Parliament to spend £200,000 a year on iPads and laptops for MPs

Governnment is set to fork out £1 million on laptops and iPads for MPs over the next Parliament.

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All 650 MPs will be given an iPad Air 2 and a laptop by the Parliamentary ICT team when they return after the general election this May.

It will cost about £200,000 per year over the next Parliament, adding up to a total of £1 million, or £1,538 per MP over five years.

The handout is part of a plan to save £3 million a year by getting MPs and staff to read and annotate papers on devices rather than printing hard copies.

iPads were first introduced in Parliament as part of a pilot in 2012, with 209 currently in use by MPs, according to John Thurso MP in response to a written parliamentary question.

The decision to hand out iPads was taken after an “independent assessment” of alternative tablets and how much it would cost to re-work existing services, infrastructure and train members and staff, Thurso said.

The recommendation for all MPs to be given tablets and laptops when they return this year was proposed by the House of Commons Commission in September 2013 then approved by MPs on the Administration Committee.

The requirement was “for a secure, SIM-enabled tablet with a good life expectancy and capable of supporting future upgrades”.

The iPad Air 2 met these requirements and the committee found it to be “competitively priced” compared to similar models

The committee reviewed tablets ranging from £100 to £600. A basic cellular iPad Air 2 costs about £500 when bought individually.

“iPads are integrated with current business processes…a move away from the Apple operating system (iOS) at this time would incur costs to change these processes,” he explained.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Chi Onwurah, who submitted the parliamentary questions, criticised the decision to lock MPs into the iOS operating system. Onwurah said she would have preferred a ‘device agnostic’ policy for MPs.

“It’s great that Parliament is becoming more digitally literate but choosing a vertically integrated proprietary system at a time when GDS and indeed the digital community is pushing open source, open standards and interoperability raises real concerns,” she told ComputerworldUK.

“As we saw with Nigel Mills and Candy Crush, MPs will be using the games, and the iTunes and other features on the iPad and locking some of the most powerful people in the country into a platform that most of my constituents can’t afford seems like a mistake. And that’s without mentioning the tax avoidance issue. I’m pushing for a device independent digital platform for Parliament.”

Parliament is due to replace the separate Parliamentary ICT (PICT) and Web & Intranet Service (WIS) teams with a single 'Parliamentary Digital Service', with 300 staff and a budget of £30 million including £6 million to invest in ICT.

Rob Greig, currently chief technology officer (CTO) at the Royal Opera House, has been appointed to lead the new digital service and is due to start next month

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