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MPs attempt to impose Commons Twitter ban

By Jonathan Walker on Oct 9, 11 01:17 PM in Politics

MPs will attempt to ban colleagues from using Twitter in the Chamber, in what may be a bad-tempered debate this Thursday.

Many MPs now regularly whip out their phones during debates and send a tweet or two about the discussion taking place.

But Tories James Gray (Con North Wiltshire) and Roger Gale (Con Thanet North) want to put a stop to that.

They have submitted an amendment to be discussed on Thursday October 13 - Speaker allowing - which will effectively outlaw Twitter in both the Chamber and during select committee meetings.

The Commons is due to debate a motion, backed by MPs including John Hemming (Lib Dem Yardley), which will clear up any confusion about when and where Members are allowed to use devices such as smartphones, tablets (including iPads) and laptops.

The motion states that hand-held devices - but not laptops - can be used in the Chamber, while they can all be used in select committees.

But Mr Gray and Mr Gale have added an amendment stating the devices may only be used "to a minimal extent, silently and with decorum, to receive and send urgent messages, as a substitute for paper speaking notes and to refer to documents for use in debates, but not for any other purpose".

Not for any other purpose? In practice, that means not for sending rude messages about the other parties - or any other message - on Twitter.

MPs who plan to stand up for the right to tweet include Liverpool MP Luciana Berger (Lab), who warned on Twitter "lots of MPs very unhappy with those of us who tweet".

This has came up before as an issue, when Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle appeared to make a ruling banning tweeting in January, but turned out to be making a joke.

Thursday's debate is no joke, although one wonders if party leaders might step in and gently encourage their MPs to throw the proposed ban out.

Tory leader David Cameron, the Prime Minister, once called Gordon Brown "an analogue politician in a digital age".

Although Mr Cameron isn't strictly speaking responsible for every vote in the House of Commons, or every amendment submitted by Conservative MPs, he must be aware that a ban on Twitter will only convince many voters that politicians really are out of touch with reality.

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Jonathan Walker

Jonathan Walker - The Birmingham Post's political editor
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David Kuczora

David Kuczora - A PR consultant working in Birmingham and living in the 'burbs
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Alister Scott

Alister Scott - Professor of Spatial Planning and Governance, Birmingham City University
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