back to article Hey, If you truly spunked £45k on 1,300 Brexit deal print-outs, you're absolute mugs

The UK government spent £45,637 printing copies of the 600-page Withdrawal Agreement it now has to renegotiate – but did our political masters get their money's worth? Trust El Reg's readers to do the maths. In response to a Freedom of Information request from the Beeb, the government said it had ordered 1,300 copies of the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The total cost of the paper documents has to be the full life cost, so the paper, printing and labour as before but also the waste collecting and recycling. And don't forget the cost of the carbon offset for all the hot air that was generated by the text.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Good point - had the government done the printing then they might have been asked to consider the environmental impact, but by outsourcing it they don't have to worry about anything.

    2. Ragarath

      What about profit?

      I saw no mention of profits, did they outsource? If so then that is a 35% margin.

      Not sure what margins are in the printing business but not totally unlikely I feel.

      1. Vulch

        Re: What about profit?

        Not sure what margins are in the printing business

        They're the blank space to the left and right of the text, but that's not important right now...

      2. Youngone Silver badge

        Re: What about profit?

        The margins in the printing business, at least where I Iive, are more like 3%.

        In fact after working for a printing supplies company, I found that about a third of my customers were probably trading while insolvent.

        I can't imagine it's that much different in the UK as it is easy to get into printing. Hard to make money though.

    3. Mark 85

      Also forgot the covers and binding. Probably full color, heavy stock for the covers.

      As for the printers... renting and having delivered on site costs money.

      The other possibility is that the whole think was sent to commercial printing company.

  2. Colemanisor

    Outsourced it all to Crapita. No sorry, that would have doubled the costs

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Don't be daft. The material was delivered on spec and in time - two things Crapita have never managed.

  3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    It was outsourced

    Like everything else these days they hired a private company to do the job because "outsourcing saves money" - but it doesn't, it always costs more and the extra money ends up in your friends pockets. The function of government is help your chums make money - watch all of the cabinet retire in the next few years (regardless of what happens) and get well paid jobs with industry and media organizations ... oh wait, it's already started hasn't it Boris?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: It was outsourced

      HM stationey office was privatised in 1996 as TSO (The Stationery Office). It's now owned either by or between Avent International of Boston, Mass and Deutsche Post. I can't work out which, the subsidiary structure is a bit convoluted.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: It was outsourced

        >...and Deutsche Post

        Her Maj's stationary cupboard is infiltrated by the Boche ?

        Retired colonel splutters cornflakes all over his copy of the Telegraph

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: It was outsourced

          HM is keeping the family silver in the family then.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    sorry but i'm struggling to make sense of this amount as its completely unrelatable.

    can someone please translate it into the distance it will get to the moon when stacked it in 5 pound notes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: £45,000???!??

      my crappy micrometer says a polymer fiver is 0.1mm.

      nine thousand of them is 0.9 meters. so about 1 385 millionths of the way

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The simple way is to convert it to £($)/pg and see if that aligns with local prices.

    £45,000/(1300*600pg) = £45,000/780,000pg = £0.05769/pg

    For us USAians, the £ is currently trading at 1.3 $, so that's

    £0.05769/pg * 1.3£/$ = $0.075

    which would be cheaper than the usual $0.10+/pg that I'm charged at the places I've seen in the US.

    But the simple way wouldn't make for a good Reg article either. ☺

    1. davenewman


      On our local Green Party Riso printer, that would cost 2 p/sheet (= 1 p/page double sided), not the 5.7 p/page calculated above.

      That doesn't include labour, which would put the cost up to 2 p/page from a company like Hillingdon Greenprint.

    2. Simon Harris

      6p per page is what Rymans will charge for 1000+ page print jobs.

      1. Paul Smith

        Which is 0.06 * 600 * 1300 or £46800, so they actually got a good deal and have such shit PR that they still get slagged off for it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    of course it costs that much. there're pockets to line, business friends to endow, trust funds to enrich, the cogs of bureaucracy to grease....

    you can't just 'pay' someone to 'do the job', this isn't downtown Mogadishu!

