Azara Blog: Tory government wants to waste even more money on petitions

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Date published: 2010/12/28

The BBC says:

A plan to allow popular online petitions to be debated in Parliament within a year has been given the go-ahead by the government.

Ministers will seek agreement with the authorities, including the House of Commons Procedure Committee, to give the petitions parliamentary time.

Those receiving most support - probably 100,000 signatures - would be debated, with some possibly becoming bills.

But Labour said the plans would mean "crazy ideas" being discussed by MPs.

The government intends to shut down the e-petitions part of the Number 10 website, which has been suspended since the general election, and open a similar facility on the Directgov website.

This would be more closely moderated, with petitions checked closely for "eligibility".
The government envisages using the private member's bill procedure, which would require an individual MP to support the measure and would be easy for other members to block.

The Tory government is almost laughably bad. They seem intent on aping the worst aspects of the previous Labour government. Even worse, they seem intent on smashing everything to do with the previous government, and then resuscitating it under another guise, wasting even more money in the process.

This petition idea really is crackers. 100k signatures might sound like a lot of people, but it is less than 0.2% of the population, and means nothing. It will be easy for Facebook campaigns, helped by accommodating media like the BBC, to get petitions going with that many signatures. And, even worse, it will just be another way for well-funded middle class special interest pressure groups (like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the RSPB, etc.) to hijack the democratic process (as already happens with "public consultations" on many issues).

And the private member's bill procedure is an inane way of bringing such petitions to Parliament. Private member's bills are for MPs with a particular interest in something, and they hardly ever become law. If the government really thinks that petitions should be heard in Parliament, then they should provide government time to do so. Using the private member's bill procedure just indicates that the government wants to pretend to be interested in these petitions, without having to take any risk that they might become law.

Yes, this is totally consistent with the Blair / Brown level of political cynicism. Welcome to the Cameron / Osborne government. Hopefully some intentionally idiotic petition will be the first one to pass the 100k hurdle, in order to humiliate the government for wasting money on such cynicism.

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