Written evidence |
Memorandum submitted by Rt Hon Sir Alan Haselhurst
MP, Chair of the Administration Committee (P 74, 2010-11)
Thank you for inviting my Committee to offer a view
on the use of electronic devices in the Chamber and in Committees.
We recall that permission was granted in order to
allow Members waiting to speak to carry on with other work. This,
arguably, has now gone a little too far, because we are aware
that some members of the public have begun to express concern
that Members appear to be 'engrossed' in mobile phones or devices
such as BlackBerries. Members of the Committee do not go so far
as to say that their use in the Chamber should be banned. However,
there is evidence of over-reliance, and we should remember that
a Member who spends no time listening to colleagues can hardly
expect to be listened to when he or she speaks.
We believe that the practice of 'tweeting' from the
Chamber should be prohibited. We fully support the idea that the
Chamber be open and transparent, but find such a practice grossly
discourteous to other Members.
We think, therefore, that the Speaker might be asked
to redefine the previous ruling in a more restrictive way.
By contrast, however, we believe that a more relaxed
approach might be taken from the Chair in Committees of the House
(although not in a Committee of the whole House, of course). PICT
expects soon to trial the use of electronic devices to provide
some House papers, including, for example, the papers for a particular
Select Committee. Members may find this of benefit to their way
Again, Members participating in Committeesselect
or generalshould be expected to pay attention to the matter
under consideration rather than working entirely on other subjects.
But the time involved in Committee work and the need to remain
for the duration suggest that more leeway might usefully be given
for work that may be done quickly and unobtrusively during Committee
The watchwords, again, should be discretion and courtesy
to others, and the message that Members ourselves are responsible
for the messages we send to our constituentsboth electronically
and metaphoricallywould be a useful one to reinforce.
We suggest that the above represents a balanced approach.