back to article Tories will let voters 'rewrite' legislation online

The Tories have pledged to open source legislation if they get into power, raising the promise of an even bigger cock-up than Number 10's woeful petitions website. The Guardian reports that shadow foreign secretary William Hague will unveil the plan, presumably at the Conservative Party Conference this week. Hague will unveil …


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  1. Dan 10
    Thumb Up


    Could be a good thing if done properly, although the number of misinformed, badly spelt rantings from idiots in response to legislative documentation could up the 'ignore' rating.

    At least it ought to prove that the (Tory, if they win) government WAS told about the monumental cock-up facing us all if they invite comments, then still go right ahead with abominably stupid laws as the current lot seem wanton to do.

  2. John Routledge


    "Crucially, this will come after the first reading in the Commons, the main hurdle that bills currently have to face"

    The first reading is where the title of the bill is read out in parliament - they don't actually debate anything until the second reading - so this will come before any hurdles at all.

  3. Richard IV

    Sweet mother of...

    Transparency, my arse!

    This will just end up providing lobbying organisations with another means of hiding their activities under the veil of "the public".

    I guess that I come under the Luddite banner in saying that we already have plenty of ways of asserting our views to be ignored. The main problem is, it seems to me, knowing what legislation is proposed in the first place. It doesn't matter how well the public consultation works if it's only a small cross section of the public that know about it...

  4. Anonymous Coward

    First Reading is a formality not a hurdle

    John Routledge is right.

    I can't emphasise enough how much of a formality first reading is.

    Loads of bills each year pass first reading and never make it any further.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Sounds promising to me. But of course the legislation should be presented in a form where one doesn't have to be a legal whiz or have a civil servant "explain it" to you. And it would be useful if they had a forum for public debate so all could benefit from the insights of others before officially putting their two pennyworth in. And of course, MPs would need to do more than just ignore the best supported opinions.

    The only problem is the old one of how (even with this type of input) an MP can truly represent their constituents and their party at the same time. (Not to mention any personal ambitions.)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's about time ...

    ... the people of the country were given some say in the so called democracy.

    There is nothing with this idea - they just have to be sure the site stays up.

  7. Tom 15


    I'm not a Tory but I've been after this sort of thing for a while. Actually give us a vote on the issue as well and make it legally binding and remove parliament and things will be a lot better (or possibly worse, but at least people can't blame others for their own cockups if they voted for them themselves!)

  8. Anonymous Coward


    During the first week, the proportion of publicly-proposed ammendments containing profanity, slander, libel and the casting of aspersions against politicians' pedigrees, will approasch 85%. Of the remainder, a similar percentage will be taken up by <strike>nuts</strike> those with "fringe views and interests2 - like those who want to ban abortion, or legalise it up to the age of 15...

    I predict epic fail.

  9. Hugh_Pym

    cynical... but true

    Of course it just another channel to be ignored. The party moguls are safe seaters, their only worry is deselection by the party not by their constituents.

    If they want people to get out and vote just put a 'none of the above' category on the voting slip.

  10. John Chadwick

    And exactly who...

    has time to read through government legislation and comment constructively on it, that don't already do it.

    We'll I'd go for special interest groups, who already distort legislation enough as it is. I can't see how this will really give any more power to the individual voter.

    How do you police it to ensure your comments are coming from UK citizens, and that the comments aren't being abused.

    Bice idea, but not really thought through, unless the Tories just want a way of saying, "don't blame us, it's what you wanted" . I always thought that we paid our politicians to lead, and take tough moral decisions.

  11. Bumpy Cat
    Thumb Up

    Worth a try

    I think this is worth a try, at least. The snide comment about voting based on a party's manifesto almost seems like trolling - after all, the manifesto is just there to fool voters into voting for that party. For heaven's sake, there was a court case about exactly that, or have you forgotten?

    And there will be a great deal of rubbish, stupid comments and fanatics suggesting ludicrous changes - but it's another means for people to monitor and influence their representative.

  12. shaunm
    Paris Hilton


    So much for not wasting money on useless IT. Isn't this very much like on-line petitions? A newer much faster way for our spoilt leaders to ignore their employers i.e. us, because we can't be trusted to make decisions. No matter what party we get stuck with.

    Paris, well you know..

  13. Aron

    This could work

    If all proposed legislation and bills were made available online with a comments section and voting then this is going to work, providing that people were first educated about what they were reading and voting is made compulsory. Editors and moderators would then check the comments and votes in order to amend bills accordingly until they served the population correctly.

    Of course, no aliases or anonymity would be allowed. Voters and commenters would have to provide their real identities. This also allows us to make sure our vote was registered correctly.

  14. Ben Tasker

    I love it!!!!

    So what'll we'll start to see is our laws being shaped by other countries, use a British proxy to fool any geolocation they care to put into place & try and subtly reword legislation.

