HC Deb 16 June 1955 vol 542 cc726-7
2. Mr. Hyde

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Comonwealth Relations the plans for the future disposition of the former India Office Library.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

I would draw my hon. Friend's attention to the statement made in another place by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations on 13th June. As it is rather lengthy, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Hyde

Is my hon. Friend aware that the decision to keep in this country what has been described as the oldest and finest treasure-house of Oriental learning in the world will be received with great satisfaction by scholars and students everywhere, and particularly in India and Pakistan? At the same time, will my hon. Friend do his best to facilitate access to this unique library, which on account of its present physical position is subject to strict security regulations?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

I will make a note of the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. As to the second part, I am quite prepared to receive approaches on the question of what easier access to this collection might be possible.

Following is the statement: I am obliged to the noble Lord for giving me the opportunity to make a statement. Your Lordships may have seen correspondence in the newspapers, in the course of which, as a result of the published account of some discussions taking place at New Delhi, a number of scholars and learned bodies have expressed serious misgivings lest it should have been decided to disperse or export the contents of the India Office Library. Let me therefore say at once that no such decision has been taken; nor could it be taken without the full concurrence of the United Kingdom Government, who were not parties to the discussions in question. The India Office Library is one of the greatest Oriental libraries in the world. It contains some 280,000 printed books, and a wealth of other material; including a great collection of Manuscripts in English and in Oriental languages. Its scope is not confined to India and Pakistan; it extends also to the literatures, histories, and cultures of many other Eastern countries, including for example Burma, Thailand, Malaya, Ceylon, Tibet, Nepal, Persia, and Arabia. It has always been readily accessible to scholars and research workers from all over the world. In the view of Her Majesty's Government, the right course is that the Library should remain intact and in this country. But we would, of course, readily consider any suggestions that the Governments of India and Pakistan may wish to make to us as regards the detailed administration of, or access to, the Library. As regards the historical records, that is to say the archives of the East India Company and the India Office, which are now in the custody of the Commonwealth Relations Office, I am glad to be able to assure the noble Lord that Her Majesty's present Government adhere to the statement made in this House on 23rd July, 1947, by the noble Lord, the Earl of Listowel, who was then Secretary of State for India, to the effect that it was the Government's intention to retain those records in this country.