HC Deb 12 June 1947 vol 438 cc1349-51
Earl Winterton

I desire to bring a matter to your notice, Mr. Speaker, affecting this House, and I would ask if you have any comment to make upon it. On 15th May of this year the following letter was issued, as I understand with the approval of the Library Committee and the Librarian, headed "Return of Books to the Library": By means of a subscription taken out with Harrods Library, the Library of the House of Commons is able to obtain such current publications as are not permanently acquired by it. Of the books thus borrowed during the last six months, one half are missing, and it will not be possible to continue the subscription unless they are returned. It would be very much appreciated if you would return any books on the attached list, which may happen to be still in your possession. The only comment that I would make upon the matter at this juncture is that it discloses a serious state of affairs concerning this House. I have made inquiries in the appropriate semi-official quarter, that is from the, Librarian and from the hon. Gentleman who is Chairman of the Library Committee, and I understand that since this document was issued only five books have been returned. I have also been informed, though I have been asked by the appropriate semi-official authorities not to disclose the actual figure, that there has been a very grievous loss' during last year of the periodicals from the Library. The serious point about this is that the missing books would presumably have to be compensated for out of the public purse. I would submit it is not the amount but the principle involved which is so serious. It may well be that you, Mr. Speaker, will not feel it right to make any comment upon the matter until there has been an inquiry through the usual methods of procedure into the matter. In that event, I will direct the question to the Leader of the House and ask for a Select Committee to be appointed to inquire into the whole matter.

Mr. Speaker

I think it would be for the convenience of the House if I made a statement. I would remind hon. Members that I placed a notice in the Library drawing their attention to the continued disappearance of books and periodicals belonging to it. The rate of their departure caused me some concern. Since the posting of that notice, further inquiries have been made, and I can now inform the House that the number of books acquired by the Library, which have disappeared, has fallen considerably. The last check carried out in April showed that out of a total of 554 newly purchased volumes, eleven were missing, or 2 per cent. This compares favourably with the loss of 5 per cent. noted before I placed the notice to which I have referred in the Library.

On the other hand, the loss of borrowed books, provided on a subscription taken out with a lending library, as distinct from books permanently acquired, has of late increased to such an extent that it was found necessary to send all hon. Members the circular letter to which the right hon. Member refers, and of which the terms were approved by the Chairman of the Library Committee. Hon. Members should be aware from notices posted in the Library that all books borrowed from it and taken away, should be signed for on cards provided for the purpose. While I have no doubt that the great majority of hon. Mem-follow this rule, there are evidently some who do not—hence these losses. Should they continue, it will, I think, be my reluctant duty to suspend subscriptions taken out with lending libraries, for I must remind hon. Members that all losses have to be met out of public funds.