Tag: house of commons

Tablets to sort Scots wolves from English sheep

David-Cameron-at-the-EU-s-007The UK government is pushing through a bill to allow only English MPs to vote on English only matters as part of a pledge UK prime minister David Cameron made before this year’s general election.

Chris Grayling, leader of the House of Commons, said the Tory party is a “passionate supporter of the Union” of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. As there are 50-odd Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) members in the Commons, and sundry other MPs from the other two countries, the logistical matter of separating the Scottish, Welsh and Irish wolves from the English sheep is a bit of a problem.

The Tory party only has one MP in Scotland after the SNP staged a landslide victory which swept away nearly all Labout MPs as well as Liberal Democrats.

Currently, when MPs vote they file through two lobbies – one for yes and one for no – and are counted by human tellers.

But in a move which will propel MPs from Gladstone’s days into the 21st century, the Clerks have come up with a new system of telling using tablet computers to account for the differences in nationalities.

The tablets, said Grayling, will “give the Tellers an immediate tally of whether a measure has a majority of English MPs”.

He did not say which brand of tablets will be used, but the method won’t apply to the House of Lords because, well, it just won’t.

Grayling’s plans were picked up by Pete Wishart, the shadow SNP leader of the House of Commons.

He said: “What a lot of constitutional bilge and unworkable garbage!” He said the plans will create two classes of members of parliament. “We would do as well to stamp the foreheads of Scottish MPs before they go into the Lobby, and I thought that the Leader of the House was quite close to suggesting or proposing it.”

Grayling said: “The honourable Gentleman seems a tad on the exercised side”.

UK parliament accessed porn 300,000+ times in just one year

A Freedom of Information request has revealed there were over 300,000 attempts to access pornography on the Parliamentary Network in the last year alone.

Roughly 5,000 people work in parliament – among them MPs, peers, and plenty of staff – but the number is still very high considering.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request from the Huffington Post UK, the House of Commons said users of the Parliamentary Network – including MPs and staff – repeatedly tried to access websites classed as pornographic. 

The numbers fluctuated wildly, but at their highest, there were 114,844 attempts in November 2012 and 55,552 in April 2013. This May, there were 18,436 attempts.

A spokesperson for the Commons was quick to say the figures do not prove access was intentional – because a user could have accessed a site that contains “optional or automatic links to others” or other “pop-up” arrangements, recorded as requests.

Generally speaking, the sort of websites that throw up such dodgy adverts are grey-area legal themselves, such as dating websites or ad-packed content streaming.

The spokesperson added the Commons had no intention of restricting Parliament’s “ability to carry out research”.

The dodgy figures were revealed just months after British PM David Cameron decided to begin a moral crusade against pornography by introducing a blanket opt-out option for all major internet service providers.

300,000 attempts is certainly a fair amount of research to discover  “content tagged as violent, extremist, terrorist, anorexia and eating disorders, suicide, alcohol, smoking, web forums, esoteric material and web-blocking circumvention tools” or pornography which is “so extreme it can’t even be purchased in a licensed sex shop”.

MPs to get expanded iPad services in Parliament

Fanboy MPs are to see iPad services expanded in the House of Commons, as Members increase reliance on digital services.

According HoC Commission representative John Thurso, MP, the House will look at expanding the services made available through iPads.

Following a pilot scheme, tablets were deemed secure to use in Parliament and in specific circumstances they have been loaned to MPs in a bid to drive towards digital services, saving cash and helping the environment. 

Currently iPads are used to peruse Select Committee documents, Order Papers and, probably, play Temple Run or Angry Birds, but the Commission reckons that there is a lot more that can be done with them besides.

The Commission has now requested an “examination of the potential to deliver a wider range of information and services to Members through iPads”.

It seems that Apple’s tablets are the shiny black rectangles du jour in both Houses, with the Lords also keen on the devices and little talk of rival Samsung. So far, over £17,000 has been spent on handing out the devices to some Members of Parliament.

