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Monday, April 19, 2021

House of Lords abandons live stream after peers’ phone numbers read aloud to the public

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The House of Lords has temporarily abandoned plans to live stream its sessions online after some peers’ phone numbers were read aloud to the public by computer software.

Lords officials are scrambling to solve a problem with Microsoft Teams – the software used for streaming the chamber – before Thursday’s session.

When some peers joined or left Tuesday’s online session, their mobile numbers were read out by an automated voice, giving the public access to confidential data. 

Parliament’s upper chamber had a separate teething issue when Lord Gardiner, a junior minister for biosecurity, did not turn up to answer questions.

He later explained he had been on the phone to the parliamentary IT department for the previous hour, trying to join the meeting.

Other peers struggled to angle their webcams correctly, resulting in only half of their face appearing on screen, or muted their microphones while they were talking.

Wednesday’s session of the Lords was not broadcast live as planned, preventing the public from watching peers quiz ministers about several issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic, including rail services, tax and garden centres.

Journalists were allowed to view proceedings after oral questions in a room on the parliamentary estate, and a Lords spokesman has said audio recordings will also be available.

Hansard will publish a report of proceedings, which usually emerges three hours after they have taken place.

One Lords source said shutting down the live stream was “a bit of an overreaction”, but it is hoped it will be operational again on Thursday.

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