    1. Toltec

      Yes, Sir Humphrey

  7. Andy The Hat Silver badge


    For a reasonable comparative statistic, it cost more to print those few documents than the entire copier budget for classroom materials/exams/tests/etc in our school department for over FOUR YEARS ... Now let's reconsider how expensive schools are to run ...

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Comparison

      Well, yes, but it's not like education is critical for the future of the country. It's much more preferable that a handful of disaster capitalists get the opportunity to cash in on the return of unicorns to this green and pleasant land.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Comparison

        Perhaps the copies could be distributed to schools?

        Make the text a set book, and write your (un)critical essays about it on the blank side

  8. AIBailey

    Out by over £2500

    Has nobody heard of duplex printing?

    Each report should only take 300 sheets of paper, halving the overall paper costs.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Out by over £2500

      Change the printing defaults to duplex.

      Slash printing budget by a third

      Everyone complains about two-sided printing because it's "harder to read"

      Get told off, rather than congratulated for saving money


    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Out by over £2500

      > Has nobody heard of duplex printing?

      But it was printed double-spaced because all MP's will be going through it with a fine-tooth comb, marking-up detailed notes and corrections on almost every line. Or not.

      Icon: Brexit wishful thinking

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Out by over £2500

      > Has nobody heard of duplex printing?

      Has nobody heard of PDF?

  9. Chris_C

    The real staffing costs are going to be 1 person to look after the copiers, and one massively overpaid manager to tell them to work harder...

  10. Velv

    Since this is probably one of many "papers" MPs need to read (HA!), why not just buy them all a Kindle* and push the papers to them.

    *Other devices are available

    1. John 110


      Because you can't shuffle a bundle of Kindles officiously while you frantically try to think of a sensible answer to the hard question (mine would be "why are we going ahead with this crappy Brexit anyway?") just asked you.

      1. daldred

        Re: Really?

        Actually, paper does have a function at times.

        Comparing the provisions listed on three different pages of a massive document is a lot easier if you can spread them out on a desk than if you have to keep jumping back and forward on an reader. Have your read the WA? It's constantly making references to other sections and other documents.

        Admittedly a fully bound copy doesn't' help with this. A ring-bound version, now, might be useful.

      2. FlossyThePig

        Re: Paper...

        why are we going ahead with this crappy Brexit anyway?

        It's "the will of the people"*, which is the shovel that the two major parties have used to dig the big hole they are both in.

        *That'll be 38% of the electorate.

        1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          Re: Will of the people

          Irrelevant to anyone in power.

        2. Rob Daglish

          Re: Paper...

          *will of the majority of people who turned up to vote. Neither side can claim the ones who, for whatever reason, didn't vote - although Remainers and Brexiters have both tried to.

  11. 0laf Silver badge

    If it's outsourced then the private sector body needs profit. Plus building costs, insurance, pension contributions for the workers, an HR department and other related management structures.

    Also delivery.

    I'm sure there is a business commentard can explain what a normal profit margin would be on this.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      what a normal profit margin would be on this.

      A knighthood for services to enterprise, usually.

  12. Pen-y-gors

    Amazon is your friend

    Kindle publishing for a 600 page B&W paperback at is £6.70 per copy, plus a bit of postage. So 1300 x 6.7 = £8710. Plus a bit of staff time.

    The Tories are the party of business - i.e. giving far more taxpayers money to businesses than is necessary. They're not actually any good at real business.

    1. DavCrav

      Re: Amazon is your friend

      "Amazon is your friend"

      You forgot to add taxes into your calculation. Much like Amazon does.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Amazon is your friend

        There is no sales tax on books. Also, EU red tape requires companies to include taxes in their quoted prices.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: There is no sales tax on books.

          There is VAT on colouring books if they are targeted at adults.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, as it's been rejected, that means the deal literally isn't worth the paper it's printed on?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not that expensive for print.

    When you work with a print provider you often pay a click charge. A charge per image typically.

    These can range from a fraction of a penny to say more than 10p depending on the supplier or if they are a copy shop etc.

    In this case if you have 600 pages - assuming duplex x 1300 copies thats 1.56 million images (not pages).

