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Record Copies of Acts of Parliament

Volume 774: debated on Monday 11 July 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions have taken place to implement the undertaking given by the Paymaster General to provide funding for public Acts of Parliament to continue to be printed on vellum, following the House of Commons resolution on 20 April.

My Lords, this is a matter for Parliament. Following the debate in the other place, the Commons Administration Committee is discussing the issue this very afternoon. We will consider the next steps when it has concluded its deliberations.

I congratulate the Government on offering assistance to help preserve this very long and deeply cherished tradition, which has great practical importance since vellum lasts so much longer than paper. Should we not be particularly conscious of the strength of feeling that has been exhibited in the other place in favour of retaining vellum, especially in view of the resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament in 1849 that there should be no change without the express consent of both of them?

I am very delighted to be discussing this pressing issue today because there is not much else going on. I respect what my noble friend has to say but I gently repeat that the recording of Acts of Parliament is a matter for the two Houses. We very much hope that a way forward can be found to continue the use of vellum. If that is not the wish of this House, a way will have to be found, but, as I say, we await the outcome of the committee’s meeting this afternoon.

My Lords, I cannot really believe that that is the Government’s position. This House, through our committees, has decided to phase out the use of vellum. To reintroduce it would be hugely expensive and a complete waste of time. I hope the Government are not reversing their position on this.

I gently say again that this is a matter for both Houses. It is a matter for the committee of this House and the committee of the other House to come to some agreement on. I am delighted, though, that the Labour Party is now looking to save money; this is a great turn up for the books. As I say, this is not a matter for government. We have made an offer but it is up to the Houses to decide.

My Lords, may I, for once, cross swords with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt? Will my noble friend take very carefully into account what the other place has so very sensibly decided? Should this not have a united parliamentary response, whereby we acknowledge the supremacy of the elected House?

As I say, that is very much the position. The position is as I have just said, and we have to await the outcome of the committee this afternoon.

Does the Minister think that the letter from the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, in the Times deserves to be printed on vellum and preserved for posterity?

My Lords, as regards vellum being returned by the will of the elected House, regardless of how appropriate that would be in the 21st century, could not the Government possibly save money, and ensure the security of the supply of vellum, by turning over the green opposite to goats?

That is an interesting suggestion. We shall have to wait and see what the outcome of the committee is this afternoon.