Feeds

MPs now free to surf and tweet

Warned not to take debate from the Chamber to the interwebs

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

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. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Uber, Lyft and cutting corners: The true face of the Sharing Economy
Casual labour and tired ideas = not really web-tastic
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
Apple tried to get a ban on Galaxy, judge said: NO, NO, NO
Judge Koh refuses Samsung ban for the third time
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.