Absence of members, social media and Privileges

Early last year, before the election, there were a number of stories in the media about MPs use of social media in and around the house. This resulted in the Privileges Committee announcing a review of social media use in Parliament.  The main driver behind the discussion was the use of social media by opposition parties to attack the speaker. However, the wider debate was concerned with the question of do Speakers Rulings and Standing Orders apply to the use of social media by MPs.


Well it looks like there are still questions around that. It isn’t clear if Privileges has reported back yet, but MPs are still doing things on social media that I suspect are in breach, or very close to being in breach, of certain standing orders.


Firstly, lets take a look at Standing Orders. (p. 27)


As can be seen, there are a number of Speakers Rulings related to the convention that attention is not drawn to the absence of a member. It is beyond the scope of this blog to get into a debate about whether or not this ruling should still apply or not. Suffice it to say, it does apply. I have seen two examples today of MPs, including the junior Government Whip, using social media to draw attention to the absence of Winston Peters from the house.




Now is it a good look for MPs, including a junior whip, to be using social media, from inside the house, to draw attention to the absence of another member from the house? Especially when Privileges is still to report back on its views on the use of social media in the House? I know it is not clear what rules actually apply to the use of social media from within the House, but surely these actions are asking for Privileges to crack down on the use of social media in the house?