The House of Lords agreed to cease using vellum for public Acts in 1999, with a resolution to that effect being passed on 14 October 1999. At that time, the change was not agreed by the House of Commons.
Since then the House of Lords has continued to pay for the production of two copies of each public Act of Parliament, printed on vellum. (One copy is retained in the Parliamentary Archives; one copy is sent to the National Archives.) The Lords has done this even though it is not in accord with the October 1999 resolution of this House.
In the past six years (2009/10 to 2014/15) the Lords has spent a total of £620,440 on vellum Acts; an average of just over £103,000 per year.
This is despite the availability of archival paper which is of extremely high quality and durability. Private Acts of Parliament have been printed on archival quality paper since 1956, and I am not aware that vellum is now used for any other governmental or parliamentary records.
The National Archives have confirmed the view they took in 1999; that they do not require a vellum copy, and that archival quality paper is sufficient to maintain the public record.
Switching from vellum to high quality archival paper would, on a conservative estimate, save approximately 80% on current costs - or around £80,000 per year. 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.
As well as being an expensive raw material, vellum requires a highly specialised form of printing which is not widely available, the machinery for which is expensive to maintain, and which is likely to be more difficult to procure on the expiry of the House’s current printing contract in March 2016.
As the start of a new Parliament seemed a natural point at which to implement the change previously agreed by this House, the main party Leaders, the Convenor and the Lord Speaker were consulted early in the present session, and the House Committee was informed in July 2015. I then wrote to the Chairman of the House of Commons Administration Committee on 17 September to invite that House to agree to the change.