Historically, UK laws have been preserved as they were printed on vellum
Historically, UK laws have been preserved as they were printed on vellum, which is made of animal skin.
With laws in the parliamentary archive dating back to the 15th century, they provide an invaluable record of the history of Britain.
But the tradition has been quietly dropped following a stand-off between the House of Commons and Lords, meaning the infamous Brexit Bill will now be printed on paper.
Despite MPs voting against plans, "record copies" of legislation are now printed on high-quality archival paper.
The move has been criticised by several MPs who branded the decision to save money “ridiculous”.
Outraged, the Lower House issued a motion last April informing the Lords it “withheld its consent to the use of archival paper rather than vellum for the printing of record copies of public Acts of Parliament”.
A House of Lords spokesman defended the move, saying the high-quality paper was exceedingly durable
The future of vellum was thought to be safe when then-Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock confirmed the Commons would provide the funds to print laws on the material.
But after legal wrangling, a compromise was reached whereby the ruling Commons Commission, chaired by Speaker John Bercow, agreed to fund vellum covers for Acts while the content is written on archival paper.
Conservative MP James Gray, who triggered a debate in the House over the issue, voiced his dismay over the decision.
Get Quotes on Home Insurance
All the pictures from Brexit Bill Tuesday Tue, March 7, 2017
Theresa May is facing a second defeat on her Brexit bill Tuesday as the House of Lords votes on another change which would give parliament the final say on leaving the EU
AFP/Getty Images 1 of 20
Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, speaks in the House of Lords Chamber at the start of the third day of The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill
What a stupid thing to do
He said: “Nobody will be happy about this. It is another part of the slicing away of traditions. This is tradition being sliced away in the interests of so-called 'modernisation’.”
And fellow back-bencher Ian Liddell-Grainger echoed his peer, branding the move “stupid”.
He said: “I am amazed. The whole point of vellum is that it lasts for ever.
Ian Liddell-Grainge branded the move “stupid”
“We don't use it for the good of our health. The records of parliament are the records of history.
“I think this is petty minded bureaucracy and trying to save pennies, when we will only lose pounds when it goes.
“You only have to look in the archives. What a stupid thing to do. This is ridiculous.
“The history of parliament is the history of our nation. Remember history because you will need to learn those lessons.”
Referring to the Brexit Bill, he said: “It should be written on vellum. Because in a thousand years time people will ask, 'what did they do in March 2017?'
“They will not read it on paper. Ancient man had it right.”
Laws in the parliamentary archive date back to the 15th century
But a House of Lords spokesman defended the move, saying the high-quality paper was exceedingly durable.
They said: “Switching from vellum to high quality archival paper will, on a conservative estimate, cut costs by approximately 80% – at least £80,000 per year.
“The Parliamentary Archives has records on paper dating from early 16th century so it is wrong to suggest it is not suitable and robust material.”
And a spokesman for the House of Commons said: “Last year the House of Lords announced their intention to replace vellum with high quality but markedly cheaper archival paper.
“The House of Commons voted to withhold its consent: but on this occasion the House of Lords made it clear that they were not prepared to print record copies on vellum.”