back to article Blighty's Parliament prescribed tablets to cope with future votes

The UK Parliament – the Mother of Parliaments – is treating itself to a slice of modern technology: its votes will be counted with the help of computer tablets. The overhaul is due "in the very near future", Therese Coffey, deputy leader of the UK House of Commons, announced today in response to a question by Labour MP Meg …

Silver badge
Stop

Another waste of cash.

What's wrong with paper, or ebony and ivory balls?

More £££ bleeding to MS by TPTB.

15
3
Silver badge

Re: Another waste of cash.

You have video everywhere. What's wrong with just a hand-count and then a proper count of any close call?

Every school probably has at least one set of wireless voting buttons nowadays. They cost a few hundred quid for a class set of 30. Multiply it up and you can do a vote in seconds, TV-studio style, for the price of a few Surfaces.

Hell, in one workplace we were once in a meeting where everyone had a bluetooth keyboard given to them and we all simultaneously typed suggestions as the discussion grew and the software just plopped all the suggestions on screen anonymously. Literally, there was a USB hub with some dozens of Bluetooth keyboard dongles sticking out of a machine. (The fact that we were all "suggesting" ways we could avoid redundancy tells you how long we stayed at that employer, however).

There's a myriad ways. And a technical one is probably fine for anything short of "Shall we blow this country up" (where you want to make sure you have some degree of accountability. But still, then, I'd rather a technical system that does nothing but vote and ties Vote X into Device 22, than a collection of hackable, Microsoft-controllable third-party general purpose computers wandering around parliament.

5
0
Silver badge

Re: Another waste of cash.

Well indeed @hplasm - or they could use their own bloody tablets or smartphones through a secure app.

Feather-bedding feckers.

3
0

Re: Another waste of cash.

Or a £4 rPi0 + a couple of buttons and a secure, isolated, network?

6
0
Silver badge
Alert

Re: Another waste of cash.

Another waste of cash.

Maybe, maybe not. What we could do is open up the Surface camera feed 24/7 and see how much our MPs enjoy constant surveillance.

7
0
Silver badge

Re: Another waste of cash.

@LucreLout "What we could do is open up the Surface camera feed 24/7 and see how much our MPs enjoy constant surveillance."

What a splendid idea - although I fear we might see the duly elected member going through the vinegar strokes.

0
0

Running Windows 10? With Telemetry? Let's hope they don't vote on anything secret then. Also this would possibly give Microsoft the opportunity to mess with the voting; if they were so inclined.

17
10
Silver badge

Secret

Given that everything is recorded in Hansard, I don't think secrecy is an issue

7
0
Anonymous Coward

With Microphones and Cameras

No doubt surface tablets with microphones and cameras?

So secret debates are no longer secret to GCHQ/NSA? Every little side discussion available for analysis?

Hold up wooden paddles instead, take a photograph with a non-cloud camera, its just as fast.

Don't take security so lightly, you let William Hague move your emails into Ireland, where GCHQ claim any comms that crosses the UK border is fair game for them, it put your emails in GCHQs server. Now we find William Hague knew about the mass surveillance and said nothing, as he was moving your data into GCHQ's servers.

And now they're going to put surveillance devices into Parliament right next to every MP?

How will you control GCHQ if GCHQ controls you?

11
0

Re: Secret

Given that everything is recorded in Hansard, I don't think secrecy is an issue

Not everything, any MP can put forward a motion to hold the session in camera at any time and if passed then proceedings are indeed secret. It isn't even a rarely used power, although it tends to be for obstruction the main business of the day than because of any sensitivity about what is being debated.

4
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Secret

You forget that Hansard is published days after the event.

With these slurping devices, Obama (and his successors) will know the results before Downing Street.

Is the person who dreamed this up a relative of Cromwell?

Any respect that I might have had for MP's and Parliament has had gone forever.

Total and Abject failure if you ask me.

4
2

Re: Secret

Not any more. Initial transcripts, albeit subject to correction/approval/etc., all available here:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/hansard/commons/todays-commons-debates/

0
0

In principle the idea is excellent. The implementation of it is going to be the kicker though. What are the odds it goes over budget and over time and yet still be under spec?

9
1
Silver badge

In principle the idea is excellent.

