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Record Copies of Acts

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:54 pm on 20th April 2016.

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Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Housing) 5:54 pm, 20th April 2016

The hon. Lady makes her point extremely well.

When it is proposed that vellum must be discontinued because there is a cheaper alternative, I start from a perspective of great scepticism. Why should we change the practice when it has served us so well for centuries? The issue is close to my heart because of the Lindisfarne Gospels. Everyone here will know their relevance to the north-east and to my Durham constituency. Produced in around 700, the gospels were written and painted on vellum, without which the gospels simply would not be with us today. Not just old relics, they are important living texts for our understanding of the culture and heritage of the north-east and elsewhere. When last on display in Durham a few years ago, over 100,000 people viewed them in just three months, most of them paying to do so.

Vellum is needed in the restoration of our ancient texts and for the recording of a range of important documents not only in the UK, but abroad. I hope that this House and the other place will take steps to protect the industry that supports that restoration, not put its future viability at risk by discontinuing the use of vellum. I pay tribute to the former Member of Parliament for North East Milton Keynes and the current Members of Parliament for Milton Keynes for trying to support and keep the industry alive.

I rarely agree with the Minister for the Cabinet Office, but I did when he told The Daily Telegraph:

“Recording our laws on vellum is a millennium long tradition, and surprisingly cost effective. While the world around us constantly changes, we should safeguard some of our great traditions and not let the use of vellum die out.”

I strongly agree with him on that and I hope that in this House today we can send a strong message to their lordships that they should think again about this decision.

I am not against modernisation—indeed, I think the House of Lords could do with some of it—but we need to get the balance right. Things do have to change, but we also need to preserve what is important about our past. Acts of Parliament fall into that category, and we should continue to use vellum. I hope that we all vote in support of that today.