MPs to get £1m worth of iPad Air tablets and laptops

Parliament building at night

All MPs are to be offered brand new iPad Air 2 tablets and laptops after the general election, the House of Commons Commission has confirmed.

The taxpayer-funded Apple devices will be distributed to MPs after the general election on May 7, and will cost the public 200,000 every year for the next five years.

Apple iPads have been in use in Parliament since 2012, with more than 200 MPs already using one, but the commission now wants to offer them to all representatives.

While the tablets are supposed to help MPs carry out parliamentary business, Tory MP Nigel Mills was forced to apologise after spending two hours playing Candy Crush during a select committee meeting on pension reforms.

Even Prime Minister David Cameron has admitted to an addiction to Angry Birds, while Liberal Democrat John Thurso, who represents the commission behind the iPads move in Parliament, said the shift from paper to tablets has saved more than 3 million annually.

In a reply to a parliamentary question over what assessments the commission made of the functionality and price of other devices and platforms before deciding to offer free iPads to all MPs, Thurso said that since 2012, iPads have been "integrated with current business processes and infrastructure."

"A move away from the Apple operating system (iOS) at this time would incur costs to change these processes," he said.

"Given the established nature of iOS in the Houses' IT service offering, access to parliamentary digital services on iPads is mature, offering greater access than on other mobile devices.

"Members are able to access the intranet and intranet-hosted services via their iPads, they are able to access and annotate committee papers and can download a number of Office apps to access any content held within Office 365," added Thurso.

But Newcastle MP and Shadow Cabinet Office minister Chi Onwurah told ComputerworldUK that a "device agnostic policy" would have been preferable.

"As we saw with Nigel Mills and Candy Crush, MPs will be using the games, and the iTunes and other features on the iPad," she said.

Onwurah added that it was wrong that MPs would be using a device that many of her constituents could not afford.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.