Thousands have their say on coalition policy programme

Cabinet office

A Government initiative to gauge public opinion on key policy matters has proved highly successful, with more than 6,500 people commenting on the coalition Government's policy programme on the Cabinet Office website.

The new regime's 34-page policy document was launched three weeks ago, providing a detailed insight on the policies and initiatives hammered out by the Lib Dems and Conservatives.

Since then, the Government has been inviting comments on the policy areas covered, and by the deadline last night, the public had responded in their thousands, with 100,000 having downloaded the document since its launch.

Of the 6,500 comments, energy and climate change was the most popular area with 709 comments unsurprising given the ongoing oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. Deficit reduction was another favourite, attracting 538 comments.

With the consultation period now closed, the comments will now be split into their respective topic areas and distributed to the relevant department for response.

"The government is seriously committed to meaningful engagement and collaboration with the public in the online space," A Cabinet Office spokeswoman told the BBC.

"We have already announced a major public engagement exercise over the summer to help shape the forthcoming spending review. Departments will shortly publish their structural reform plans. Members of the public and interested parties will be given an opportunity to feedback on these plans and hold the government to account over its programme."

Comments take a wide range of forms, covering everything from policy suggestions and new ideas to personal reflections and criticisms. Among the policy suggestions made include a call for the police retirement age to be raised from 60, the prison diet to be made more nutritious and a return of the "Drunk Tanks", which saw the drunken and disorderly on the street taken to a warehouse until the next day to cool off.

The Government says it will respond to comments in a variety of ways depending on circumstances: for example, a number of senior ministers will be tackling some of the bigger issues in a webcast over the next few weeks.

The policy programme was hailed by Prime Minister David Cameron as a five-year plan for a "radical, reforming" Government.