MPs Defeat Move To Ban Twitter From The House Of Commons
Web savvy MPs have blocked an attempt by some of their their more traditional colleagues to ban them from using Twitter in the Commons chamber.
The House Commons Procedure Committee had recommended that MPs be allowed to use electronic devices for a wide range of activities while sat on the green benches, as long as they did not "impair decorum".
Greg Knight, the chairman of the committee, told MPs he saw no difference between allowing an MP to consult his or her speaking notes or necessary documents in hard copy and allowing them to use an electronic device.
But Conservatives Roger Gale and James Gray tabled an amendment to Knight's motion that would have prohibited the use of iPhones, BlackBerries or iPads from sending messages that were not "urgent" - effectively banning Twitter.
"Electronic devices should be used for the purposes of the matter under debate and no other purpose. If the Chamber was seen to be full of people blogging, tweeting and surfing the net, it would risk bringing the Chamber into disrepute," Gray told MPs.
Gray and Gale were supported by Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes, who said the public would not like it if MPs appeared to be glued to their phones rather than paying attention to a debate.
"It looks pretty bad if Members spend all their time looking at papers and other things that have nothing to do with a debate, but they look even less connected if they spend all their time playing with bits of electronic machinery," he said.
"If we are here, we should be taking part in the debate, and the administration of our lives should happen outside."
But the move to silence tweeting MPs was defeated by a vote of 206 to 63, a majority of 143.
Several MPs rose to defend the practice of tweeting while sat listening to Commons debates.
Conservative Claire Perry (@claire4devizes) said that Twitter "helps MPs to stay informed, in touch and accountable to their constituents" and that to ban it would be an "inexplicable step back in time".
Labour's Luciana Berger (@lucianaberger) said MPs were too often accused of being inward-facing, and Twitter could help to challenge that.
"The public say that we are out of touch and inaccessible. Twitter allows us to make politics relevant, and makes us as individuals accessible," she said.
While Tory Robert Halfon (@halfon4harlowMP) said social media such as Twitter and Facebook give MPs the chance to broadcast to their constituents without "relying on broadcasters".
In an intervention that he aknoweldged would be likely to win him the "dinosaur of the year" award, Tory MP Sir Alan Haselhurst said he believed would not be able to resist the temptation to use their phones inappropriately
"People know of my interest in cricket," he said. "How convenient it would be to ascertain what was happening in the Test match at that very moment".