HC Deb 29 January 1897 vol 45 cc783-4

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, (1) will he explain why it is that an author or publisher, on sending gratis, in accordance with Law, a copy of a newly published book to the British Museum Library, is required to pay postage upon such book, and that in default of pre-payment a fine of double the deficient postage is levied by the Post Office upon the copyright office of the British Museum; (2) whether he has been informed that authors and publishers resent the obligation to supplement the compulsory contribution of the books to the national library by paying postage, and that some of them on principle refuse to pay such postage and challenge proceedings to enforce it; and (3) whether, seeing that the privilege of free postage is conceded in the case of parcels forwarded to the South Kensington Museum, the Public Record Office, the Royal College of Science, the Royal College of Art, and similar institutions, he will recommend that authors and publishers shall only be required to convey their books properly addressed to the nearest post office?


The question raised by the hon. Member has been repeatedly considered by various Governments. The Law 5 and 6 Vict., cap. 45, has thrown upon publishers the duty of delivering their publications at the British Museum and at other Libraries besides—the Bodleian at Oxford, the Public Library at Cambridge, that of the Faculty of Advocates at Edinburgh, and Trinity College, Dublin. There seems to be no reason for relieving publishers of the duty by throwing the burden of delivery on the State. The deficient postage is apparently readily recovered by the British Museum, whose estimate for postage is only £200, and that for their law charges £20. The amount of such postal matter is very small, most of such publications being sent by other agencies, and amounting to about one ton a day. The Postmaster General has no such information as is suggested in the second paragraph of the hon. Member's question. The argument derived from the intention of the Copyright Act does not, of course, apply to the other institutions mentioned by the hon. Member.