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Networking Infrastructure

Volume 554: debated on Thursday 29 November 2012

5. What progress has been made on work to update networking infrastructure on the estate to ensure that hon. Members’ offices can receive live local and regional television and radio programming and use internet radio devices in their offices. (130615)

Access to internet television and radio services in Members’ offices may be limited by the capacity of the parliamentary network. Planning for a major upgrade has started, but this is likely to be a long-term project. The annunciator system provides alternative access to television and radio services in Members’ offices. Following recent testing, it is hoped shortly to make proposals to enhance this service, including the provision of up to 100 additional channels. Wi-fi is already in place in 95 locations across the estate, including the Chamber, Committee Rooms and public spaces. It should be available in Members’ offices by March 2013.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that answer. Although I welcome having channels such as al-Jazeera to keep up to date with international affairs and having access to Sky Sports in my office, I would certainly like to have access to my local BBC regional news, BBC Humberside. I am sure the hon. Gentleman agrees that keeping up to date with what is happening in a Member’s local area is just as important, if not more so, than having access to al-Jazeera and other channels.

I could not agree more with the hon. Lady. I miss BBC Radio Highland and Moray Firth Radio when I am down here in the south, and would greatly value the opportunity to receive them. There are significant technological difficulties, one of which relates to how the parliamentary estate is configured. I can assure her, however, that her point was well made and well taken. We will continue to see what can be done.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important to move as fast as we possibly can with full digitalisation, which not only provides the benefits that have been described but enables information about facilities in this House to be better known to all our colleagues?

I could not agree more with my right hon. Friend, whose Administration Committee is doing a great deal of work in this area. One opportunity will come when, in the next two or three years, we move towards the whole concept of cloud computing. That will offer a whole range of possibilities that currently are not technologically possible. We need to keep our eye on this ball and move it forward.