For those not receiving one the situation was different. One MP revealed to TechEye that there had been a culture of fear amongst MPs over claiming Apple’s iconic tablet on expenses.  Tory MP Simon Hart said that some MPs had even been too scared to buy an iPad, and were instead picking the less “extravagant” Galaxy devices for fear of public backlash.

Gender gap in tech jobs threatens to widen skills gap

The “worrying” under representation of women in tech related roles could be contributing to the IT skills gap, and hurting the economy.

In a debate in the House of Commons yesterday, MPs debated the lack of presence of women in science and technology related jobs.

According to MP Valerie Vaz, the cutting of government funding to the UK Resource Centre which provides support for women in science, education and technology (SET) roles is hampering attempts to create equality in the workplace, and affecting the economy.

She highlighted statistics from the UKRC which show that only 5.3% of all working women, or one in 20, are employed in a science, engineering and technology occupations.  This is compared with one in three men.

“Nearly 100,000 female STEM graduates are either unemployed or economically inactive,” Vaz said in a Commons debate.  Speaking mainly about the impact on scientists, the situation is the same in tech related fields, and its effects are wide reaching.

“That is bad for the economy,” Vaz continued, “particularly in engineering, which is a predominantly male workforce, with many engineers over 50 and due to retire in the next 10 years.” 

Indeed in the IT industry this has been particularly evident, with various areas, such as mainframe development for example, in dire need of an influx of highly trained staff with a retiring workforce not being replaced by a younger generation.

While this is a problem for all genders, the inability to attract women into tech based roles is threatening to expand what is generally regarded as a significant skills gap in the IT industry and other areas such as engineering.

As the likes Google’s Eric Schmidt and IEEE president Moshe Kam, speaking to TechEye in the past, have pointed out, there is a problem at school and higher education level.   However the problem is magnified in terms of difficulties in actually attracting women into tech related roles following education in STEM subjects. 

According to Vaz there is not enough being done by the government, and a drop in funding to the UKRC brought about by government spending cuts could risk hampering the organisation’s ability to support such aims.  She urged Business, Innovation and Skills minister David Willets to “think again” about cutting grants for the UKRC, and help support attracting more women to roles in STEM subject jobs.

According to Imran Khan, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) the number of women in tech jobs is “worrying”.

“There is still a worrying gender gap, not only in technology sectors but the sciences too,” he told TechEye.

“A big part of this is simply the skills pipeline – it’s still the case that only around one in ten graduates in the various technology and engineering disciplines are women, and although it’s improving in fields like maths and physics, which are other feeder subjects for the tech industry, we’re still a long way from parity.”

“So the first thing we need to focus on is getting more women in workforce.” 

“This is worth doing in its own right,” he says, “but there’s also the obvious point that we’re potentially wasting a huge amount of talent if we don’t.” 

This in turn creates a situation where competitivity on a national scale can even be affected.

“Every time someone who’s had thousands of pounds spent on their education is prevented or deterred from doing a job they’d be great at, the economy suffers, so we definitely need to do more to portray high-tech sectors as inclusive.”

“We know from investors and employers that a dynamic and diverse workforce is one of the key factors in terms of where to put a company’s time and money, so there’s every reason to make the effort.”

According to Trudy Norris-Grey, chair of UKRC, who herself has worked in top level roles at Oracle and Sun Microsystems in the past, there is plenty of work going on to tackle the problem.

“I would say from an industry point of view there is definitely a desire to work in a concerted and ambitious way to increase the number even further.”

“Technology related companies have a vested in securing their resources of the future.”

Norris-Grey seemed reluctant to fully broach the topic of funding for the UKRC brought up by Vaz, but said that there is still a lot for the organisation to do.

“We are making progress,” she says.  “It would be good to go faster, and it would be good to have more people doing A levels in STEM related subjects.”

“The biggest area where we have in crease in taking STEM subjects is with girls.  We do have support, the job now is to get the number right up to where we need them.”

“The biggest pool of untapped resource is girls,” she told TechEye.

