House of Lords opposes John Bercow’s drive for “digital democracy”

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It’s fair to say that John Bercow has a slightly different (some might even say radical!) approach, when compared to many of his peers. The Speaker of the House of Commons since 2009, Bercow persuaded MPs to allow a Hollywood film crew to use their chamber as a location set – and he may even manage to pull off his plan to appoint Australian Carol Mills as the Commons clerk!

However, Bercow’s efforts to bring The House of Commons into the 21st century may prove to be his most challenging endeavour yet. The Upper House seems to hold a little contempt for the Speaker’s “modernising” ways – and this has been made very clear on the subject of iPads.

A recent report by the Information Committee has revealed that, of the 770-odd peers offered iPads as part of their standard IT kit, only 89 had actually accepted them (as of March 2014) – making it clear that they are not convinced about Bercow’s drive for “digital democracy”. In fact, only three of the Upper House’s committees have actually agreed to go paper-free and circulate documentation electronically.

But… who is right? Surely it’s better for sensitive legal documentation to be stored digitally, removing the possibility of documents being misplaced or damaged? And let’s also remember the significant savings that can be made via decreased printing and storage costs – and the positive effect on the environment. By stubbornly refusing to change its ways, is the Upper House cutting off the nose to spite the face?

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