UK iGovernment: Parliament dishes out 650 iPads to MPs

The U.K. Parliament will spend upwards of $700,000 on iPads for elected politicians. But the additional charges, from apps to data, may end up costing the British public even more.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

British politicians elected into public office will soon be handed a shiny new iPad.

Despite the U.K. suffering from a double-dip recession, members of the House of Commons will be able to take their work with them, receive parliamentary papers, and even play Draw Something on the glorified rectangle --- all at the expense of the British taxpayer.


The plan to issue 650 iPads to the occupants of the Palace of Westminster will cost anything between £260,000 ($420,000) and £430,000 ($700,000) --- depending on which iPad model is bought.

(The new iPads will likely come equipped with data connectivity so MPs can work on the go, therefore pushing the price towards the higher end of the cost spectrum.)

While currently limited to members of the lower house, if pushed further to include the upper House of Lords, it could cost individual taxpayer 2p each, or 3 cents.

Dear HM Treasury, can I get that back in a rebate, please?

But if you look at the rough numbers, the benefits to our elected officials, levels of productivity and the environmental factors, it could prove to be a wise investment for the country.

2p isn't much, considering how much we spend on Her Majesty to remain on the throne per year. I crunched the numbers a few weeks ago:

"The British Monarchy costs each taxpayer in the U.K. around 55p ($0.87) per year as of estimates based on 2009-10 and 2010-11. Considering how much the Monarchy brings in through tourism, international trade relations, and the flogging of merchandise by third-parties, the taxpayers reap the rewards in returns. At least from a financial point of view, one suspects the United Kingdom won’t be called the United Republic any time soon."

A maximum of $700,000 could go to so many things. But if it helps the U.K.'s elected representatives to crank the cogs of government, then so be it. I think most would be content with spending a couple of pennies in ensuring our rubbish gets collected fortnightly and prevents the London Underground workers from going on strike every other weekend.

And that doesn't even take into account the environmental offset of saving paper, precious rainforest trees, and injuries per week on parliamentary staff suffering paper-cuts.

But anyone with an iPad knows the costs can quickly mount up.

Will British MPs bill the taxpayer for downloaded applications? A brand new iPad doesn't contain the crucial tools for office productivity. Those applications come at an additional cost. Apple's iWork suite for the iPhone and iPad includes Pages, Keynote, and Numbers, which cost £13.99 ($22.65) each.

If every MP bought the entire iWorks package, that alone would rack up to £27,281 ($44,146). Not looking so cheap on the public purse now, is it?

A liberal data plan of 3GB per month on Vodafone, the cheapest network per the upper data cap limit, and this adds £15 ($24) per MP per month, totalling £9,750 ($15,780) per month, or a whopping £117,000 ($189,352) per year.


There is an upside, however. The Commons Commission said MPs will be asked to trade in old computers in exchange for an iPad, which will be claimed on their expenses, under the condition they will in effect go paperless.

The Commission said if just 100 politicians swapped their old devices for a new iPad then £50,000 ($80,900) could be saved. But in Great British 'hand-me-down' tradition, the parliamentary staff lackeys will be given the MPs discarded computers.

Considering some of these MPs claimed dog food on their expenses, one doesn't hold out much hope.

Let's just hope --- for the sake of the British people --- that Parliament spends the public money on the older iPad 2, rather than the Retina display included iPad 3. That alone could save up to £45,500 ($73,617).

But at the end of it all, it's only a few pennies out of each individual's tax total. Let's just hope each and every MP doesn't get too distracted by Angry Birds like our dear Prime Minister appears to be.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, CC.


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