One of the barriers, she says is making the subject ‘cool’, and tech is, traditionally at least, seen as a more male-oriented area.

“We need to enable teachers and parents as well as the girls themselves to see that taking subjects such as maths, biology and IT, can be ‘cool’, and they are a stepping stone to cool careers, and cool earning capabilities.”

However problems still remaining in attracting university leavers, and even in retaining jobs.

“There needs to be a culture of engaging women in the way that they need to be engaged.”

Nandita Gurjar, Senior Vice President and Group Head – HR at Infosys, told TechEye that the number of women in the organisation has been rising steadily.

“Currently at Infosys women comprise 34% of our 150,000 workforce, however this was not always the case,” Gurjar said.

“In 2000, when the company’s level of women in the workforce was 12 percent, Infosys decided to adopt a range of initiatives to increase its quota of women.”

“One of our most successful initiatives is the Infosys Women Inclusivity Network (IWIN), a scheme that promotes a gender-sensitive work environment, to help manage the unique aspirations and needs of women.”

“For example, it provides avenues for vocational, personal and psychological counsel to enable the professional and personal development of women.”

“This includes seminars, programmes and networking events held by women in senior positions who give advice to their colleagues on how they reach their role and for those who have children, on how they can successfully balance the demands of family and working life,” Gurjar said.

Gurjar also pointed out that by supporting gender diversity, the skills gap in the UK could be closed up.

“According to e-skills UK, the country will need around half a million people to take on careers in technology within the next five years,” she said. “E-skills also revealed a potential solution with its findings that women make up just 18 per cent of the current telecoms and IT workforce and it is necessary to create an environment which encourages women to take up a career in technology.”

This will involve more support from the government.

“Technology businesses need to work with the Government and local authorities to promote the industry as an attractive option for women,” Gurjar said. “Schemes like Computer Club’s for Girls (CC4G), and Girls in IT set up by e-skills, help in inspiring girls to consider a life in technology, using after-school clubs to bring technology to life.”

“We actively support these initiatives in UK and believe that by getting girls interested in IT from a young age, the currently low uptake of technology-based GSCE and A-level qualifications by women will begin to be tackled.

“However, businesses must also look to make their corporate culture more appealing for women if they are to attract and maintain a strong female workforce,” Gurjar said.

Conservative MP rallies for iPads on expenses

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.”

House of Commons treated to £17k in iPads

House of Commons staff have been treated to £17,000 worth of iPads this year it has been revealed.

According to Lib Dem MP John Thurso, answering on the behalf of the House of Commons Commission, there have been a total of 17 iPads purchased for use in the Commons.  A further 17 have been purchased for use by in-house tech exerts PICT.

Having been asked by Tory MP Simon Hart about the cost and amount of iPads, Thurso explained that there are is an ongoing trial to test the benefits of the Apple tablet.

“They are being used to explore how mobile computing might be used to support the work of Parliament, and what cost savings or environmental benefits might be gained,” said Thurso, who didn’t add that ‘we thought they look quite cool’.

“A similar pilot is taking place with hon. Members on the Administration Committee,” he continued.

Apparently top of the range, 3G-enabled versions of the iPad were on offer for staff hankering for the latest gadgetry, Thurso explained.

“The iPads were models iPad 1 and 2 with 3G and wi-fi connection,” he said. “The total cost of the devices was £17,019.59.”

The House of Lords has been keen to get their hands on iPads, and it seems throughout government there is something of an Apple giveaway on the tax payer’s buck.

Whether or not consant access to Twitter will cause even more arguements in the Commons is unclear.

Politicians have unseemly spat in Parliament – about Twitter

Two MPs have been rowing about Twitter in the middle of a parliamentary debate.

Labour MP Robert Flello was discussing a Bill amendment when he referred to point made by Conservative Charlie Elphicke, and accused him of tweeting.

“That relates to the interventions from Charlie Elphicke[ Interruption ]—who is probably tweeting at the moment,” Flello said.

