MPs set to approve tweeting in Commons

MPs should be allowed to tweet, send emails and refer to tablet PCs in the House of Commons, according to a parliamentary procedures committee.

MPs set to approve tweeting in Commons

The recomendation still has to be passed, either by the Speaker or by a vote, but is likely to come into effect in “a short number of weeks”, a spokesperson for the House of Commons told PC Pro.

Keeping with a decision of the House of Lords, “rattly laptops” will not be allowed, but the change in the rules would mean MPs could tweet as debates take place.

“New devices are much smaller and more discreet than in the past,” said committee chair Greg Knight. “The Committee is persuaded that a Member should be allowed to use a device for any purpose for which paper communications are currently allowed.”

Tweeting about proceedings from the galleries is in our view no different in degree from presenters commenting on live broadcasts

“We also recognise that that it is impractical to police activity on an electronic device and trust to the good sense of Members to act in accordance with the central principle that devices must be used with discretion and with due regard to decorum.”

MPs would not be allowed to use electronic communications while they were speaking, but would be allowed to use iPads and other tablets to read notes during speeches.

Objections raised

However, the concept raised objections from both within the house and the public, the committee said.

“There is a respectable argument that electronic devices should not be used in the Chamber or committees at all. Those Members present should be attending to the debate and not undertaking other activities, and their use of electronic devices might distract others,” the committee said.

More importantly, the objectors said messages being passed in and out of Commons could sway debates, potentially with lobbyists leading MPs.

“There is a concern that transmitting messages in and out of the Chamber might allow others to influence the course of a debate which could constitute interference in parliamentary proceedings,” the committee said.

However, the committee felt that potential already existed if politicians were to tweet or comment based on TV streams watched outside chambers.

“Tweeting about proceedings from the galleries is in our view no different in degree from presenters commenting on live broadcasts of proceedings or indeed from tweeting or blogging about proceedings when watched from outside the Chamber,” the committee found.

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