A TORY MP has apologised “unreservedly” for playing games on his iPad during a select committee hearing - as the Commons authorities launched a mole hunt for whoever caught him on camera.
Photographs published by The Sun showed Nigel Mills enjoying online hit Candy Crush Saga during a Work and Pensions Committee evidence session.
The Amber Valley MP, who has been issued with a tablet at the taxpayers’ expense, initially told the newspaper he would merely “try” not to be diverted by the game again.
But in a statement this afternoon he said: “I apologise unreservedly for my behaviour at the committee meeting and realise it fell short of what is expected of a Member of Parliament.
“I guarantee it will not happen again. It is a fantastic privilege to represent Amber Valley and I hope constituents will continue to support my campaigns such as lower taxes for hardworking people.”
Prime Minister David Cameron described Mr Mills as a “hardworking” politician, adding that he was sure he would “work even harder in future”.
One of Mr Mills’ senior Tory colleagues, Sir Edward Leigh, has reportedly suggested that he was only trying to “keep himself awake” during a boring committee meeting.
The committee met last Monday and was discussing pensions and the insurance industry ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
A Commons spokesman said the photographs, shot over Mr Mills’ shoulder, broke strict parliamentary rules. Taking images without permission can lead to individuals being barred from the estate.
“This was a breach of the filming rules for House of Commons Committee Rooms, and will be investigated by the Serjeant at Arms,” a spokesman said.
Commons rules state that: “No one should photograph, film or sketch or have their voice recorded anywhere within the Parliamentary Estate without permission.
“Anyone who attempts to do so, or to market, publish or transmit such material will be referred to Black Rod or the Serjeant at Arms.
“This could prejudice their future admission to the Houses of Parliament.”
The Serjeant at Arms has scope to impose some punishments, but “serious breaches” are reported to the Administration Committee.
Speaking on a visit to Harris City Academy in Crystal Palace, south London, Mr Cameron said: “I haven’t spoken to Nigel about it. I know he is a very hard-working MP, I know him well, he fights very hard in his constituency for people in Derbyshire, he works very hard in Parliament.
“I’m sure he will be embarrassed by what he saw in the papers today and he will work even harder in the future.”
But TaxPayers’ Alliance spokesman John O’Connell said: “This is nonsense on stilts. If the Parliamentary authorities have the time and money to waste on this pointless inquiry, then clearly we need to have another look at the size of their budget.
“The issue isn’t how the photos got out, but why the MP was messing around on video games during the Committee and why Parliament insists on these outdated filming regulations for what is, lest we forget, a public meeting.”
Candy Crush Saga is a free-to-download mobile game but users pay extra for more moves to improve their score. Having started out on social network Facebook, it moved on to mobile devices in 2012, and is now played more than a billion times a day, according to developer King.com.