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Today marks the start of a 12-month experiment in which proceedings from both houses of Parliament, plus some Select Committees, will be broadcast live over the Web.

Parliamentlive.tv can be viewed by people using a standard dial-up modem, the government says.

The site offers four channels, viewable through Windows Media and Real Player, and is designed to support up to one million concurrent connections.

The Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin MP, said he hoped that many people would tune in to the new service.

"Modern technology is being harnessed to make Parliament more accessible and better understood by people who may not have the opportunity to visit Westminster."

Lord Tordoff, Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords, added: "This is a major development. For the first time it gives people outside Westminster the chance to see and hear the House of Lords live and uninterrupted - not only debates in the Chamber, but some of the important work done by our committees.

"Webcasting will make a big difference in promoting public understanding of our work," he said.

Although the site has been created to handle a million visitors at one time, there are fears that if it proves too popular it could suffer the same fate as the 1901 Census site run by the Government's Public Records Office (PRO).

This shut down last week for urgent repairs as it was unable to cope with demand. ®

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