UK Invites Online Comments On New Bill

LONDON (AP) - Britain's government is asking the public to play a role in lawmaking by posting online comments on a new piece of legislation.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday that the new initiative to open up the parliamentary process to the wider public should yield better laws.

Legislation will benefit from the greater scrutiny and debate spurred by the public's views, since under the current system "a tiny percentage of the population write legislation that will apply to 100 percent of the population," Cameron said in a statement.

"This makes our laws poorer because it shuts out countless people across the country whose expertise could help," he said. "It increases the sense that Parliament is somehow separate from the people rather than subservient to them."

The public can now comment on each clause of the Protection of Freedoms bill as part of a pilot program aimed at increasing broader involvement in legislation by "putting people at the heart of the legislative process."

The bill - which proposes tightening laws on retaining DNA profiles, examining libel law reform and restoring rights to nonviolent protest - was published last week and is the first to be put online for detailed comment.

Once comments have been submitted during the "public reading stage," the committee scrutinizing the bill will debate the comments during the legislation's parliamentary passage.

The government said it wants ministers to use the public's views to inform their examination of the bill. It expects the majority of comments to come from U.K. residents but has no plans at this stage to impose restrictions on who can have a say.

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Online:

www.publicreadingstage.cabinetoffice.gov.uk