Mackems won't thank Sharon for vellum absurdity





Sunderland MP’s concern over calf skin ‘beggars belief’ says campaigner.

A Lib Dem campaigner on Wearside has slammed local MP Sharon Hodgson for being more concerned about the Westminster bubble than problems facing the people she was elected to represent.

Sunderland and Washington West MP Mrs Hodgson raised a point of order in the House of Commons today (9th February) to say she was concerned that Acts of Parliament would no longer be written on vellum – the calf skin currently used to record official documents – adding that the laws passed by MPs are “worthy of nothing less”.

Wearside Liberal Democrats Chairman Stephen O’Brien said Sharon Hodgson has got her priorities seriously wrong.

He said:

“The MP for Sunderland West and Washington – who lives in Gateshead - has spoken just 5 times in the Commons this year and hasn’t mentioned ‘Sunderland’ or ‘Washington’ in a Parliamentary speech since last July. To find out that her top priority appears to be the future of calf skin in the Palace of Westminster beggars belief.

“Mrs Hodgson’s Labour colleagues in charge of the city council waste millions on councillors’ allowances, vanity projects and consultants at the same time as cutting vital services like bin collections, lollipop patrols and transport for disabled young people trying to get to school. I suggest she steps out of the Westminster bubble, gets out on the doorsteps and actually listens to local people’s fears and concerns so she can act upon them instead of wasting time on whether Acts of Parliament are written on animal skin or paper.”


Notes to editors:

A transcript of Sharon Hodgson MP’s speech on vellum is as follows:

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Labour):

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.

House of Commons speaker John Bercow responded:

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.

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