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Points of Order

Volume 605: debated on Tuesday 9 February 2016

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It has been brought to my attention that the use of vellum—the calfskin material on which Acts of Parliament are printed—is to be discontinued, with Parliament giving 30 days’ notice to cease to the printers. However, in response to a point of order made by the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr Gray) on 26 October last year, you made it clear that a decision on this matter would have to be taken on the Floor of the House.

May I therefore seek your guidance on what should be done now in order that Members from across the House can register their opposition to the decision and make the case for the continued use of vellum, especially in the light of significant disputes over the so-called savings that have been cited by the Administration Committee and influenced its recommendation to end the centuries-old practice of using vellum to print this country’s legislation? Surely we think that the legislation that we make in this place—the mother of all Parliaments—is worthy of nothing less.

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order and for her courtesy in giving me notice of it. She is, indeed, correct that when the matter was raised in October last year by the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr Gray), I indicated that, as had been the case in 1999, the House would be asked to decide whether to agree to the recommendation of the Administration Committee that it should agree to the proposal of the House of Lords—indeed, the decision of the House of Lords—to replace vellum with archival paper. That was my understanding at that time, not least for the historical reason that I have just given. No such opportunity has, however, been offered to the House. That is why she is complaining. The provision of such an opportunity is not in my gift.

I should also say that the arrangements for printing Acts of Parliament and the associated expenditure are matters for the House of Lords, and not for this House, so its arrangements with the printers of Acts are not matters for the Chair.

As for seeking an opportunity to demonstrate the depth and breadth of support for the continued use of vellum, I am sure that the hon. Lady will have thought of tabling an early-day motion. I shall leave the matter there for now.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you may recall, last week I asked the Minister of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills a topical question. It was about facility time and check-off provisions contained in the Trade Union Bill, and whether they would be removed as they apply to Scotland and Wales. The Socialist Worker newspaper—you may have a subscription, Mr Speaker—and other media outlets have published a letter from the Minister of State to other Ministers, including the Prime Minister, which indicates that concessions will be made to devolved Administrations, effectively removing the Bill’s check-off and facility time arrangements. That letter was dated 26 January.

The information that I was given on 2 February and the letter of 26 January are contradictory to say the least. Can you indicate, Mr Speaker, whether the Minister of State has made a request to clarify those contradictory statements, and can you say what options are available to hon. Members who wish to seek clarity on that matter?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, but I have received no indication from any Minister from that Department about an intention to make a statement on the matter. I hope he will forgive me, but I do not recall off the top of my head which Minister responded to the question last week.

Yes, but there is usually more than one Minister of State. Name recognition is helpful, but in the absence of a declared name, I cannot recall which Minister answered. I hope I followed the drift of the hon. Gentleman’s attempted point of order, but I was not conscious that Ministers had a hotline to the Socialist Worker newspaper.

Not yet, says the leader of the Liberal Democrats from a sedentary position. I read the journal myself occasionally when I was a school student, but I readily concede that it has not passed my desk since. If there is confusion about the matter, it is best that that is dispelled. My advice to the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens) in all seriousness is that he should wend his way to the Table Office and table a written question on the matter. If, when he receives a response, the fog has not lifted, I have a feeling that he will turn up at business questions on a Thursday to press for an early statement or debate on that matter. He is nothing if not dogged, and I feel sure that he will pursue his objective with the fixity of purpose that is required.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. If I remember correctly, you said that in your youth you read the Socialist Worker. Would it be right to come to the conclusion that having read that revolutionary journal, you decided to become a Tory?

The hon. Gentleman may be correct in that surmise. A young lad at my secondary school was a devoted seller of that paper, and another young lad was also a devoted seller of the paper and has since become a distinguished academic, but as far as I know, he no longer adheres to the precepts of the Socialist Workers party. Did reading that paper make me a Tory? Probably. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, both for his point of order and for his sense of humour.

bill presented

Blood Donor (Equality) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Tim Farron, supported by Michael Fabricant, presented a Bill to make provision about the conditions to be met by male blood donors, including removing the restrictions relating to blood donation from men who have sexual intercourse with men; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 11 March, and to be printed (Bill 130).