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UK House of Commons may opt for iPads

updated 11:05 pm EDT, Mon March 26, 2012

Said to save money via reduced printing

A commission in the House of Commons in the UK will be deciding soon if all Ministers of Parliament (MPs) receive an iPad, reports the BBC. The Administration Committee believes that the device, even above other competing tablets, could save British taxpayers money despite the cost of providing all 650 MPs in both houses with the devices, which could cost as much as $415,000 not including cellular data.

MPs already receive allowances for three conventional desktop computers and two notebooks for use in their offices, which are mostly used by staff. Over 70 MPs have already bought themselves iPads and listed them as "expenses," meaning taxpayers foot the bill.

After a short trial, the committee said it believed the use of tablets would save paper and enable MPs to do their work more efficiently. The trial was found to have reduced printing and other costs by "several thousand" dollars per MP.

The committee has advocated for a "rapid roll-out" of the iPads, and picked Apple's tablets over other candidates because it found that the iPad was "ahead of the field with regard to functionality." Compensated cellular data is figured to cost about $24 per month per MP. Rules allowing the use of mobile devices such as Blackberries and iPads in the chambers of Parliament were only enacted last year.

The report brought some protest from civic groups, who have complained bitterly about the government's poor economic performance and what they see as misplaced budget cuts following the worldwide banking scandal that rocked the foundations of European economic stability three years ago. A spokesperson for the Taxpayers' Alliance was quoted as saying "the last thing taxpayers want is to fork out for a new toy for every MP," and also pointed out that some members may not want or need the iPad or "simply prefer paper."

A number of governmental bodies have considered swapping traditional paper rulebooks, legislation lists and other paperwork for tablet replacements, arguing that the move usually saves money and improves efficiency. The iPad and other tablets may be seen as a better option for legislators than notebook computers, being lighter and more portable as well as being somewhat less likely to be misused in session, as the screens (on the iPad particularly) are able to be viewed by others. A few politicians have been caught viewing inappropriate sites or playing games during legislative debates in some countries.

The committee also suggested that the appropriation might opt for the recently-discounted 2011 iPad 2 rather than the latest model, considering the price savings and the ability of the still-supported model to carry out any tasks the MPs might need. Such a move would shave at least $65,000 off the overall cost. [via BBC]

UK MP Kerry McCarthy uses an iPad to deliver a speech in the House of Commons

Italian politicians seen using -- and perhaps misusing -- the iPad while in session

By Electronista Staff
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