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Record Copies of Acts

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:46 pm on 20th April 2016.

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Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office 6:46 pm, 20th April 2016

And to places around the country: Grimsby, Salford, Chester—you name it. [Interruption.] Ebbsfleet—any more bids?

Let me deal with the costs. As has been noted, I bow to no one in my desire to save taxpayers’ money. For the first half of this decade, the drive for savings has been the backdrop to debate in this House, and I expect that to continue for some years yet. The Administration Committee estimates that the cost to Parliament of using vellum has been a little over £100,000 a year. Of course, any alternative would have its own costs, so all this amount could not be saved in any case.

Last year, the total costs of the House of Lords were around £100 million. If both Houses decide to sit for one extra day, the cost runs into tens of thousands. By comparison with the resources put into researching, debating and passing each Bill, the printing of an Act on vellum is negligible. Even my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley called the costs “not significant”. The savings proposed are just a tenth of 1% of the budget of the House of Lords, and one hundred thousandth of 1% of the total budget of the Government.

Vellum’s durability means that it is excellent value for money. At today’s prices, printing the Magna Carta on vellum would cost about £6 per century. I do not know of any other data storage system that can beat that, so I can give the House the commitment that, should there be any extra costs, taxpayers will be protected, and we will work with both Houses to find a solution that can work. I have heard the argument that there is only one printer and that it is being dismantled, but that is just not true. There are a multitude of printers; indeed, I printed the first page of my speech on vellum on a laser printer.

We have looked into the matter of suppliers, and one consequence of this debate and the scrutiny it has provided is that we can bring the costs of printing on vellum down. I have heard that we are running out of space for storage. That is not true. At the current rate, we could pass Acts for 500 years and there would be space enough in the Victoria tower for them. On the basis of symbolism, cost and practicality, therefore, we should continue this great and long tradition.