A conservative MP has claimed that fellow Commons representatives are too embarrassed to claim iPads on expenses, with some even opting for different brands to save their blushes.
Conservative MP Simon Hart said, following heightened sensitivities in the wake of the MP expenses scandal, there is an atmosphere of fear about claiming for the costly Apple tablet.
“MPs have received flak for claiming them on expenses,” he told TechEye. “MPs shouldn’t be trying to conceal the fact that they use iPads, quite a lot of MPs have them. I don’t think there is anything to be shy about.”
“But there have been MPs which are nervous about actually buying an iPad and putting it on expenses.”
Hart recently wondered to Parliament about the amount of iPads already used by staff in the Commons. The question has kick-started more openness in using the tablet, he says. He points out that there is a parliamentary allowance for hardware which doesn’t attract any attention when more mundane devices are purchased.
Hart worries that when groups like the TaxPayers' Alliance hear about iPads on expenses, it “leads to accusations that they are just for playing games or listening to music”.
This has even meant that some MPs are now too afraid to buy the iconic Apple device.
“I know one MP who bought another tablet simply because it wasn’t an iPad,” he claimed. “This was most likely to have been a Samsung tablet. He would have bought it because he thought that it would not be perceived as particularly extravagant.”
Hart believes that there should be no shame in using the tool to support work in the Commons: “I am intrigued as to why this should be frowned upon. We need to decide finally whether it is either an extravagance or not.”
But hard-up Hart will have to wait until next year before he can get one. Long gone are the days of claiming just under £9,000 - as exposed by the expenses scandal: “I would quite like to [get an iPad]," he said. "Part of the reason is that my budget is used up for the year, but next year I will certainly like to get one."
Hart voted against allowing MPs to use electronic devices in the chamber back in October.
The TaxPayers' Alliance fiercely disagreed with Hart. Spokesperson Emma Boon told TechEye "An iPad is an optional extra and MPs can pay for it themselves".
"There is absolutely no justification for an MP asking taxpayers to pay for this gadget," Boon continued, "especially at a time when money is tight and very necessary spending cuts are being made."
"An iPad is a premium product and that comes with a premium price-tag; it's the latest toy. There is no function that it performs that an MP needs that cannot be fulfilled by a reasonably priced laptop or a phone with e-mail or similar."
Boon and the TaxPayers' Alliance believe MPs need to think of what is best value for the taxpayers. "But," she said, "it seems that some are still thinking about what they can squeeze out of the system."