I learn from Iain Dale's blog this morning that the House of Commons Modernisation Committee is proposing that MPs be allowed to check emails in the Chamber, as long as it doesn't interfere with the business of the Commons. "So what" was my instinctive response. We did that all the time when I was an Assembly Member. They still do - and more. Two weeks ago Alun Cairns told us, via his blog, that Local Government Minister, Brian Gibbons was noticed buying a new suit on-line during an important debate. Multi-tasking is an essential requirement if you want to become an Assembly Member! Alun tells me that after checking up on all the suit prices, Brian moved on to the Archers website.
But on reflection, I agree with Iain about MPs checking their emails. They don't have individual seats or computers in the Chamber, as do AMs. It would involve them all indulging in that most irritating habit of constantly checking their blackberries. I find that some of them actually check them mid-conversation, giving a perfect impression of not listening to what anyone else is saying. I suppose there could be a degree of honesty about this practice! Its also the case that AMs are expected to be in the Debating Chamber rather more than MPs are because there are only 60 of them.
Mind you, I'm not at all sure that Brian Gibbons should be allowing his attention to be diverted. He has form. When he was the Health Minister, he pressed the wrong button and voted for a independent review of the Welsh Ambulance Service immediately after he had spoken on behalf of the Government, roundly condemning it. The vote was lost by one vote- and Brian has never lived down the embarrassment. Brian was also the AM who played football for our Assembly football team in the Annual Parliamentary Shield, sponsored by McDonalds, wearing a shirt with a big 'golden arches' M on the front. When a story broke about our Health Minister supporting a fast food company, Brian said that when he looked down at his shirt he thought it was a W for Wales. (He could have been joking - you can never tell with the Irish).