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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

It takes a big politician to say that they have changed their mind, and my hon. Friend is indeed a big politician. I pay tribute to him for being ready to change his mind.

Three broad arguments are advanced by those who would abolish the use of vellum, each of which can be easily dealt with. The first and main argument is the cost of using vellum to record our Acts of Parliament. It is alleged that the cost of printing Acts on vellum comes to £103,000 per year, whereas doing so on paper would cost £30,000 per year. The House of Lords therefore says that the saving would be in the order of £70,000 per year. However, I have been thorough in my research, and I have been in touch with the Archives and Records Association of the UK and Ireland. Its chief executive, Mr John Chambers, who is the authority on these matters, tells me that the cost of printing on vellum is identical to that of printing on paper. The cost of printing the laws of this land is approximately £56,000 per annum and the cost of vellum is a relatively small amount on top of that. In other words, the saving by changing to paper would be, at best, perhaps £10,000 or £20,000 a year.

William Cowley and sons, the last vellum manufacturers and printers, tell me that the most they have ever been paid in a year was £47,000, and that was a year when we made far too many laws in this place, including too many long ones, so it cost more to print them. If we keep ourselves under control, pass fewer laws and keep them short, the amount that we pay to William Cowley and sons will be even less than that £47,000.