Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Tuesday, 7 February 2006

MPs hit streets for wireless net

Parliament lacks wi-fi access points

The lack of wireless internet access within the Houses of Parliament is forcing MPs to decamp to coffee shops to log on, a report claims.

The Commons administration committee says tight security systems across the Palace of Westminster are preventing MPs from using their laptops to work.

It has called for wireless internet access to be made available around Parliament in areas used by MPs.

Tory Adam Afriyie says the only place he cannot use wi-fi is in Westminster.

No signal

"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 (local area network)," the Windsor MP told the committee.

Conservative MP Adam Afriyie
Mr Afriyie says he has been forced to use his own laptop
"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 Caffe Nero next door.

"I continue to use my own equipment because the parliamentary equipment is just too restrictive.

"It is good equipment, but it is designed to be used in the way that the authority wants you to use it, rather than the way in which you want to use it."

'Working against you'

New Tory MP Grant Shapps added: "I did not really care that much that I did not have an office for two months because if I have my laptop and mobile phone, I have everything I need to contact the outside world.

"The problem is that not only does this place make it harder than average to contact people outside, it actually blocks you from accessing outside contacts using your own laptop, so it is working against you."

We appreciate the security and viability issues around wireless internet access, but believe that it should be possible to overcome these difficulties
Administration Committee

The lack of wireless internet access has been a particular problem for new MPs without an office.

Each new member was given a centrally supplied laptop computer on arrival, but with both wireless and Bluetooth capabilities disabled.

This has resulted in MPs retiring to log on elsewhere or to discard their official machines and use their own equipment instead.

The report said: "This significantly limited the extent to which a new member without an office could work within the Parliamentary Estate, whether using their own equipment or centrally supplied equipment.

"The IT infrastructure and equipment currently provided on the Parliamentary Estate are simply not suited to a mobile member without an office.

"For many new members, adequate wireless internet access would have made working without an office much more manageable."

The report added: "We appreciate the security and viability issues around wireless internet access, but believe that it should be possible to overcome these difficulties."

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