It certainly is. Presumably MPs will be able to vote from the common's bar or their mistress' boudoir, without the discomfort of having to actually listen to or participate in the debate.

I did initially think that would be bad for democracy, but on reflection Westminster is stuffed with cretinous party lickspittles, so it won't matter. In which case, why not aggregate up the voting, and let the party whips vote on behalf of their MPs?

11
0
Silver badge

"without the discomfort of having to actually listen to or participate in the debate.

In her book on being an MP, the Green MP Caroline Lucas says that the MPs are often shoved (literally) into the lobbies by the Whips without any idea even of what they are voting about.

6
0
Anonymous Coward

Presumably MPs will be able to vote from the common's bar or their mistress' boudoir, without the discomfort of having to actually listen to or participate in the debate.

If this is indeed the case then I wonder if they realise their privacy is now at stake?

What goes around comes around (eventually).

3
0

Without having read the book and so therefore minimal disrespect to the Green MP Caroline Lucas.

What kind of numpty, who is being paid to be in parliament, doesn't even take the time to find out exactly what is on the agenda for the day and turn up to the bloody meeting in the first place so they can be involved in the damn discussion, never mind vote on it. So she is stating that she (and presumably other MPs) don't do what they're paid to do and then make arbitrary decisions without any knowledge or understanding of the matter. Gotta love MPs how did we ever get the idea they couldn't be trusted!

8
0

Not that I'm a great respector of MPs

But there are a couple of factors in play here.

Firstly they have other jobs to do other than just hanging about the debating chamber (committees, constituency work, lobbying etc.)

Secondly divisions are often about motions and amendments proposed in the chamber on that day. The result is that it's hard to know what you're voting on all the time, and what your party's line is on it. Now if this division app can inform them about what it is they are voting on, how their party expects them to vote and give them time to think (rather than having to scurry from whatever distant Westminster corner they are in) then it seems like a good idea. How well it is implemented is the important question.

4
2
Silver badge

@2460

The EU parliament is much better organised. The voting divisions are held at a preset time. So MEPs can turn up a quarter hour before, find out the party line from their whips, and then proceed to do their democratic duty.

Saves listening to all those absurd foreigners.

5
0
Vic

So she is stating that she (and presumably other MPs) don't do what they're paid to do and then make arbitrary decisions without any knowledge or understanding of the matter.

And you're surprised by this?

Vic.

1
0
Silver badge

In theory this is very simple. It would also allow MPs who happen to be away on (parliamentary) business to vote as well. So how long before there is an enquiry into what went wrong?

6
0
Anonymous Coward

voice recognition

I propose a system which simply analyses the cacophany of noise MPs make.

Aarrrrhh for yes.

Urrrrhhh for no.

5
0
Silver badge

Re: voice recognition

Eranu for yes.

Uvavu for no.

Also, Vic Reeves is made the Speaker of the House.

13
1
Anonymous Coward

Full of wind

Instead of having to leave the chamber to vote can't the MP's be put on a fibre-rich diet and just break wind instead? The loudest trumps deemed the winners?

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Full of wind

"The loudest trumps deemed the winners?"

Let's hope that doesn't happen in the USA presidential election

12
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Full of wind

No, no, we already have them creating enough hot air to warm the planet by several degrees thus adding methane to the mix would be rather over the top.

6
0
MAF

Could be entertaining & what could go wrong?

News now in, suspicions of hacking after 30 million 'MPs' voted against fracking in National Parks...

14
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Could be entertaining & what could go wrong?

You have the beginning of a way to give power back to the people of the nation there - everyone registered to vote could log in and vote on the same things as the MPs.

Democracy back to the people - no, it would never fly.

6
0

Re: Could be entertaining & what could go wrong?

"log in and vote "

There was a film quite a long time ago called "The Rise & Rise of Michael Rimmer" starring Peter Cook in which he works his way from ad man to near-dictator. As part of the plot he offers the public votes on all issues, the Post Office quadruples in size and all voters have to toil over large numbers of ballots. Everyone gets sick of it and votes to let him decide everything !

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_and_Rise_of_Michael_Rimmer

7
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Could be entertaining & what could go wrong?

I too remember that film, mainly for Valerie Leon in a mini skirt

0
0
Black Helicopters

Saving 15 minutes per division, that's it?

