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Record Copies of Acts

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:25 pm on 20th April 2016.

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Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire 5:25 pm, 20th April 2016

I am most grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am not certain whether my speech can be described as important, but I am nevertheless grateful to you for your flattering remark.

This debate is of less importance than the previous one, and I make no complaint about losing some time to that debate, which was about something of very grave concern to the world. None the less, this matter is important in terms of symbolism and for a number of other reasons, which I will return to in a moment. I feel no shame in bringing forward this matter.

I intend to be reasonably brief, not least because the main arguments in favour of saving vellum for the future have been laid out this week in an outstandingly good article in that outstandingly good magazine, The House. Unfortunately, because that magazine is printed on paper, those arguments will disappear within a matter of a year or two. If it were printed on vellum, they would still be in existence some 5,000 years from now. It is therefore important that I advance the arguments in a way that future generations will be able to remember.

I pay particular tribute to Mrs Hodgson, who has fought this battle for a very long time, and her Labour colleagues who, in 1999—the last time this matter was raised—were resolute in defeating the House of Lords. I also pay tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend Mark Lancaster. As a member of the Government, he is probably unable to speak in the debate, but I know his support for William Cowley and sons in his constituency, the last remaining vellum manufacturer, is second to none. I believe that his neighbour, my hon. Friend Iain Stewart, is hoping to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, to speak on the company’s behalf.

I would be the first to accept there are a great many more important matters that we should discuss in this place. I would not have wished to discuss the use of vellum were it not for the fact that the House of Lords unilaterally, without consulting us, decided to discontinue it. All I am seeking to do in the debate is to assert our right as the House of Commons to have at least a say in the matter. If we have a Division later and the motion is defeated—if the House of Commons decides to agree with their lordships to abolish the use of vellum—so be it. However, it is right that Members should have a say about how our laws are recorded for future generations, as we did in 1999, 1849 and throughout the generations.