David Cameron thinks that if enough people sign an online petition, an issue should be debated by parliament. From the BBC:
Online petitions could be used to decide the subject of debates and votes in Parliament under a Tory government. Tory leader David Cameron said this would show the public “what their elected representatives actually think about the issues that matter to them”.
Earlier this year more than 1.7m people signed an anti-road pricing petition on the Downing Street website. But unlike the Tory democracy taskforce suggestion, the Number 10 petitions do not have any link to Commons debates.
I agree with this, but it doesn’t go far enough. A large enough petition should trigger a referendum on any issue. How large is large enough? Hard to say, but 5% of the electorate seems a reasonable figure. And the same policy should hold at all levels of elected bodies, not just the Westminster parliament.
For example, some local councils have recently been collecting household rubbish fortnightly instead of weekly, and some people don’t like this. Local councils are supposed to be democratic and to respond to what the people want, so if they are doing something that the majority don’t want, there would appear to be a breakdown in democratic accountability. One solution would be for people to make sure the vote for councillors who favour weekly rubbish collections, however there aren’t be council elections every year, and in any case there are lots of other issues that determine who to vote for. But local referenda would solve the problem of democratic deficit in local councils.