Wednesday, 19 December 2012

House of Lords Freedom of Information requests

I received one of those emails from the House Authorities headed FoI request. Immediate thoughts were along the lines of Ohh dear what's going on now? (Or words to that affect) Anyway, having opened the message and found out that it referred to peers who had received iPads from our IT allowance I felt it would be good to explain a bit how it all works.

We are able to have two items of electrical equipment. I have a lap top that stays on my desk in Millbank (I chose this instead of a desk top) and now I have an iPad. The House also lets me have a blackberry with a set usage allowance, over which I pay for myself.

So am I playing Angry Birds in Committee or in the Chamber? No I'm not. Do I play Patience on the train home? Yes I do. The real benefit of the iPad is for my committee work. I'm a member of EU Sub Committee D which scrutinises items from the EU or to put it simply matters affecting Defra and Decc. We receive every week around 150 pages of briefing which also includes stuff for our present investigation into EU Energy policy: Decarbonisation and economic competitiveness. An excellent subject with the report being published next year.

My main point, is that there are 12 members of our committee plus clerks and advisers etc. For this one committee alone, the tax payer is picking up the bill for about 20 sets of papers (each 150 pages in length) for every week the House sits (not including the price of ink, copier and maintenance costs). So say the House sits for 20 weeks that is in the region of 60,000 sheets of paper a year, a conservative estimate in my view. With the iPad, or similar portable technology, the need for such vast quantities of paper is almost eliminated. Across industries, research has been done on this very area. The iPad has consistently been associated with overall cost savings and reductions in waste.

As someone who does care about the environment I think that everything the individual can do to reduce ones carbon footprint has to be a win win situation. In my view, the more members who actually take up the offer of iPads the better, so we can stop cutting down forests and also reduce the manufacturing of paper to a minimum.

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