A new study shows that the folks at Whitehall need to use the internet more, to help MPs better engage with the general public.

Carried out by the Hansard Society, the research suggests that the web could be used more effectively for things like online consultations and debates.

It says that, at present, the government is "stifling" online discussions that are critical of policy, and this is something that needs to change.

Aversion is biggest obstacle to success

The report states that: "There have been instances of Government departments whose reticence in the face of criticism has meant at best that deliberations peter out and at worst that they risk being hijacked; a vicious cycle emerges when Government departments disengage.

"Yet risk aversion on the part of Government departments remains the biggest obstacle to success."

To counteract this 'disengaging', Andy Williamson, the co-author of the report, believes that: "Online engagement presents exciting possibilities for citizens to talk to government. I hope this report will encourage good online practice and promote greater public participation in discussions of policy."