Following an interesting debate during which all shades of opinion were aired, the motion to allow hand-held electronic devices to be used in the Chamber of the House of Commons was approved by 206 votes to 63 votes.
I appreciate that some have genuine reservations about the move but in essence all that is happening is the formalisation of what has already been happening on a daily basis in the Chamber. Members regularly use tablet computers and smartphones to check emails and surf the internet. Many already update their blogs and tweet from the Chamber. It will all now be allowed without running the risk of breaking the rules of the House. I do expect that the requirement that all devices are used silently and with decorum is strictly enforced.
Today several months after the Procedure Committee (which I am a member of) completed its report the House of Commons will debate the Committee’s report and the recommendation that the current rule be relaxed.
The current rule dates back to 25th October 2007 which permits the use of mobile phones and other hand-held devices to keep up to date with emails provided that it causes no disturbance.
Since then technology has developed and there are now tablet computers and smartphones which simply did not exist back in 2007. It is a controversial subject. Personally I believe that we should allow the use of the new tablet computers I think it would be difficult if not impossible to enforce any restriction on what the computers could be used for. The Committee was agreed that the use of laptop computers would continue to be prohibited because of the lack of space in the chamber. As a matter of fact many people already use hand-held tablet computers and smartphones in the Chamber.
I try and spend as much time as I can in the Chamber but as with all Members there are so many demands on our time that it is difficult to spend more than a small proportion of the total time the House sits in the Chamber. My view is that Members may be able to spend more time in the Chamber if greater use of hand-held devices is permitted. One of the questions I am often asked is why are there are so few Members in the Chamber. the Answer is that there are so many demands on MP’s and as yet no one has been able to arrange for any Member to be in be in two places at the same time!
I will report the result of the debate in a later post.
In response to a comment on my previous post I thought it would be a good idea if I did a brief post explaining a term that is often mentioned in news bulletins about proceedings in parliament that term is ‘the payroll vote’.
This term is frequently used to describe the votes of those members of the Government who receive an extra salary for the Ministerial duties they carry out. Somewhat confusingly the term also includes Parliamentary Private Secretaries who do not receive an extra salary.The principle of collective responsibility requires all members of the Government (ie: the Ministers) to vote the same way and support the Government’s proposals. This is the way all Governments have operated over the years. The number of Ministers is limited by the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 to 95.
The Public Administration Select Committee have recently prepared a detailed report which covered this area of Government which can be found here
It is over 36 years since we, the British public, had a say on what we think of our relationship with our European neighbours. Back in 1975 there was a referendum on whether or not we stayed in what was then referred to as ‘The Common Market’ the European Economic Community the E.E.C. Since then the nature of the organisation which the British people voted to remain part of has changed beyond all recognition. Firstly, the word ‘Economic’ was dropped and we became members of the European Community. Then, we became members of the European Union. All without any consultation of the British people.
It is now time we all had our say!