Apple iPads backed for House of Commons

Tablet PCs and tweeting win MP support...
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

Tablet PCs and tweeting win MP support...

The newly released Apple iPad 2 could soon be in the Commons

The newly released Apple iPad 2 could soon become a familiar sight in the House of CommonsPhoto: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

MPs should be able to use Apple iPads and tweet in the House of Commons, according to a parliamentary committee.

Politicians ought to be allowed to use any tablet PC or mobile phone in the Commons chamber, providing the device is no larger than a sheet of A4, a report by the Commons procedure committee proposes.

The report says parliamentarians should be entitled to use the devices as they see fit - to tweet, carry out web research for debates, check emails or refer to them for speaking notes.

However, devices would have to be used in silent mode and their use must not disrupt proceedings in the Commons or be discourteous to MPs sitting in the House.

The use of laptops in the Commons chamber would remain banned under the rules recommended by the committee.

The report states: "There would seem no difference in degree in allowing a member to consult his or her speaking notes or necessary documents either in hard copy or on an electronic device.

"Indeed, as more and more material is published in electronic form only, it may be the only way in which some documents may be consulted.

"It has to be acknowledged that electronic devices are ubiquitous now in a way that even four years ago was not the case.

"Banning them from the chamber might make the House appear out of touch with modern life and would mean that those in the chamber would be the last to know of breaking news widely available on the internet."

The report does not recommend limiting how such devices are used, as was the case when the House of Lords voted to allow handheld devices to be used in the Lords chamber.

In its report, the committee said it would be impossible to police rules prescribing exactly how devices should be used, and that it is not possible to predict what uses will become possible for handheld devices in future.

While the report states that tweeting should be allowed, it also said members should take care their tweets do not contain messages that "would be disorderly if said in the House".

The review was launched by the procedure committee - the body that scrutinises proper practice inside the House - in recognition that parliamentary rules have been outpaced by the march of technology.

Under current rules, laptop computers are banned from the Commons chamber, while handheld devices are allowed - but as computers have slimmed down and phones have become more capable, distinguishing between the two categories of devices has become difficult.

The House of Commons will now vote on whether to accept the report's recommendations on the use of electronic devices.

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