§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Christopher Chataway)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill forms yet another part of the Government's legislative programme in connection with the reorganisation of local government. Discussions leading up to the 1957 White Paper on the "Functions of County Councils and County District Councils in England and Wales" made it clear that we needed an inquiry into the library service. It was, therefore, announced in the White Paper that the Minister of Education would set up a committee to consider the question and that the redistribution of library functions would depend upon its report. This committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Sydney Roberts, was appointed by my right hon. Friend now the Lord President of the Council in 1957 and reported in December, 1958. Its recommendations were then discussed with the local authority associations, the Library Association, and other interested bodies.
The most fundamental of these recommendations was that a duty should in future be imposed on public library authorities to provide a comprehensive and efficient service and on the Minister of Education to ensure that this was done. The discussion showed that there was general agreement on this and on many of the Roberts Committee's other recommendations, but they also revealed that two particularly complex matters needed mote detailed study. The first of these, which, obviously, had great relevance to the future distribution of library powers, was the question of the actual standards needed for an efficient service, and the second was the system of inter-library co-operation.
While, therefore, my noble Friend Lord Eccles, the then Minister of Education, was at le to indicate at the end of 1960 that he intended to introduce legislation on the lines recommended by the Committee, he said that he found 1171 it necessary, before drafting the legislation, to set up two working parties to consider the technical implications of the Committee's recommendations in regard to these two matters.
These working parties, composed of experienced librarians and local authority administrators, were set up in 1961 under the chairmanship of senior officers of the Ministry, and their reports were published, as the House will know, at the end of 1962. Therefore, although it may well seem to some that the Bill has been a long time coming, the foundations for it have been very thoroughly laid.
My right hon. Friend is particularly grateful to the Chairman and to the members of the Roberts Committee and to the two working parties for the help which they have given in establishing a basis for future action. Apart from anything else, the reports of these three bodies constitute between them a factual survey of the public library service in England and Wales on a scale and in a depth which has never before been attempted.
Thanks to all the discussion and study to which I have referred, I hope that I can say that this is not a very controversial measure. I think that everybody will agree with the need to overhaul the machinery of the public library service and to modernise the legislation by which it is governed, most of which goes back to 1892 and has a distinctly Victorian flavour, in order to take account of modern needs and to ensure a more consistent as well as a higher standard of service throughout the country.
What are the modern needs that the library service has to meet today? The Kenyon Committee, in 1927, looked back to a time when the public library was, as it put it—Regarded as a means of providing casual recreation of an innocent but somewhat unimportant character …Thirty years later the Roberts Committee agreed strongly that this, though perfectly legitimate, was no longer a basic motive of library use.
The Committee went on to give the following analysis:Not only has the number both of public libraries and of readers vastly increased … 1172 but the whole concept of a library's responsibilities has been enlarged and intensified. Furthermore, this expansion will continue. The greatly increased provision of secondary and university education and the greatly increased number of persons receiving scientific and technological training will lead students and other persons engaged in industry and research to make more demands on the resources of public libraries and the general public to make more … use of them.That description of the Roberts Committee was valid in 1958. It also has something of a prophetic ring, for it is impossible to read the passage today without thinking of the strides in education which have been made since and of the further plans with which the Government are now pressing ahead on the basis of the Robbins and the Newsom Reports.
It is, I believe, in relation to these educational developments, present and future, that the Public Libraries and Museums Bill takes on its full significance. The school child, the university student, the research worker, the professional man, all often make use of the public library in addition to the library of the school, the university, or the professional institution; and because no library can be entirely self-sufficient, the public library service will often be called upon to meet specialist needs.
As standards of education improve and as the specialised knowledge required of people in industry, the social sciences and the professions increases, so the demands on the library service must grow. A considerable expansion of libraries in educational establishments, in professional bodies' research associations and in industrial undertakings is at present under way, and it is clear to the Government that this must be matched by a parallel development in public libraries.
One other consequence, too, of rising educational standards is an ever more varied contribution which the library can make to the everyday life of the ordinary reader, whose needs may be less specialised, whether he is seeking relaxation, pursuing a hobby, practical or intellectual, attending an adult class, or studying languages for a holiday abroad. This, to many people, does represent an important part of their cultural life and often the library itself is the only building in a local community which has any claims as a cultural centre.
1173 We therefore see the public library as complementary to all branches of the education service, as an indispensable aid to in any activities in the industrial, commercial, scientific, and technological life of the country and as an essential element in the cultural life of the community.
The Times, in a leader this morning, refers to the history of local initiative in the library service, of which one can be proud, to Andrew Carnegie, who has such an honoured place in that history, and concludes thatthe worst public libraries are really not too bad and the best are good indeed".The Government and the many bodies that we have consulted take a rather more ambitious view of the future and potential of the public library service. About the excellence of some of the best one can readily agree, but there is much room for improvement in the service as a whole.
To start with, we have a patchwork of library authorities based not on any particular principle, but largely on the accident of history. All the counties, county boroughs, and metropolitan boroughs are library authorities; 191 out of the 318 non-county boroughs and 99 out of the 563 urban districts are authorised to exercise library powers. Of these 290 district councils, 181 have at present populations below 40,000 and of these 95 have populations below 20,000. There are 13 parish councils still exercising library powers—a relic of the days before county councils were empowered to provide library services.
The present unevenness of the service does not, however, spring only from these disparities in the size and type of authority. The charge of inadequacy can be levelled against many of the larger authorities, including county councils, county boroughs and district councils with large populations, where it cannot really be said that they lack the necessary financial resources.
These and other weaknesses of the present library system have already been set out in considerable detail in the reports of the Roberts Committee and of the two technical working parties, together with a wealth of figures which demonstrates better than I can possibly do the level of the services that are being provided at the moment. I would 1174 only add that the Report of the Working Party on Standards of Public Library Service is a very revealing document. It shows, by reference to certain important categories of books and other material, how small are the purchases of many libraries, among them some regarded as the leaders for their size in the country.
It also shows how many libraries are short of staff, particularly of qualified staff trained to give expert assistance to the readers. We know also from these reports and from our own observations that in many areas public library premises need to be improved, although I am glad to say that there has been a substantial growth in the rate of library building since the publication of the Roberts Report.
One cannot expect uniform standards throughout he whole country. It would clearly be impossible to provide the same facilities in small towns or villages as can be provided in large cities and in the metropolitan area. But differences in standards are at the moment sometimes far greater than these purely geographical considerations would justify. Authorities of the same kind in the same population groups provide extraordinarily different levels of service, and it follows from what I have said about the growing, more uniform and widespread demands upon the public library service that these disparities ought to be reduced and the general level raised.
That is why the Bill aims to place a new responsibility on all public library authorities and also on the Minister. I should like to stress, in particular, the first of these two responsibilities. The Minister will have certain powers which he will have to be ready to exercise, but in the last resort the success of this new measure will stand or fall by the exercise of responsibility by library authorities themselves.
This is not a scheme for replacing local initiative by national. The library service owes its growth to the strength and vitality of local government and of popular demand. There is a need now for more co-ordination at the national and the regional level, objectives need to be defined with a greater precision in order to encourage a general improvement and a more even service, and the legislation and local government struc- 1175 ture has to be modernised. It is these generally recognised needs that the Bill is designed to meet, but this clearly remains a local government service and progress will, of course, continue to depend primarily upon the authorities, their library committees, and their library staff.
There are three main features of the Bill to which I should like to invite particular attention from the House. First, it is proposed that the public library service should be further co-ordinated so as to provide, in conjunction with the non-public libraries, a national library service. Secondly, it is proposed that a minimum standard of service ought to be provided by all public library authorities. These two proposals are given effect by a number of provisions in the Bill.
Clauses 1 and 2 place on the Minister of Education a duty to superintend and promote the development of the service and to appoint two advisory councils, one for England and one for Wales, to advise him on public library matters. Clause 3 provides for the setting up of library regions and the establishment of regional library councils to make, and supervise the working of, arrangements for co-operation between libraries. Clause 7 places on the library authorities a duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.
Clause 9 gives the Minister power, which he would be taking over from the Treasury, to grant-aid the National Central Library and to give grants to other bodies whose work is essential to the efficient working of inter-library co-operation. Clause 10 gives the Minister power to ensure that library authorities considered to be in default shall carry out their duties. All those Clauses are relevant to the first two main objects of the Bill.
The third main feature of the Bill is the proposal that only those local authorities which are capable of providing this minimum service should be empowered to do so. Effect is given to this by Clauses 4 and 6, stating which local authorities should in future exercise library powers.
I shall now comment briefly on each of the main proposals in turn.
1176 The first proposal for the development of a national library service is not an entirely new conception, because there already exists a voluntary system of inter-library co-operation with the National Central Library at its apex. The provisions in the Bill will enable further progress to be made both nationally and regionally.
As regards the second proposal, aiming at a minimum standard of service by all library authorities, the first thing to be said is that there have never been any generally recognised standards of library service in this country. We are only now in a position to appreciate, thanks to the work of the Roberts Committee and, more particularly, of the Working Party on Standards of Public Library Service, something of the problems that are involved in trying to establish and maintain standards of this kind.
A minimum standard cannot be an absolute one in terms either of place or time. What members of the public may reasonably expect to find in a large city with easy access to a large branch or central library differs from what a much smaller urban authority or county library would be expected to give in a small town or village. Furthermore, the minimum standard to be aimed at in a particular area must have regard to all the local circumstances, which may present special features quite apart from size or the proximity to urban concentrations. Finally, what may be regarded as satisfactory now may well not be satisfactory in 10 or 20 years. Standards are likely to be raised and this may, in due course, have an effect on the ability of certain library authorities to provide an efficient service.
The working party recognised all these difficulties and agreed that it would be wrong rigidly to apply some uniform criterion, but it proposed a set of standards in as definite terms as possible, and I cannot do better than refer the House to paragraphs 50 and 53 of its Report, which gives a picture of some of the broad objectives we think it right to set.
In tackling the third proposal under which only those local authorities capable of providing the minimum service should be empowered to do so, we are following the recommendations 1177 of the Roberts Committee with one important modification which I shall mention in a moment. Counties and county boroughs will continue to be library authorities. The new London boroughs will be library authorities.
In the case of the non-county boroughs and urban districts, we do however depart somewhat from what the Roberts Committee recommended. The Committee thought that all non-county boroughs and urban districts which were at present library authorities and wished to continue should be required to apply to the Minister for continuance of their powers. It further proposed that any such authority with a population over 50,000 which was not at present a library authority but wished to become one should be allowed to apply to the Minister for the grant of library powers.
It emerged, however, from the discussion which followed the publication of the Roberts Committee Report and from a study of the implications of the Report itself that, with vigorous management and adequate facilities, a library authority with a population of 40,000 might be expected to be able to provide a satisfactory minimum service. We have, therefore, provided in the Bill that all non-county boroughs and urban districts with populations of 40,000 or more which are already library authorities may continue to exercise these powers, and we have further provided that such authorities wishing to exercise the powers for the first time should be allowed to apply to the Minister for library powers.
In considering the latter group of applications, the Minister will have in mind not only the service which the authority could provide within its area, but also the effect on the county of taking the area out of the county library service. I know that importance is attached to this.
It is when we get below the 40,000 population figure that serious doubt creeps in as to whether a large number of the authorities concerned can satisfy the minimum requirements. This doubt is confirmed by the findings of the working party on standards, which suggest that authorities with populations a long way below this level may have great 1178 difficulty in providing an efficient service except at an unduly high cost to the ratepayer. We propose, therefore, to let all those library authorities with populations below 40,000, if they think that they can satisfy minimum requirements, apply to my right hon. Friend for continuance of their powers.
In dealing with these applications, he will have regard to what has been said in the Roberts Report and the report of the working party on standards, to all the local circumstances, and, in particular, to the level of library service which is available in the area as an alternative to the existing library authority. There is no intention of depriving an authority of its powers if the service to be provided to the public by the only available alternative is likely to be less efficient.
In considering these proposals we shall also have regard to the state of reorganisation of areas under the reviews being carried out under the Local Government Act, 1958.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
If a Focal authority with a population below 40,000 fails to come up to the standard which the Minister lays down, will it be given a period of grace in which to bring itself up to standard?
§ Mr. Chataway
There is no specified period laid down, but, obviously, my right hon. Friend will not be exercising his powers in an unduly harsh fashion. In a moment, I shall come to the provisions for periodical review.
Clause 6 also provides for a review by the Minister at 10-yearly intervals of the library powers of the non-county boroughs and urban districts with populations below 40,000—I think that this answers in part the hon. Gentleman's question—and the Clause gives a further opportunity for such councils with populations over 40,000 to apply to the Minister for conferment of library powers.
It may well be that in 10 years' time a number of authorities whose populations have grown to 40,000 will wish to apply. This is in accordance with the recommendation of paragraph 72 of the Roberts Committee Report. We think that such reviews are necessary if the Minister is to be assured that in the part of the field where the ability of the autho- 1179 rities to provide a satisfactory independent service is most in doubt the minimum standards are not only achieved but maintained.
This is particularly important because the extent to which the smaller authorities can provide an efficient service will depend not only on the provision they make within their own premises, but on the success of the arrangements they are able to make with each other and with large neighbouring authorities to provide ready access to a wider range of library material.
The working party on standards attached great importance to this need for co-operation at the local as opposed to the regional or national level. It is a field in which there is room for considerable experiment, but the extent to which this kind of co-operation can be achieved still remains to be demonstrated. This need for co-operation at a local level does not apply only to the district councils with populations of under 40,000. It clearly applies also to those with higher populations. Non-county boroughs and urban districts with populations above this figure certainly should not rest content with their own resources and the present inter-lending arrangements, but should seek the fullest possible co-operation with other neighbouring authorities in order to strengthen their effective provision of books and other material.
Clause 8 prohibits the making of charges to readers except for certain limited purposes and is in accordance with the recommendations of the Roberts Committee. We do not think it unreasonable that readers who keep books longer than the prescribed period should pay small fines. This has long been standard practice and it is generally thought to help in ensuring that the majority of books are returned promptly. We think, too, that readers who want a book reserved and wish to be notified that it is available should pay a small sum to cover the cost of postage on this service. But we do not think that it would be in the interest of the library service to try to make a distinction—necessarily an arbitrary one—between classes of material which should be provided without charge and those for which charges should be permissible.
1180 Clause 10, which follows the pattern used in the Public Health Act and many other Acts where the Minister has ultimate responsibility for the oversight of a service, explains how the Minister would act if, as is most unlikely, any library authority was held to be in grave dereliction of its duty. These powers, of course, would be rarely if ever used, but it is necessary that they should be there.
My right hon. Friend expects, in the normal exercise of his supervisory powers, to operate in quite a different way by offering help and guidance to library authorities on various aspects of library work with the help of the two advisory councils and of his own staff. This form of supervision from the centre is, I hope, likely to be effective and I do not think that it will be unwelcome to library committees and librarians who in the past have perhaps sometimes suffered through the lack of encouragement with which I hope the Bill will provide them.
The Bill provides, in Clauses 12 to 14, for the continuance of the present position which governs the administration of museums and art galleries by local authorities under the existing Public Libraries Act. Any local authority which provides a museum or art gallery under these Acts but ceases to be a library authority at any time in the future will still be allowed to continue to provide its museum or art gallery.
The only substantive change made in the Bill in respect of museums and art galleries is that under Clause 14 a library authority may make a financial contribution towards the cost of running a regional museum organisation which gives mutual assistance to local museums.
The other provisions in the Bill which I have not dealt with are either consequential or are of a fairly technical nature, dealing with such matters as finance, Clause 18, byelaws, Clause 16, the arrangements for the transfer of officers in certain circumstances and the safeguarding of their position, and the transfer of assets and liabilities.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
Will my hon. Friend explain Clause 13, which says:No charge shall be made for admission to any museum or art gallery …1181 Why should this be laid down in such stringent terms? If an authority wishes to keep a museum or art gallery open on, for example, Sunday afternoon, when perhaps it is very much wanted, why should it not make a small charge?
§ Mr. Chataway
That is a point which we might consider in Committee. I am led to believe that very few museums and art galleries run by local authorities under their public library powers make an admission charge. This is a provision which does no more than follow general practice. This is a point to which the Standing Committee's attention can be drawn.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
Can my hon. Friend say whether, under Clause 8(4), libraries are empowered to charge for the lending of gramophone records and pictures and things of that nature?
§ Mr. Chataway
They are not. It was to this point that I was principally referring when I spoke of the difficulties of trying to draw a distinction between those books or materials which may properly be lent free and those which should not. It is our view, and it was the view of the Roberts Committee, that these are very hard distinctions to draw and that they must be arbitrary.
On the effect of the repeal of existing legislation, I need only draw attention to one point. At present, library authorities in counties, and in counties only, are required to refer library matters to their education committees. This particular provision is being repealed and in future it will be possible, if the counties so wish, for them to appoint separate library committees as is done, I understand, in all the urban areas. This follows a recommendation of the Roberts Committee and I hope that if the Bill is passed county councils will give serious consideration to the appointment of separate public library committees.
I have stressed the potential importance of the Bill for the education service. In a booklet written for U.N.E.S.C.O. on public libraries and their mission, Mr. André Maurois went so far as to define educationas but a key to open the doors of libraries".1182 That may be thought to be a partial definition, but few, I imagine, will argue about the connection between educational advance and an improving library service.
The Bill will provide the necessary conditions for that further improvement, and I commend it to the House.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
I join the Parliamentary Secretary in offering from this side of the House our warmest thanks and appreciation to Sir Sydney Roberts and the members of his Committee and also to the chairman and members of the two working parties. We have in these three Blue Books an extraordinarily illuminating and satisfying picture in the sense that they give us the material on which to work, and I think that we are very much indebted to the persons responsible for them.
The Bill has been on request from this side for some time and, therefore, it would be churlish of us not to welcome its rather sudden appearance. I must say, however, that the time given to hon. Members to consult the authorities concerned, and the time given to those authorities, to consider the Bill has been very short. We have been under a considerable disability, and I apologise in advance to any of the outside bodies concerned which feel that they have not had full consultation. We have hardly had the opportunity for full consultation because we were given no encouragement by the Minister when we made inquiries about the future of the Bill. It was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech.
To give one example, I know that the Museums Association, which is affected by three Clauses in the Bill, is meeting this very afternoon, which is the earliest possible moment that it could have met. The Publishers' Association has said that it was not consulted at all—although, after all, it consists of the people responsible for supplying books to the libraries. The Library Association had a hurriedly called meeting, but I think that it is only fair to point out that the local authority associations, although they were consulted after the Roberts Committee's Report appeared, have, so far as I know, not been consulted openly on the Bill itself. We would hope, 1183 therefore, that we would have a little time in which to follow up these consultations before we come to the detailed work in Committee on the Bill.
It is also true to say that though we have had a leader in The Times this morning very little notice has been taken of the Bill in the public Press. A rather scathing comment appeared in The Bookseller, saying thatWhile the skeleton of Roberts is plainly there, much of the fine flesh has gone.I think that that is, perhaps, a little unkind.
I myself welcome the Bill as far as it goes. I think that it certainly opens up most interesting and important possibilities for national and local library provisions, but, quite frankly, I am rather sorry that it does not go further than it does. I have had a very great interest in libraries for very many years. As I think I have mentioned to the House before, I was at one time an honorary member of the staff of the New York Public Library, which means that I have very high standards indeed, because that is one of the finest public library institutions in the world. I doubt whether one could hope that every library could emulate the standards of New York.
