but the outcry ellicited nothing but platitudes, and the scheme looks set to go ahead.

The site continues to attract criticism as another government spin shop. An e-petition has been set up to demand e-petitions are scrapped.

E-petitions have provided one boon for New Labour's webtastic ambitions - Downing Street announced yesterday that the farrago over road pricing had near-quadrupled its traffic in February. ®

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