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E-petitions could be debated in the Commons

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The public could soon be setting the agenda for debates in the Commons after proposals on e-petitioning won government support.

The government has accepted the key recommendations in a report delivered by the Commons Procedure Select Committee in May 2007 on public petitions.

Although all petitions will still have to be sponsored and presented to Parliament by an MP, the proposals aim to make petitioning in the House of Commons more transparent.

In its report the committee said it was examining the implications of introducing e-petitioning and expected to propose a "worked up and practicable system to the House in due course". The system would ensure that e-petitions would be open for the the public to sign for a certain period before formal presentation. Once presented, they would also have the same status as written petitions.

In welcoming the proposals, the government said the recommendations would: ensure that it replies to all substantive petitions; see petitions and their replies published in Hansard and be accessible on the Commons website; and encourage debates to be held on petitions of particular importance.

Chair of the Procedure Committee, Greg Knight MP, said: "The recommendations which the government has accepted will make petitioning the House of Commons more transparent and productive, in particular, by requiring the government to respond to the issues and concerns raised by petitioners.

"I also welcome the government's support for our work on e-petitions. A successful e-petitioning system could play an important part in revitalising the relationship between Parliament and people."

According to the government, the system will "enable the House to build on the pathfinding work in this area by the No. 10 Downing Street website". Earlier this year, the Downing Street system facility enabled more than 1.7 million people to sign an e-petition against road pricing.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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