Nevertheless, I think that we are entitled to suggest that libraries in this country are a most important amenity of life. This, I think, has a particularly strong local aspect. It should be a matter for local decision and local finance as to how far the amenity side of library provision is to be furthered in a particular neighbourhood. On the other hand, it is also a very important part of our educational provision, and it is in this respect that I feel that the Bill falls short of what is to be desired.
The Parliamentary Secretary himself, in explaining the Bill, was most eloquent, and very properly so, on our expectation of an increase in further education and adult education and in the number of students at universities and technical colleges. Many of these will rely on their public libraries for books which they will need during vacations, because they cannot bring half their college libraries back with them when they come home. We should confidently expect a very considerable increase in 1184 the use of the public libraries for educational purposes in the narrower sense of the word as well as in the more broadly cultural sense.
I am not, therefore, entirely convinced, although I recognise that this is in line with the recommendations of the Roberts Committee, that the Government have been wise to adopt the very narrow financial responsibility which is taken in this Bill; but I will come to that later.
However, if we look at it from the point of view of education, I would have expected, frankly, that there would be a sort of partnership between the Minister and the library authorities, as there is between the Minister and local education authorities. I recognise that for historical reasons library authorities do not necessarily coincide with local education authorities, and I am not suggesting that they should be one and the same in all cases, but I should have thought that there should have been a greater partnership.
As things are, the Bill gives the Minister certain powers of supervision and of promotion. The powers of promotion seem to me to be rather limited. He can, in certain cases, call on a library authority to bring its service up to standard and if it does not do so he can withdraw recognition. He can insist on co-operation between different library authorities under the schemes which he has power to devolve, but will this really be sufficient when he has no positive inducement in the way of grants of any kind? I am not suggesting that this should be fully grant-aided, but the Minister's grant provisions really are very narrow indeed.
One thing which he can certainly do—and I should have been interested to have heard a little more about this from the Parliamentary Secretary—is to stimulate activity and interest through additions to his own staff. We were all much interested to hear that the gentleman seconded to the Ministry is, I believe, still there. We have been told nothing as to the Minister's powers of inspection. Are we to have Her Majesty's inspectors of libraries? It would be very interesting if we were, but, if not, who is to be responsible for the very considerable work which 1185 falls to the Minister under the Bill and which includes, as I say, powers of inspection, and of decision in certain cases as to the future of the various library authorities concerned? We should very much like to know rather more about that.
The Parliamentary Secretary has explained, as do all these three reports, why it is that we need to have such a drastic revision of library organisation in this country. The basic reason is the fantastic disparities in standards, in standards of service, standards of book stock, standards of staff, between different library authorities at the present time. I shall not burden the House with too many examples, but let us take as one criterion the expenditure per head of population.
The House may recall that the Report of the Roberts Committee suggested that 2s. per head should be a minimum reasonable expenditure. When we make allowance for changes in the value of money I think that that could be 2s. 8d. or 2s. 9d. at present. Taking that as the sort of reasonable expenditure at which library authorities should aim, what we find, when we look at the figures of actual expenditure, is that of the nearly 500 library authorities in this country only 300 or so have been spending around the 2s. which was recommended. In other words, we have about 200 spending less.
Of course, there are some authorities spending more. The best authorities have been spending betwen 3s. and 4s. a head. Many of the worst have been spending 1s. or less. I am told that the range in the latest figures which are available is between 4s. 6½d. per head at the top of the range and 2d. at the very lowest. I have here a list of the authorities beneath 1s. and another list in the neighbourhood of 4s.
It is not a matter of size: the Parliamentary Secretary is quite correct. If we take as the sole criterion—and this, of course, should be by no means the sole criterion; it is only one of many—but taking this one, it is perfectly true that one of the highest-spending library authorities in the country is, remarkably enough, Penge, with an expenditure of 54.6d. per head of population, which is really astonishing; whereas I am ashamed to say that one of our largest 1186 and relatively wealthiest authorities in Wales, Glamorgan, has a figure of only just over 1s. per head. There are one or two other peculiar discrepancies. This is only one of the disparities to be observed between the different authorities.
In passing, I would say that we are entirely in agreement with the Minister in not using a criterion of this sort as an absolute yardstick in deciding whether or not an authority is suitable as a library authority. I repeat, it is only one indication of whether it is suitable as a library authority. Nevertheless, it is one suitable indication.
A library is partly as good as its books, but it is more to be judged by the quality of its staff. There are no proper national scales governing the salaries of library staffs, except at the lowest levels. The strongest possible recommendations are made about salaries in the Bourdillon and Baker Reports, which went into the question of salaries for both local libraries and regional organisations. I regret that the Parliamentary Secretary did not make this point clear to the House. Does the Bill help to secure adequate pay standards for librarians? Which, if any, of its provisions will enable the Minister—who is contributing nothing financially—to have any influence on seeing that proper rates of pay and conditions are applied to librarians?
Until now these matters have been left entirely to the negotiating bodies, although it has been disappointing to find that they have been extraordinarily unenthusiastic towards the schemes suggested. A chief librarian, for example, is paid what his local authority happens to wish to pay him. He has no appeal if he receives less than a colleague in a comparable authority. I will not weary the House with statistics, although it may be necessary for us to go into these in Committee. One can see, by contrasting the different authorities of comparable size, that their chief librarians receive salaries varying to the extent of several hundreds of pounds and that there is no order in this matter.
The Minister is taking powers to bring about certain desirable reforms. He will be able to eliminate the most unsatisfactory library authorities and that in itself is to be welcomed. Certain powers are 1187 given to him and the standard of 40,000 population—which is, admittedly, lower than that recommended by the Roberts Committee—is something with which we would not quarrel. There are arguments both ways and we recognise that historically there have been some libraries of a smaller size which, because of local enthusiasm and support, have been extremely good. On the other hand, we query the proposal that authorities which have not hitherto been library authorities but which have populations of 40,000 or a little more should be able to apply to become library authorities.
As I understand it, the Minister is not obliged to accept them as library authorities. I suggest that, while we recognise the historical facts surrounding this matter, to have an efficient library service one must tend towards larger rather than smaller authorities. It is no good pretending that, by and larger a smaller authority can give as good a service as a larger one. There may be reasons for accepting what has happened in the past, but I see no reason for encouraging the relatively small authorities to think that they should become library authorities in future.
I can best give the reasons for this view by referring to some words used by a fine librarian, Mr. Lionel McColvin, who was for many years the Chief Librarian of the City of Westminster. This active man in the library world said:An ideal library service area would embrace a large city centre, its suburbs and the surrounding countryside—all that area the inhabitants of which looked upon that city as its focal pointAfter pointing out that at present there is much duplication of effort, he gave an example and stated:… most of the county library systems have their headquarters in towns which have their own independent libraries … there will be in that town two lending libraries and two reference libraries, with separate stock and staff, where one, somewhat larger surely but not twice as large, would suffice".Too many smallish library authorities cannot give the sort of full and economical service which the working party on standards set out as being required because they depend too much on interlibrary services. I emphasise what was said by the working party on this point, particularly its comment that the interlibrary 1188 services should be marginal. The working party pointed out that we should try to have a library unit which can provide adequate services, including a reference service and a reasonable amount of specialist service within its own area.
Certainly, one needs some inter-library service, but it should be for material which is genuinely specialist and not frequently used, otherwise one wastes a great deal of time and effort in this business of borrowing and shunting books all around the country. We are already told that the smaller library is depending a great deal on trying to borrow better stocks from other libraries. This involves much delay for the reader and considerable costs in administration and sheer physical handling.
The delay in trying to get books from other libraries can be considerable. If one is getting books from another branch within the same unit or organisation there may be some delay, but it is not likely to be a long one. If, as in Buckinghamshire, one has a Telex system in every branch library the reader can count on fairly speedy service. As I have said, we are disturbed at the suggestion that there should be many new library authorities designated and we hope that the Minister's powers in this respect will be used charily.
The right hon. Gentleman is proposing to set up an extremely interesting pattern of organisations, with national advisory councils, regional councils, and so on, although the Bill is vague on this point. I hope that we will be told more about this in Committee, although the Clauses dealing with national councils—and I am gratified to see that we are to have a separate one for Wales—do not reveal much about some important details; how many members the Minister has in mind, what size the councils will be, and so on.
We are told that the right hon. Gentleman will provide the secretarial assistance, but we are not sure who will pay any other expenses incurred. We are then told that the Minister will make schemes for the regions, although I do not know whether any consultations have taken place with the local authorities and existing regional bureaus on this matter. Various suggestions have been made about having a smaller number of regions than exist under the present 1189 regional bureaux scheme. Can we be told more about that?
An important point about staff was made by the Committee on Inter-Library Co-operation in England and Wales; the need to have really good quality executive officers for these regional councils. I would like to know who will decide the salaries and terms of service of these people because, as I understand it, these regional councils will be financed by precept, for the Minister is making no financial contribution. Presumably, these persons will be the servants of a group of local authorities, and if we are to have people of very great consequence in the reorganised library service it is important to make sure that they are adequately paid and have adequate terms of service so that we get those of really good quality. It is clear that if these regional councils work satisfactorily, they will be one of the most important instruments in improving the general standard.
The procedure for dealing with library authorities will be of intense interest to the smaller authorities, in particular, who may wonder how they will be dealt with. Time is also of some interest. How long will these authorities be given to come up to standard? It is true that they have had five years since the Roberts Committee, and it is some little while since the working party on standards reported—it will be two years by 1st April, 1965, which is when the Bill can first become operative—but it would help them to know whether they will have any warning about how long it will take, and how long they will have to bring themselves up to what will be regarded as an acceptable standard.
We should like the Minister to tell us more about the National Central Library, which is the one body for which it is clearly indicated the Minister will make some financial provision. The amount mentioned in the Memorandum to the Bill is approximately £100,000 a year, and it is said that a grant of this kind is at present paid on the Treasury's Arts Vote. The Committee on Inter-Library Co-operation suggested that the library authorities should contribute about 30 per cent. of the expenses of the National Central Library, and that 70 per cent. should be found elsewhere. The Roberts Committee suggested a 50 1190 per cent. contribution. The Minister, in his prefatory note to the Committee on Inter-Library Co-operation, said:… the Government are not disposed to go beyond the recommendations of the Roberts Committee.Why has he decided to stand by the Roberts Report, rather than the report of his working party?
Many of us think that there is a very strong case for the National Central Library being not only a national but a nationally-financed institution. The library authorities are expected to run their own libraries and to pay the expenses of the regional councils—is it sense to expect them also to pay the cost of the National Central Library? There is also an element of injustice here, in that the National Lending Library for Science and Technology in Yorkshire is, I understand, free. The Minister should tell us why the National Central Library is to be treated in one way and the National Lending Library for Science and Technology in another.
As I say, some of us on this side think that the time has come to have the National Central Library regarded as a national institution, because we do not believe that we shall have the resources from the heal rates for a service—entirely rate-borne—that will give us the local libraries we want, the regional organisation we need, and also an adequate national institution.
I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary stated that he and his Department are conscious of what is stated very strongly by the working party on standards, which is that we are not really aiming at present standards but at something better. We find the following in paragraph 8 of the Bourdillon Working Party's Report:… standards based on current practice are bound to stop far short of the ideal, considering that in our view the level of efficiency in the public library service is at best imperfect and at worst leaves a great deal to be desired.That would be our common opinion.
We have excellent libraries and some splendid librarians, but there are also some very inadequate and very poor libraries. Even in the best, a great deal remains to be done. Even the best, with good book collections and good collec- 1191 tions of other material—and I am particularly glad to see films mentioned in the Bill, as well as books, records and pictures—feel that in the profession as a whole we have never quite given our librarians the standing and regard that should be their due.
The Bill will go some way to improving matters, but it does not go as far as it should. We have in the library system a potential for educational and cultural work of inestimable value. The public library should be a centre to which people can go for all kinds of services, and not merely for books. I am very glad that the Bill mentions the possibility of using library premises for other cultural purposes, such as lectures. That is all very encouraging. We are doubtful whether the Minister will have the resources to bring about all we wish, but, as far as it goes, we give the Bill a welcome.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Mr. David James (Brighton, Kemptown)
I must at once declare an interest. I was first an author, and then, on the principle of poacher turning keeper, I became a publisher. My experience is, therefore, complementary to that of the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), and it is not surprising that I should want to emphasise some of the things she has said.
Nobody could cavil at the objects of the Bill as set out in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum—the duty on public authorities to provide a comprehensive and efficient service, and that on the Minister of Education to ensure that this is done—but, as the hon. Lady has pointed out, there are various shortcomings when we consider how this is to take place, and I want to draw attention to three in particular.
First, the Minister takes great powers and responsibilities, but it is the local authorities that pay almost the entire bill. My second criticism is that great emphasis is laid on the supply of suitable librarians, but none on how exactly they are to be recruited. Thirdly, and this is where my profession comes in, there is no provision for the legitimate interests of authors and pub- 1192 lishers, without whom, one might say, no library system could exist.
The whole cost is to be met by the local authorities, even though the Minister can impose obligations on them. There is no question of an Exchequer grant—once again, the cost falls on the hard-pressed ratepayer. Under the old valuation the rate call varied widely and on the average was 10d. I suppose that under revaluation one might say that it is more like 6d.
In the Standing Committee on the Rating (Interim Relief) Bill we are now considering rate hardship. In my constituency where there are many seaside bungalows occupied by retired people there are rateable values in excess of £200. One wonders how fair it is to lay a burden of about £5 a year on a retired couple who may not wish to use this service. Local authorities will, of course, have to pay their share, but I feel that there should be some other sources whereby the library service could be financed because, after all, the greater part of the reading these days is purely recreational in character. No one suggests that we should have cinema, television, opera, ballet, or concerts at the expense of our fellow-taxpayers or ratepayers, yet fiction reading is the one thing where we accept as a matter of right that we should be able to read at the expense of our fellow-taxpayers.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
Am I right in understanding that the hon. Member spoke about a burden of £5 on a retired couple?
§ Mr. James
Where there is a highly-rated, albeit small bungalow, with a rate-call of 6d. in the £ in respect of library service, then, if my mathematics are not severely at fault, this could involve a call on the ratepayer of £5 to maintain that service.
On the question of the remuneration of librarians, the Roberts Committee reported in 1957 thatThe Kenyon Committee recommended that 'the trained librarian should be paid not less than the trained teacher and the one profession should not be less attractive than the other'. There was a short period between 1946 and 1955 when this parity was in sight, but recent improvements in teachers' salaries have put them ahead again. We are informed that Government departments and industry pay considerably higher salaries to qualified librarians than are paid by local 1193 authorities, and that the public libraries are losing large numbers of qualified staff whom they have trained, to these other employers.Unfortunately, I do not have the up-to-date figures, but the 1959–60 figures show that the six largest London boroughs paid on average £796 to their non-manual or real librarians and the sixth leading counties £669. No doubt there has been a considerable improvement since then, but to suggest that this is anything on a par with the Burnham scale is self-evidently nonsense. Clearly far greater provision must be made for these people if the library service is to work properly. As for the position of the publishers and the authors, whom I regret to say are not highly regarded in this matter—
§ Mr. James
I shall come to that.
Apparently their products are so urgently required that they must be made freely available to everyone, but when it comes to those who actually produce the product—the authors—they are the one body who, strangely enough, were not asked to give evidence before the Roberts Committee. Publishers gave evidence, but only on a fairly narrow point. It is not proposed in the Bill that either should be represented on the regional concils which are to be provided under Clause 3. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will look kindly on Amendments which I hope to table to make certain that the authors and publishers are represented, as they should be, on these bodies. The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East pointed out that the council of the Publishers' Association has not had the opportunity to meet on the subject, but I know that the council feels strongly on it and believes that it has a right to express its views.
Many people, including schoolboys and undergraduates, think that the life of an author is a lovely life. I thought it myself at one time, and I have written one or two moderate books. But the awards of authorship are not great. I once wrote a biography which was published at 30s. I have been told by authors and publishers that to sell 5,000 copies of that book was a reasonable sale. If I had worked on it full-time such a book would have taken up two 1194 years' research, but devoting to it a very great part of my leisure it took me about five years.
If the royalty received by the author on a sliding scale covering home sales, with less on export sales, is 10 per cent., the return would be £750 if the edition sells out. If a publisher sells 3,000 copies of a first novel—and he would be lucky to sell that number at 21s.—the author's return would be about £300. There are the Somerset Maughams and the Agatha Christies who do extremely well, but the average run of writer is not at all highly remunerated.
Roughly speaking, 40 million books are sold at home and for export each year and of that number the public libraries buy about 5 million. These library books are loaned at a rate of 440 million a year, which means that for every single book bought more than 11 are borrowed. The author gets 2s. on each copy of the hypothetical novel which I mentioned, or 3s. on the biography. This is all he receives on anything up to 30 borrowings, and it is up to the library when it has exceeded the borrowing life of the book, which is probably 100 times, to have it rebound and start lending it all over again. It is therefore not difficult to sustain the case that an author is not well provided for in this respect.
In the course of commenting on the Roberts Report The Times on 18th May, 1957, said:… There is something intrinsically absurd in the fact that a considerable portion of the reading public takes its books from a library without benefiting the author in any way, once he has received the royalty on each single copy sold … They order this matter better in Sweden. There the Swedish Authors' Union has just announced that some £50,000 will be distributed from the funds of the public libraries as a payment to writers for the loan of their books in 1956 … The difficulty of working out a just scheme should not deter us from following, after our own fashion, the Scandinavian example …It is worthy of note that there are similar schemes in Norway and Denmark.
It must be said that at the moment publishers generally are doing very well. This might possibly confuse the issue, were one not to recognise that those who are doing well are those with educational titles, school-books and textbooks, which do not enter this argument, and in which there is also a booming 1195 export trade. There are publishers in these categories, including Bible publishers, who are making up to 40 per cent. on capital. No one could possibly feel that they were doing badly. This weights the general return of publishers a great deal and obscures the fact that since the war it has been virtually impossible for an individual to start an imprint and get his list off the ground. I would mention Rupert Hart Davies, John Lehmann and Derek Verschoyle, and there are many more, who have not been successful in setting up as independent publishers under modern conditions. This should make us realise that publishing is not easy and that we should not allow the situation to be obscured by the position of the very old publishing houses.
Three years ago, when I led a deputation to him, my right hon. Friend's predecessor said that the remuneration of authors lay in the hands of the publishers and that they should look after authors a great deal better. The Society of Authors and the Publishers' Association have a joint committee on this issue, and there is no disagreement whatever between the two parties.
But I can set out the figures in the round. Of the published price of a book, the author gets 10 per cent. Discounts, including discounts for export purposes, account for 39 per cent. Promotion and publicity expenditure is normally about 5 per cent. The physical production of the book is about 25 per cent. and 8 per cent. goes on handling, packaging, warehousing, dispatching and so on. This means that of the published price of the book, the publisher has only 14 per cent—as opposed to the author's 10 per cent.—from which he has to finance the holding of stocks, possibly for many years, and the cost of production, and to make his profit. I do not think that any serious person would suggest that in some mysterious way the publisher could share more of this rather narrow reward with the author. The truth is that both publishers and authors are equally hard hit by the fact that eleven books are borrowed to each book which is sold.
