Page last updated at 12:40 GMT, Tuesday, 22 July 2008 13:40 UK

E-petitions planned for Commons

Jamie Oliver delivers a petition to 10 Downing Street
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver delivers an old fashioned petition to Downing St

People will be able to petition MPs online under new government plans.

Commons leader Harriet Harman said MPs will be asked to give the go-ahead in the autumn to an e-petition system.

She said petitions "would be subject to checks and filters", with an MP - normally the petitioners' local one - acting as facilitator for each one.

Ministers would be expected to reply to most of them, while some would be picked for debate by MPs in Westminster Hall or for select committee scrutiny.

Ms Harman's written Commons statement came in response to recommendations from MPs on the Commons Procedure Committee.

She said ministers agreed with the committee's "basic approach", including the idea that e-petitions be submitted via the Parliament website to a petitions office.

Ms Harman said: "The government hopes that the House will endorse this way forward, allowing it to take a significant step forward in helping to promote better engagement with the public."

More than 29,000 e-petitions, on subjects ranging from road-pricing to new bank holidays, have been posted on the 10 Downing Street website since it launched its own service in 2006, attracting over 5.8 million signatures - a volume not seen by Parliament for more than a century.

The new system will "take time" to put in place because MPs will not get a chance to give the go-ahead in principle until the autumn, then details would have to be worked out and a suitable IT system established.

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