'I can work at Caffè Nero but not here'
By Steve Ranger
Published: Tuesday 10 January 2006
Wireless internet access should be installed in parts of the Houses of Parliament to allow MPs access to information on the move.
A report by the House of Commons Administration Committee is calling for secure wireless access after it found that some new MPs struggled to work before they were given office space.
The report said: "We recommend that wireless internet access should be provided in those areas likely to be of most use to members."
"I used to spend afternoons sitting on the steps outside Portcullis House so that I could get a signal from what I think is Caffè Nero next door."-- Adam Afriyie, Tory MP
It added: "We appreciate the security and viability issues around wireless internet access but believe that it should be possible to overcome these difficulties."
The report examines how the House of Commons services responded to the influx of 123 new MPs following last year's election.
And while MPs can have calls forwarded from their parliamentary phone number to a mobile, the report said wireless internet access is lacking: "The Parliamentary Data and Video Network is a wires-only network to which only computers matching a centrally specified standard can be connected."
Laptops supplied to MPs have both wireless and Bluetooth disabled, and the report warned this "significantly limited" the extent to which an MP without an office could work within the parliamentary estate.
As new Tory MP Adam Afriyie told the committee: "I can work anywhere in the country - in coffee shops, in any building, most Conservative associations, if there is a coffee shop next door with a wireless LAN. The only place I was unable to work is here... I used to spend afternoons sitting on the steps outside Portcullis House so that I could get a signal from what I think is Caffè Nero next door."
Former MPs also complained their email is switched off too early with no automatic reply option to warn constituents of the change. The report said: "An email automatic response service for former members should be provided as a matter of course in future for a period of several months after a general election."