To ask the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, as representing the House of Commons Commission, what measures are being taken to facilitate the provision of POLIS within Members' offices via the parliamentary data and video network; and when the network will be extended to the Norman Shaw buildings.
The parliamentary data and video network is at present available to Members on the lower floors of Millbank, and a small number of Members outside via a telephone link. The network has been authorised only as a pilot phase and is currently being reviewed by the Information Committee, which hopes to report later this year. Any plans to extend the network, including POLIS, to the Norman Shaw buildings, or elsewhere, will need to await approval of the service by the House following the report from the Information Committee and the provision of the necessary funds in the estimates.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his long and helpful answer. Does not he accept that the provision of POLIS to all Members of the House will help reduce the burden on our excellent Library and librarians? It will also help all Members of the House assist still further their constituents, including my own in Lichfield, Rugeley and Stone.
The hon. Gentleman makes his case clearly. It was the kind of interest that he has shown which led to the approval by the Commission of the pilot project. It is on the basis of that pilot project that the House will be able to decide whether to extend the scheme and continue it.
These new developments will obviously be welcomed in the Norman Shaw buildings, but there is a great deal to be done in this particular building. Many of the offices here only have an annunciator. It would be better to ensure that the facilities were more widely available to people in the House and to bring everyone up to a level standard.
That is the approach which the Commission has taken. It was convenient to carry out the current pilot study in Millbank because new work was being done there. Any extension of it would have to be considered by the House as a whole, but I imagine the desire to see that the facility—if extended—is available to Members generally would weigh heavily with the Commission and the House.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that an unlimited expansion of the use of POLIS would lead to a substantial increase in the demand on telephone services, bearing in mind that the databank is held remote from the House? Is not the financial implication of the expansion of POLIS part of the Information Committee's remit in assessing its acceptability to the House?
Yes, it is. It will also be one of the Commission's concerns when any proposal is considered by the House. The final decision, however, will rest with the House.