MPs hit by Office 2003, Word 2007 incompatibility

Microsoft is working with Westminster IT chiefs to resolve politicians' complaints that they are unable to read some correspondence

Microsoft is working with Westminster technology chiefs after politicians and peers complained of being unable to open the latest Word documents.

The Mircrosoft Office 2003 software used by the UK's 646 MPs and 742 peers is incompatible with Microsoft Word 2007 document formats, leaving politicians and civil servants unable to read some correspondence.

The problem was raised in the House of Lords information committee annual report, published yesterday. Committee member Lord Methuen said: "A program can be downloaded to read the documents, but obviously not everybody knows how to do this. Pict [the Parliamentary Information and Communication Technology Service] is working with Microsoft to resolve this problem."

A spokesman for Pict said: "The work to upgrade to Microsoft Office 2007 for parliamentary network users is still a matter under investigation. It is expected that all issues of compatibility will be identified and resolved during that investigation."

MPs' email inboxes are also bursting at the seams, according to the report, leading to an agreement to increase the size of their email allowances.

Widespread wireless internet connectivity also beckons for Westminster, with the Lords' committee asking Pict to carry out a feasibility study into providing wireless access across the parliamentary estate, in addition to existing coverage in the Royal Gallery, Library Reading Rooms and the Chamber.

The report also reveals that MPs are lobbying to be able to place clips of themselves in the House of Commons on YouTube, and that members and peers want to embed official parliamentary video on their personal websites. Both matters will need further consideration before approval is given, according to the report.

Full virtual tours of parliament will also be available on the parliament website by the end of 2009, according to the report, building on the House of Lords Chamber and Library tours already on the site.

Over the past year, the Lords' committee also approved plans for an e-library within the proposed Members' Library in the refurbished 1 Millbank offices. The e-library will include about 20 workstations and wall-mounted plasma screens to give MPs and staff access to training, information and email.

The report also reveals that a parliamentary education centre, due to open in 2012, will include videoconferencing facilities and is expected to host about 100,000 visitors per year.