This reflects itself in one rather peculiar way—that the book trade at the moment is flooded with titles. There 1196 are too many titles, too many publishers publishing too many titles, and too many authors writing too many books. Hon. Members may say, "If the market is such that people are willing to rush forward and to write books, why should we worry, because the proof of the pudding is in the eating?" But I suggest that this situation has much in common with the farmer who goes in for broiler chickens: the lower the margin there is on every chicken, the more chickens he is apt to put into the broiler house.
I assure the House, from my experience, that both as a publisher and as an author one tends to over-produce grossly all the time in order to try to cover rising overheads. I believe that the book trade of this country would be far healthier if there were far fewer titles being produced at a more reasonable price—because it is becoming extremely difficult to maintain our position in the export market in view of the far larger domestic market which the Americans enjoy. If there were fewer books at lower prices but giving a fairer revenue to the author and publisher from the 90 per cent. of the books which are lent, then the book trade and our book export trade would be in a far healthier position.
§ Sir Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that if the remuneration for the author and the income for the publisher diminishes, in some way fewer books will be published and authors will write fewer books?
§ Mr. James
I probably did not makes myself clear. I made exactly the contrary proposition—that the return on the individual book both to the author and to the publisher has declined to such an extent that authors and publishers tend to over-produce in order to meet their grocery bills.
All this flows from the assumption in paragraph 118 of the Roberts Committee Report thatThe free provision of books has from the beginning been the primary object of the public library service and it is, in our view, essential that this principle should be preserved.This principle is duly enshrined in Clause 8. There has been an assumption on everyone's part that this is so self-evident a proposition that it needs 1197 no justification whatever. It is, in fact, an historical hang-over from precisely the Victorian attitude to which my hon. Friend referred and from which I hope that some of the cobwebs will be swept away. When a publisher had it in mind 100 years ago to produce a book, he wrote to a few hundred people whose names appeared in the flyleaf—X.Y.Z., Esq. and A.B.C., Esq.—and they subscribed to the book. This means that they guaranteed in advance that they would buy it. This was the basis of the author's prosperity and the publisher's undertaking to produce the book.
It was then a very reasonable social concept that additional copies, over and above the original subscription, should be run on in order that they could be placed in the new public libraries so that the labourer and the artisan would have access to knowledge. In the book trade we still talk about subscribing to a title, but now this means going around the bookshops to try to persuade book sellers to take copies.
I hope that there will be copies available to people who would not otherwise be able to see the book at all, but that this should be free is an outmoded Victorian attitude. Obviously no publisher, author or anyone else concerned with the book trade wishes to prevent anyone from going to a public library and seeking access on the spot to anything he wants. No one would possibly object to such people as old-age pensioners, students, cripples—indeed, any other special category which hon. Members care to mention—being allowed to borrow the book free. But I do not think it reasonable to the publisher, to the author and, even more, to the ratepayers that people should be allowed to borrow fiction ad lib at no cost whatever.
Of the 440 million borrowings a year, over 70 per cent. are of fiction, and many of these are collected by people in cars. No one could pretend that this is an educational or essential welfare service. It is purely an amenity service, and the cost should not be borne by the publisher, author and ratepayer. When my hon. Friend refers to free borrowing, he must realise that there is no such thing as free borrowing. All we are discussing in the House is who pays, and I do not 1198 think it right that it should be the ratepayer, the publisher or the author.
I want, briefly, to support the point made by the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East about the very short notice of the appearance of the Bill. The Roberts Committee reported in 1957. There was no mention of the Bill in the Queen's Speech. Seven days after it appeared, we are on Second Reading. I can confirm that it has not been possible to meet the council of the Publishers' Association. It has been possible to have a very scratch, ad hoc meeting of the Society of Authors, but several very influential and key people, whose views we wanted, were not there. Yet my hon. Friend suggests that this is an uncontroversial Bill which will no doubt fly through the House with no difficulty at all.
It must be on the record that I led a deputation of publishers and authors to the noble Lord, the predecessor of the present Minister, on 22nd June, 1960, and another deputation in 1963, and that 140 hon. Members from all sides of the House signed an early date Motion on the subject of authors and publishers in relation to public libraries 18 months ago. There ought to have been fore-knowledge that this was a controversial and tricky Measure.
I do not think that anyone in his senses would wish to block the Bill or to hold it up in any way, but, in view of the unhappy start which the Bill has had, I think that we should be given time before the Committee stage and also that the Minister should look with a fresh mind at the underlying concept that books are borrowed free when in fact it is at the expense of the people I have mentioned.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
I am glad of the opportunity to follow in the debate the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James). I was deeply interested in what he said about the complaints of authors and to a lesser extent publishers, about the fact that to a large degree what they produce does not yield remuneration or reward. It is a very difficult point. It is very difficult to argue the equity of the matter. I have yet read or heard an examina- 1199 tion in depth of the arguments, either from the point of view of equity or from the point of view of the economics involved.
All I would say about this point—and I have two other points to dispose of—is that, speaking from this side of the House, I feel that this will have to be looked at specifically as a problem affecting the economics of the book trade and ultimately affecting the export market. There is no time today to go into the implications of this difficulty, but if the problem were closely examined I think that it would be found that the impact of this would ultimately be on the important export side of the publishing trade.
The intentions of the Bill are excellent. The Bill recognises the increasing importance of public libraries and local museums in the life of the country and the very great contribution which an efficient and comprehensive library service can make not only to the recreation and relaxation of our people but also to their cultural growth and practical training.
The designation of the Minister of Education as the Minister responsible in regard to this service, the powers given to him to inspect, and his rights to apply sanctions to defaulting authorities—all those things are to be welcomed. But I join the hon. Member for Kemptown in saying that those powers, which are considerable if used, do not equate convincingly with the rather niggardly financial provisions made in the Bill.
It is unfortunate that the Bill does not provide adequate financial provision for the expansion and standards which it calls for and describes as necessary. All that the Government have done is to repeat that rate deficiency areas "may" attract some assistance from the Treasury. In other words, while the Minister will impose Clause 7 if he is in earnest—and if the Bill is to be something more than a dead letter he must impose it on all areas—nothing is being done to ensure that the extra expenditure required if that Clause is implemented will be made available. It must all come from the rates, which are already more than most people can bear.
This is very much in line with what the present Government do in claiming to improve services without making the money available for them. Hon. Mem- 1200 bers on this side of the House regard the public library service as being as much an essential social service and an education service as anything could be, and surely the time has come, especially when Ministerial responsibility is accepted, when the service should be financed to a sufficient degree by the central Exchequer.
The position of Wales under the Bill bears out this criticism. On the one hand, Welsh Members welcome the decision to set up a separate advisory body in the Principality. Wales is a bilingual country, and this is, naturally, already reflected in our educational system and in the Principality's needs under this Bill. About 700,000 of our people speak the Welsh language. Newspapers, periodicals and books, some of very high quality indeed, are published in the language and circulate in the public libraries.
The hon. Member mentioned a sale of 5,000 as being a very high aim for a book in English. To make a book in the Welsh language pay its way, we must sell between 1,500 and 2,000. That is on a notional market of 700,000. If one translates that into terms of the English home market of 50 million and multiplies the 1,500 by seven only, one would have to say that no book could succeed in England unless it sold more than 10,000 copies. That is the measure of our difficulty.
The financial difficulty which confronts publishers for the reasons I have just given will also confront Welsh library authorities. If a Welsh library authority is to meet the requirements of this Measure—that is, to provide "a comprehensive and efficient" library service—it must provide reading matter in both languages. This is an additional duty which applies only to library authorities in Wales. Exactly as the Minister of Education is bound to ensure that Welsh local education authorities are enabled to provide education in both languages in Welsh speaking counties, so he should ensure that Welsh library authorities are enabled financially as well as structurally to provide a library service in both languages.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
The hon. Member suggested earlier that part of the cost or all of it should be passed to the central 1201 Exchequer. Then he goes on to suggest—I understand the reason why—that books for Wales should be published in English and Welsh. Is he suggesting that English taxpayers should subsidise the Welsh taxpayers to the extent of paying for the publication of books in two languages for them?
§ Mr. Roberts
As long as this is a United Kingdom with a joint Treasury and as long as the position of Wales depends on what is decided in this House, then certainly the common Treasury should finance not only the education services but also the public library services in a way which meets the local needs of Wales. I should not think there was any difference of opinion about that, given the present constitutional set-up in the United Kingdom.
To achieve the objectives of the Bill, the Government must provide an efficient and comprehensive public library service in Wales, a bilingual country. It will not be a comprehensive or efficient service unless it provides reading material in books and other media in both languages. These are the facts of life in most counties in Wales.
It may be said that the present system of providing assistance through the rate deficiency grant will help most Welsh counties, and it is true that almost every Welsh county and county borough is a rate deficiency area. But that is not an equitable answer to the problem, because the percentage of liability to the local authority not only remains but recurs because of the dual duty and dual expenditure which falls on it. Unless one or other of the two expenditures, either for English or for Welsh, is met by a special grant of 100 per cent., then an added burden is imposed on a bilingual Welsh authority. This ought to be recognised, and there ought to be a special financial arrangement to take into account the circumstances I have mentioned. This has already been done with most education services which have bilingual contingencies, and I see no reason why something should not be done in this case. Surely the Ministry of Education is used to working out very complicated formulae to meet local conditions.
The bilingual factor is also a compelling argument for the establishment of a school of librarianship in Wales. 1202 The Report properly stresses the need for trained and qualified staff in the libraries and museums of England and and Wales generally. Obviously for Wales, as a bilingual country, "trained and qualified" must include the ability to select, catalogue and advise on publications and media in the Welsh language as well as in English. This can only be done by providing courses leading to the A.L.A. and the F.L.A. which include training in classifying bilingual material. Such a course should be promoted by one of our university colleges.
The public libraries have long since ceased to be merely desirable. They are a vital part of the life of the community and an essential aspect of continuing education. More people are reading; people are reading more and they are reading more widely than ever before. A comprehensive and efficient public library service must provide at least three facilities.
The first is opportunity for general reading. While many of us would decry the fact that so much of the reading in public libraries is simply fiction, nevertheless there is force in what the Report says about purely recreative reading of fiction being an enlargement of experience and well worth promoting among young people, since they may grow into the habit of reading good literature when there is really no practical objective involved.
Secondly, there must be facilities for reference. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) stressed that. One of the obvious deficiencies in most public libraries and in many which are otherwise very good is the out-of-date, inadequate, disappointing condition of the reference sections. A public library should certainly provide an adequate reference section. A great many people turn into public libraries to look things up. More do this than we realise. The general picture we have is of people asking for the loan of recent works of fiction but, having looked into this recently, I have found that a surprising number of people use the reference sections.
The third facility is study. We must not underestimate it. An increasing number of people are using the libraries not only to follow hobbies and develop interests but to master new arts and 1203 crafts. An encouraging number of young school leavers who have entered industry are using the libraries in order to strengthen their practical studies for improver-ships and apprenticeships, while people in the older age groups are also using them for practical interests which many are thereby developing to a very high degree.
This is a social service which has come of age. The adoptive system has served us well. Since 1919, as the Report says, the system has enabled county councils and other bodies to develop, in their own local ways, library facilities which have been remarkably successful in general. But it is now high time that the system became a social service.
The Bill itself will do one of two things essential for that transition. It will make the service the responsibility of a Minister of the Crown. But it will not do the second thing—make a substantial part of the financing of the service the responsibility of the Exchequer. I hope that before long there will be a Measure doing just that. If these two things had been put into this Bill it would really have been an epoch making Measure.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) devoted, quite rightly, much of his speech to money, to the question of who is to pay. I wish to begin by mentioning Clause 13, which deals with museums and art galleries, because his speech was very apropos to them. In an interjection during the speech of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary I asked why there should be a veto on charging a reasonable sum to the public for looking at the pictures in the galleries.
All of us have had experience of being stranded in a provincial town on a Sunday afternoon with not very much to do—there is usually very little to do in most provincial towns on Sunday afternoons. We have found that, although we would like to see the pictures—a most suitable thing to do on such a day—as often as not the art gallery is closed, Why is this? It is not through 1204 any excessive Sabbatarianism on the part of the local authorities, but simply that to pay staff to keep the galleries open on Sunday afternoons would involve a heavy additional burden on the ratepayers, who are being imposed upon a great deal these days.
Why, therefore, should there be this veto on making a reasonable charge for visitors at such a time? It may not be possible in local circumstances, but at least the local authorities should be given the power of doing so and thus being able to keep their museums and galleries open at a time which may, in any case, be the only time when the local population can see these treasures.
The thesis behind the Bill, which I should like to question—although I think that it is too late to question it—is that a large authority is more likely to be efficient in the provision of a library than a smaller authority. This may be true of almost all local government functions, but I do not believe it to be true of libraries. Indeed, the figures given by the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) show that the larger authorities are in many cases far less efficient than small ones.
I have had an experience which is very vivid in my mind. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport) and I occasionally meet in the public library of one of the great metropolitan boroughs. My hon. Friend does not mince his language about the service provided by that library. It is both loud in volume and deep in matter. So embarrassing is it that I have ceased to avail myself of the service. But I contrast that service with the sort of service provided by the non-county borough of Darwen, which I have the honour to represent, and I am amazed by the contrast.
The Darwen library issues 13 books per head of the population every year, whereas the national average is only nine. That is surely a fairly good criterion of the efficiency of the Darwen library and the degree to which it caters for the intellectual needs of the public and to which the public has confidence in its administration. Compared with a national average of 30 per cent., 41 per cent. of the population of Darwen are members of the library. There appears 1205 to be no logical reason why it should lose this library on the ground of population alone. This population, like so many of the Lancashire boroughs, is dwindling, but its library service is immensely efficient, far more efficient than many of the counties or county boroughs or metropolitan boroughs which I have experienced. Unfortunately, it is now probably too late to reconsider and rethink this numerical criterion.
However, can we be told in detail of the standards which local libraries, such as that at Darwen, are to be expected to show? I do not ask my right hon. Friend to give us this information tonight, because it is probably very detailed and certainly very technical. But between now and D-day, whenever D-day is, could he give the libraries clear guidance on this subject? For instance, does he adopt the standards laid down by the working party on Standards? Are those the standards, no more and no less, which these efficient local libraries, which have served the public so well so long, are to be expected to observe, or is there some additional criterion or subtraction from the Bourdillon Committee's recommendations?
The libraries are entitled to know. They are immensely worried that after all these years of service to the public they should be in some way deprived of the opportunity to serve the public as they desire to serve it, and as the public wishes to continue to be served, if we are to judge by the popularity of the service as demonstrated by the figures which I have given.
I make a plea for the smaller non-county boroughs which take their intellectual duties seriously, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will not, in the interests of unnatural schematism, impose upon them some burden which they cannot reasonably bear. In those few words, I otherwise commend the Bill because the library service is one of the marks which distinguishes us as a civilised country from many other countries which claim to be civilised.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)
The hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) has made a constituency speech and I shall 1206 do exactly the same thing. I shall do so unashamedly, and if it is counted as parish pump politics I am quite willing to be called a parish pump addict.
The Minister must know that many small local authorities take great pride in their library service. I speak on behalf of three non-county boroughs who, under the terms of the Bill, are all likely to lose their library powers, but which all have great pride in the library services which they provide. That is true of most of the small authorities which are likely to lose the services. They feel that this is another case of their powers being whittled away so that eventually we shall find that some of the smaller authorities are left as only salvage collectors, although I was reading an article the other day in which regional organisation for the collection of salvage was suggested, so I do not know what will happen eventually.
My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) spoke of the criteria of the standards of libraries and said that some of the large libraries were among the worst. Yet it is these large authorities which are to be able to carry on and to whom the powers of some of the smaller authorities will be transferred, even though the smaller authorities may be doing a very good job. This is something which needs further consideration.
This is not the right time for the introduction of such a Bill. I made the same point on a previous occasion when Lord Eccles who was then Minister of Education, was considering the introduction of a Bill. Before we reorganise the library service, we should have a clearer idea of the likely pattern of local government. What is the point of transferring library powers from the smaller authorities to, say, the county councils, if in a short time there is a reorganisation of local government which results in those powers being returned?
A local government commission is considering my area now and it is unlikely that the three non-county boroughs of Dukinfield, Stalybridge and Hyde will remain as separate entities. They will probably become part of a county borough, or larger non-county borough, but, according to the Bill, they are to lose their library powers 1207 to the county council. When the local boundary report has been adopted and put into operation, the library powers may be returned to them. I know that I am striking a discordant note from this side of the House, but I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East, knew that she did not speak for me in everything she said.
The Minister appears to believe in letting the non-county boroughs down lightly. When they read the Bill's Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, they will see that it says that Clause 4 provides that non-county boroughs and urban districts with populations of more than 40,000 are to continue to have these powers, but when they read Clause 4 carefully, they will find no reference to that figure of 40,000. They will find that Clause 4 (1,c) says:The council of a non-county borough or urban district where either—Thinking that they have made a mistake, they will re-read the Explanatory Memorandum, but they will still see that it says that Clause 4 refers to the figure of 40,000. However, not until they read as far as Clause 6(2) will they find a provision saying that unless they have a population of 40,000, they are likely to lose their powers.
- (i) the council was a library authority immediately before the commencement of this Act, or
- (ii) the council has been approved by the Minister under section 6(2) below …"
The Bill provides for an appeal to the Minister, but whose advice is the Minister to take? The Bill says:Before determining an application under subsection (1) or (2) above the Minister shall consult the county council …What will the county council say? As every hon. Member knows, county councils are as keen as any other authority to build up empires, and they will say that libraries would be far better if handed over to the county councils.
I am developing a great affection for the Cheshire County Council, but that does not mean that I would hand over everything in my constituency to Cheshire County Council. I am convinced that the library service being provided for Dukinfield, Stalybridge and Hyde at present is as good as or better than any which may be provided by 1208 Cheshire County Council. I do not know what criterion the Minister will use, but if he is merely to take the advice of the county councils, there is not much hope for the smaller authorities.
I do not know whether the Bill will ever reach the Statute Book. The hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James) was lucky to be able to use this Second Reading to make a special plea on behalf of authors and publishers. Although I have strayed occasionally into authorship, I am unashamedly speaking on behalf of my constituency. The hon. Member for Kemptown forgot to mention that some authors were very lucky, because if it had not been for the library authorities the sales of their books would have been negligible.
Coming back to the Bill, I have made the point about the small authorities. I have purposely not some forward with figures about that because I do not think the Second Reading of a Bill is the time at which to bring forward detailed arguments of that kind, but I appeal to the Minister to look at these things again. Let us be certain that if there is any transfer of functions, the final arrangement is better than the present one.
As I said earlier, whether this Bill will ever become an Act depends on the Prime Minister. I do not know whether he has yet made up his mind about the date of the General Election. He certainly has not informed me of it, but if it comes fairly soon there is little hope of this Bill ever reaching the Statute Book. Having said that, I am glad that the Minister of Education is to become the Minister responsible for the library service, and in the few remaining months of this Parliament I hope that he will continue to be the Minister of Education.
In conclusion, I refer to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) about finance. If the Minister wants to improve the library service, he can do it by giving a little more financial help to the libraries. The library service does not come within the general grant, and the amount provided under the Exchequer equalisation grant is not as much as ought to be provided from central funds. If more money was made available, and if there was greater co-ordination between the various library 1209 services, I am certain that everything that is intended to be achieved by the Bill could be achieved by reciprocal arrangements between the existing libraries.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I know that a number of my hon. Friends hope to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, so I shall detain the House for only a few moments in what I think is regarded as an important debate because libraries and museums play a big part, and happily an increasingly big part, in the general educational and cultural life of the country.
