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Record Copies of Acts

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:28 pm on 20th April 2016.

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Photo of David Warburton David Warburton Conservative, Somerton and Frome 6:28 pm, 20th April 2016

I wonder whether we are belittling ourselves slightly. Yes, vellum is almost immortally permanent and—from the Domesday Book to the equally wondrous Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Act 2016—has faithfully freighted and defended its contents. If we ditch it for a ream of A4 80 gsm paper, or whatever it might be, our descendants will watch as the laws governing them gradually putrefy, wither and dissolve. Yes, that might be an advantage for many things, but is not this about more than a practical issue?

I am sure that hon. Members will agree that every day we sit in this place and hear soaring flights of Ciceronian oratory from both sides of the House. This place bears witness to an indefatigable tide of facts, figures and predictions, all of which are dispensed with rhetorical clusters of clauses and sub-clauses nesting like Russian dolls, and held up with towering eloquence. Is it not fitting for the laws, Bills and Acts in which those words are made manifest to be conveyed and preserved in a manner worthy of their breadth and nobility?

I am sure hon. Members will remember “Gulliver’s Travels”, in which one Lilliputian inspired awe in the others because he was taller than his peers by the breadth of one fingernail. We must not be guilty of the same—of thinking small and measuring ourselves against one another instead of taking the wider view and the historical perspective, and reflecting the enormous historical significance and distinction of this place.

We have faced this hurdle before when, with great irony, the distinguished and noble Members of another place sought to end a millennium-long tradition. While balancing precariously on a quivering tower of ritual custom and convention, they thrust their ancient swords in the direction of another small part of our heritage, and their efforts were thwarted. I, for one, hope we will resist them again.

In this place, the thought ought to be not, “Can we make do?” but, “Can we do no better?” I am delighted that so many Members support this motion. As negligible as a politician is, and however much today’s Lilliputian thoughts might seem perishable, it is incumbent on us today to uphold their imperishability.