New Standing Orders to ban use of phones in chamber

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Ghanaian Parliament
Ghanaian Parliament

Indications are that the Parliament of Ghana will soon not allow the use of mobile phones in the chamber during proceedings.

“We propose that in the next Parliament, once we accept the reviewed standards, no Member of Parliament will be allowed to bring a cell phone to the House,” Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, said, in Parliament, Osu-Accra.

The Majority Leader said the ban would be effective as soon as the New Standing Orders were approved.
When MPs are immersed in their phones, it becomes a source of distraction for the business of the House, the Majority observed, adding, “we need to demonstrate seriousness. When the President of the House is talking, members will be fidgeting with their phones.

“When the Minister responsible for Finance comes here, Members will be fidgeting with their phones. When Ministers are providing answers in the House, Members will be fidgeting with their phones. It does not tell a good story about us.”

The Minister, who in July 2018 issued a similar caution, repeated the proposed ban on Thursday, when Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, MP for North Tongu asked a question on the Business Statement for the next week ending 13th March, 2020.

However, the Minister reported that the questioner was rather fidgeting on his phone, prompting the Majority Leader to draw the questioner’s attention that he was ready to answer his question, with a caution that in future, such a practice would be unlawful.

The Majority Leader stated instances, where Members were constantly on their phones in the chamber, when the House was in session, adding that it caused distractions during parliamentary proceedings.

”Weeks ago, a popular TV station was discussing how Members of Parliament while proceedings are ongoing use their phones,” the Majority Leader said adding, that, “a time is coming where no member will be allowed to bring cellphones into the Chamber.

“We need to demonstrate seriousness in this House. When the President of the Republic is talking, MPs are on the phone, when a Minister comes here MPs are on their phones. The Parliament of Ghana is not the only Parliament in the world and there are other established Parliaments in the world who do not allow members to use their cellphones in Parliament.

“Mr Speaker, we should apply this to our Parliament.”

Alhaji A.B.A Fuseini, Ranking Member on Communications and MP for Sagnarigu, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA), however said the proposed ban would be too harsh as an MP would have to respond to calls, some of which would be for emergency situations.

He said he expected it would be better if MPs found ways that communication would not be distractive to the business of the House rather than a ban on the use of mobile phones.

Mr Alex Agyekum, MP for Mporhor Constituency and Chairman of the Committee on Youth, Sports and Culture described the hours of chamber work, 1000 hours to 1400 as prime time for the MP, and suggested to MPs to leave their phones with a Personal Assistants, who would inform the MP of any critical situation or emergencies communicated on the mobile phone.

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