I take up and emphasise the point so eloquently and forcibly made by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) and by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke). I accept at once that some population figure has to be written into the Bill by which a local authority can qualify as a library authority. Whatever the figure is, in one sense it can be argued that it is an arbitrary one, and I am not going to argue whether 40,000, or the old figure of 50,000, is right or wrong. I think that to do so would be a waste of time. I am happy to accept the figure of 40,000
When I first read the Bill I was a little disturbed by what seemed to be an underlying assumption in it that every non-county borough and every local authority whose population was below 40,000 was considered to be too small to be an efficient library authority, whereas a local authority with a population of more than 40,000 was considered to be an efficient one. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill, went some way to allay my fears.
I do not think that this issue of the transfer of powers between one library authority and another ought to be decided on the rule of thumb of population alone. As has been said, there are a number of other factors which determine whether or not a non-county borough is or is not an efficient library authority. There are many non-county boroughs whose population is slightly below the 40,000 mark who, over a period of years, and in some cases over many years, have built up a very efficient library, expanding all the time, and grow- 1210 ing more popular all the time, of which they are rightly and justifiably proud. I think that in many respects they would argue—and I would not say that they were wrong—that they were as efficient, if not more so, than some of the bigger county libraries with whom they may be shortly asked to merge.
Under Clause 6 a non-county borough with a population of less than 40,000 is to lose its library to the bigger authority unless within six months it applies to the Ministry to continue as a library authority. The point that I want to put to my right hon. Friend is the point put by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen. If a non-county borough, with a population of less than 40,000, applies to retain its library, what yardstick will my right hon. Friend apply, and who will apply it, in order to decide whether or not that local authority should continue to have its own library? That is an important point, and it is important that the local authorities in question—and many of them will apply to be exempted—should feel confident that the machinery for judging their claims is sound, proper, and experienced.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
Yes. Similarly, when the Minister, or rather his representatives, whoever they may be, adjudge whether or not a particular local authority should lose its library to the county, they must at the same time judge whether the county in question runs a library service of sufficient elasticity to be able to take in the smaller group.
As I understand it, the Bill will not take effect before April, 1965. That is the date at which the reorganisation of local government boundaries is expected to be completed. It is highly unlikely that in Berkshire the review of local boundaries and the consequent reorganisation will be completed by that date. I should therefore like an assurance from my right hon. Friend that in areas where the local government boundary reorganisation has not been completed by April, 1965, the provisions of the Bill in respect of libraries will not necessarily be implemented.
That is all that I have to say. I think that this is a good Bill, provided that it is applied with realism, with sympathy, and with understanding, and 1211 not wholly by the rather clumsy rule of thumb which is implied in certain Clauses of the Bill. I hope that my right hon. Friend can reassure us on that point.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Irving (Dartford)
The hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) will forgive me if I leave until later the question of the smaller libraries. I want to comment, first, on the remarks of the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James). Those of us who know of his efforts in the past are not surprised that he has taken this opportunity to air his views. I believe emphatically, however, that it would be a retrograde step if the principle of a free library service in this country were in any way abrogated. I am delighted that the Bill preserves this principle intact.
I say that because I believe that it would destroy the universal character and appeal of the service, and weaken it to that extent. I do not believe that any of the reservations made by the hon. Member could take into account the fact that this needs to be a universal service, and that any charge—despite any exceptions—would be a tax on those least able to pay and, incidentally, often on those people whom we want most to get inside the libraries. He was on much better ground in talking about decent salaries for librarians. I join with him wholeheartedly in hoping that the Minister will do something to achieve an efficient national machinery to bring this about.
In giving the Bill my general support I want to pay tribute to the public library service. Over many decades librarians have played a vital part in the educational and cultural life of our community. For many generations the local librarian was the only guide that many of our people had to the rich heritage of literature and thought which is our most precious possession. The country owes a debt of gratitude to the devoted service of librarians over a very long period.
Like many other aspects of modern life, however, the rôle of the librarian in society is changing. I nevertheless believe that his rôle in the future will be no less important. In some respects 1212 it will be even more important. In an age when leisure is on the increase a good part of the battle to see that this leisure is used fruitfully and constructively will have to be fought in the public library, and to a great extent the battle will be won or lost there.
Unhappily, on leaving school too many young people are no longer accessible to any formal educational agency, and the public library may well be suited—given a modern approach—to fill this gap. I see the public library as the point at which all the interest lines in the community converge, with the public librarian in the rôle of co-ordinator, seeking to bring every activity back to books and ideas.
Education is becoming increasingly essential to the good citizen in a democracy, and I see the public libraries' responsibility for reference and information services as an increasingly important part of its work. Indeed, as the years go by the ever-increasing student population will rely more and more upon the public library, not only for books but for accommodation, especially in vacation time, but also at other times. I am happy to know that some libraries have already taken steps to meet this need. In many other ways the future of the public library should be an expanding one, with exciting new horizons to be explored, and it is basically because the Bill has the intention of raising and maintaining standards that I support it.
Like other hon. Members, I nevertheless find it very difficult to understand the Minister's unseemly haste, not in bringing in this legislation—because we have been waiting for it for some time, but for getting its Second Reading, because when I asked him, in a Question on 16th January, when we could hope to have library legislation, he said that it would be when Parliamentary time permitted. Eight days later he published the Bill, and 12 days later we have the Second Reading debate. I am not sure whether I should feel flattered or flattened, but in any case, as my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) said, there has been little time for public comment either in the Press or in the organs and associations which should be interested in the matter. I sincerely hope that this haste 1213 will not embarrass the Minister at a later stage.
The Bill has a long history. Some years ago the Library Association Council put forward a number of proposals which aroused a great deal of opposition from the smaller library authorities. As a result of that opposition the Small Libraries Group was set up and I was privileged to attend meetings of its executive committee, in an advisory capacity, over a long period. The group did a great deal of good work, first in presenting standards for the first time and then in stimulating a number of smaller authorities to raise their own standards against the day when legislation would be introduced.
It also paved the way for evidence to be given to the Roberts Committee and, largely as a result of the patient and able work of the chief librarian of Penge—Penge has already been mentioned as a library authority which is spending more than almost any other library authority—that evidence was among the most effective and up to date that the Committee received.
This somewhat violent reaction on the part of the small authorities was indicative of the intense feeling of civic pride which was generated in the small libraries by the library service. The library profession contains some of the most devoted of public servants, who, often working on a shoestring, have provided efficient services which are a credit to them and to their towns. For this reason I am pleased that the Bill has departed from the original recommendations of the Roberts Committee and has, in the first instance, reduced the population figure from 50,000 to 40,000 and also given those authorities with populations greater than 40,000 the automatic right to have independent powers, besides providing an opportunity for those with less than 40,000 to make a case to the Minister in justification of their claim to continue to exercise library powers.
On the whole, the Bill is a suitable compromise between the big and the small library authority. Nevertheless, I ask the Minister to bear in mind the feeling of the smaller authorities not only as expressed by hon. Members who have spoken but as will be expressed fairly strongly in the country 1214 before long, when people have fully considered the implications of the Bill. I therefore urge a number of considerations upon him.
First, no library authority should lose its library powers unless it is shown to be inefficient. Secondly, a reasonable time should be given for authorities to come up to the standards which are to operate and which will be the criteria upon which they are to be judged.
§ Mr. Irving
That must depend on the time which the Bill will take to come into operation, and the time in which the inspections will take place. I should say that at least one full year, and probably a second year, will be necessary in order to allow financial provisions to be made by those authorities who wish to come up to the required standard. Nevertheless, the Minister was right in saying that it is not only a question of coming up to standards there must be a determination to maintain high standards once they are achieved.
Thirdly, no borough or district library should lose its powers to a county authority which itself has not achieved the appropriate standards by which local authorities will be judged. I am inclined to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East on this point. I am not sure that there is a case for allowing authorities which do not now exercise these powers to do so in the future. Furthermore, if this were allowed it would be reasonable for county councils to be allowed to consider what the effect would be of We withdrawal from existing county services. I am not so sure that, when the right to maintain independent powers for all those who now have them is considered, the county councils' evidence should have too much weight attached to it, because it must obviously be partisan in these proceedings.
The working party which was set up says, in paragraph 134 of its Report:The performance of any authority has to be examined in the light of the performance of others.Therefore, these standards should not be applied with special severity to smaller authorities—especially those with populations of less than 40,000— 1215 and no authority with less than 40,000 should lose its powers so long as there are authorities of any class with more than 40,000 which have not come up to the necessary standards. It would be a source of grave and justifiable irritation if it could be seen that one small authority had disappeared and others larger were not being treated in the same way.
I wish also to indicate the fact that the working party operated on the assumption that the county reviews would reduce the number of small libraries and improve the resources of others. This was the basis on which it came to its conclusions about standards. Lord Eccles, then Sir David Eccles, when he was Minister in 1960, said:… there is bound to be some delay, because I found, when talking to people in this service, that they were generally agreed that a new Act could not come into full operation until the reviews of local authority boundaries have been completed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1960 Vol. 629, c. 672.]I wish to ask the Minister why he has departed from the view of the working party and of his predecessor. If he has not, will he make it clear, as he was asked to do, that there will be no change? Because I am quite certain that to take away from authorities the powers which they possess at the moment would create hardship and chaos especially if, on reorganisation, the same authorities, or similar authorities, could claim them back. It might also mean that they would have to wait for ten years for the next review before such a claim could be made.
The Bill speaks of efficiency and supervision. These are the only two comments which give any guidance about standards or inspection. We want to know, and a number of hon. Members have asked, what are to be the standards. It is not good enough merely to refer to the working party. The Minister must give clearer guidance about this. Even the working party standards are ambiguous, speaking of "balanced stocks" and so on. It is only right and proper that an authority, whether small or large, should have a clear indication of the criteria which it must adopt to remain an independent authority. I hope that either the Minister or his new bodies, the advisory councils, will at an early stage go carefully into the 1216 matter and give full guidance on this subject. Obviously supervision implies inspection. I do not think that the Parliamentary Secretary answered the question about how the Minister would deal with inspection. We want to know what kind of inspection will be carried out. It would be rather unfortunate if the inspection operated by the Ministry was confined to the default powers of the Minister.
If the inspectorate is to go round snooping after a complaint has been made, this would do no good to the library service, to the inspectorate or to anyone else. We want to know more about the inspectorate. Is it to be part of the educational inspectorate? Are the inspectors to be Her Majesty's inspectors and have the same sort of appointment? We must have a lot more information. If the inspectorate had a roving commission it could do a great deal of good by taking responsibility for disseminating information about the best practices operated in the authorities which they visit. This would do a great deal to raise the standard.
Regarding the provisions of Clause 10, I should be grateful to know from the Minister who is entitled to make a complaint. One of the grounds for holding an inquiry under the default powers contained in that Clause is the making of a complaint by someone. Has the Minister a statutory authority in mind or may a complaint be made by an individual ratepayer?
The provision regarding the setting up of national advisory Councils is very vague. At this stage I do not want to press for a definition to be put in the Bill. But I should like to urge the Minister, when making the appointments to ensure that the membership is composed of people of the highest national standing. This would do a great deal to improve the public service image. The Bill is weak on the question of grants. The provision for grants seems totally inadequate and I should like to have seen some start made with Exchequer assistance of a general kind. This is perhaps the first time that a local authority service will be accepting inspection without there being some kind of quid pro quo or without the service receiving some kind of subvention in 1217 return. Even though that is not done there is a strong case for providing grants in respect of some of the larger city libraries such as those at Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Westminster where there are huge reference and specialised collections. These libraries act almost like regional libraries. To encourage co-operation, a grant ought to be made from Government sources. Non-resident students and all students during vacation times will need help and it will fall on the public libraries to provide that help. The need will increase with the tremendous crash programme on which we are to embark following the Robbins Committee's Report. Only by the assistance provided by public libraries shall we be able to cope with the situation until universities are fully expanded.
I am convinced that this cannot be done without some form of Government assistance for libraries which need it. It will be necessary also to consider some of the specialised collections which exist in our libraries and are very valuable. International competition is getting so cut-throat that the status of these collections can be maintained only by means of some kind of Government grant, where a case has been made out for the purchase of some volume or folio as being in the public interest. This practice is already operated in respect of art galleries, and it might properly be applied in respect of libraries.
The Roberts Committee recommended that every county council which previously had an education committee which exercised the functions of a library authority should seek to set up a library committee. There is nothing about that in the Bill. But I hope that the Minister will make this a requirement for all authorities. There are many precedents. County councils must appoint committees for finance, education, smallholdings, diseases of animals, fire brigades, health and housing and children and welfare. I hope that, in order to raise the standard of the service, the senior officer can be a designated officer in some way. It should be incumbent on local authorities to appoint fully qualified chief librarians. All councils must appoint a clerk, a treasurer and a medical officer. Borough and urban district councils must appoint a surveyor. Rural district councils must 1218 appoint a public health inspector. The authorities of counties and county boroughs must in addition appoint a chief education officer, a children's officer and a chief constable. Boroughs must in addition appoint an architect.
This Bill is the first to give anything like adequate recognition to the importance of dm public library service. I think it appropriate that this should be marked not only by doing many of the things for which we have asked but by placing the service on an equal footing administratively with the services that I have mentioned.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
I hope the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving) will forgive me if I do not follow the course of his speech. I agree with much of what he said but I wish to confine myself to a narrow aspect of the Bill.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing the Bill, but I think he has been a little hard on the House in giving us only two days in which to study it. This takes my mind back to the period of 1945 to 1950 when Lord Morrison, who was then in this House, used to present a Bill on a Friday and tell us that we had to do some homework over the weekend in order to get busy by the following Monday. We do not want to follow that practice. It has meant long, expensive telephone calls with my town clerk in order to study the matter. I believe that many hon. Members have been in a similar position. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is to be congratulated on the way in which he introduced the Bill, but he gave no explanation for the rapidity with which it is being rushed through the House.
I agree with what the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) and my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) said about this Bill. Certain Clauses seem to need clarifying. I am one who does not get on well with county authorities. My right hon. Friend the Minister has a long file from me dealing with the education authorities of Chester. I have not a great deal of confidence in them. They know that, so there is no harm in my 1219 saying it. I am reluctant to see additional powers given to county authorities when things can be done by county boroughs, as in the case of Macclesfield.
Clause 23 says:This Act shall come into force on such date not earlier than 1st April 1965.The Registrar-General's estimates up to the middle of a year are usually published in May of the following year, so on 1st April, 1965, the estimate then current is likely to be that for mid-1963. I hope the House will forgive me for referring to local matters, for this is a real problem in Macclesfield. The population there by mid-1962 was 37,610. It has been steadily rising for a number of years and on 17th February 1964, the first tenant in the overspill—horrible word—from Manchester will move into a new house in the borough. He will be the first of probably 5,000 to come to Macclesfield from Manchester to occupy 1,250 homes.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Yes, and I shall welcome that. They will be given good conditions which they like, although from time to time a few go back again. Apart from the natural increase, a review of the boundaries of the borough will take place at an early date and might have the effect of putting Macclesfield even now over the 40,000 limit. It would be unfortunate if there are any alterations in the borough functions shortly before reaching the appropriate qualifying population.
Then there has to be consultation between the Minister and the county council before determining an application from the borough to retain library functions, but who is to decide? If the county authorities have to decide I fear the worst. My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor made this point quite strongly. I want to see something much clearer before I commit my wholehearted support to the Bill in this respect.
The library in Macclesfield was given to the borough with an initial stock of 10,000 books way back in 1876. It was reconstructed in 1950 and two additional branches were opened in 1945 and 1960. A third in now on the drawing board for a new housing estate. It will 1220 be seen that the borough is not neglecting these matters, but is paying right and proper attention to them. Every school in the borough is supplied by the library as agent for the county library. Macclesfield has sought to extend its library by taking over part of the adjoining technical school. The number of books issued in January was over 34,000. The cost to Macclesfield was 9s. 5d. per head, whereas in the county area in Bollington nearby the cost was 6s. 8d. per head. Macclesfield was open for 24 days in the month and the equivalent of hours was two days for Bollington. Here we have a borough giving a far better service.
Fortunately in the Macclesfield area we have almost full employment, but that raises the question of where we can find staff at the present rates of pay. That is a matter which has to be looked into. With new industries coming to these areas, staff will have to be paid salaries comparable to those in the teaching profession, and teachers are not overpaid. Somehow librarians, who have done a tremendous job for the country over many decades, have always been under-rated in their achievements. They have done a remarkably fine job and have been underpaid for years.
I ask my right hon. Friend who is to carry out the inspections referred to in the Bill? Will he ask the county authorities to do that? If so, I shall object because I am not at all happy about it. We want to know where we stand in this matter. Ratepayers will have to pay for all of this. I support what has been said by several hon. Members on both sides of the House. Rates are going up at an alarming pace. A year ago it was said that people on fixed incomes with an additional charge on their homes must sooner or later have something done for them. Something is being done, but I think that the central Government will have to take over more of the charge for general education.
A great many people with failing eyesight do not take books from the library because they find difficulty in reading, but they have to pay perhaps £5 per household per year. That is an arbitrary figure which has been mentioned. I hope that that matter will be looked at, 1221 because we agree that we must modernise Britain and if we do so it has to be paid for by what we earn as a nation. We do not want to inflict the greater cost on one section of the people who are unable to meet their liabilities.
I welcome the Bill and think that it will do a great deal of good, not only for fiction reading. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James) on a fine speech, but I thought that he underestimated the amount of good which comes to education from libraries. Libraries go a long way towards educating young people and those in their twenties who are following crafts. I welcome the Bill and wish it every success, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will clear up the points which have been mentioned in this debate.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)
I hazard a guess for the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) that the reason the Government are having this further rash of "Billitis" today is to provide a consolation prize for the Minister before his impending demotion.
I was surprised at the way in which the Parliamentary Secretary referred to "technical and miscellaneous matters" and included amongst them finance, because finance is the key to the whole Bill. Here was an excellent opportunity if the Government cannot go back on its policy of percentage grants to put power into the Bill to cover libraries by the general grant. A good deal of the welcome which hon. Members are giving to the Bill will be frustrated by the absence of adequate support from the centre at a time when hon. Members opposite are talking about the great burden of local government and rates and are scurrying around with all sorts of funny little matters to relieve individual cases.
Here is a major Measure by which several million pounds could be taken from the rate burden and put fairly on to the Exchequer. The basic system in England and Wales is co-operation between the central and the local government. The current system of general grant taking about 55 per cent. of the burden would be very appropriate in this case.
1222 The second difficulty is that many of the measures the Government are now rushing through are an attempt to paper over the cracks. Cracks in the library service are very considerable. The Roberts Report said about library buildings that a:pathetically small part of total expenditure of local authoritieshad been concerned with them. It went on to say:Since 1956 capital expenditure by local authorities on public libraries has been discouraged by the Government.The Report quoted some pathetically small figures of the amount of loan sanction which the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues have allowed over the last ten years. I agree that in the last year or two there has been a change, but this leaves such a legacy of bad building that it will be many years even if there were a general grant covering this matter and a programme of support before the buildings were brought up to the standard which obviously prevails in the constituency of the hon. Member for Macclesfield. But the country as a whole is very far from reaching such building standards.