In response Elphicke “indicated dissent” according to Hansard.  How his dissent was indicated is not given in detail, so we can only speculate about rude hand signals.

Nevertheless, whatever he did caught the attention of Flello, who responded: “I have got his attention—marvellous”.

Elphicke sought to bat away any accusations.  He denied tweeting, using the age-old excuse: he was merely “looking up the difference between judicial review and section 13 applications” – which, to be fair, we have all used.

Flello went on to demand that “perhaps the hon. Gentleman should go and use a fully sized computer to conduct some proper research, rather than using a small hand-held device in the Chamber”.

According to Flello, tweeting while in parliament is probably not allowed by the archaic Erskine May Parliament Protocol in any case.

Erksine May probably hadn’t anticipated Twitter back in the mid nineteenth-century. A motion to ban tweeting was thrown out in October. 

However, a spokesperson for the House of Commons told us that changes to parliamentary guidelines meant that use of handheld devices should not be used to breach “decorum”. 

The only hard and fast rule, though, is that MPs are not allowed to engage in a Twitter argument while engaging in a real life one in the chamber, we are told.

But at what point MPs can get told off for tweeting – or playing a sneaky bit of Angry Birds during Prime Minister’s Questions – is unclear.  As the Commons spokesperson rightly told us, “they are expected to know how to behave”.

Politicians debate the internet of things

A senior politician has compared machine to machine communications (M2M) to the name of a Eurovision song contest band.

Edward Vaizey, whose business card has to accommodate “Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills” as a job title, said he had only found out yesterday that cars have IP addresses. He said M2M is the “internet of things” and is the “new new thing” of the internet.

“It is something that people are now starting to talk about,” he said. “The possibilities of the internet of things are almost limitless and they will transform how we live our lives.”

Vaizey, speaking on IPV6 world day, explained IPv6 to a gaggle of enraptured politicos.  “At the moment, we use internet protocol version 4, or IPV4, and we are about to run out of IPV4 addresses. I do not want anyone to panic about that for a moment, but this autumn the wholesale sale of internet addresses in Europe will come to an end and in the next two years we will experience a shortage. Consequently we need to move to IPV6, which is a longer string of digits.”

He said that moving from IPV4 to IPV6 is like moving from a golf ball to the sun. “I learned today something that is pretty obvious once you are told it, namely that every new car that is sold has its own internet address, to allow it to communicate with computers. There will also be e-health, smart cities and many other variations of things.”

Ericsson thinks we will need 50 billion IP addresses by 2010 to cope with the internet of things. Businesses will need to get on top of the change to IPV6 in the next few years.

“In fact, the slogan that I came up with this morning, which I thought was rather neat, was, “Don’t panic, but do start to prepare”.”

The internet of things needs more spectrum. “In March, just after the Budget, we published our detailed plans to release 500 MHz of public sector spectrum below 5 GHz by 2020. That will be a complex task, bringing together a number of Government Departments. We must also ensure that the spectrum that we make available is internationally compatible and that we make it available with the minimum of disruption to the public sector, be it transport, security or defence.”

He said: “I am confident that Ofcom’s approach to innovation and to spectrum management will continue to take account of its duties and will be both proportional and appropriate. It is important to recognise that machine-to-machine…”— Sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(11)).

Police refuse to apologise for false paedophile arrest

Operation Ore is the admirable charge against paedophiles, lead in chief by the Metropolitan Police while coordinating with other constabularies throughout the country. Any effort to stamp out the morally bankrupt deviance of that black market trade is worth its salt, but according to a Labour MP, there are worrying cracks in the system.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Robert Flello, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South highlighted a tangled case of mistaken identity, burglary and illegal pornography. 

In December 2002, one of Mr. Flello’s constituents, who wished to remain anonymous, had his house crowded by the local Staffordshire police force. Vans were parked in front of the house, with which he stayed in with his parents, drumming up understandable interest from nosey neighbours. Computer equipment in his house was confiscated and he was arrested as part of Operation Ore.