    Other than that, interesting idea but sounds a little like it's pandering to the masses!

  15. Richard 12 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Finally a sane suggestion

    My own MP the veritable Stephen Pound appears to think that the hoi polloi should only be discussing the ramifications and pitfalls of proposed legislation after it's already been passed into law.

    At least, that's what the last email from him about ID cards appeared to say.

    So I'm all for getting them published before the vote - it would also make the various Politics shows much more interesting.

    Doing it after the first reading would be most amusing as well - it might make them take more time to draft the Acts properly in the first place. I can just imagine the Daily Wail articles after the first couple of badly-drafted items...

  16. Mark McC

    Who is going to have the time...

    to wade through reams of tedious legislation in order to suggest suitable commentary/amendments? Special interest groups and lobbyists for sure, but they're on the ground around Westminster doing this already. Other than that, I foresee the majority of comments being inane Youtube-style postings similar to that dreadful petitions site the current lot have set up.

    I've had a go at deciphering leglislation a few times and found I had neither the time nor the inclination to translate it into something I could readily digest. Thankfully, our democratic system allows us to elect people whose full-time job is to trawl through it, analyse it, and suggest sensible amendments that best serve the interest of the people. We even give them a decent wage, second-home allowances, staff expenses and numerous other incentives to make sure they make a proper job of it.

    So is this a move to open up the democratic process, or a tacit admission that our beloved leaders aren't quite up to the task of creating decent legislation on their own?

  17. The Original Ash
    Thumb Down

    How about something useful?

    Like proportional representation, like a real democracy.

  18. davenewman

    Already done in Ireland - it worked

    There is no need to speculate on what will happen - a number of other parliaments and assemblies have tried this. When an Irish Parliamentary committee wanted to find out what to put in the Broadcasting Bill, they got comments from 4 times as many people as normally lobby Ministers. See and the independent evaluation of their e-consultation.

    Westminster is just catching up with Ireland, Scotland, several German states, ...

  19. Graham Marsden


    ... what we'll get is yet more Tabloid Media inspired legislation as The Stun or the News of the Screws or whoever writes articles exhorting their readers to support their campaign to amend the legislation such that all paedophiles are publicly burned at the stake...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @Graham Marsden

    All paedophiles should be publicly burned at the stake!!

  21. Pete 2 Silver badge

    another token to be ignored

    When the govt won't even use the tools it currently possesses, such as referendums, what is the point in talking about other layers of "have your say"? Especially ones that would be limited to the select few people with internet connections and the free time and understanding to wade through the outpourings of our governmental system.

    Experience shows us that the one thing NO "democratic" government in Britain ever wants to do is reflect the will of the people. That's why we are governed, not represented. While it is possible for sufficiently rich and powerful people such as newspaper owners and party donors to twist policy around their little fingers, I cannot see any reason why a party in power would want to give away any of that power without getting soemthing back for themselves.

  22. Sabine Miehlbradt

    Sounds interesting

    Still I do not see the point yet.

    First it should be law that all members must read and understand any bill they vote on. If they don't, they aren't doing their job which they are so highly paid to do.

    Any member talking nonsense because they obviously did not understand what they voted on should be sacked with loss of privileges.

    I'm in a bit of a hurry now, but you get my drift. Discuss!

  23. Julian I-Do-Stuff

    And just how will this work...?

    This is appealing but non- [insert word 5 on line 1 of Comment 14 re "Comments on: MoD 'How to stop leaks' guide leaks"]

    Good idea in principle - perhaps - but it is likely to require that all referenced legislation is properly digitised and incorporated into the draft - but that would also be a Good Thing (god knows how they do it at present).

    With a bit of boolean logic and some structure behind it one might also get better drafted and more sensible legislation. This wingnut says it's the right way to go.. might take while though...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better Regulation Website

    A bit like this place here where you can rant away till your heart's content about any regulations you dislike or new ones you'd like to inflict on everyone else.

  25. John Sturdy
    Thumb Up

    A move in the right direction, in several ways

    It's about time something like this was at least tried. It needn't (and shouldn't) stand in isolation; people (any people, not just the government... in fact, preferably anyone except the government) could set up annotation sites to do the discussion, perhaps with automoderation (karma schemes etc) so you wouldn't have to wade through all comments if you didn't want to.

    And as for legislation being indecipherable: this could be the opportunity to push for comprehensible legislation.

    The next step would be for people to start standing as direct democracy party candidates, like Demoex and Aktivdemokrati (both in Sweden).

