HC Deb 03 November 1955 vol 545 cc1204-6
42. Mrs. White

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will immediately review the Treasury proposal that the National Library of Wales should be graded as a provincial institution, in view of the need to maintain a library of national status in the Principality.

55. Mr. Donnelly

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a statement regarding the consultations that took place on the future of the National Library of Wales.

Mr. H. Brooke

I should like to remove any misunderstandings. In June the Treasury suggested to the authorities of the National Library that the pay of staff recruited by them in future should be fixed on the same basis as the pay of civil servants employed in Aberystwyth, and indeed in all but the largest cities in all parts of the United Kingdom. Civil servants are paid "London," "Intermediate" or "Provincial" rates according to where they work, but this implies no differentiation in status, either of the staff or of the establishment in which they are employed.

In October the Library authorities replied asking the Treasury to reconsider this suggestion. This request is receiving attention, and an answer will be sent to them as soon as possible. The future of the National Library of Wales and its national status are, I am glad to state, not involved at all.

Mrs. White

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that our national librarian and court of governors do not hold the views he has expressed, that they believe the status of the Library is most vitally affected? Will he make clear to his right hon. Friend that this really monstrous and indefensible proposal must be reconsidered because it is an insult to the Welsh nation and Celtic scholars everywhere?

Mr. Brooke

Let me assure the hon. Lady that no insult to the Welsh nation was intended. The Treasury is in correspondence with the Library authorities, and I thought it was a pity that a copy of the Library's last letter to the Treasury was communicated to the Press.

Mr. Gower

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is real feeling all over Wales among all sorts of people about this proposal? Why should it refer only to the Library employees and not be extended to university employees? Is it not quite inconsistent with the past history of this university as a national institution?

Mr. Brooke

I think it would be better for me to say nothing further, but to wait until the reply of the Treasury to the National Library of Wales, in reply to the letter of 3rd October, has been dispatched.

Mr. Donnelly

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that all that has happened so far is that the Treasury has been following its normal practice of making the maximum number of enemies with the minimum amount of effect? Will he look into the matter again and give an assurance that it has the concurrence of the Minister for Welsh Affairs also?

Mr. Brooke

I think the pity of it is that a technical term, "the provincial rate of Civil Service pay" was interpreted by some people as casting a doubt on the status of a national institution.

Mr. J. Griffiths

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, before a decision is arrived at, there will be consultation with the Minister for Welsh Affairs and the Council for Wales, as a proposal of this kind is deeply resented? Will he take Welsh opinion on the matter into account?

Mr. Brooke

I will take account of what the right hon. Member has said. This matter is not closed, and I think the best thing is for a reply to be sent by letter to the National Library.

Mr. Grenfell

Could not this matter be simplified and a lot of unnecessary responsibility taken from the shoulders of the Minister if the Welsh nation were able to decide this matter for itself?

Mr. Brooke

These matters are, of course, a Treasury responsibility, but I hope I have made it clear—after all I am married to a Welsh woman—that I have some understanding of Welsh national feeling.