The problem was, about four years before the arrest, the constituent reported a credit card theft to a police station in Stoke-on-Trent, which acknowledged the incident by issuing a crime number to him and to Barclaycard. He received a refund of £179.76 for unlawful transactions made on his card. 

The constituent was arrested in 2002, linked to a Barclaycard registered to him that had been used in 1999 to access a website containing child pornography, although he had reported the theft to the local police, and issued a ticket, as early as January 1999. 

Since, the family of the constituent has explored making an official complaint against the police.

They were discouraged, according to the MP, handed to-and-fro and faced with red-tape and bureaucracy. After being passed between various inspectors since the decision to make a complaint in 2003, the constituent’s parents were told that as it was not them that had been arrested, they were not elligible to complain. They withdrew, though the constituent still decided to press forward: he was “persuaded not to pursue a formal complaint” because it would be “interpreted as a personal attack on the police officers,” and instead it was suggested he make an “informal complaint”.

The family got in touch with a local legal team. The constituent was informed that, during a meeting with a Mr. Hulse from the Police’s professional standards unit, only records dating back to 2002 had been checked before his arrest – so the 1999 card theft report was nowhere to be seen. The solicitors told the constituents that the missing records would make it difficult to proceed because it would be tough to prove negligence, not to mention expensive. 

Seemingly at their wits’ end, the parents wrote a letter to the Metropolitan Police, which is top of the chain in the operation. It was, according to Flello, forwarded to the Staffordshire police.
Staffordshire police passed the buck along to local CID. It was time for a different approach, and the anonymous constituent hired the services of new solicitors in September 2003, issuing a formal complaint made for wrongful arrest on the 1st October 2003. On the 17th October, the constituent received a letter telling him a familiar Inspector Humphries – who had previously handled the case – was looking after the complaint again.

Here is where it gets more complicated: The police claim to have in their possession a withdrawal of a complaint form, dated 24 October 2003, allegedly signed by the constituent. The constituent has denied ever signing it to this day, says the Labour MP, and at no time “did he agree to withdraw his complaint, sign any such document or have the inclination to withraw his complaint.”

Staffordshire Police, according to the MP, have no record of the original complaint – just the withdrawal. When confronted, they allegedly told the MP: “Who are you to be even considering reviewing such a document?”

Solicitors made their intentions clear in February 2004 to file for damages for wrongful arrest and imprisonment. That was acknowledged by Staffordshire police on the 24th of the same month, then again by the police’s insurers in early March 2004. Eventually, in October 2004,

Staffordshire’s police legal adviser – Mr Griffiths, according to the debate – allegedly rejected the claim and insisted that the arrest was lawful. 

It was lawful because police were not made aware of the theft of his credit card in 1999 until through his interview rather than the time of his arrest, although the constituent claims the circumstances were confusing and he didn’t know what he was being arrested for, or all the surrounding implications. Mr Griffiths supposedly said in his letter that the mentioning of the credit card was “merely trying to pass the blame onto others.”

The solicitors said that the use of the credit card illegally leaves trails with a unique IP address, which would make it possible for investigators to be sure of the computer that had directly accessed the websites, and whether the constituent had accessed it. Flello says that point has never been addressed by Staffordshire police. 

The file was shut in January 2005 when the solicitors decided that, given the light of all complications, there would be “no reasonable chance of progressing the complaint further”.

Not caving in, the constituent – who suffers from a medical condition called ulserative colitis and is prescribed medication – made another formal complaint in August 2005. It was on the back of undue stress contributing to his illness and the police’s failure to provide him with that prescribed medication. The police’s lawyer, Mr Griffiths, replied and suggested that any further complaints should be made through legal representatives. 

The constituent got in touch with the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which, in October 2005 informed him that he would be contacted by… Staffordshire Police. It’s alleged that no contact was ever made. 

Eventually, in December 2005, Deputy Chief Constable Lee of Staffordshire police made contact through a letter and upheld the initial rejection. But why had there been no investigation into records before 2002? The constituent approached the IPCC again. However, the complaint predated the IPCC and so was unable to accept the complaint.

