MPs Allowed Twitter And iPads In The Commons

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Hand-held devices and tweeting will be allowed, but no tweet-driven debates in Parliament, says committee

The House of Commons should follow the House of Lords in allowing tablet devices and tweeting in the chamber, according to a report from the Commons Procedure Committee.

The UK’s main democratic chamber has more-or-less followed the lead of the House of Lords, which allowed iPads and smartphones in February, as long as they are silent and the messages do not interfere with debates.

Tweeting with decorum?

MPs and others in the chamber can use Twitter to comment and report on proceedings, as well as referring to notes on devices, as long as they are less than A4 in size, and and do not “obscure the Member’s face when in use.”

“Hand-held electronic devices (not laptops) may be used in the Chamber, provided that they are silent, and used in a way that does not impair decorum,” recommends the committee’s report issued yesterday. The report also suggests that “members making speeches in the Chamber or in committee may refer to electronic devices in place of paper speaking notes.”

Laptops can be used outside the chamber in committee rooms, and the parliamentary record, Hansard, will now accept electronic copies of speeches made in parliament, instead of scanning or retyping printouts.

However, the report advises against allowing MPs, to send and receive messages designed for use in debates, warning that  this might result in “Prime Minister’s Question Time being conducted by instant rebuttal teams briefing the principals on what they should say, whilst all other Members were bombarded with messages from the public and others commenting on and attempting to offer contributions to the debate.”

The committee concludes: “We believe that it is a fundamental principle, to which all Members should agree, that direct interference in proceedings should not be permitted.”

MPs’ actual use of Twitter will be hard or impossible to police, the committee acknowledges. Members have for some years been enthusiastic Tweeters, which has led to security lapses.

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