This doesn't sound like a huge difference to the parliamentary day, the speaker wastes ten times that much having to tell the children to sit the fck down and shut the fck up and let the milk monitor ask the head prefect his scripted question.

So who's going to audit the system, what happens when someone demands a recount, and how do we guarantee that such a high value target* is properly protected?

* yes, 'high value' - the addition of a strategic but almost insignificant 'or' to a piece of legislation can be trojanly voted in without anyone being able to point out that the 'yes' lobby was almost completely empty except for members of the lizardy illuminati club.

8
0
Silver badge

Re: Saving 15 minutes per division, that's it?

15 minutes doesn't seem like a huge difference?

How many are there? Say 50 actually turn up to vote.. 50 people * 15 minutes is 12.5 man hours.

Now consider that they will be getting paid what.. £50 an hour? (That's a guess) that's £625 for each division.

That's £625 of your tax several times a day instead of them just pressing a button on a tablet.

1
1

Re: Saving 15 minutes per division, that's it?

> That's £625 of your tax several times a day instead of them just pressing a button on a tablet.

I see your point but I think this is one of those things where the money is less important than the principle of making sure the people who are supposed to be there are actually there and doing what they are supposed to do.

If someone is going to bollocks up the country then they will make the effort to do it in person and not by lazily prodding a screen every time the whip sends them a text - an exact parallel with the 'clicking OK without bothering to read' problem.

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Saving 15 minutes per division, that's it?

Agree,but that can be achieved simply by making the service the app connects to check that the data is coming from a connection within the HoC...

They will need to validate its an authorised device... May as well go the whole hog and check its where it says it is.

That could be as simple as the speaker giving a unique code out immediately before the vote which needs to be entered.

That's not an ideal solution, but its 8.30 and I'm getting ready for work so not Pitt ng alot of time to it!

0
0

What happened to austerity?

Exactly what problem does this solve? The unacceptable disturbance of MPs propping up a subsidised bar to do the job they're elected and paid to do? I'm sorry but in order to vote on an issue, you should be physically present at the debate. If that's too much of an imposition, you can explain to your constituents why you can't be bothered representing them.

What problems will this cause? Will MPs be able to vote in secret, rather than in full public view? The whips won't accept that as they would lose their power to bully and bribe MPs to toe the party line. More likely that the whips will know your MPs voting record but you won't be allowed due to "national security". You could have a situation where publicly rebellious MPs will be cajoled into voting the right way with the promise that "no one will ever know" or the threat that "it would be a shame if people discovered how you voted last time..."

4
2
Silver badge

Re: What happened to austerity?

I agree with your premise - the MP should be physically present. The existing system doesn't guarantee that either, of course, simply that they must be within 15 mins of the HoC. The tablet could achieve this by requiring the vote to be placed through HoC's own wireless network.

But what I see as what could go wrong as something different; that when the MP tries to vote they discover that someone (?in the whip's office) has already voted in their name.

2
0

Re: What happened to austerity?

There will be hi-jinks here:

How do we tell the difference between the person and the "tablet" voting? Can an MP give someone their password so they can trigger their Surface to vote when they're not in Parliament?

How do we confirm that the MP who owns the Surface is the one who actually cast the vote?

What happens if/when an MP breaks their tablet? Does this mean they are unable to vote?

Does this mean MPs are no longer constrained by being in Parliament to vote?

The whole voting in secret thing is a red herring: MPs votes are a matter of public record. If they're doing this I'm waiting for the first scandal where an MP is found not to have actually been there when a vote has taken place and has instead given his tablet to another MP/a whip/an assistant for them to cast their vote.

4
0
Silver badge

Re: What happened to austerity?

"I'm sorry but in order to vote on an issue, you should be physically present at the debate. If that's too much of an imposition, you can explain to your constituents why you can't be bothered representing them."

From what I read in the article, the only change will be for the people recording the votes during a division. The MPs still need to be physically present at the vote and march through the yes/no lobbies.

Your contention that MPs should be at the debate before the vote takes place is still valid though. Currently a "division bell" is rung and MPs not in the chamber and who can be bothered to vote all come running to take part. I would contend that the chamber doors ought to be closed and barred at the same time the division bell is rung. Anyone not there for there debate is likely not competent to vote.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: What happened to austerity?

