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MP ejected for picture-phone abuse

Picture messaging reaches the mother of all parliaments

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Marketing droids concerned to see mobile picture messaging coming into more serious business use would have been delighted to see it employed in the House of Commons yesterday. At least they would have been if the Member of Parliament concerned hadn't been ejected from the chamber.

Normal business was interrupted when Henry Bellingham, Conservative MP for North West Norfolk, was spotted using a phone including a camera, and disciplined by being ejected from the chamber. A Commons clerk accused him of using a camera, and the Speaker, Michael Martin, ejected him.

The crime was apparently using a mobile phone at all, as modern technology is frowned on in the debating chambers of the Houses of Parliament - as a distraction from business (one MP recently admitted smuggling a portable radio concealed in her bra). Bellingham told the BBC's Today programme that he was "only fiddling around".

Outside the chamber, most MPs are not scared of technology. The parliamentary record Hansard reported last year that 101 up-to-date mobile phones were stolen in the house over four years, an indication that many MPs are packing the latest models.

Bellingham's family has a history of more serious breaches of Parliamentary discipline. In 1812, one of his ancestors, failed businessman John Bellingham, shot the prime minister Spencer Perceval in the lobby. Perceval, the only British Prime Minister ever to be assassinated, was known for his repression of the Luddites, so maybe his descendant was following in his footsteps to some extent. ®

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