A North West MEP has signed a controversial petition calling for MPs to reinstate the death penalty.

A new online petitions scheme has been launched which could see the most popular appeals discussed in Parliament.

Hundreds of petitions have been submitted so far on subjects from setting up an English Parliament to ensuring Formula One remains free-to-air.

Among the most prominent is one calling for legislation allowing child killers and those who murder on-duty police officers to face execution.

But a rival petition, for the ban on the death penalty to be retained, has received more than twice as many signatures so far.

If any petition is signed by 100,000 supporters or more, the cross-party Backbench Business Committee will decide whether it will be debated in Parliament.

Paul Nuttall, UKIP Euro-MP for the North West, has backed the petition in favour of the reintroduction of capital punishment.

He said: “I am in favour of restoring the death penalty for child and serial killers.

“I think capital punishment is needed for such heinous crimes and I know that many other people feel the same.

“Child and serial killers are never safe to be released back into society and quite frankly keeping them behind bars till they die is a waste of taxpayers money.

"They forfeit any rights when they murder innocents,” said Mr Nuttall, whose constituency covers Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside.

Any petition deemed to be libellous, offensive, duplicates existing open petitions or is not related to government will be rejected.

Moderators will also block any that concern honours and appointments.

The site appeared to be struggling to cope with the level of interest, as would-be petition-signers were repeatedly confronted by error messages.

A spokesman for DirectGov acknowledged that many users had experienced difficulties getting on to the e-petitions site and apologised for the inconvenience caused.

"We apologise for any inconvenience experienced as people try to access e-Petitions - this is a result of greater-than-expected demand," said the spokesman.

"We are getting 1,000 unique visits a minute - this is equivalent to nearly 1.5 million visits a day and is far more then the old e-Petitions site at Number 10 ever received.

"The main DirectGov site is unaffected and running normally."