Feeds

MPs now free to surf and tweet

Warned not to take debate from the Chamber to the interwebs

Intelligent flash storage arrays

MPs appeared last week to have overtaken the somewhat more cautious House of Lords, with the publication of new guidelines allowing MPs to tweet – and surf – during debates in the Commons, so long as they do it tastefully, and don't take up too much room.

This was the conclusion of the Third Report of the Procedure Committee, which had been asked to review the rules for what electronic devices MPs might be allowed to access in the Chamber in the course of a debate. The current rules, approved in October 2007, allow for the use of mobile phones and other hand-held devices "to keep up to date with emails ... provided that it causes no disturbance".

However, the Speaker has previously made it clear that it was unacceptable for a Member to be prompted by information on the screen in the course of a speech – or for a device to be used as a prompt by any Member participating in proceedings.

This was re-inforced by Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle in January of this year, who was reported by the Telegraph as appearing to rule against the use of Twitter after Labour MP Kevin Brennan complained that Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert appeared to be tweeting adverse comments about Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, instead of making his comments openly in the Chamber.

However, this appears to have been mostly a storm in a teacup, as Hoyle later explained his comments were intended to be "tongue in cheek".

The committee clarification means that smartphones and iPads will definitely be allowed into the chamber of the House of Commons – but not laptops or any devices much larger than a single sheet of A4, as these were felt likely to take up too much space in a chamber notoriously lacking in seating room.

Earlier this month, the Lords too objected to laptops but, having more elbow room in which to debate matters of state, expressed themselves more concerned with issues of noise.

Where the Commons appears to differ is in its willingness to allow MPs to tweet in future during debates or even to catch up on their emails during less riveting performances by fellow members.

This sparked various fears by critics of the new move. Conservative MP James Gray voted against the report, worrying that the proposed rules could lead to a "worrying change in the atmosphere" in Parliament. He said there was a danger that debates could look increasingly "unattractive" to members of the public, while some members might not listen quite as attentively as they should to complex points made in debate.

Even committee chair, Greg Knight, who commended this report to the House, expressed a concern that MPs "tweeting about their holidays ... whilst a minister was announcing deaths in Afghanistan" could lead to embarrassment. On balance, however, he felt that the House of Commons needed to move with the times and, since the technology was now available, it could not be ignored.

Other critics expressed concerns that some members would take to debating issues online at the same time as they were being debated in the House, leading to parallel debates taking place: one in the chamber and another taking place via Twitter and even in internet forums.

In addition, the committee itself expressed concerns that members attending to Twitter in the course of the debate could be subject to lobbyists attempting to influence the outcome of key votes.

According to the report, some 225 MPs currently tweet. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.