HC Deb 11 February 1960 vol 617 cc637-9
23. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Minister of Education whether he will introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the Roberts Committee on the Public Library Service.

Sir D. Eccles

The Government accept the need for legislation in this field and I hope shortly to begin discussions with the associations of local authorities on my proposals.

Mr. de Freitas

Before doing that, would it not be a good idea to provide us with an opportunity to discuss it here in the House? There are many views on both sides of the House, both for and against.

Sir D. Eccles

Certainly this is a question which would interest the House very much, but I thought that it would be a good thing to get the views of local authorities first.

Sir P. Agnew

Will my right hon. Friend take into account the views expressed to him by the Urban District Councils Association that no good local authority, although not large, that is running a virile library service, built up by its local residents, should be deprived of the right of continuing to do so?

Sir D. Eccles

That is one of the questions which we have to discuss with the local authorities. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that we have a duty to ensure that the service is adequate to the people in the neighbourhood.

Mr. Sydney Irving

Will the Minister bring into his consultations the Smaller Library Group of the Library Association, which represents practically the whole of the smaller authorities likely to be affected by this legislation?

Sir D. Eccles

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Molson

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the Conservative Party has expressed its desire to retain the power, authority and responsibility of smaller local authorities and not to transfer all these responsibilities to county councils? Will he also bear in mind that the library service essentially should be decided by local authorities, and not be subject to national standards?

Sir D. Eccles

I will consider what my right hon. Friend has said. I think that he will find that my proposals are more in the sense that he desires than those of the Report.

Mr. Blackburn

Does not the Minister think that it would be wrong to make any alteration in the library service until we know whether there will be any change in the structure of local government as a result of the commissions which are at present operating?

Sir D. Eccles

That is a very important factor which must be taken into account.

Mr. Nabarro

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that this problem is highly controversial, not only within this House but between different types of local authority, and that the opposition to many of the majority proposals in the Roberts Report was not confined, as my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew) said, only to urban district councils but that many non-county boroughs of very substantial stature are gravely concerned at the possibility of losing their valuable and experienced library services?

Sir D. Eccles

I have that point well in mind.

Mr. Nabarro

I am very grateful.