  26. John Dougald McCallum

    Public Commentards

    So now not only do we have to be able to decipher the true meaning of alot of the crap spewed out by "Our Political Maisters" but also the drivvel that the idiots that will be making sugestions to be taken as ammendments to legeslation that they in all probibility do not understand in the first place the first law that any party makes should be that all future legeslation should be in plain english

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Original Ash

    Proportional representation is the antipathy of democracy. It ties in a need for parties when an alleged representative of your local area can not serve two masters. Either they represent you, or they support their party. And if the party you voted for chooses the candidate who gets into parliament, then where is that candidate's allegiance ? Who do they really answer to ? Without accountability to the voter, where is the democracy ?

    And the other form of PR where you can transfer your vote is not a lot better. A left wing supporter is unlikely to transfer to a right wing candidate on the next round, so unless the area you live in is clear cut, you just give middle of the road candidates a major advantage.

    We need to get rid of parties and their whips, get the independent representatives of each area to sort out responsibilities between them, and genuinely work towards whatever their constituents truly want. Only when the masses decide do you have democracy.

  28. Richard Porter

    General election

    "...not least the fact that they can give the OK to parties' manifestos every five years or so in the general election"

    What rubbish! You can't have a say on any particular legislation except by lobbying your own MP. At a general election you can only choose between two or three similar packages containing things you like and things you don't. The winner then assumes it has a mandate for everything in the manifesto unless it changes its mind later.

  29. Mike Gravgaard

    Do we get to suggest policy or just comment on it?

    ..could be interesting imagine suggesting hunting MPs with wolves and then shooting them at point blank range... maybe not but could be interesting just for the comments alone...

    The problem with governments is they just mess the country up more than they started - look at the rail ways, the Tories privatized them and Labour messed around at the edges after the disasters.

    I think the only way we would ever get rid of the two party system is to vote in large numbers for either the Lib Dems or Greens as they would look closely at a prepositional representation system as it's in their interest to do.

    The another problem with prepositional representation is that we could vote in either the BNP or UKIP.

    I personally think this country has gone to the dogs and whom ever gets in, it's going to be like the 70's economics.


  30. RobS


    Dreadful Heinlein potboiler but this reminds me of the Californian democratic process from that novel. Masters degree anyone?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes but....

    The problem with on-line as many have pointed out, is that it's full of raving nutters (like me) posting garbage.

    It could be great if there were some kind of innovative online system with an inbuilt (crowdsourcing?) mechanism so the crap really does sink to the bottom and allow good ideas to see the light of day.

    I would suggest some kind of "individual reputation building" mechanism for posters - the trouble is that, as implemented on some forums, it's largely skewed by number of postings so I can become a five star expert simply by responding to every other posting with some inane comments. Those with voting systems are less than perfect too, I can be sufficiently persuasive and one-sided to get other idiots to support my "Daily Mail readers" world view and get positive votes for my inanities or maybe I can trigger the "John Sergeant" Strictly Come Dancing effect to my benefit.

    My own ideas in respect of legislation are:

    1. Always build in escape routes to allow (require?) application of common sense, there never was and never will be a foolproof catch-all piece of legislation, not even the ten commandments. The example I really loved was when David Blunkett was challenged to demonstrate that the drive to remove illegal immigrants was effective. He chose to highlight the case of a woman in her 50s, married to a Brit, lived here since a few months old, had british born kids, had worked and paid tax here all her life but when her parents brought her here from USA as a baby they failed to complete the formalities. When she finally applied for a passport she discovered she was an illegal immigrant. That was Blunkett trumpeted success at identifying and deporting illegals. (She got to within 24 hours of deportation before her own MPs intervention and press coverage eventually forced Govt to apply common sense).

    2. The language of the law has (largely) moved from Latin to English but such obscure English ordinary people and the police just don't understand it and even a simple law like "Do not kill" now takes an entire library of complications. The law might as well still be in Latin. Why not move to a structured formalised legislation-drafting language not unlike a computer programming language where at each decision point all possibilities should be handled but with error trapping for unanticipated conditions. All inputs validated, all outputs subject to bounds checks (as close as computers can get to common sense).

  32. The First Dave


    The trouble with things like this is there is no feedback loop: what is needed is direct budgetary control - then people can make their own decisions on how much money should go to education vs health, whether taxes should go up or services go down...

    Anyway, sounds like a good starting point, somewhere better than the zero consultation that we currently get.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Misrepresentation and foreign language.

    Interesting idea, given Parliament is NOT currently representative, especially with the EU T-Rex being allowed to prey on us; so bog off those who think a first-past-the-post vote for the current Political Class Hydra rabble is representation, ignorant cheeky F-wits!

    If they really do provide this, I'd like to see a Legalise/English cross-translator, with a contextual Glossary, so we can see what the Acts really say, in English, then be able to fire water-tight Legalise back at them, and watch them squirm :)

    e.g. Legalise "must" = English "may"

    This can make a hell of a difference, you'd be amazed how many loopholes stuff like this can open up!

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