HC Deb 26 November 2002 vol 395 cc160-1
49. Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)

If he will recommend to the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons that it review the way hon. Members use laptop computers to assist them in carrying out their role of legislative scrutiny. [81513]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Ben Bradshaw)

My right hon. Friend will bring the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion to the attention of the Modernisation Committee. He accepts that information and communications technology has great potential for assisting the House in its work, and he is examining ways in which new technologies can be used to maximise Members' effectiveness.

Mr. Jack

I thank the Minister most sincerely for his positive response to my question, particularly at a time when the Liaison Committee has granted an experiment in the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee for the use of laptop equipment. I would be most grateful if he could keep the House informed as to the timetable of the recommendation that he has made.

Mr. Bradshaw

I would be very happy to do that, and I note the right hon. Gentleman's welcome for the advance made by the Liaison Committee in relation to the Select Committee to which he referred. I agree with him, to a certain extent; at a time when many Members have done away with paper altogether and use palm-tops, for example, for note taking, the compiling of contact addresses and so forth, the whole House will want to move in the same direction as he does, in the end.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West)

Is not the continuing insistence on our not using laptop computers in Committee as ludicrous as it would be if we were still required to use quill pens? The rule is often breached by Members sending text messages and using palm-top computers surreptitiously. Does it not make a mockery of the system to allow that to continue? Will the Minister move quickly on this issue?

Mr. Bradshaw

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is perfectly possible physically to remove oneself from a Committee to make a telephone call or to pass notes to and fro. It is important, however, that we take the Chairmen's Panel with us on this matter.