The working party three years later than the Roberts Committee reported the same facts. It was the Minister's own working part of officials. It said that most urban libraries were housed in old buildings, many of which were inadequate and ill-suited to present needs. At the point where the libraries touch the public—in the case of municipal libraries, their central buildings, and in the case of county libraries, their branches—the sample survey by the working party showed that most of the buildings were inadequate.
Nowadays we hear from the Government that the money is all right but that it is a matter of the building industry being; overloaded. How is an overloaded building industry going to be able to apply its attention to the library service? The working party referred to the fact that in place after place suitable sites for expansion have been snapped up for other development. If there were a sudden drive to build libraries in central areas the sites do not exist. Where in exceptional circumstances sites do exist, exorbitant prices are 1223 demanded. I had this problem in the City of Durham some years ago. We wanted a small site for a county branch library. We found one tucked away opposite the cathedral, a beautiful site at the edge of an old school, and we did very well with it; but we had years of headaches trying to find a suitable place. That is the picture throughout the country.
I am not worried much about the supply of books. That is the easiest problem of all. No doubt local authorities and new library authorities will be stimulated by this Bill to find more money for books. What is alarming is that the real function of the library to be a pioneer in cultivating public tastes will be hindered by inadequate central facilities, lack of attractiveness of the library and lack of skilled staff. There are many references in the working party report and the Roberts Committee's Report to the serious difficulties which have persisted for a long time in finding qualified librarians.
I make the same charge as I have made several times against the Government in relation to the training colleges, that they have allowed to exist a situation in which an unfair burden is placed on librarians. In 1957 N.A.L.G.O. carried out a survey of householders to obtain their reactions to their local government services, and the library service was the one about which ratepayers complained least. I do not think this is inconsistent with the case I am putting that the library service has gradually become worse in comparison with modern standards. The reason is that librarians are devoted people and have been carrying the burden with inadequate support from their county and municipal councils and the Government. They have very imaginative ideas and, given the opportunity, they could make a very big cultural impact on the country. Just as in the case of the training colleges, a most unfair burden has been imposed on them in the last 10 years.
The working party referred to this situation, stating that there is a situation in which the library staff are not sufficient in number or suitable in quality to discharge their duties effectively. The work- 1224 ing party took a sample of 43 municipal libraries and 10 county libraries. Of the municipal libraries, 13 had vacancies for qualified staff and six had vacancies for more than one, and of the professional posts, 28 were filled by unqualified people. Therefore, in the majority of those municipal libraries there were serious deficiencies of staff. Of the 10 county libraries, eight had vacancies for qualified staff, seven had more than one vacancy, and in nine cases professional posts were filled by unqualified people. This situation will not be remedied by any amount of inspection or Government orders. Money and adequate support are the roots of the trouble, and, to a lesser degree, a proper realisation of the status and rôle of librarians.
I want to refer to a series of fields in which it seems absolutely essential to make an advance and recruit the right people. The working party referred to these categories, and emphasised the need for far more specialist librarians not only in the big centres but throughout the service. I refer first to children's librarians. The Roberts Report said on page 8:The provision of a children's library with adequate stocks and expert guidance in the choice of books should be regarded as an integral part of the library service. Children cannot be taught too early that there are books besides school books.This needs a real drive. I do not think it will come unless there is adequate financial support. I hope that a means can be found to provide central Government contributions to this despite the fact that the Bill does not contain any proper method. There is a Clause which enables grants to be made to libraries, but it is not intended for this purpose. I hope that we may be able to do something about this in Committee.
The greatest development in the education system has been in the teaching of young children. There is reference in the Newsom Report to the reading progress of children. This is the kind of thing which needs to be applied to the library service generally, and is being applied only sketchily and narrowly.
The second category which needs special attention is young adults. The Albemarle Report, in paragraph 201, refers to the need for close association between youth clubs and libraries in developing this very difficult side of 1225 youth work. The working party report stated:We consider it to be the library's function not only to provide library materials but to take steps to see that they are brought to the notice of those who can benefit from them such action can be a valuable contribution to the youth service.This is a field which is very little touched. I do not know that there are any training courses. I do not know whether the Leicester College deals with this very deeply. If there are no training provisions of this description, I hope that this will be taken up as part of the general drive.
Finally, I refer to some most depressing information which I found in D.S.I.R. Pamphlet No. 4 "Problems of Progress in Industry", referring to what technologists read, and why. The Robbins Report has made some severe criticisms of the higher education of our technologists, referring to it as inadequate in quantity, inadequate in quality, ill-supported by industry and ill-supported by the State. We hope that in the next few years this situation will be altered very much. Here is a field which, apart from the setting up of the new great library in Yorkshire, has hardly been touched in our main library system and very little in our county system.
This is the sort of picture given by the pamphlet which was based on interviews with technologists. It showed that when technologists were faced with a problem, only 12 per cent. began by consulting the literature on the subject and only 22 per cent. would go to a library as a normal measure for finding an answer to a problem. The reading habits of technologists are such that as many read on the train as read in the library—3 per cent. doing their reading in a library and 2 per cent. on the train.
The report says that a typical technologist is a person who reads his personal copy of a journal at home and perhaps looks through the firm's copy at work, those journals having come to him as a matter of routine; and he is looking at them not for anything immediately useful but for ideas and stimulation. It also says that the technologist does not take his reading very seriously. This is a serious indictment of the libarary service in not having enough experts to 1226 push forward in this field, and an indictment of his education that the technologists does not regard reading, libraries and books as a key part of his work.
§ Mr. Boyden
Yes; they feel that, having qualified, they do not particularly need books. The Russians have an entirely different attitude to this. They comb the world to fill their libraries with the latest technology developments, they disseminate the results of their combing, they have abstracts and systems of abstracts in every field which are eagerly used. This report was referring to one of the forward-looking parts of our industry—the electrical and electronic side. I do not say this as any special criticism of libararies. It is a general defect of our educational system, but we shall not advance in this field of library work unless we give the specialists very considerable support and emphasise the rôle the libraries have in promoting children's reading, reading for young adults and technologists.
One of the fields in which this comes out most clearly and where we are least efficient is in the matter of the catalogues, the regional catalogues and the national central library catalogues, and in co-ordination and collaboration. I shall not go into that because it is a rather technical subject. It is the one subject where the Ministry proposes to make grants, and I wish that it would make as much grant as is demanded by the services and forget all about the local authority making its contribution. It should be done from the centre. This would be the very minimum that would persuade me to give a welcome to the Bill. I welcome the principle of the Bill, but the actual construction of the Bill needs much improvement.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Sir Herbert Butcher (Holland with Boston)
The Minister, I am sure, will be very gratified with the welcome which has been accorded to the principles enshrined in this Bill, namely, that the library service throughout the country should be brought up to appropriate and approved standards, and that he and his Ministry should have a substantial share in this work. I am quite sure that 1227 whereas the phrase "facilities for inspection" is used to some extent, it carries with it the connotation also of inspiration, assistance and good will. But the Minister will be under no illusion that the enthusiasm which appears in this Bill for the activities of the county councils is not shared in every part of the House.
My own feeling is that the library service as a whole is not one which should be within the province of the county council. I believe that the library service, as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) and the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) indicated, is one which is essentially capable of being handled by the local borough irrespective of its population. I would stress the point by calling in aid the illustration of my own borough of Holland with Boston which I have the honour to represent. The borough of Boston maintains the only reference library that there is in the County of Holland, but I understand that it is not of sufficient population, unless it is exempted, to continue its library service.
Library services are likely to be transferred to the county council. I represent the whole of the administrative county and the Parts of Holland as well. I would not say a word about their administration in general, but the fact remains that they have no library service at all. What they have at present is a library service which they share with the adjoining county of Lindsey. It seems to me quite undesirable that local authorities which have maintained this kind of service should be put at risk of having a useful and valuable service taken away from them.
The other suggestion which I want to put to the Minister is that this Bill will not become operative until 1965 at the very least. What is to happen during the interregnum? It may be that the local authority will go ahead hoping that all will be well, but I think that, on the other hand, in the case of Boston there is pressure of planning ahead for an additional new library, and I would not wish to see that held up because of any doubts that might arise. Would the Minister consider in Committee bringing in the same kind of provision which has already 1228 been approved by this House in the Weights and Measures Act, 1963? He will remember that it makes provision for the effect of local government reorganisation upon the authorities administering the Act and stipulates that power to administer the Act would not be taken away for several years, so as to enable the effect of reorganisation to be seen by the authorities concerned. I believe that a similar provision in this Bill would be of the greatest advantage. If we can encourage the use of local libraries as an integral service by the smaller boroughs, we shall be doing much to aid and assist.
When I look at the provisions of Clause 3, I doubt very much whether all this desire to bring things into the hands of the county councils is justified. The opportunity of regional councils co-operating all the way through makes even stronger the case for leaving the problem in the hands of the authorities which have handled it up to now. I believe that the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend will have to pay the greatest possible attention to the expression of the wishes of this House from all quarters which would not in any way delay or minimise the urge to push forward with this advance in the educational field. I hope that they will have no doubt at all about the strong feeling that where this kind of service is being handled and handled well by non-county boroughs it is right and proper that things should be left where they are.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher), particularly in regard to his plea on behalf of Boston. One can understand his and Boston's natural pride in their library service. I hope that I shall not be regarded as unsympathetic if I say that the experience in my area has been as follows. Over 10 years ago the largest non-county borough in the county and the county council put their heads together and set up a joint library service. This has worked extremely well.
I welcome the Bill. If it is implemented efficiently, it will give us the first real opportunity we have had of a public library service with a minimum standard of efficiency throughout England and Wales. I do not think that 1229 we should overlook the significance—in some ways the constitutional significance—of Clause 1. As I understand it, for the first time the Minister of Education is to be the person who is finally responsible for establishing reasonable standards of service. It is true that his agents are the local authorities. It is clear from Clauses 1 and 10 that, if an efficient library service is not developed, the fault will be that of the Minister.
I shall not pursue what has been said about the financial aspects of the Bill. I am in complete sympathy with the criticisms which have been made in this respect. It would be far easier for the Minister to carry out his supervisory functions if he and the local authorities were financial partners in this operation. The advice, and even the directions, of the Minister would be far more sympathetically received if he was providing some at least of the finances involved in the implementation of an improved library service.
Those who have to implement the Bill are in a fortunate position because they are backed by three excellent Reports. The Bill in the main is an implementation of the recommendation of the Roberts Committee. I shall have one or two comments to make about that in a moment, but both the library authorities and the two councils envisaged in the Bill will receive excellent guidance from it and from the two working party Reports.
One thing which pleases me is that a number of the recommendations of the three Reports are already being followed up irrespective of the Bill. A number of speakers have referred to the need for more trained librarians. The Roberts Report and the Bourdillon Report referred to the particular needs of Wales in regard to the establishment of a school of librarianship and, in particular, one to deal with the problem of the training of bilingual librarians.
I thank the Minister for the help we have received in this regard. In a short time a school of librarianship will be set up in my constituency. This will be a considerable help. Neither the local authorities concerned nor the Minister have waited for the Bill before carrying out this recommendation of the Roberts Committee.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
Is this venture linked to a university college or to the university as a whole, or is it a local authority scheme confined in the first instance to one county?
§ Mr. Bowen
It is a local authority scheme. Those trained there will be at the service of all local authorities. It is in this unique position: I believe that it is the first institution to be set up which is solely a school of librarianship, although there are several institutions with departments of that kind. I learned a few days ago that the applications for the post of principal for the new venture have been very satisfactory. I look forward to it providing a much needed addition to properly trained librarian staff, particularly in areas where the bilingual problem is particularly evident.
The Bill follows the recommendations of the Roberts Committee in setting up two library advisory councils, one for England and one for Wales. Clause 2 is rather unhappily phrased in its reference to Monmouthshire. It is obvious that the wording should be, "Wales including Monmouthshire" or at least, if one wanted to be strictly neutral it should read that for the purposes of the Bill Monmouthshire is in Wales. However, that is not a major point. I welcome the establishment of the advisory councils. I hope that in setting up the advisory councils the Minister will—there is nothing in the Bill to prevent him doing so—follow the suggestion contained in paragraph 116 of the Report of the Roberts Committee, namely, that the chairman and vice-chairman of the Welsh council should serve on the English council also. This would provide a valuable interchange of experience and knowledge.
Clause 3 contains provisions for the designation of library regions and the setting up of a library council for each region. Wales is in a less happy position in this respect. The Roberts Committee recommended the establishment of a Welsh region and a library council for a region constituted out of the Principality. I know that the Minister will have to determine how many regions there are to be. I appreciate that the Baker Report made various suggestions for four or five regions. However, it is not in tune with the Roberts Report in 1231 this respect. The Baker Report suggests on page 5 that Wales should be either attached to the south-western area entirely or attached in part to one other English region and in part to another English region. These words are used:The four region pattern would enable Wales to be associated jointly with the West Midlands and South-Western areas. The five region pattern would facilitate the association of Wales and the South Western …If Wales for the purposes of the functional operations is to be attached to one English region and partly to another or entirely to one other English region, the whole purpose of having an advisory council for Wales will be defeated. I appreciate that, if Wales is treated as a region for this purpose, the Welsh region would have a smaller population than the other regions envisaged in the Baker Report. However, all three Reports have recognised in no uncertain terms Wales's special problems in relation to the library service. If those problems are to be adequately solved, I strongly urge that the recommendation of the Roberts Committee should be implemented.
All three Reports have recognised Wales's particular problems in providing an efficient library service, particularly in bilingual areas. I speak for a constituency where three-quarters of the population are Welsh-speaking. The nature of the problem is set out very clearly indeed in paragraphs 116 and 117 of the Report of the Bourdillon working party. Paragraph 116 contains this sentence:Clearly, however, public libraries in Wales have a comparable responsibility for stimulating interest in and demand for Welsh books as for English books.Paragraph 117 contains this sentence:To achieve anything approaching comparability with the service of library material in English it would be necessary considerably to increase the number of titles issued annually in Welsh.The remainder of the paragraph deals with methods of approaching and overcoming this problem. The approach is sympathetic, but the reservations set out by Mr. Alun R. Edwards in the Bourdillon Report point to the inadequacy of the Report's recommendations.
Mr. Edwards makes it clear that if libraries in bilingual areas are to carry 1232 out their functions efficiently we must have a scheme to help the publication of Welsh books along the lines recommended by the Bourdillon Report, but in a form far more extensive than that envisaged in the main body of the Report.
I want to turn to a matter which does not apply solely to Wales. The Minister said that Clause 10 would be invoked if there was a grave dereliction of duty. We all hope that the right hon. Gentleman will never need to invoke the Clause and that it will never be more than of academic interest. However, I suggest that to indicate that the only occasion when the Minister will intervene is when there is a grave dereliction of duty is shedding responsibility. It is the right hon. Gentleman's duty to intervene—not necessarily by exercising the full powers available to him under Clause 10—whenever the standards of the library service in any part of the country are proved inadequate.
The three Reports to which I have referred show above everything the grave discrepancies and disturbing variations in standards that exist in the present library service. It is clear that in many parts of the country it falls short of what it should be, and I should like to see the Minister indicate that he will intervene—by guidance, initially—where the standards fall below what are considered reasonable for the country as a whole. As Clause 10 is drafted it appears unsatisfactory from many points of view. The Minister can invoke his powers and run the library service himself at a cost to the ratepayer without even holding an inquiry. He can hold one if he wishes, but the library authority concerned has no right to demand an inquiry.
If there is the remotest possibility of these powers being exercised, greater protection should be given to library authorities to ensure that they have an opportunity of stating their case. With these few reservations, I welcome the Bill and hope that it will be implemented in the spirit in which it was introduced by the Parliamentary Secretary.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Shaw (Brighouse and Spenborough)
I hope that the hon.
1233 and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) will forgive me if I do not comment on his remarks about the problems of Wales. Like other hon. Members, I welcome the Bill, although I have been surprised to hear doubts expressed in some quarters about whether or not my right hon. Friend will get it passed. I have no doubt that it will be passed, but whether or not that will happen in this or the next Parliament I am not so sure.
It is time that we had a change in our thinking towards public libraries. This change has been coming for a considerable time and the Roberts Committee and various working parties have considered the changes that are necessary. During the last 40 or so years the tendency has been for the library services to be controlled by the larger authorities. Indeed, the 1919 Act stated that where an area was not covered by a library service the local county council should be allowed to operate one. It is fair to say, however, that it has always been accepted that the criterion of size should not be the overriding factor in deciding the efficiency of a library authority.
If one examines the figures one sees that size is not necessarily advantageous and that there may be possible disadvantages. One also sees that some of the smaller authorities compare favourably with the larger ones. This is the case in my constituency, where there are two boroughs with populations of about 30,000—certainly less than 40,000. Each borough has strong local pride in its own affairs. There is tremendous local interest, in whatever is going on. In both boroughs building has taken place which would be a credit to much larger authorities. In some instances in the past donations have been made by local benefactors and these have enabled us to build libraries and art galleries.
If one compares the standards of the services provided in the libraries in these two boroughs with the standards laid down by the working parties which have investigated this matter, one finds, particularly at Brighouse, that they are extremely high—far higher than the service that would have been provided by the county council if the local service was considered unsatisfactory by my right hon. Friend according to the provisions of the Bill.
1234 It is natural that boroughs like this should feel anxious about the future. They are justifiably worried that the services they have provided and maintained for many years may be endangered, even lost to them. In framing the Bill my right hon. Friend appears to have accepted that size should not be the overriding consideration. I hope that he is thinking in terms of laying down a standard and then considering the size to see what is the minimum size that could provide that standard.
I have not been entirely reassured by the Parliamentary Secretary's opening speech. I understood him to say that the figure of 40,000 represented the minimum population and I thought that it might be difficult for authorities with smaller populations to be successful in their applications to remain library authorities. I had hoped that his approach would have been broader, and I was encouraged in that hope when I saw that in paragraph 55 of the Working Party's Report, which recommends the minimum number of volumes, and the minimum number of volumes per thousand of population, a minimum population of 30,000 had been arrived at as the minimum size of authority to have a library service.
I had hoped that perhaps the Minister had arrived at a figure somewhere between that and the 50,000 population mentioned in the Roberts Report; and that all authorities that could show that they could achieve within a reasonable time the minimum standard required would, provided that the population was over 30,000, receive the utmost sympathy when applying. I hope, even now that that will be my right hon. Friend's approach to all applications.
I also support the demand for a statement on the criteria to be used. Will my right hon. Friend need a considerable amount of persuasion to accept the view that an authority with a population of between 30,000 and 40,000 is capable of running an efficient library service? Will he take a good deal more persuasion when the figure is under 30,000? Does he accept the conclusions of the Working Party about book purchases, and the staff to be employed? Will he treat each application on its own merits, and with full regard to the local circumstances 1235 which must obviously vary considerably from case to case?
As has already been said, local authorities are somewhat nervous of a subsection such as subsection (3) of Clause 6 which says that the county council has to be consulted. That is particularly so where, as in the case of Brighouse, the county council provides a far less good service than does Brighouse itself. The test should be the ability of the local authority to provide a proper service—not the convenience of the county council.
