Members of Parliament (MPs) will soon be banned from using mobile phones during proceedings in the Chamber of Parliament.
The Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who announced this in Parliament Thursday, said the ban will take effect once the legislative body “adopts and accepts the reviewed Standing Orders."
“Mr Speaker, I believe the House must make a determination of this and let me emphasize, that it is the reason why it is being proposed that the next Parliament, in fact, once we accept and adopt the reviewed Standing Orders, no Member of Parliament will be allowed to bring a cell phone into this Chamber,” he said.
“We need to demonstrate seriousness”
The Majority Leader, who was responding to questions raised by some MPs about matters related to Parliamentary proceedings, recalled how a popular television station showed the manner legislators fidgeted with their phones when serious business was taking place on the floor of the House.
“We need to demonstrate seriousness in this House. When the President of the Republic is talking, Members of Parliament are fidgeting with their phones.
“When the Minister responsible for Finance comes here, members are fidgeting with their phones. When questions are asked and ministers are providing answers, members are fidgeting with their phones.
“It does not tell a good story about us. Mr Speaker, let us be honest with ourselves,” he stated.
There should be order
The Majority Leader told the House that the Parliament of Ghana was not the only Parliament in the world.
He explained that there were established Parliaments in the world where legislators were not allowed to go to Parliament with their cell phones.
“That should be the order. Mr Speaker, we shall apply this religiously once we adopt these Standing Orders,” he emphasised.
A number of MPs the Daily Graphic sought their opinion on the proposal by the Majority Leader unanimously agreed with him on grounds that a ban on handset in the Chamber would curb distractions.
They, however, suggested the need for Parliament to allow some flexibility in order not to disadvantage legislators.
The MP for North Tongu, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, said while he would support the ban on the use of mobile phones in the Chamber of Parliament, it must be considered that handsets were useful tool that enhanced the output of MPs.
“When Members of Parliament have to quickly go to the internet and look for sources for their information and the data they put out, they have to use their phones because it is not everybody who has a tablet.
“It’s archaic mindset to assume that phones these days are used for calls and sending text messages; they help Members of Parliament do a very good job such as doing research to quickly come up with facts they need to work,” he said.
Don’t disadvantage MPs
He suggested the need for Parliament to embrace a technology in the chamber that could block calls, WhatsApp chats and other social interactions but would allow access to data so that MPs do some research.
“The Speaker can raise a point of order and find from you the MP what the source of the message you are putting out is. And because we do not have a public address (PA) system in the Chamber that is connected to the internet, it will not auger well for MPs.
“Elsewhere, the PA is like a tablet that is connected to the internet to allow the MPs to quickly do their research. So we should be careful we do not disadvantage Members of Parliament,” he added.
Extend ban to workers
The MP for Mion, Mr Mohammed Abdul Aziz, said he would not be against a Standing Order that barred MPs from fidgeting with their phones especially when the House was in session.
“If they want to make a ban on phones part of our Standing Orders, I do not have any qualms about it. Such a ban should be extended to all public and private works since it does not auger well for anybody to be on phone when they are working,” he said.