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House of Commons Commission

Volume 745: debated on Thursday 22 February 2024

The hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—

Members’ Productivity: Digital Tools

8. If the Commission will take steps to increase the use of digital tools in parliamentary services to support the productivity of Members. (901573)

The Parliamentary Digital Service supports the Commission by delivering technology for Members, and tools are under constant development. A range of productivity tools are already available to Members and their staff from Microsoft via the Parliamentary Digital Service. They include Microsoft Forms, which helps with tasks such as collating constituents’ information. Microsoft Planner can track workstreams in an MP’s office and is used by some offices to induct new staff. “Bookings with me” can arrange one-to-one time with external guests, such constituents.

PDS independently investigates and works with Parliament’s suppliers to explore new technologies that could benefit MPs in their work. The team welcomes volunteers from the Member community to pilot such services ahead of full roll-out. As the Chair of the Administration Committee, I would be happy to arrange for the hon. Lady to meet any relevant officials.

Like most Members, I receive hundreds of invitations every week, and much more spam. It takes a member of my team hours—sometimes days—to go through them all. That is time that could be much better spent supporting constituents, particularly in a cost of living crisis. There are digital tools that can help with that; none that the hon. Gentleman mentioned will do so. Microsoft recently demoed its Copilot tool, which uses artificial intelligence. Other tools are available. While there may be issues of privacy, security and bias with such tools, as with much AI, can he confirm that the Commission is looking specifically at AI tools to help us in our work for our constituents?

I can. The hon. Lady is absolutely right: there are security issues that need to be looked at closely, but I have an answer, specially prepared. Copilot is Microsoft’s version of ChatGPT, a generative artificial intelligence service. Now, this is the relevant bit: PDS has arranged a series of internal workshops with Parliament’s Microsoft partner to allow PDS staff to explore how this technology could be used in the parliamentary network. The outcomes of those workshops will feed into Parliament’s overall AI strategy—I am nearly there, Mr Speaker. I speak as the proud owner of a Nokia. The recent and rapid development in artificial intelligence, especially generative AI, presents exciting opportunities.