A freedom of information request by the Morning Star has revealed that 1,869 government e-petitions have not been published. Stop the War’s petition against sending Nato troops to Ukraine was withheld for 3 weeks until journalists phoned the MoD.
David Cameron’s claim to lead the most open government ever has collapsed as the Morning Star reveals that over 1,800 official government e-petitions have been shut down.
The government established an official petitions website in July 2011 in an attempt to prove its commitment to improving Britain’s democracy.
Then leader of the House of Commons Sir George Young said it was “an important way of building a bridge between people and Parliament.”
But documents released after a freedom of information request by the Morning Star reveal that 1,869 e-petitions have been spiked since the site was set up.
The revelations come amid growing concerns that the government is censoring petitions that are politically inconvenient for the coalition.
The website states that “an e-petition may freely disagree with the government or call for changes of policy.”
But Stop the War warns that the government had tried to ban its petition against Nato troops being sent to Ukraine.
The campaign revealed last Thursday that a petition submitted to the government’s website on May 7 with the support of two MPs had been held back by the Ministry of Defence for weeks.
Convener Lindsey German said: “The government is censoring its own platform for public opposition because it is scared of public opinion.”
“As soon as journalists began phoning the Ministry of Defence the government backed down and published the petition,” a Stop the War spokesman said.
More than 4,000 people have since backed the campaign’s call to keep Nato forces out of Ukraine.
The Star also revealed in April how 61 official e-petitions calling for Maria Miller to resign as Culture Secretary were shut down before they could attract any signatures.
Labour MP Ian Mearns labelled the blanket ban an attack on “democracy and openness.”
He sits on the backbench business committee that can choose petitions that attract 100,000 signatures for debate in Parliament.
A similar petition on an unofficial site calling for Ms Miller to go gained far more than the 100,000 limit.
A note beneath that petition explained it was rejected because calling for Ms Miller to resign, which she subsequently did, was “outside the responsibility of government.”
Breaking confidentiality, libel or defamation law and the use of offensive language are other reasons e-petitions can be rejected