It appears that the Government and in particular the Cabinet Office Minister, Matthew Hancock MP have managed to win the case to spend an additional £80,000 per year to ensure our laws will continue to be printed on vellum, rather than other forms of long term printing. Yesterday on twitter Mr Hancock said “Committing our laws onto robust parchment sends a message that the law of the land is immutable & sovereign #“. One of his colleagues, Jesse Norman also took to twitter “Hats off to @ for keeping Acts of Parliament on vellum. Conservatism is about preserving the good stuff”
On the issue of money I confess that if I was faced with the choice of continuing with this particular tradition or spending the same money on a few more cases of wine from the House of Commons cellar to be drunk by our MPs, I would support the decision the MPs have made. On the other hand if the money could have been redirected to a worthy cause, the vellum would not get much consideration. However in the scheme of things £80,000 is not a huge amount of money in the context of Government spending, the annual spend for Parliament is some £2Bn and there are many ways in which this could be cut by a great deal more than 0.004% if only people from outside the system were allowed to make some decisions on costs that are determined and scrutinised by people who have a vested interest in retaining these sums at their current rate.
Whilst funding is an important issue, what is much more important are those themes of sovereignty, conservatism and immutability that Norman and Hancock refer to. It is offensive for our MPs to claim such qualities for the way in which the laws are written down, if the laws themselves and the way they are made do not live up to such high standards. The behaviour in the House of Commons during PMQs reflects the very opposite of these values. Equally bearing in mind yesterdays debate at PMQ’s on the enforced academisation of Schools, that is one law that is at complete odds with these vital themes, particularly as the Government has just turned down a request for a public inquiry and a referendum on this policy based on a petition signed by more than 150,000 people. To respond with the comment that there would be no debate following the petition as the opposition had debated bill on 13th April is a clear indication that Matthew Hancock and his Government totally misunderstand real sovereignty. Another example is the various attacks on the charity sector taken over the last 3 years by colleagues of Hancock and Norman. A further contravention is the way in which our MPs and Lords have chosen to take expenses or adopt tax avoidance opportunities because they can and the rules allow them to, rules that they set!
By all means lets ensure we record our laws in an appropriate way, but we need laws and rules that are suitable to be printed on vellum, and that are made in a manner that befits the vellum and its tradition, not the tawdry qualities that match far too many of our recent laws.