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To ask the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, what steps the Commission is taking to ensure staff working for (a) hon. Members, (b) the House of Commons and (c) shared services who can work from home are doing so.
Enabling remote working for Members’ staff, Commons staff and shared services staff is a key priority in the Parliamentary Digital Service response to Covid-19.
One aspect of this focus is the provision of emergency laptops to those who are normally equipped with desktop computers. There is a reasonable laptop stock available, but it should be noted that market supply has been severely disrupted.
A digital coaching service for Members and their staff has been mobilised to provide help and best practice guidance on working remotely. Parliamentary Digital Service has distributed advice and guidance to all Members and their staff explaining how to access parliamentary services remotely, including from their own personal computers, how to connect to local printers from Parliamentary laptops and optimising the use of Skype for Business. This guidance is being updated daily and extended based on need.
All services managed by the Digital Service can be accessed remotely from a Parliamentary laptop. There are a few procedural services which require specific additional remote access tools to use. These can be enabled upon request if required. It is not expected that any of the parliamentary services used by most Members and their staff would fall into this category.
The Digital Service has a three-phase strategy in its response: respond, embed and enhance. The first two are focused on helping users make best use of the parliamentary services. The “enhance phase” which is mobilising now is working with the senior leadership of Commons and the Lords to assess what additional capabilities are required and can be deployed in the Covid-19 context over the coming months.