The Working Party Report clearly shows that local government reorganisation must have a bearing on the library problem, and I hope that this Bill will not come into operation until after that reorganisation has come into effect. If that is done, it will certainly make the task of Brighouse and Spenborough much easier, as it is almost certain that the authorities of both towns will be merged, to the regret of some of us, into larger bodies. Nevertheless, as my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher) has stated, the interim problem remains.
Are those authorities that are wondering what is to happen in the reorganisation not to carry out any proposals they may have in mind for the betterment of their library services? That approach would be wrong because, whether a district is under a large authority or a smaller one, its need for a library service remain basically the same—the service is still essentially a local need. I therefore believe that any plans that are being prepared for the development of the library service in an area should go forward, whether or not there is a danger of the local authority being merged in a greater unit.
I must emphasise the importance to be placed on the library service for young people. I am greatly encouraged by the tremendous interest I have seen in recent years amongst my own and other children in reading and in going to the library. I remember my own great interest and enjoyment in going to the library during the school holidays and, when I could, in school time as well. I had feared that, perhaps, with the distracting influences of television, and the like, the habit of borrowing 1236 books from the library and reading them might be dying out. I am glad to see that the habit and the enjoyment are as strong as ever. We must maintain and foster that interest, because I do not think that any country can call itself civilised if its people do not make a habit of reading.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
May I, at the outset, say how completely I agree with the final remarks of the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Shaw) about the provision of children's libraries that are not only well equipped with books but have a suitable scale of furniture. It is something that many of us have had an opportunity of seeing at first hand. Like the hon. Member, I sometimes go to the library with a member of my family and there see what immense benefit is achieved by the provision of well-selected books and comfortable and modern surroundings in which to browse.
The habit of reading needs a great deal of stimulation, as is obvious if we travel round with our eyes open and see the sort of muck that so many of the 18–24 age group read on public transport. It is unutterably depressing. The habit of reading decent literature should have been given more encouragement, not only in the Roberts Report but by specific mention in the Bill itself.
I agree with the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), and with other hon. Members, in his protest against the timing of this Second Reading so soon after publication of the Bill. As the hon. Member for Macclesfield said, it is not a very satisfactory way of consulting one's local authorities or local friends about a Bill of this importance if, when one represents a distant rural area, one has to put through a series of expensive telephone calls. The difficulty is, as one clerk to a council wrote to me this morning, that some local authorities have been unable to get hold of copies of this Measure. That is a serious criticism of the Government's action.
I do not feel very happy about the position of people living in the rural areas. I speak subject to correction, but my understanding is that traditionally, 1237 and within the provisions of the Bill, and according to the recommendations of the Roberts Committee, the rural resident is theoretically dependent on the county service, but the fact is that, in practice, the rural resident draws on the local borough library. Whereas there is some sort of provision under Clause 5 for joint authorities, as far as I am aware this does not cover rural districts. Although I would be the first to accept that for residents in Staffordshire, where I represent a largely rural constituency, there are some excellent branches of the county library in the rural areas, I would say that if we were to analyse the situation closely we should find a much higher proportion of people securing their books not from the county service but from the borough libraries.
Furthermore, I am becoming increasingly doubtful about the provision of the service for rural inhabitants when I see how efficiently the borough libraries, for instance Lichfield, supply either from their own resources or from the regional services the requirements of students of highly technical subjects. I therefore think that there is room for re-examining the whole position in the rural areas. If one were to compute adjacent rural districts with rural boroughs they would come well above the 40,000 yardstick in the Bill.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that in defining which library authorities would come above the 40,000 mark the Government would take into consideration the proposals of the Boundary Commission. That is fine and sensible. One of the boroughs which I have the honour to represent, the ancient borough of Tamworth, will have its boundaries extended officially on the very day when this Bill should become an Act of Parliament and be put into effect. By the inclusion of an extended boundary, the total population figure will go quite a long way towards the figure of 40,000. I am therefore very interested in the acceptance by the Minister that the Boundary Commission proposals will be taken into account.
I wonder, however, whether the Minister has taken into account, as practically none of his other Departmental colleagues have, the implications of the overspill schemes in the West Midlands. In Department after Department one 1238 finds that the services which are necessary for the well-being of the population in overspill receiving areas—and I think of schools, post office services and transport services—are introduced or implemented after the overspill population has arrived.
I suggest that this is an excellent opportunity of taking the overspill programme into account and accepting the general development programme of the Minister of Housing and Local Government in the West Midlands so that areas which are due to receive large quantities of overspill population from Birmingham, for example, will come within that category where the authority and its library service will not be challenged. This is very important, because I do not think that many Departments understand the social anxieties and inconveniences to which overspill populations are subjected because of this tardy provision of the necessary services—and in these overspill areas, especially, a library service is of paramount importance.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
If the boroughs to which the hon. Member refers are slightly below the 40,000 population mark, would not Clause 6(1) apply and would they not be able to apply for a library service notwithstanding the fact that the population had not reached that figure?
§ Mr. Snow
I take the point, but it is too bad to keep on imposing on all these not too well-off local authorities all the bother and expense and the time-wasting for officials in meeting and challenging and trying to defend the authority against this sort of encroachment on its preserves. I think that I make a perfectly fair point when I say that if the Minister has accepted in principle the transfer of population an authority should not be faced with having to argue whether or not it should remain a library authority. It seems to me therefore that, particularly for the overspill areas, there ought to be special provision to take into account such an idea.
The Bill, of course, fulfils a very urgent need, but I begin to wonder whether the area of consultation for stocking these libraries does not also need a good deal of examination. When one looks around libraries one some- 1239 times finds stacks of books which cannot, by any measurement that I have ever been able to apply, be regarded as either good or essential reading. There are plenty of commercial organisations which can cope with the sort of literature I am talking about. I am by no means saying that there should be censorship, but I plead for a more selective attitude and possibly the co-opting of people who have the qualifications for selecting books for libraries.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
The general tenor of the debate has been one of fear that efficient local authority libraries will be taken over. I have never listened to a debate previously where I have heard so many hon. Members show such a degree of agreement.
We are bound to put forward our own constituency problems on occasions like this. The Borough of Hythe, which I have the honour to represent, has a typical, small, efficient library service. It took advantage of the 1933 Public Libraries Act and until 1956 it acted in agreement with Kent County Council to provide a service under that Act. At a later date it became an independent library service and it is an example of the efficient way in which a small local authority with 10,000 population can make a real contribution to the library service.
This can best be demonstrated by the fact that when it was run under the old scheme, when it was part of the Kent County Council service—and I make no complaint about the efficiency of the county council library service—the population in 1956 was almost the same as it is today but at that time the number of books issued was 79,495. Since the borough has taken over the library service it is now issuing 151,425 books. This is one measure of efficiency and of how a local library service can inspire the population. That is an average of 15.14 books per head of population, well above the national average.
This efficiency is further demonstrated by the fact that whereas in 1956 there were only 3,300 registered borrowers, now there are 5,000 registered borrowers, in spite of the counter attractions of television and other attractions. That, 1240 again, demonstrates that a small and efficient library service can be put across to the population and that they enjoy it.
Another test of efficiency is the number of staff per head of population. I am delighted to draw to the attention of the House the fact that on page 43 of the Roberts Report the borough of Hythe is the second borough in efficiency of all the non-county boroughs. These are what I consider the bases of a proper assessment of whether a library service is efficient.
The House will appreciate that there is deep concern in the borough of Hythe about the possible implications of the Bill and its effect on the borough's library service. The borough has a high reading population, partly because of the number of elderly people. The local library service encourages residents to present books to the library. These are not simply books which the residents do not want, for such is the local interest in the library that these books are given to encourage further reading. I doubt whether a library run by the county council would produce this enthusiasm. The smaller the organisation and the more parochial it is, the more likely it is to get support of that type.
I therefore particularly tell the Minister how concerned we are in this matter. I thank him for his prompt reply to the letters which I wrote to him on the subject. I particularly emphasise Clause 6(3), to which a number of hon. Members have referred, and the question whether the word should be "shall" or "may" consult the county council. It is unfair that the Minister should impose upon himself the obligation to consult a county council which is itself a party to a deal. That is not the way to get an unprejudiced opinion of what is right. The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) made a great point of this, and I support him thoroughly in it.
If, in reply to the debate, the Minister gives some assurance that these efficiency factors are taken into account, he will relieve a great deal of the anxiety which exists, for it is very difficult for a library authority to keep its staff at a high pitch of enthusiasm if they feel that the library service may be wound up one day. If the Minister is prepared to give some assurance along these lines, I shall be happy to support the Measure.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Idwal Jones (Wrexham)
I welcome the Bill because it makes a two-fold imposition; it imposes a duty on the local authority to provide a library service and it imposes a duty on the Minister of Education to see that this is done. This is a major step forward. It has taken a very long time for us to arrive at this position.
Last week I mentioned in the House that public libraries were a very long time in striking roots in this country. It was a Congregational minister from Wrexham, Dr. Daniel Williams, who was one of the first to establish a public library—the Dr. Williams Library, in London, which today has 90,000 volumes on philosophy, history literature. That was established in 1716, 37 years before the British Museum. We had to wait until 1850 before we had an Act of Parliament permitting an authority to levy a 1d, rate towards the support of a public library. Since then, 114 years have passed; it has taken a long time to arrive at the present position.
In passing I would point out that at that time there were two main objections to using public money for public libraries. First, there was an objection to levying rates. There was the Victorian attitude that financial meanness was a virtue. I am disappointed that on this occasion the Minister of Education did not take the bold step of putting this Measure on a sound financial basis at the centre instead of over-burdening the rates.
The second objection in those days was that the public libraries encouraged the working classes to read and that if the working classes went to the library they would snap up very readily some very strange ideas. It was thought that they would read Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, and that the libraries would become the nurseries of subversive ideas and revolutionary doctrines.
Today the wheel has turned a complete circle. The library which was so much feared 114 years ago is at long last admitted to have an educational function, and the Measure imposes upon the Minister of Education the duty to see that this service is provided. It has taken 114 years. Even the 1919 Act, which was a great step forward, was a permissive Act. Nevertheless, it did very good work. Many private libraries had been 1242 set up, mainly by charities. The Act of 1919 permitted county councils to organise these libraries into a library system, and to link it with the educational system of the country.
Although a major step forward, it has resulted in a very wide range of efficiency. At one end, some authorities have an excellent service. At the other end, we have certain authorities where the services are ineffectual. I commend the Measure because it seeks to tidy up the whole system. As I have said, it has taken ever a century to reach this stage. It seems that the mills of Government in this country grind slowly. We are pragmatic by instinct; we march from precedent to precedent. But I hope that on this occasion the mills of Government will grind exceeding small and that, in consequence, we shall have a very efficient library service.
I welcome the Measure, in particular, because it imposes a duty on the Minister of Education—and I am sure that he gladly accepts that responsibility. In other words, this service goes to the Ministry of Education where it rightly belongs. It is fascinating to see the widening of the field of education. Up to just over 20 years ago we had the Board of Education; it was treated as a Board. Then it became a Ministry, with far greater prestige. Now we find its territory widening. Let it go on widening, because the higher on a pedestal we put education in this country, the more we shall indicate that we are on the road to becoming a great nation.
I want to conclude with a reference to the part of the Bill which deals with non-county boroughs with a population of less than 40,000, which have hitherto been library authorities. This matter needs clarification, and that is all I ask for. The library authorities of such boroughs will not be able to continue after the Bill becomes an Act unless they receive the approval of the Minister. That is quite clear from the Bill. What is not clear is what will be the principles which will guide the Minister in making his decision. I think we are entitled to know the principles on which he will decide. What we are told is that there are two factors. One is the size of population, which is 40,000; that is specific. The only other factor, as far as I can see, is the county council or 1243 the joint board, as the case may be. If under 40,000, the library authority will have to appeal to the Minister who will consult the county council or the joint board. But there is no mention of efficiency or of standards of service.
I will illustrate what I mean. A non-county borough which has never taken any interest in the library service and never had a library could, after the Act comes into force, become a library authority if it has more than 40,000 population, even if it means starting from scratch and takes years to accomplish. On the other hand, a non-county borough which has had a first-class library service with a long tradition but with a population less than 40,000 will have to apply to the Minister for its authority to continue, and the Minister, before coming to his decision, will consult the county council or joint board. But there is no reference in the Bill to the efficiency of the service or to the standards to be attained.
This is not an imaginary situation. I can cite the example of the non-county borough of Wrexham, a major urban library authority in North Wales. Its library authority is efficient and has served the borough for more than 70 years. The borough has a population of 35,800 and so falls short of the criterion by 4,200, and so will be liable to lose its rights as a public library authority. But its population is growing, and there is no doubt that in 10 years' time it will be more than 40,000.
Why should we adhere rigidly to the 40,000 figure? Why should it be a decisive factor? Here is an example of an expanding town with a growing library service. It has not reached its target yet, but many other library authorities have not yet done so. But Wrexham is surely on the way. In respect of books, the library is already almost up to standard, and in respect of staffing it is increasing year by year. Wrexham is an example of a library authority in an area with less than 40,000 population and which may not arrive at the required standards by 1st April, 1965, although it might well do so by 1966 and will most certainly do so by 1967.
Cannot the Minister insert a provision in the Bill to give such an authority time to reach the standard? All we ask for is 1244 a reasonable amount of time, say three years from the passing of this Bill, to enable authorities which are on the margin to reach the required state of efficiency. I do not seek to perpetuate inefficiency. Inefficiency has been tolerated far too long. But if such authorities can be given a little time to raise the standard of their service the Minister will meet the needs of quite a number of non-county boroughs.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Denzil Freeth (Basingstoke)
I welcome the initiative that my right hon. Friend has taken in the first two Clauses of the Bill. I heartily applaud the decision to make the Minister of Education responsible for ensuring that the country has a proper and efficient public library service.
Having said that, I must echo what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) about the very short period between the publication of the Bill and the Second Reading. I have had complaints from local authorities which were not even able to get a copy of the Bill until 28th January. In view of the short period between 28th January and today, I re-echo the plea that there should be a decent interval between the Second Reading and the Committee stage.
I turn immediately to the end of the Bill, to the date upon which, if Parliament passes the Bill, it will become operative—April, 1965. My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) and an hon. Member opposite referred to the local government reviews which are now being carried out. An hon. Member opposite referred to what Lord Eccles said in this House on 7th November, 1960, when he was Minister of Education:… there is bound to be some delay, because I found, when talking to people in this service"—the library service—that they were generally agreed that a new Act could not come into full operation until the reviews of local authority boundaries have been completed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1960; Vol. 629, c. 672.]I hope, therefore, that in Committee my right hon. Friend will consider inserting a provision so that no initial review of library authorities will take place until the local government reviews 1245 have occurred and have been approved by the House, at any rate in regard to a sizeable area of the country. This will mean that local authorities, particularly those which are in danger under Clause 6, will know that they are not likely to have their library powers taken away from them and then to discover that as a result of the local government reviews they have grown beyond the 40,000 population limit.
It is possible for county boroughs and non-county boroughs to grow in size by other means than local government reviews. The Borough of Andover, in my constituency—which until about 1870 used to send two Members to this House, sent one Member until 1918 and now has to share part of me—has an excellent public library. It now has a population of about 20,000 but, by agreement with the London County Council, it will over the next 20 years grow to 48,000. Surely it is most important that we should consider in the context of Clause 6(1) the likely and agreed growth of population. It will be most unfortunate if towns like Andover, which have development plans, have their libraries taken from them and then have to reapply.
I noted what my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said about the effect of using subsection 2 of Clause 6 in order to carve out a library authority from the area of a county council. He said that we must think of the effect on a county council of such a move. But we should also think of the effect on the citizens of the non-county borough concerned. If I were to make a criticism of the Bill, it would be that it is drawn far too much with the interests of the county councils at heart.
I do not know whether this is because my right hon. Friend and his Department normally deal with county boroughs and county councils as local education authorities, but throughout the Bill the county councils are given prior consideration over the non-county boroughs. For example, a county council, as library authority, can go on giving an inadequate and unsatisfactory service, presumably for a long time, before the procedure under Clause 10 is invoked, whereas the non-county borough with a population of under 40,000 can, at the very beginning of the operation of this Bill, have its library powers removed. 1246 County councils and county boroughs with populations of under 40,000—I admit that there are only a handful—will also be able to continue quite freely.
In addition to representing Andover, I am also, because of the absence abroad of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Smithers), speaking for that ancient city, once the capital of England. It has a population of about 30,000 and no development plan, and it, too, is worried by the attitude expressed in the Bill of always putting non-county boroughs below the interests of county councils.
Both Andover and Winchester, and I myself, very much hope, as has been suggested by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) that in Committee my right hon. Friend will accept an amendment to Clause 6(2) in order to spell out the criteria that the Minister needs to apply before he removes library powers from non-county boroughs under that subsection.
Not all of us have implicit faith in Ministers; and, even though we may dearly love my right hon. Friend and trust him implicitly, it may be that, in a year or two, a Minister of Education of another party will sit where he now sits. Having heard the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. While) today, I could not see in her someone who had a special love for non-county boroughs. Indeed, her speech seemed very favourable to county councils, regarding non-county boroughs which are library authorities as interlopers.
Secondly, I hope that Clause 6 will be amended where it deals with the people whom the Minister must consult, or into whose opinions he must inquire I hope above all that we shall get rid of subsection (3), which is like asking a cannibal to decide whether a missionary should or should not be cooked in the interests of humanity. In many cases the county councils are just waiting to absorb the library powers of their non-county boroughs. I am very worried that the county councils alone are now to be consulted and about the reports they are likely to give. We have had a mast excellent report on co- 1247 operation between libraries, but will a county council library authority be more or less willing to co-operate with a smaller non-county borough library if it knows that it can then point out that the non-county borough is not giving a proper and satisfactory service?
It is a pity that Section 6 does not require the Minister to consult one at any rate of the councils set up by the first two Clauses.
I would very much like to see written into the Bill the need for a public inquiry in order that the residents of non-county boroughs can say exactly what they think of the service provided. I hope that the Bill will include procedure enabling the Minister to inspect libraries as he inspects schools, to offer suggestions and to give time for the implementation of his inspectors' recommendations. We do that under the Education Act: we could at least do the same in dealing with the libraries of non-county boroughs.
Should we in this House not also have a say? After all, we admit that there should be orders, which this House can consider and also vote upon, for altering the boundaries of local government and of constituencies. The Government cannot even compulsorily amalgamate water undertakings without the possibility of debate and vote in this House. Parliament should have the right, even under the negative resolution procedure, to debate and, if necessary, to vote upon the removal of library powers from non-county boroughs under Clause 6.
I am not particularly happy about subsection (5) of Clause 6, which suggests that if a non-county borough loses its library the library assets are to be transferred lock, stock and barrel to the county council. These assets, after all, will have been provided by the ratepayers of the smaller authority, and probably legacies have been left to the library, together with gifts from time to time. We are not here dealing purely with a question of overall efficiency, as paragraphs 6 and 9 of the working party's Report states. The Report says that it is important to make certain that the library service given to a non-county borough will be better if the non-county borough's control is removed. There is a great difference between having one's own library in one's own 1248 borough and merely having a branch library of a county council library whose headquarters are miles away. There is a provision in subsection (5) for intervention by the Minister but there appears to be no particular reason given as to why he should intervene.
