The UK Government has decided to go ahead with its plan to hand out a laptop and an iPad to each MP in the House of Commons. The move has been met by the usual complaints of wasting taxpayers money.
As ever, the outcry makes it sound as though the news is a surprising and spontaneous example of government profligacy when in fact the first moves to do this came three years ago. Back in 2012 the government authorised a programme for 14 MPs to test different laptops and tablets and assess their suitability for use by MPs.
After this testing was carried out, the government decided the iPad Air 2 was the best choice and that the laptop would be rolled out to MPs after the election.
Liberal Democrat John Thurso, who represents the House of Commons Commission, said that the gross cost of supplying the equipment to all 650 MPs is estimated to be around £200,000 a year, including SIM cards. This is averaged over the life of the Parliament, given that a full term is five years.
However, according to Thurso, that cost "is linked to a programme to reduce hard copy printing in favour of online publication". This is already saving more than £3 million annually, he told the Press Association.
In January of this year, an independent assessment was carried out by the Parliamentary Information and Communications Technology (PICT) group into comparative tablet costs, the costs associated with the re-working of existing services, and infrastructure and training costs.
In a written reply to a parliamentary question, Thurso said: "Having been in use across Parliament since 2012, iPads are 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. 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."
Thurso went on to point out that members are already able to access the intranet and hosted services and apps via their iPads. "In addition, PICT are able to remotely manage their security in the case of loss," he said. "Any departure from iOS would require re-training for the current members using iOS and new training to be developed for the remaining 441 members and all relevant PICT support staff."