@John Brown

"Anyone not there for there debate is likely not competent to vote."

I strongly disgree. Most issues in politics are decided along party lines; most MPs are elected with the support of their party; in return they are expected to follow the party whip. Exceptions can be made where an MP has especially strong feelings or knowledge of a particular matter.

Few MPs are really interested in the whole range of issues that parliament deals with. So they generally support their party on "other issues", and expect their colleagues to repay that support when the issue is important to them. Those party mechanisms generally reflect the mood of the voters.

MPs are expected to answer constituents' letters (assisted by office staff) and where necessary to find the information for those answers, by asking ministers or researching other sources. There is more to being an MP than being gasbag lobby fodder. They are also expected to have a life outside parliament so they are better qualified to vote on matters before them.

So they bring outside knowledge to their vote, not just the proceedings of the debate. It would be entirely wrong to limit the vote to those in the debating chamber.

In return, the voters pass their own judgement every four or five years.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Bit More Expensive...but..

...could they fit 'Rotating Chairs' in the commons so if its a Bill you want to vote for you remain facing the Speaker and if its a Bill you want to vote against you can press a button and the chair will turn and face away from the Speaker? Also each time a vote is due the opposing political parties can 'Play Their Joker' and have Mr Speaker randomly 'Electrocute' one of the MP's just like in the film Thunderball?

5
0
Silver badge

Re: Bit More Expensive...but..

"and have Mr Speaker randomly 'Electrocute' one of the MP's just like in the film Thunderball?"

Only if they promise to use cloud storage for their data and so end up with a hackable internet connection to The Button :-)

Internet of Things, the fun edition.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

The Human Element

How many pieces of garbage legislation are going to get passed because some dozy opposition MP's forgot to charge their tabs?

1
0
Anonymous Coward

What about an APP?

Save buying Microsoft tut

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: What about an APP?

it still has to be installed on something... and someone somewhere will disagree with the choice of hardware.

Im willing to bet that there is already an AD set up available to connect these devices to so it makes more sense to give them windows tablets that can be connected to the domain and centrally controlled - I know this can be done with other OSs as well but if the rest of the infrastructure is already windows then they will have the staffing and hardware already in place to support this.

0
0

Democracy

What if this system were extended to the public, so that if people felt they were not being accurately represented by their MP then they could still make their voices heard? So if 30% of an MP's constituents voted 'yes' and 15% voted 'no', the MP's vote would count for the remaining 55% of a parliamentary vote.

Being able to effectively say to your MP, "I'm prepared to let you represent me in most cases but in areas XYZ I strongly disagree with you, so you don't get to speak for me there" - that would be a step towards a more democratic system, I reckon.

5
0

Updates

I expect it will be a bit of a bastard to update any software on this, never mind the OS. Presumably they will be using wifi, which might cause a whole range of other issues - presumably observers in the Gallery will need to be searched for anything which might be able to disrupt 2.5GHz/5GHz, and they will need a backup plan. Presumably the wifi airwaves will be ridiculously saturated with 650 MPs all downloading at the same time.

They will just keep dropping & breaking the tablets anyway. If it's not bolted down, they WILL be dropped and get soaked in alcohol/water.

This is another reason why they should abandon Westminster and move to a purpose-built facility designed for this task with touch-screens/keyboards/mice built in to the desks. It should also save many £thousands on paper - all documentation on the subjet at hand could be available & searchable immediately.

5
0
Silver badge

Re: Updates

Christ people are complaining about the cost of giving them surfaces... I'd love to see the reaction to that.

Though I do agree with you.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

As a vote is a binary decision..........

Having such hardware more than 1 bit does seem overkill. Maybe though they will use it to play games ( which might be an improvement )

1
0

Re: As a vote is a binary decision..........

Actually with voting there are 4 options:

1. Aye

2. Nay

3. Can't even be bothered to turn up

4. Abstain (The whips will make my life hell if I actually vote against)

There is no division for abstain in parliament, however parliamentary rules do allow you to go into both divisions giving your name to the clark and actually voting Aye and Nay at the same time, thereby actively abstaining (and also having a chance to gossip with MPs from both sides of the house.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Flying The Flag

Why Microsoft? What about ARM? Surely they could knock up some tabs and a secure OS?

2
2

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018