Appendix III of the Roberts Report tells us that in 1957 there were 484 library authorities in England and Wales. Of this total, 193 come under the provisions of Clause 6. Thus three out of every eight come within the provisions of this Clause. They are important numerically, politically and, I believe, also important to the people who live in those places, pay the rates and use the libraries. Some of these places are very small and some may well be very inefficient but a very large number of them, although small, are efficient and very much alive. It is important that, if these powers are to be taken away, not only must justice be done but it must be seen to be done.
I remind my right hon. Friend of the words in the White Paper of the functions of local government to which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary referred.In general the Government are anxious that larger responsibilities should be entrusted to the district councils. These councils are necessarily in closer touch with the people they serve than county councils can be, a factor of particular importance in the case of those services which intimately affect people's daily lives …There is a very strong case for looking carefully at the Bill in order to see whether we cannot bring it more into line with the admirable sentiments of that White Paper, published in 1957. This particularly applies to Clause 12(2), to which my hon. Friend also referred, and which, as I read it, seems to prohibit any local authority which is not now a library authority from ever starting a museum or art gallery in future. I may be wrong in my reading of the provision, but I think that it is something which we must carefully consider in Committee.
We are here dealing with local pride, the results of local initiative and much local affection. We must be very careful to see that we do not stamp them out and that any changes are made in such a way as to show that the fullest consideration has been given, that the fullest inquiries have been made, and justice has been done.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Colne Valley)
I echo the concern of the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth) for the small library authority, but I do not want to discuss this matter in the context of my own constituency. That does not mean that I shall be any more objective than all other hon. Members who have spoken and who have shown anxiety about the manner in which the Bill threatens certain library authorities in their constituencies. No less than they, I want to declare my own interest at the outset.
Before turning to the smaller authorities, however, I want to take issue with those who have criticised the timing of the Bill. Public interest in and demand on libraries have greatly increased in the last quarter of a century. The same period has seen considerable speculation in the distribution and functions of local authorities. Changes of a far-reaching character are clearly pending in the functions and structure of local government, as well as in the reading habits of the nation. The number of registered borrowers has increased from more than 2,500,000 in 1924 to 13 million in 1958, whiles issues have increased from 76 million in 1924 to 441 million in 1961. Moreover, an age of leisure is dawning for our society and so the introduction of the Bill is timely, and I welcome it.
I welcome it also on account of its character. For in deciding on the principles which should guide any future pattern and reorganisation of the library services, it acts on the recommendations of the Roberts Committee to have regard to the rights and needs of the public, for whom the public library service is designed, and to the preservation of the library service as an essential feature of local government.
This is the only approach, though I trust that hon. Members will not be indifferent to a certain incompatibility in the fulfilment of these aims. For example, the Roberts Committee considers that many of the existing library authorities are too small to do their job, a view from which the working party did not dissent. The Bill proposes—and these are its central features—a large reduction in the number of library authorities, and general supervision by the Minister. It is to these two matters 1250 particularly that I shall address my remarks.
Clause 4 prescribes which local authorities shall be library authorities, for example, the councils of counties, county boroughs, London boroughs, the City of London and all non-county boroughs and urban districts with populations of more than 40,000 and which are at present library authorities. Parish councils cease to be library authorities. This leaves 194 boroughs and urban districts now exercising library powers which will have to satisfy the Minister of Education that they are providing an efficient service before they are allowed to continue.
What tests will the Minister apply? How many hon. Members have put that question! I cannot help feeling that the Parliamentary Secretary was very vague on this issue, but I was glad to learn from him that the tests are not to be confined to those of the White Paper, in terms of expenditure, nor to the working party's test of annual additions, either of which would wipe out most of the smaller library authorities. It is clear that by any standard no independent library authority serving a population much under 30,000 can provide a basic service unless it is prepared to undertake a disproportionate library rate. Yet I fear that, despite all the disclaimers these tests will weigh heavily with the Minister.
What if the smaller authorities are better than the larger authorities, or the county to which they are expected to relinquish power? I echo the concern first voiced in the debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn). Unlike him, I shall concentrate my attention on the neighbouring county, Yorkshire. For example, what if these smaller authorities are in the position of the urban district councils—none of them in my constituency—of Ilkley, Skipton, Bingley, Heckmondwike—all good Yorkshire names—Rothwell and Normanton? In terms of book expenditure and in terms of ratio of full-time non-manual library staff to population, these have better records than the West Riding County Council and most of the county boroughs in the West Riding area.
It is not sufficient to point to the financial resources of the counties and 1251 county boroughs and say that they are enabled to buy a wider range of material, to employ a highly specialised staff and generally to provide a better service. On this I take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White). It is not enough to employ this argument unless one gives equal weight to tradition—and I am the last to use the argument of tradition carelessly—and unless one gives equal weight to pride and to the will on the part of the local ratepayers to provide an efficient library service.
These preconditions of an expanding library service are clearly absent in nearly all the large established library authorities in the West Riding, Sheffield being the shining exception. Among the non-county boroughs I must also mention Castleford. However, Sheffield and Castleford apart, the record of the existing larger library authorities in Yorkshire is dismal. Normally, I am a fervent Yorkshireman, but after comparing the findings in the Report of the Roberts Committee and the working party as well as the valuable statistics provided annually by the Library Association, I am a chastened Yorkshireman. The performance of the larger authorities in the West Riding is relieved only by the record of the half-a-dozen urban district councils which I have named and whose existence as independent authorities is threatened by the Bill.
I hope, therefore, that the Minister will not settle for arbitrary standards in Clause 6. I hope that he will remember what the hon. Member for Basingstoke said about the need for a public inquiry. I should like to think that it would be possible for the Minister himself to visit all these smaller libraries whose future as independent authorities is threatened. One can learn much from visiting libraries. I never find myself at a loose end when I visit a strange town, because I usually go in search of the local library. One can learn much about the character of the town in a local library. Nothing is more indicative, not only of the character of a town but of its standards of literacy, than visits to its public lavatories and public libraries.
I trust that in his evaluation of small authorities the Minister will attach due weight to local interests and local tradi- 1252 tion, to adequacy of staff and buildings, to the extra-curricula part which the library plays in the life of the community, to the desirability of reconciling the need for centrally imposed standards with autonomy on the part of the smaller unit, consistent with efficiency. I would not want the Minister to feel that I was indifferent to standards. He must be as exacting in his requirements of small library authorities as of larger library authorities.
What really concerns me is that he may set about imposing these standards with much greater relish on smaller authorities, simply because they are small. Yet their chief deficiency, money, is common to all authorities and will not be compensated for by any amount of pruning and regrouping.
It is inconceivable that a public library system of the range and quality which our changing society will require in the future can be provided out of existing methods of finance. It is absurd that so little should come from the rates, yet the Bill offers no relief. On the contrary, the Minister through the Bill, is preparing to assume greater powers and is not offering any cash in return.
In so far as Clause 9 obliges library authorities to contribute to the National Central Library, it is retrogressive. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East that the least the Minister can do is to assume, through his Ministry, entire responsibility for this central and valuable agency rather than increase the financial burden of library authorities. After all, the public library, by common consent, is "an instrument of education" but, unlike the schools, it is not assisted by the State. Neither do librarians enjoy parity with teachers. The library service is having to take the strain of an overtaxed educational system.
Anyone who has anything to do with any town or city that is now accommodating a university, a college of advanced technology, a college of technology, or a training college, cannot be in doubt that students from those institutions spill over quite freely to the local libraries. Moreover, the library system is having to take the strain of an unsatisfactory "digs" situation for many coloured students.
1253 The proposed expenditure of £100,000 under Clause 9 is hopelessly inadequate. According to the Roberts Committee's Report, paragraph 83, this will barely suffice to meet the cost of completing effective catalogues for all the regional bureaux. Yorkshire—and here I must complete my list of confessions—has barely made any progress in cataloguing at regional level. On the other hand, if the general supervision of the Minister—and he must provide quite a lot to compensate for the absence of cash—in accordance with Clause 10 is positive and imaginative, it may point to library authorities an escape from their financial shortcomings.
If, for example, the Minister encourages schools, pupils, and parents to regard the local library as an integral part of the educational system; if he encourages libraries to set aside a self-contained, preferably sound-proof, room for teenagers that will provide social activity as well as aim to stimulate the reading interests at an age when many young people allow their reading to lapse; if he encourages libraries to provide equipment as well as accommodation for adult classes; if he encourages libraries to acquire microreaders to cater for what is certain to be a growing demand for foreign material; if he encourages libraries to set aside a "holiday" room for the purpose of providing information and advice on foreign travel; if he encourages libraries to extend their services beyond the provision of books and information, even to occupying a central rôle in the promotion of local cultural activities; if he encourages libraries to establish branch libraries in local plants and factories so as to assist in the implementation of the Industrial Training Bill; if he encourages libraries to leave the congested parts of towns, become more mobile, and go in search of new readers, perhaps with the aid of incentive schemes, where people are thick on the ground, not where they are scarce—if he does those things, and many more of an equally imaginative and bold character, then, and only then, will people, being more aware of the worth and potentiality of their library, be prepared to support it as ratepayers.
Then and only then will the number of ratepayers as a percentage of the population begin to climb above the 1254 present deplorable level of less than 30 per cent. By the same token, local manufacturers will be more sympathetically disposed, and there may be someone in their ranks who will do for public libraries in the twentieth century what Carnegie did in the nineteenth.
Finally, if a library's functions are to be properly fulfilled, its resources must not only be imaginatively displayed and housed, but adequately staffed. The Kenyon Committee had something to say about this in its Report in 1927, and so had the working party of 1962. Are we going to wait for another report before we give librarians decent salaries, and an adequately graduated career structure, and see to it that libraries provide more jobs for trainees, and that the staff an given greater opportunities for exchange schemes and training courses? I do not know of any other public servants who combine in their persons to such a high degree the qualities of courtesy, service, and social purpose. There is much in the Bill that is welcome. We are all anxious to see an efficient library service in the country. We cannot hope to achieve it unless we provice proper conditions of employment.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
I must first apologise to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to the House and to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for intervening in the debate when, because of duties outside the Chamber, it was not possible for me to hear what my hon. Friend said in opening the debate.
I ought also straightaway to admit an interest in this, as my wife and I between us are responsible for thirteen published books, she for ten and I for three, and certain things that I shall have to say concern our direct financial interest.
The first important but minor point that I wart to make is that the Non-County Bo rough Committee of England and Wales strongly takes the view—as I think will have been made clear—that non-county boroughs with a population of less than 40,000 should be entitled to retain their library functions, provided that they comply with the standards recommenced by my right hon. Friend's working party, and that those with 1255 populations of over 40,000 who can show that they can readily attain the same standard should have the right to elect to administer those functions. Like other hon. Members, I want to express my support for the Committee's view.
My main point is that I object to Clause 8 which says thatno charge shall be made by the library authority … for library facilities …I propose to my right hon. Friend that he should amend the Bill in Committee in the precisely opposite sense by giving to library authorities optional—and I emphasise the word optional—powers to charge the public, subject to such exceptions as they may see fit, for the borrowing of books or any other library service.
As we are unlikely to have major library legislation for a half century ahead, I profoundly regret the retrogressive attitude taken in the Bill. As it is at present conceived a great opportunity has been missed in the Bill. It will be a disappointment to many young and independent-minded councillors, and to men who will, unless they are tempted away to industry by better salaries, be the next generation of public librarians.
My right hon. Friend knows that all is not well with the public library service. When one considers the year in which the Roberts Committee reported, thirty-seven out of seventy-two county councils fell below the recognised minimum standard of efficiency of 2s. per head of population to be spent on books. For example, in terms of thousands of £s, Lancashire was 12 down on 107; Durham was 34 down on 85; Cheshire was 10 down on 44; West Sussex was 11 down on 30; Birmingham was 22 down on 109; Leeds was 11 down on 51; and Glasgow was 27 down on 108.
The Roberts Committee complained that the public library service was not holdingkeen young persons of the right caliberbecause of the poor pay and prospects in the library service. Trained librarians should be paid not less than teachers. They are lagging behind badly, and consequently qualified staff are tempted to leave public libraries for better paid 1256 posts in industry, where they are urgently needed.
The root of the problem of good public library services is their financing. So long as the extra money can come only from increases in the rates, sufficient will never be forthcoming. Everywhere councillors are desperate to keep down the rates. They are hag-ridden by rising costs, such as wages and salaries, over which they have no control. When the chairman of a library committee holds out his threadbare cap to the chairman of his finance committee he finds himself at the end of a long and clamorous queue.
It would be far better for him if he could get the cash from his satisfied customers. It is no good going snivelling to the "Government"—which is only a polite way of saying to the taxpayers. The library committee chairman would much prefer to make a modest charge on certain sections of the public and then be master of far more funds than his council would ever dare to ask for from its exasperated ratepayers. Now, when the Government are desperately seeking ways to shift the burden of public expenditure from the regressive tax which rates is, it seems crazy to cement for another fifty years this outdated and anomalous method of financing public libraries. It is unfair to ratepayers and is bound to cramp the style of public libraries.
We should give libraries a chance to raise adequate funds. Then they would be able to stock themselves both with the books required by the serious reading public and with the light fiction—romances and thrillers—and the gramophone records for the pleasure seekers. Then they would be able to provide for local industries in our great manufacturing cities the kind of service which the modern library should provide in a technological age—services which are being supplied in the United States of America and Russia.
Given the finance, library authorities would be able to follow the example of the enlightened Scandinavian countries in providing some kind of equitable arrangement, such as the public lending right advocated by the Authors' Society and the Publishers' Association, for which this House should then be prepared to pass legislation. The libraries would be able 1257 to provide this service not only without increasing the burden on ratepayers but possibly with an actual lowering of the rates into the bargain.
What would be the impact of this optional right to charge upon the user of the public library who would be required to pay? First, I want to make two points. I am asking only for optional powers. Therefore, if any responsible authority found it objectionable to make use of those powers, it would have no obligation to do so. Secondly, one would naturally expect to see any scheme for charging the public made subject to the exemption of certain classes, such as bona fide students, users of the children's library, the elderly and the needy, and so on, within the discretion of library authority. But for those who might be asked to pay, let us consider what might be fair. Let us observe that the average pools investment is 5s. a week; that our national expenditure on intoxicating drink is £1,000 million a year; on smoking, about the same; on sweets, £300 million a year; on soft drinks, £100 million a year; and on ice cream, £75 million a year. One might ask what a person ought to be expected to pay for hooks—3d. a go, or 7s. 6d. for as many books as he wanted? Councils would have to decide that question at their own discretion.
The House is bound to ask, "What about the free principle?" The "free principle" is a kind of sacred cow to which we must address our attention. Let us look at the facts. We are spending approximately £20 million a year on 440 million borrowed books. No less than 60 per cent. of those are romances, adventure stories, Westerns, detective stories and humour. I am all for romance, adventure, Westerns, detective stories and humour to the extent that they tend to lighten the burden in this vale of tears. But the "free principle" was designed to provide for the Victorian artisan the means whereby he should not be prevented by poverty from serious study to improve himself.
I ask the House seriously to consider what principle requires the State-educated and prosperous wage-earner to obtain free from his public library books of romance and adventure, detective stories, Westerns and humour at the expense of the elderly widow's rates, when he quite properly pays for all these facili- 1258 ties when he enjoys them on television and at the cinema. I doubt whether the House could demur from that proposition, but if it does I submit that a charge for entertainment at public libraries is not a breach of any principle at all, for we have already recognised the distinction between entertainment and education.
When this House was constructing the Welfare State, in the Local Government Act, 1948, it empowered local authorities to provide entertainment in the form of plays and concerts, but it required those local authorities to charge the public for that entertainment. Councils also have to pay creative artists—as they now avoid paying authors—for using their copyright in that way. I submit that there is no case in equity, logic, or even tradition for the stubborn folly of Clause 8. Obviously the House is disposed to give the Bill a Second Reading. I myself would kill it on the grounds of this Clause alone, if I could, but I do at least implore my right hon. Friend to look at it again and to reshape tie Bill in this respect in Committee, in the interests of ratepayers and, above all, in the interests of those who are entitled to the kind of library services which public authorities ought to provide.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil McBride (Swansea, West)
The hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the fields of romance, or optional charges for libraries. There was a short interval between the First and Second Readings of this Bill. On 18th December, I put down a Question to the right hon. Gentleman, and in reply he told me that he was introducing a Bill as soon as he could. This is the Measure. In addition, he said that he would examine the possibility of establishing a bilingual library school in Wales, and that he had the procedure in hand for that. My constituents will be happy to think that there has been progress in this matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) said that this Measure contained desirable reforms. I agree, but I hope that in placing these services under the control of the right hon. Gentleman local responsibility will not be completely eliminated. That is a fine and desirable thing.
1259 I wish to devote part of my speech to Wales. Although I do not speak in the accents of that country, I nevertheless have the honour to represent some of the people of Swansea, and the Bill has a particular reference to Wales because the Welsh have a great passion for education and learning, and, being a fellow-member of the Celtic race, I share that passion to the full. It has been a valuable asset to Welsh national life and has enriched the deliberations of this House on many occasions.
I was interested to see the method of setting up advisory councils. I believe that Wales, as a region, should not be attached to or associated with any other region in England. Furthermore, I want to know what will be the yardstick of appointment. Will those who are appointed be people of standing, with great experience of the library service? I should think that a good proportion ought to be Welsh-speaking.
This reassessment and redevelopment of library services has been a long time coming, with the result that the national service has earned unfavourable comment when compared with the facilities which exist in the United States and in continental countries. I wish to pay a tribute to the county borough of Swansea for the efforts which have been made there, where provision has been made for a library service for adults as well as an excellent schools coverage. The service will grow in importance because of the belief that it must be designed to meet the needs which are apparent in the closing decades of this century. It is appropriate that I should praise the work of Swansea in this connection, because this year Swansea will be the cultural centre of Wales.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) spoke of the availability of trained personnel. I should like an assurance from the Minister that a sufficient number of trained personnel will be available because an insufficient number of entrants with suitable qualifications would result in the deterioration of an excellent service which people have come to accept as a right.
In Wales books have opened the window to many worlds for people who, like myself, left elementary school at 1260 the age of 14. As I said in a newspaper article recently, I owe books a great debt. They have been good friends to me. By means of books there is created an awareness of national pride. They provide continual links with the stories of the past and of the exploits of people whose names form part of a living national culture. This is never more strongly exemplified than in Wales where there is preserved a characteristic and strong sense of national pride which is buttressed and reinforced by the use of Welsh as a living language. There is a reference to this in the Roberts Report and in the Report on the Public Library Service in England and Wales. It is right that it should be so and that provision should be made for the English and the Welsh-speaking people.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Duffy) that £100,000 seems inadequate, and the Minister ought to take a long, hard look at the details in the Financial Memorandum. I should like to know whether the grants will include provision for the cost of new buildings such as district libraries on housing estates and of qualified staff, which will be needed in greater numbers. In view of the hoped-for extension of the service, may I direct the attention of the Minister to Clause 15 which has a financial aspect? It states:The Minister may authorise any local authority being a library authority to purchase compulsorily any land which it requires for the purposes of its functions under this Act, and the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act 1946 shall apply as if this Act had been in force immediately before the commencement of that Act.In view of soaring land prices, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look seriously at the question of site values, and I hope that the price of land will not be inflated at the hint of a possible use value. The Minister should look at these things and respect the views of people in areas concerned. Small library provisions should be examined because small libraries are entitled to the same service as larger libraries.
