To ask the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington representing the House of Commons Commission, what estimate the Commission has made of the savings from ending the printing of Acts of Parliament on vellum; and what proportion of those savings arises from (a) William Cowley and (b) other costs from the use of vellum.
The House of Lords is responsible for the printing of two record copies of each Act, both printed on vellum in accordance with the Resolutions agreed by both Houses in February 1849. The Commission does not incur any expenditure on the printing of these copies, and has therefore undertaken no inquiry into, or consultation on, the proposal from the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords to move to the use of archival paper. It has also therefore not sought to assess alternative options, nor undertaken any analysis of relative storage or care costs of vellum as opposed to archival paper. The House of Lords agreed in 1999 to vary its resolution and that vellum should cease to be used. The predecessor Administration Committee had considered arguments in support of a similar proposal from the House of Lords in June 1999. That Committee recommended in a report (Record Copies of Acts, HC 539) to the House that the proposal to end the use of vellum be accepted. However, following a debate on 1 November 1999, on a motion that the Commons agree with the Lords in their resolution, the proposal was rejected by the Commons. [Deb HC: 1 November 1999, Col 32ff].
In his letter to the Administration Committee of 17 September, printed with the Committee’s Report (Record Copies of Acts, HC 521), the Chairman of Committees stated that the average annual cost of printing vellums is around £100,000 a year. I understand that the current estimate of the savings arising from a switch to archival paper are about 80%, amounting to around £800,000 of savings to public funds over the next ten years. These arise from the greater ease of printing on paper rather than vellum, as well as the raw material costs. The exact level of savings to public funds will depend on the number of Acts passed, and number of pages per Act, per year, and the precise specification and contractual arrangements agreed for future printing. The Commission has made no assessment of the breakdown of savings arising.
The Chairman of Committees records in his letter the view that high quality archival paper would maintain durability and print quality. I understand that the National Archives has already informed Parliament that it does not require a vellum copy, and that it takes the view that archival quality paper is sufficient to maintain the public record. It also maintains a comprehensive database of legislation, both “as originally enacted” and “as amended”, on www.legislation.gov.uk. Private Acts have been printed on archival paper since 1956. There are internationally recognised ISO standards for archival paper, and for archival quality ink and printing processes.