MPs each get through a computer a year. Now they want iPads

Backbenchers claim the gadgets will save money, after Parliament spends £5m on upgrades

MPs are demanding the taxpayer buy them each an Apple iPad, arguing that the gadgets will help to cut down on the cost of printing documents.

More than a dozen backbenchers on the Administration Committee, which runs the House of Commons, are to "trial" the devices, which cost up to £700, with a view to them being given to all 650 MPs. Details of the plan come as it emerged that MPs and peers have been supplied with 7,000 new personal computers and laptops – an average of almost five each – over the past five years.

Apple's flat-screen tablet computers are considerably more expensive than traditional laptops, which MPs claim create a "physical barrier" to conversation. The committee, chaired by the former deputy speaker Sir Alan Haselhurst, agreed earlier this month to the iPad trial. Sir Alan has described himself as "a reformer", and has said he "fizzes with ideas" about changing Parliament's procedures and practices.

A new information and communications technology strategy, recently agreed by officials on Parliament's Management Board, included the following imaginary scenario entitled "a possible MP's story in 2015": "As I travel down on the train all the information relating to the parliamentary day arrives on my iPad, I have a quick look through, make some notes and request, by a simple tap on the screen, a printed copy of a report. Furthermore, I can create my personal agenda for the day as I go."

The prospect of MPs – still recovering their reputations after the expenses scandal – using iPads, which are beyond the reach of many of their constituents, is likely to raise questions about their judgement. But supporters of the idea have their arguments ready.

"It is so environmentally friendly," said a committee source. "I would imagine it will pay for itself in three or four months because we wouldn't be printing out great wodges of paper." They could also argue they are following the Prime Minister's lead. David Cameron has spoken of his pride at linking his iPad to wireless speakers to listen to such cool artists as Mumford & Sons and Emiliana Torrini.

The traditionally stuffier House of Lords is one step ahead of the Commons, agreeing earlier this month to a one-year trial to allow iPads and other mobile devices on the red benches. Peers have been told not to use the technology to search for information online during debates.

Some iPads have already made their way into the Commons, with ministers drawing on them when answering questions. In January, Nick Herbert, the policing minister, told his Labour shadow Vernon Coaker: "My iPad has died, so he may have more attention today than he deserves." Stephen Timms, the former Labour minister, is regularly seen using his iPad on the green benches.

The machines have certainly caught on with some legislators in other countries: earlier this month Simeone Di Cagno Abbrescia, one of Silvio Berlusconi's MPs, was spotted surfing an escort agency website in the Italian parliament on his iPad.

Figures released after a Freedom of Information request by The IoS show parliamentary authorities have spent almost £5m on replacing politicians' computers over the past five years. Some 7,000 laptops and personal computers, the vast majority of them in perfect working order, have been replaced with new machines as part of an ongoing IT programme. This equates to almost five new computers for every MP and peer since 2006. MPs were equipped with 5,854 new laptops and PCs over the period, at a cost of £3.8m. Peers received 1,190 new machines, costing £828,000.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
World Book Day
News
people
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner - Night Shift

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A leading Leicestershire based chilled food ma...

Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant - ACCA, ACA or ACMA - Construction Sector

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant (ACCA, ...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - PR and Broadcast - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has an exciting op...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor - Shifts

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot