By TAMARA COHEN
Members of Parliament, peers and their staff accessed pornographic websites 300,000 times over the past year, official records reveal.
The total – which represents more than 820 sites a day – was released by Palace of Westminster IT bosses yesterday in response to a freedom of information request.
The figure covers ‘attempts to access websites categorised as pornography’. However parliamentary staff said it included pop-ups and was therefore not a reflection of deliberate efforts to find sexual content.
All the devices monitored were linked to the parliamentary network, which is used by MPs, peers and their staff, between the summers of 2012 and 2013.
There were wide variations in the monthly figures – with a staggering 114,844 attempts to look at porn made in November, but just 15 in February.
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘This highlights the fact that many people working in Parliament are spending far too much time on websites that have nothing to do with their job.’
‘The internet can be a useful tool for MPs and their staff when it comes to scrutinising government legislation. However taxpayers expect their MP and those working in their offices to get on with their important jobs rather than spending time surfing questionable websites.’
A House of Commons spokesman insisted the records did not prove users ‘intended’ to access pornography, and said the House of Commons would not put in rules that could restrict attempts to ‘carry out research’.
She added: ‘We do not consider the data to provide an accurate representation of the number of purposeful requests made by network users due to the ways in which websites can be designed to act, react and interact and due to the potential operation of third-party software.’
Earlier this year it was revealed MPs and their staff waste thousands of hours a year tinkering with their Facebook pages, playing computer games and placing online bets. Official records show computers on the parliamentary estate log on to Facebook up to 3 million times a month – 300 times as often as they access the BBC News website.
The figures also revealed a high number of visits to supermarket shopping websites, computer gaming sites and music download sites such as Grooveshark, which is being sued for alleged copyright offences.
There were 4,665 visits to bookmaker Paddy Power, 3,803 to rival Ladbrokes and 4,126 to horseracing news site attheraces.com.
Several MPs also appeared to make thousands of visits to their own websites each month.
And up to 50,000 visits were made to the controversial adultery website Out of Town Affairs, which matches up people looking for ‘no-strings-attached fun, hot steamy action and erotic encounters’.
The site has since been blocked on computers using the parliamentary system.