MPs told off for using mobile phone during debates

A man busy with his smartphone

MPs looking at their mobile phones during debates is the number one complaint received by the chairwoman of the Dutch lower chamber Khadija Arib, public broadcaster NOS reports.

An average of 38% of MPs are looking at their phones during a debate, with occasional peaks of 90%, Fractie van Aandacht found. The collective of students and a commercial company monitored MPs’ phone use during 21 meetings and said stricter rules are necessary to limit use in parliament.

Arib said that although mobile phones are here to stay, she also wants MPs to be conscious of the impression they make.

‘It’s not so much a question of how often they look at their phones but of whether or not they are following the debate, listen to each other and look into each other’s eyes. We as MPs should be setting an example,’ she told NOS.

The chairman said she did not want to ban the use of mobile phones. ‘Documents, motions, news are all coming in via the phone. This makes it an important tool for MPs to know what is going on outside the meeting, especially during long debates.’

Last year PvdD MP Esther Ouwehand reprimanded prime minister Mark Rutte for being busy with his mobile for much of the debate on nitrogen emissions. The prime minister admitted it had not been ‘a clever move’.

Public disapproval about MPs mobile phone use is not limited to Dutch MPs. In Britain an (unsuccessful) petition to ban phones in parliament was launched last year.

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