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Parliamentary ICT

Volume 584: debated on Thursday 10 July 2014

4. What recent assessment he has made of the quality of service to hon. Members provided by Parliamentary ICT. (904792)

Parliamentary ICT services are scrutinised by the Administration Committee on a regular basis. The most recent report to the Committee was on 16 June and related to the migration of mailboxes to Microsoft 365 services. This summer, all parliamentary services were subject to a process of interviews with Members and their staff. A summary of the feedback has been published, and a summary of responses from PICT and House departments to the feedback will be considered by the Committee on 14 July.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that answer. I will not detain the House with the six-month tale of trying to get my BlackBerry mended, because it would take too long, but I know that I and many other Members are having considerable difficulties with IT services in the House at the moment. For example, Microsoft 365 seems to require people to have 20:20 vision, and the average age of a Member of this House is 55. It is proving extremely difficult. What can he do to ensure that the service is centred more on Members’ needs and less on strategy?

I was going to suggest that the hon. Lady seek an Adjournment debate on the subject, until I realised that she has, in fact, just staged one.

I have great sympathy for the hon. Lady. The problems I have had with my Android would detain the House for just as long. First, very considerable benefits will accrue from the transfer. Secondly, and most importantly, we have a new structure for the management of IT coming in, following the recommendations of a strategic review of our online services by mySociety. That will result in different organisational and management structures. I believe that many of the problems to which she has alluded, which are shared by many Members, will get us to the place we all want to be more quickly and efficiently.

May I suggest to my hon. Friend that hon. Members consider using Google, which is completely free, and Google Docs for saving documents, and then we do not need to spend thousands of pounds on things such as Microsoft 365?

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his suggestion. The particular difficulties of operating in many locations with different staff and different devices mean that the cloud gives us a significant opportunity to improve service. Incidentally, it also gives us the opportunity to save a considerable amount of money, which can be put into further improving the service—

I get quite a good service out of PICT. I had the fortunate experience of walking through PICT’s offices the other day. Why is it that so many men are employed in PICT? There are hardly any women at all. What is going on in recruitment here? Surely we believe that women can do this kind of task in a way that is equal to, if not better than, men.

I can only say to the hon. Gentleman that the House Service is committed to diversity in terms of gender and in many other ways. It is led by Mr Speaker and the management. As to PICT itself, I would have to look into the matter and write to him as I do not have the facts to hand.