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UK's House of Lords to Allow iPads to be Used During Debates

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The UK's House of Lords, the upper chamber in the Parliament has outlined proposals to allow the use of electronic devices such as Apple iPads and other tablets inside the main debating chamber, but only if they are not used to research information used in a debate taking place at the time.

The restriction, which they accept will be difficult to enforce is designed to ensure that later speakers cannot address earlier issues with information that had only just been announced during a debate.

The current rules that affect the House of Lords are about four years old and do not reflect the changes in smartphone and portable computer use - and are in many places contradictory. The contradictions recently causing a fuss in the Commons when an MP was told not to use his mobile phone for sending a text message, despite the clear precedent for MPs using Twitter during debates to offer public commentary on their thoughts.

The proposals, written by the Administration and Works Committee, did observe the seeming contradiction that a speaker in a debate can be informed of urgent changes by being passed a paper note, they decided that on the other hand, there is a profound difference of scale when using a smartphone or similar device, and were persuaded that it "would not be conducive to good debate to allow Members to send or receive streams of messages to and from researchers or advisers outside the Chamber."

They do however see much merit in allowing electronic devices to be used for accessing Parliamentary documents when in the debating chamber, simply to cut down on the amount of paper waste in the Parliament.

Noting the difficulty of enabling access to the internet in the debating chamber, but then requiring the Peers to avoid the temptation to "search the Web speculatively in the hope of finding information", they are going to start a one-year trial to allow the Lords taking part in proceedings to use electronic devices to access Parliamentary papers and other documents which are "clearly and closely relevant to the business before the House or Grand Committee".

They also noted that there is not substantive difference between a person speaking and using notes written on a sheet of paper vs notes written on a computer - and indeed, a Lord recently gave a speech while referring to notes written on an iPad device. The only requirement now being suggested is that any formal speeches delivered with electronic notes should have a copy emailed to the official record keeper for the Houses of Parliament, Hansard.

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Tags: apple ipad  parliament  UK