In the topsy-turvy world of Westminster, where it is apparently an accepted part of Commons culture for MPs to be “tired and emotional” in the chamber, Members were until recently banned from taking tea and coffee into meetings. But the Speaker’s office announced a ground-breaking policy shift in a memo to MPs yesterday:
Mr Speaker has asked me to send a message to all Members of the House to clarify the terms of his decision taken earlier this week, to allow for an experimental period, the taking of coffee and tea into meetings of all committees. For the period of the experiment, which is to run until the end of the year, coffee and tea may be taken into private deliberative meetings of Select Committees.
The memo makes clear that the consumption of hot drinks in “public meetings of Select Committees or General Committees” is still strictly prohibited.
Members haven’t been at their sharpest in recent weeks, so Scrapbook welcomes this move to keep them on their toes. The decision comes as the Commons gears up for another change to its archaic rules — following a report in March, MPs will decide whether or not to allow the use of smartphones and tablets in the chamber this Thursday.
Chaired by Tory MP Greg Knight, the Procedure Committee concluded that “Members should be allowed to use electronic hand-held devices for any purpose when in the Chamber whilst not speaking”. The fightback — referred to by one Westminster insider as the “Charge of the Dinosaurs” — is being led by Knight’s luddite colleague James Gray, a supporter of fox-hunting and an opponent of gay rights.
With iPads set to be legalised, we understand that the ban on musical neckwear is still very much in place.