Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Record Copies of Acts

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

Alert me about debates like this

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

My hon. Friend makes an extremely strong point.

The third argument that is sometimes advanced by those who are opposed to vellum is that this is some sort of animal rights or animal welfare matter because of the use of calfskins in making vellum. The answer to that point is that the calfskins are picked up from the abattoir. The calves are killed for the purpose of being eaten, so there is absolutely no animal welfare consideration of any kind at all. Indeed, we could argue that reusing the calfskins is a much more environmentally friendly approach.

In contrast to those three—rather weak, in my view—arguments in favour of abolishing vellum, there are three vastly stronger reasons for keeping it. First, vellum has for centuries been used for documents of significance and importance. University graduation certificates have always been on vellum, as have certificates of long service and military commissions. Every law in every Commonwealth Parliament throughout the world is on vellum. In America, West Point graduates get vellums. Knighthoods are on vellum, as are peerages. Any decent, important document that we have uses vellum. When we give a certificate to our Lord Mayor for his long service, it is always on vellum. Why should we be uniquely downgrading the laws of the land and saying that they are not important enough to be on vellum, despite the fact that our university graduation certificates are?

Secondly, vellum is hugely more durable than paper—there is no question about that at all. It cannot be crushed and it cannot be torn up. Of course, we are not allowed to use visual aids in this Chamber, Mr Speaker—I would not dream of doing such a thing—but I can show that it is true that vellum cannot be crushed or squashed, because it comes out just as it was before its crushing. It cannot be torn or burned, and it is not affected by water. It is durable in a very real sense.

As some of my hon. Friends have mentioned, we have good examples of how vellum has survived without any maintenance at all. It lasts for up to 5,000 years; by comparison, the maximum that can be achieved for the highest quality archival paper is 200 or 300 years.