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Record Copies of Acts

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:36 pm on 20th April 2016.

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Photo of Melanie Onn Melanie Onn Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 6:36 pm, 20th April 2016

We support this industry and agree that it is worth maintaining—[Interruption.] In response to the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Claire Perry, I am not giving way because I have only two minutes left before the speech from the Minister, who wants to take 13 minutes to make his point clear.

We support this industry and agree that it is worth maintaining, but the company produces thousands of pages of vellum every year and its contract with Parliament is only a small part of its business. The company’s general manager has said that the loss of the contract with Parliament would be “nothing”, and I think that we should accept his expert opinion.

The Minister for the Cabinet Office said to The Daily Telegraph yesterday:

“Printing vellum copies of laws…provides a durability we cannot guarantee in the digital world, as we simply cannot know how easy it will be to read today’s data in a decade, let alone in a millennium.”

What absolute rubbish! One minute the Cabinet Office brags about

“building new digital services so good people prefer using them to the old paper versions they replace”,

and the next it says that it is all going to be unreadable in 10 years’ time. If we follow his logic, everything should be printed on vellum, not just Acts of Parliament.

Mr Rees-Mogg have claimed that to ditch vellum would be to downgrade the importance of the law of the land. As very few people are actually aware of laws being printed on goatskin in the first place, I can only think that they must be talking about the effect on themselves and their Conservative colleagues. If they believe the law would no longer be important after the change to manuscript paper, people might want to keep an eye on them.

I find it particularly surprising that the hon. Member for North East Somerset, who has written an article in The Daily Telegraph today, agrees with the argument that it is important for Acts to last 5,000 years. His lack of concern about rising global temperatures had led me to believe that he was not all that bothered about anything still being here in the year 7016.

Finally, there is the question of why on earth the Minister for the Cabinet Office is getting involved. This is a matter for the Lords, not the Commons or the Government. If the Government do wish to involve themselves, why is the Leader of the House not leading on this matter, rather than the Minister for the Cabinet Office? I am sure that there are much more useful things a Government Minister could be doing with his time, and there are certainly much more worthy causes on which £100,000 of taxpayers’ money could be spent each year. He should let the Lords end this archaic process and get on with something more important. The world has moved on since 1497 and it is time that this place did too.