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The "Official Report": Format

Volume 416: debated on Thursday 15 January 1981

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

3.18 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask the Leader of the House whether, in view of the awkward and inconvenient dimensions of the new version of the Official Report he will consider reverting to the perfectly satisfactory traditional format.

My Lords, I would not recommend that. As I announced in a Written Answer on 13th November, the change to the new A4 size took place at the beginning of this Session in accordance with a decision of the House on 21st December 1976, following a recommendation from the Offices Committee. A similar change has been agreed for copies of the Commons Hansard printed after the Christmas Recess.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Leader of the House for his reply. Nevertheless, would he not agree that the dimensions of the new style of Official Report are such that it is difficult for the average postman to get it through the average letterbox without creasing or, occasionally, tearing it; secondly, that it is too large to fold and put in one's inside pocket for ready reference; and thirdly, that its inherent lack of rigidity means that it flops about when one is trying to quote from it—in other words, that its design is not an ergonomic one?

My Lords, all these matters were taken into account by the Offices Committee who knew what the size was going to be. There is a considerable saving in machinery. New machinery has been installed. It was realised at the time that there would be a considerable saving in both machinery and in practice and day-to-day working. Many of us have been accustomed—some of us for many more years than we choose to remember—to a particular size of Hansard. Perhaps we are all creatures of habit. I have no doubt that we shall adapt outselves to it, and that postmen will adapt themselves to deliver it through a letterbox.

My Lords, will the Lord President look at this matter again? As one who does her own filing—and presumably he does not—may I ask whether he is aware that this really is a problem if one has shelving or boxes in which to store Hansard? If these difficulties are also being encountered in the Printed Paper Office, as I understand they are—I do not know whether they were consulted—will the noble Lord look at it again? It makes one's filing system quite impossible.

My Lords, I think I should say to the noble Baroness that this has quite a lot to do with the introduction of metrication and I understand it is likely that more and more papers will be printed on A4 size paper. So in any case filing systems will gradually be adapted to take more and more A4 size paper. Whether one does one's own filing or somebody else does it, the same applies. I do not for the moment do my own filing and I hope that I shall continue not to have to do it for some time.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that when this matter came before the Offices Committee nearly five years ago all these points of convenience were very well ventilated, because we all felt that we liked the old size and it had many advantages? But we were eventually persuaded that the economies that could be made by turning to A4 size were so substantial that it simply would not be in the public interest to continue with the old size, and therefore it is with much regret that I must support my noble friend in the stand that he is taking.

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for those remarks. That was reflected also in the short debate that took place in this House afterwards.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that he may be doing his own filing much sooner than he thinks?

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord might agree that it is a proper occasion for a quotation from Ruskin:

"There is nothing on earth which cannot be made a little cheaper and a little worse".

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that, if we are saddled with this new size, something should be done to provide envelopes which fit it rather than that we should have to use envelopes of enormous size which are the only ones now available in the Library?

My Lords, can the noble Lord give an estimate of the cost of the additional paper required for printing Hansard in its present format?

My Lords, I can only give the estimate of the savings which was made at the time. I am afraid that we have not been at it long enough to be able to give an exact figure. The figures are £182,000 on machinery and £36,000 a year on manpower.