    For 45K thats circa .03p per image.

    Thats not the cheapest.. but they would have to pay for the paper and also they would need finishing/binding etc.

    So... it's not that unreasonable.

    Printing stuff isn't always cheap !

  15. SVV

    Printer hire costs?

    I'm assuming that there is already some sort of print office in Whitehall that has decent printing capability, for all the other paliamentary reports, etc and that the print shop is already staffed by civil servants. If thiis were to be confirmed, then the staff and printer hire costs could also be deducted as they would not be needed specifically for this one print run. However, it is probably more likely that this function has been outsourced, hence the need for the huge profit for the "more efficient private provider" to be added to the cost. Post ministerial directorships all round!

    1. Pen-y-gors

      Re: Printer hire costs?

      It used to be called HMSO (IHer Maj's Stationery Office)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1,300 copies of the document

    this would make it a collector's items. If anyone were ever to be interested...

  17. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    Over here in the offshore-colonies there is a law that amendments to some act need to be printed with the original text strike-through

    An entire squillion page law got overturned in some complicated way which meant they had to reprint it with every single character in strike through.

    And then distribute copies to all the official libraries

  18. Jon 37

    You can't just assume you have everything set up, staff available, space available, etc. These things take time.

    Either you have a permanent staff person for this, and pay them for time they're not printing, or you pay to hire temps through a temp agency who will need to cover their costs and make a profit. Either way there are going to be more senior, more highly paid staff supervising / setting up etc.

    Seriously though, this is a non-core task, and it's big enough (and small enough) that most companies would outsource it to a print shop. The sensible comparison is against print shop rates, not the cost of printers / ink.

    (10 pages one-off: office printer. 10000 pages every few months: print shop. 10 million pages a month every month: either long-term contract with a specialist supplier, or set up a specialist printing department in the company).

  19. katrinab Silver badge

    Look at it another way

    It cost them £35.10 for a 600 page book. Lulu Press charge £12.80 for that in the sort of quantities required.

    They probably aren't the cheapest supplier around, but they are the only one I know.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Look at it another way

      "Lulu Press charge £12.80 for that in the sort of quantities required."

      Are you comparing similar page sizes?

  20. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    This cost will be largely offset...

    When the toilet roll shortage hits.

  21. Christoph

    The remaining cash went for 5 minutes of a consultant's time to tell them that if they wanted it printed they would require paper, ink, and printers.

    1. Pen-y-gors

      Nah. A real government consultant would forget about the ink.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        But he was a real consultant as he used the ambiguous word "printers" - was he referring to people or machines? also he omitted binding.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: also he omitted binding.

          Anything to do with "binding" is a bit of a sore point with HM Gov at the moment, so he probably didn't want to mention it.

  22. cjmpe

    Presumably this is outsourced since we're regularly told that the private sector can to things far more efficiently than the government:

    1. HS&E rep for each shift- in my experience this is typically someone who gets shuffled off into the position because they aren't capable of doing real work - so that will be 3 extra bodies.

    2. Supervisor to do all of that paperwork that always seems to be needed by the "super efficient" private sector bureaucracy. I'll be generous and assume that this is one person to cover all 3 shifts

    3. Overhead to cover the lunches, club memberships, company Jaguar (am I missing anything else?) of the company director

    4. Gross margin to keep the stock market investors happy.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Presumably this is outsourced since we're regularly told that the private sector can to things far more efficiently than the government: in house capacity doesn't exist any more.

  23. Dan 55 Silver badge


    Has anyone worked out how much Tim Martin sank into Weatherspoons News?

  24. dloughlin

    Erm...I could have printed that for under 10k using our copiers which where procured through a government purchasing framework in less than a day. I would have happily been paid 35k to do it to.

  25. Joeyjoejojrshabado

    Premium suckers tax

    The printers realise that only absolute incompetents would plow on regardless with a useless withdrawal agreement, they can charge whatever they like.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Instead of inciting speculation

    What stops the Reg from filing their own FOI request for details on how the money was spent, exactly? The relevant invoices will all be there.

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