In August 2006, says Flello, the then Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office Vernon Coaker advised the Labour MP that the Home Office could not get involved. It was an operational matter for the Staffordshire police, who had so far allegedly done everything in its power to fob the case off. The details were again forwarded to the Staffordshire police. 

Mr. Flello’s representations were presented again through the course of 2007, but again Staffordshire police refused to reconsider his constituents complaints. Flello was advised by the IPCC that it had no record of the constituent’s case file. 

Now Robert Flello has posed questions to the House: “I would like to ask the Minister to give me some reassurance on five specific points,” he begins, “first, will he use his good offices to persuade Staffordshire police to apologise, at long last, to my constituent and his parents, if for no other reason than for withholding the prescribed medication, for which I can see no justification?”

Flello also requests that all records for any arrest are checked rather than just from 2002 onwards, so “no other innocent person and their family has to suffer the trauma and indignity experienced by my constituent and his parents.” He also asks for clarification whether it’s correct that any complaint made before the creation of the IPCC can’t be persued, and if there is any recourse to open up to other complainants in a similar situation. 

He asks if it’s reasonable that police are able to respond to complaints in ways which leave the complainant feeling “less than reassured,” and pleaded for a message to be sent to all police forces that, “when a mistake is found to have been made, a swift apology must be forthcoming”.

“This is a dreadful case of sloppy practice leading to an injustice, yet, even now, all my constiuent really wants is an apology.”

James Brokenshire, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office, congratulated Flello on securing the debate. As with before, the Under Secretary, although now changed, underlines that it is difficult to respond specifically on individual cases.

Brokenshire provided some background. He said that this particular case was on a scale that had not been witnessed before in Operation Ore, when in September 1999 the United States Postal Inspection Service came across a company called Landslide Inc which was providing access for payment to child abuse images – material was seized including a database of subscribers. 

About 2,700 individuals had been convicted on the back of Landslide Inc data, including over 700 admitting their guilt. In “almost 2,300 cases, child abuse images were discovered”. In 22 percent of dissemination following investigations, police took no further action, and 154 children were safeguarded, says Brokenshire. 

He says that it wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss individual cases.He continues, talking about child protection in broader terms, before concluding that the Home Office will “ensure that cases are handled in accordance with the law.”

Brokenshire thanks Flello for raising the points and the case of the constituent. While unable to comment specifically, he finishes: “Members who are in the House this evening, and people outside, will have heard the points he has raised tonight and will take notice of them”.

House of Lords upgrades to Windows 7

Representatives of the House of Lords have been treated to over a quarter of a million quid’s worth of new computer equipment.

In a written answer from Labour Lord Moonie to Lord Brabazon of Tara it was revealed that the Lords are currently upgrading their systems to Windows 7 at a cost of £288,000, though this is a forecast due to the ongoing nature of the work.

This will undoubtedly come as great news to the Lords as they will now have another toy to play with once they get bored of the iPad’s they may be given on expenses. For security, though – this is a positive. 

According to Lord Brabazon equipment will be upgraded where possible at a forecast cost of around £25,000, while the cost of actually implementing the new equipment will come in at around £80,000.

One of the aims of the upgrade is ensure that both the House of Commons and the House of Lords are using similar software and hardware.

Furthermore Lord Brabazon claims the upgrade will mean the Lords are no longer using equipment that is no longer supported or is about to become obsolete in the near future.

One example is the current use of dial-up and virtual private network remote access services.

Apparently the complete package, Windows 7, Office 2007 and related software, had been deployed in the second half of 2010 to more than 3,000 devices with the Lords being given one on one tutorials by IT staff to learn to use the technology.

Windows 7, the Lords hope, will offer greater reliability as well as features such as Office Communicator Suite, meaning that in between perusing new legislation the Lords can ping instant messages to their chums in the House of Commons, or as Lord Brabazon puts it “allow improved support to be offered through the greater focus and depth of expertise that will be possible.”