MPs demand wireless internet

Tories take latté faire approach

MPs have called for new wireless internet technology to be installed in the House of Commons in a critical report from the cross-party administration committee.

The report looked at facilities provided for new MPs entering Parliament following last year’s General Election.

It found that "IT-literate" members who were not immediately provided with an office in the Commons were unable to access ICT services because of a lack of suitable technology.

The committee report noted that, although all new MPs are provided with a laptop computer set up to access the Common’s central network, the lack of wireless or Bluetooth technology meant members without an office found accessing the central network difficult.

One new MP, Adam Afriyie, complained to the committee that, although he uses wireless technology all around the country, he is unable to do so in the Commons and has to rely on the services provided by a nearby café.

He told the inquiry: "I can work anywhere in the country - in coffee shops, in any building, most Conservative associations - if there is a coffee shop next door with a wireless LAN. The only place I was unable to work is here [House of Commons]... I used to spend afternoons sitting on the steps outside Portcullis House so that I could get a signal from what I think is Caffé Nero next door."

Another MP, Grant Shapps, said of Westminster’s IT system: "I struggle with it to this day. I do not want to use the House of Commons system because I find it restrictive. I do not like being straitjacketed into its email system, which, until this week, had a ridiculously small storage space."

The committee concluded: "The IT infrastructure and equipment currently provided on the Parliamentary Estate are simply not suited to a mobile member without an office. For many members, adequate wireless internet access would have made working without an office much more manageable."

It recommended that the administration of the Commons should install wireless internet access in those parts of the Commons most used by members without an office – the atrium of Portcullis House, the library and the new members’ temporary accommodation area.

View the report from the House of Commons' administration committee here (PDF: 1.53MB)

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