Electronic Devices (Madam Speaker's Statement)

– in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 12 March 1997.

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Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons 3:30, 12 March 1997

I undertook yesterday to make a statement about the use of electronic devices by Members in the Chamber. I have previously ruled that Members who carry such devices which make a noise should make certain that they turn off the audio function of the instrument before coming into the Chamber. I can have no objection to instruments that merely vibrate so as to attract the attention of the bearer. Clearly, many Members carry such instruments, and they can serve a useful and unobtrusive purpose.

Yesterday, an hon. Member used an electronic device to raise a point of order. He appeared to be receiving information on a small screen—[Laughter.] I did not think that hon. Members found it so amusing yesterday. He appeared to be receiving information on a small screen, relayed to him from outside the Chamber. I strongly deprecate such practices. For any Member to be prompted in that way by an outside group is totally unacceptable.

I am aware that various kinds of such instruments exist, and that, carried in handbag or wallet or even on the wrist, they can provide the owner with useful information. Provided that they are silent, I can have no objection to such devices—and, even if I had an objection, I do not see how I could prevent Members from bringing them into the Chamber. I am not, however, prepared to accept the use of such instruments as an aide memoire by a Member who is addressing the House. Similar considerations apply to earpieces that are used to receive messages. In future, I shall order a Member who is seen to be indulging in such a practice to resume his or her seat immediately. That rule will be applied in Committees of the House as well as in the Chamber.

For the avoidance of doubt, I should make it clear that nothing that I have said is intended to affect Members with a declared disability who may require technical support to carry out their duties. Their requirements will be individually determined in the light of their particular circumstances.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru

On a point of order, Madam Speaker—on that point.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Points of order are taken after statements.