Large city libraries which are in effect regional, information, reference and specialist libraries, such as those of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Westminster and Swansea, may need assistance, as they may be regarded 1261 as specialist information and reference centres. The larger libraries with added responsibilities should attract more financial support from the Government. With the rapid expansion of higher education one cannot escape the connection between all this and the Robbins Report.
If we expand facilities for higher education, as is desirable and necessary, a great strain will be placed on the library service. Librarians will be anxious to meet the demands of nonresident students and students using library facilities during the vacation. Many students will be frustrated in their search for books and journals which may be necessary in connection with their studies. The public library will prove a valuable adjunct to the university or college library. We should consider the appointment of a chief librarian. That is absolutely necessary, but I do not think it is mentioned in the Bill.
The proposal mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) in the Adjournment debate on 1st March, 1961, in relation to small authorities was valid. She said that many small library authorities did not have the supply of books and periodicals to which they are entitled. When we consider all the aspects, I agree that the Bill is a measure of adequate recognition of the importance to the community and to the nation of a good library service. It is the duty of the nation to stimulate appreciation of good literature to provide a good book service to meet the needs of the people in specialist, reference, educational and fiction fields, to mention a few.
The words of a great man described the position very well. John F. Kennedy said:If we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in public libraries. These libraries should be open to all except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors.I submit that this is very true because in the library service, as in all other educational matters, the spread of ideas depends on the rapidity with which idea impinges on idea. If we work towards the promotion of a first-class library service we shall equip our communities 1262 and the constituencies we represent and the nation with a national service.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Jasper More (Ludlow)
I hope the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. McBride) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his interesting speech. My only object in intervening in this debate is to reinforce what has been so well said by my hon. Friend the Membre for Ilford. North (Mr. Iremonger).
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary introducing the Bill expressed the need there is to modernise the legislation, which goes back to 1893 and which is distinctly Victorian in character. I ask the House once again to focus on Cause 8, which I think can fairly be described as coming straight from the age and atmosphere of Samuel Smiles, Andrew Carnegie and Mr. Peabody. I think my hon. Friend said that it was based on the Roberts Report and of course it is, but it would be wise to examine the credentials of that Report. When one looks at the terms of reference of the Roberts Committee one finds that nothing was said about the means of paying for the library service. The Committee was askedto consider the structure of the public library service … and to advise what changes, if any, should be made in the administrative arrangements".It nevertheless recommended that the principle of a free library service should be continued. One finds the paragraph:The free provision of books has from the beginning been the primary object of the public library service and it is, in our view, essential that this principle should be preserved.If that is the best argument which they can put forward for the present state of our public libraries, I hope that my hon. Friend or my right hon. Friend will be able to give a better one when he winds up the debate.
One contention has been reiterated throughout the debate and I think it must be challenged here and now. Speaker after speaker has referred to the public library service as an essential part of our educational system. No one who looks at the published figures of those who use the libraries and the books which they borrow can seriously contend that our public library service is in any substantial part a part of our educational service. We must face the fact that it is now part of our recreational service.
1263 We must also face the question, is there any reason why our ratepayers should pay for that service any more than they pay for people to go to football matches or the cinema, for people's television licences or for taking part in football pools?
All that those of us such as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North are asking is that an optional Clause should be put into the Bill. One thing we are always hearing stressed, and rightly stressed, is the need to give independence and initiative to our local authorities. The amendment sought of Clause 8 of the Bill is that local authorities which are to run these libraries should have some option in the matter of finance when deciding how they should be run. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North said that they ought to make modest charges. My only quarrel with him is on the score of understatement. If local authorities want to make substantial charges, they should be able to do so. If they can make a profit for the ratepayers they ought to do so, because that is a way of improving the library service for their customers and their staff. I hope that in Committee my right hon. Friend will consider removing a Clause which I think can rightly be described as a left-over of Victorian ideas which is an insult to the whole principle of the independence of local government.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
I repudiate at once the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) and by his hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger). They are an insult to the mass of our people who enjoy the facilities provided by the public libraries and who have found there not only recreation but solace and improvement of the mind.
§ Mr. Hayman
I speak from knowledge of my constituency, where a great proportion of the ordinary people use the 1264 public libraries where they are available. If, of course, the public library is miles away, there are few facilities which the people can enjoy.
I was about to make the point that by being offered free reading, a great section of the people will probably before long become purchasers of the books that the hon. Member for Ilford, North helps to produce. This should be a great inducement to all of us to continue the facilities which have been provided free in the public libraries.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. McBride), I owe a great deal to public libraries, especially the public library in Truro, where I was born and brought up and lived until I was 25. I do not, however, wish to make a long speech. I rise merely to echo what has been said by so many hon. Members, from both sides of the House, that the time which has elapsed between the introduction of the Bill and Second Reading has been so short that few of us have had the opportunity to obtain the reactions of those who control the public libraries in our constituencies.
For instance, I represent Falmouth and Camborne. Falmouth is a well-known borough. Although it does not have anything like a 40,000 population, I dare say that there are few similar public libraries in the country which offer better facilities for their citizens than does Falmouth. Camborne-Redruth has a population of 36,000. Again, the facilities provided are excellent. I hope that in administering Clause 6 of the Bill, the Minister will show flexibility and take into account the services which have been provided, are being provided and are capable of being provided by the small public libraries. I should hate to think that he will simply have a guillotine to chop off the heads of those who control our small public libraries, because I for one pay tribute publicly to the great services which they have rendered in my lifetime in my county.
Reference has been made to the public libraries provided by the late Mr. Andrew Carnegie, but in Cornwall we had a local benefactor, a Mr. Passmore Edwards, of St. Agnes, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson). Most, if not all, of the public 1265 libraries in Cornwall were provided through his generosity.
I am glad that the Isles of Scilly, which are covered by Clause 21 of the Bill, are not forgotten and that provision is being made for the islanders to be consulted and for library provision to be made if it is wanted and is considered desirable.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
At this late hour, and as there is still another Bill to be dealt with, I will be brief. All I can do is to underline two of what I believe to be the major points which have been mentioned by previous speakers. The first is the point to which the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) referred when he got rather hot under the collar about the proposal to introduce optional charges for library services.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) said categorically that they did not want this idea to be mandatory but they wanted it as an optional requirement. If a local authority took advantage of such a chance, it might well improve its libraries and facilities. If it abused the opportunity or imposed such charges and the local people did not like them or the charges were mishandled, the local authority members would feel the result at the next local elections. I do not go further than saying that there is a case for the possibility of introducing this option for the local authorities. This might also assist the proper payment of authors, which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James).
My other point, which was mentioned also by the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne, concerns the provision for non-county boroughs to remain library authorities. There is little more that I can say about this which was not said by my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth) in his admirable speech. It has been pointed out that the Roberts Committee suggested that the criterion for a non-county borough to remain a library authority should be an expenditure of 2s. per head or a total expenditure of £5,000 on the book fund, whichever was the greater. I 1266 believe that a figure of 3s. a head was suggested by the Smaller Public Libraries Committee as a fair criterion. Another suggestion has been a minimum population of 20,000.
My right hon. Friend the Minister has, however, decided, rightly or wrongly, that the criterion should be a 40,000 population and that he would then give his decision on each case. In other words he has left the position open. That would present my right hon. Friend with many difficulties and pressures from hon. Members. I hope that he has at least noted carefully the many speeches which have been made, from both sides of the House, asking him, when he replies, to give some idea of the criterion which he will apply. Will he apply the criterion of population, of expenditure or of efficiency? Efficiency is probably the most important of all, because the smaller local authorities give personal service, are easily available and are regarded with great pride by the local people. In my own constituency we have a library in the borough of Beverley serving a population of about 19,000 people. There is a book fund of just under £3,000. Therefore, it fulfils some of the requirements mentioned by the Roberts Committee and by the smaller Public Libraries Committee. There are other problems. In this case the library building, which is a very fine one, was presented and endowed in 1902. It houses not only the library but the art gallery and the museum. It has a very efficient staff of seven, including two chartered librarians. The whole borough takes great pride in it and the service it renders to the community.
If the Minister is to adopt the criterion of efficiency, I, for one, have no fear that the borough of Beverley will be deprived of being a library authority in the future. I echo the words which have been used by hon. Members on both sides. Many county councils would be only too willing to swallow up the smaller authorities and take over the libraries themselves. I do not believe that they can normally give such a good service, because they have so many other matters to consider and so many other problems to occupy their minds that, in my view, they could not give the personal service one can expect from 1267 many of the smaller and better local authorities. I emphasise "better local authorities", because I want the criterion to be that of efficiency, as I am sure most hon. Members do. I remind my right hon. Friend the Minister that the Roberts Committee said that there were 191 non-county boroughs involved. Therefore, the Minister can expect considerable pressure on this point in Committee. I hope that he will be able to tell us something about it when he winds up.
Finally, would my right hon. Friend give some consideration to the timing of the introduction of the provisions? He will recall that there is a very widespread revision of local authority boundaries going on and it may well be better to introduce the major provisions of the Bill when that revision has been completed.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)
I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and to the House for not having been here during the whole of the debate. My absence was due to engagements I had outside the Chamber. I was able to listen to the Bill being introduced by the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not intend to go over many of the interesting and fascinating arguments advanced from both sides. So far as I am aware, the points I wish to make have not been raised. That is why I raise them at this late hour in the debate.
Generally, along with perhaps the great majority of hon. Members on both sides, I welcome the Bill, because I think that the evidence in the Roberts Report and in the invaluable appendices to the Reports of the working parties indicates that there is a great need for central government supervision and for a degree of control. There is a general picture of unevenness of spending by library authorities at the moment. Some of the very large authorities are spending pitifully small amounts on the library service and on books, as are some of the smaller ones, although we must note that some of the smaller authorities are precisely those who are amongst the highest spenders.
In view of the general picture of unevenness of spending, of inadequate 1268 spending in many cases, the way in which the inadequate number of library staff are paid—the lowness of their remuneration partly explains why we are short of qualified library staff—and the condition of many library buildings, which were inherited from the worst days of Victorian building, there is an overwhelming case for some degree of central supervision, a degree of supervision which will leave the library service predominantly under the control of the local authorities but with the central Government having sufficient powers to maintain reasonable minimum standards.
The whole history of the increase in central Government power over the regions in the last century and in this has been directed precisely towards the aim of achieving national minimum standards. Are the terms of the Bill sufficiently strong to give the Minister power to exercise the supervision spoken about in Clause 1? In Clause 1(1) the Minister is given the job of superintending the library service of the country run by local authorities. The Roberts Committee said that it did not envisage that part of the system of central Governmental supervision would be by way of formal inspection. I assume from the Bill that the Minister will be in a position to judge what is happening only on two counts—first, from information which he can call for under Clause 1(2), and, secondly, from complaints which might be made from the localities by individuals or bodies direct to the Ministry.
These two sources of information are not sufficient. For the Minister to have the necessary information to supervise the library service it will be necessary to have some kind of library inspectorate. I had hoped that the Parliamentary Secretary would have referred to this when moving the Second Reading because the position is not clear. Although the Bill does not refer to a library inspectorate or a similar body, Clause 1(2) not only states thatEvery library authority shall furnish such information, and provide such facilities for the inspection of library premises …but goes on to add that such information should refer to… stocks and records, as the Minister may require for carrying out his duty under this section.1269 Is it envisaged that a library inspectorate or a similar body will be established? It seems from the comments of the Roberts Committee and references in the Bill that the Ministry cannot exercise the necessary degree of supervision without some form of library inspectorate.
In the past, as financial aid from the central Government to the localities has been growing, so, almost inevitably, central Government control over the localities has been increasing. I would like to think that as central Government power increases in this case over library services, the concomitant in this instance will be that central Government financial aid will also increase. This is important when we consider that the library services are financed by an inequitable system of taxation, the rating system. This is a disappointing feature of the Bill—a Measure which would seem not to have adequate teeth to enable the Minister to carry out the functions envisaged in Clause 1 and not to give local authorities the finance they should have for the establishment of regional councils for inter-library co-operation.
All hon. Members will be in favour of the establishment of such councils. We already have similar organisations and today one Ministry after another talks about regional planning and development. In our consideration of the Police Bill in Committee upstairs we are discussing amalgamation and producing larger and new types of authorities under joint bodies and boards. We are talk ing about economic planning districts and we already have hospital management boards throughout the country.
Just as in the last decades of the nineteenth century governments produced masses of ad hoc, single-purpose authorities with all sorts of functions, which later Governments at the beginning of this century had to clear away, if we do not have proper inter-departmental consideration of these matters now we will be in danger of creating a large number of regional authorities with different boundaries, different functions and different sets of officials.
One of the dangers of establishing regional bodies is that they are remote from the public. There is a danger 1270 in this age of under-estimating the importance of the public being fully informed and feeling that they have a direct connection with and influence over the regional bodies or institutions which are set up. We are getting this kind of legislation for the setting up of regional authorities, and I agree with it, but we can attack the Government on their lack of proper consultation between the Ministries concerned in order to get regional organisations whose boundaries coincide. If we are to set up regional bodies like this and, at the same time, preserve local interest in democratic institutions, we should be considering what drastic form of reorganisation of government we can make so that we may have local government playing its part, regional government, democratically elected, playing its part, and, at the top, the central Government playing their part.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) commented on the right hon. Gentleman's career prospects. I have not been uncritical of the Minister, but I express the sincere hope that current rumours are untrue. In a sense, I cannot believe them, because the right hon. Gentleman has been the cheapest Minister of Education a Chancellor of the Exchequer has had for a long time. He is ready to raise the school leaving age, without suggesting that that step will cost anything, and now has a scheme of reorganisation of the public libraries that will, I think, save something. A General Election concentrates the attention of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. We welcome this Bill. I think that it will lead to an improvement, and I join with those hon. Members who have paid tribute to the three Reports, which are, in a very remarkable way, complementary. If we read them together we have a very valuable survey of and recommendations on the library service, and I am sure that they will do much good for that service.
What we have not discussed adequately is the money side. Money may be the root of all evil, but nowadays it is the effective instrument of improving the service. It is here that the Minister seems to have contracted out 1271 to save money, rather than provide a formula that would, in effect, have led to the expansion and improvement of the library service we want. We welcome the right hon. Gentleman's taking responsibility—it should be the responsibility of the Minister of Education—but it is almost as though he were saying that the service was not sufficiently educational to merit the financial support that I am sure is needed.
Having heard the debate, I think that Mr. Hutchings is right in saying in his reservation that the National Central Library should be a national institution, nationally financed. Oddly enough, I took part in the Parliamentary pressure to establish the National Lending Library for Science and Technology. For my pains I was put on A.S.L.I.B. for a while, but as I am sure that I had not the right qualifications for such a responsible post I did not survive there for very long.
There is a case for regarding these institutions in the same way, and it is disappointing that, however we examine the Financial Memorandum, we find the Government setting out to save money by making provision for only £100,000. We know that the National Central Library has been receiving more, and that the amount has been increasing substantially. It is not good that the Minister should be going back on the working party's report, on the contrary, there is a case for regarding this as a national institution, nationally financed.
Many matters arise that have not been dealt with today, but we shall have time to deal with them in the Standing Committee. For instance, I hope that the Minister will tell us something about the exercise of his powers under Clause 9(2)—we shall certainly have a good deal to say about that Clause in the Standing Committee. The Financial Memorandum again is not very encouraging. It would help us if the right hon. Gentleman said something more about this, in relation to the specific recommendations by the working party, before the Bill reaches Standing Committee. Incidentally, that would also help us in tabling Amendments.
1272 The second matter to which many hon. Members have referred is the status and career prospects of librarians. This is the essence of the service. It is they who make the service. The major arguments for a statutory library committee is the status of the librarian, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that he will consider the national grading of chief librarians. The present position is unsatisfactory.
The right hon. Gentleman could probably also help us in connection with negotiating machinery as a whole. I am told that the latest position is that in the basic qualified grades half the posts, or 1,205 out of 2,341, are occupied by unqualified or part-qualified staff, or cannot be filled at all. This is a position which demands attention. It is said currently that the Foreign Secretary has been overheard to express the opinion that the Exchequer should bear direct responsibility for teachers' salaries. We ought to consider librarians in the same sense that if we are serious about the library service we have to be serious about librarians. The present position is unsatisfactory. If we try to provide an improved library service we cannot avoid tackling the question of the status and career prospects of librarians.
These are specific matters which the right hon. Gentleman should deal with but even if he does deal with them he will not have come anywhere near the cardinal difficulty. I appreciate the points which have been made about the revision of local government boundaries. The difficulty is that the general reviews have been operating slowly and we cannot afford to delay indefinitely, but we certainly have to work in line with the general reorganisation of local government. The Times is not fair when it says:The history of public library administration well illustrates the growth and decay of public confidence in local initiative.This is not the problem at all. The problem is that of equating local government with the function which local government has to carry out. We have to equate the function of providing an adequate library service with the authority, but behind all this is finance and if the right hon. Gentleman is to be promotional we have to consider positively the financing of the service.
1273 Over recent years we have had case after case, and here is another, demonstrating that we cannot finance an expanding service out of the rates. Here again is another illustration of the broad argument that we have made over the past few years that where the Government accept a promotional responsibility, such as the right hon. Gentleman appears to be doing under the Bill, we must return to specific grants. The block grant formula will not provide the means for promoting expenditure.
Another thing which is becoming increasingly clear in local government, and a matter which is demanding direct and specific Government aid, is the marked variation between the provision made in different regions and different local authority areas. The right hon. Gentleman knows that very worrying figures are being revealed in education in this respect, and I hope that he will consider the case which is being advanced in some quarters for a once-for-all grant to try to provide a more equal provision of educational services. That applies here.
We are not regarding the provision of the library services as something which can be considered over a long period; we ought to put this right as quickly as we can. I say, with respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that he cannot tackle this job unless he is prepared positively and directly to provide aid. Not only in this field but in others, we have seriously to consider the intolerable gap between the provision in different parts of the country. We have a fairly set pattern in the discrepancies dividing the North and London and the South-East. There are wide discrepancies affecting basic essential educational provisions—and I regard the library provision as one which falls clearly within education.
This affects the whole question of standards. It is all very well to establish a standard, but unless we provide effective machinery to ensure that we reach this standard within foreseeable time, the Bill will be little more than an academic exercise. I am particularly worried about standards. If the Minister has no direct financial interest in this provision, it is difficult to see how he can be more than very negative; it is difficult to see how he can be promotional 1274 and how he can encourage a rapid development of better standards.
May I know rather more not only about the inspectorate but about the provision which the right hon. Gentleman will make in his own Department? As far as I know, his Department is highly regarded in this field, but if this job is to be tackled thoroughly he must assure us not only that we shall have the inspectorate sufficiently manned, but that it will be manned in the same way as is his own educational inspectorate, with professional people who carry the respect of the local authorities. However well they may do—and we hope that they will do very well—unless the Minister is in a position to grant aid, he will find it difficult to effect a sufficient increase in standards. I impress this on him because it is right that this is his responsibility and that it is regarded as part of education.
For this reason, we should regard the financing of the libraries in the same way as that of the educational service as a whole. Over the past day or two I have been looking at the three Reports which we discussed a week ago—Crowther, Newsom and Robbins. I turn, first, to Crowther. We find that the Report makes two points which very much affect the relationship of the libraries to education. First, the Report calls our attention to the tact that over half the modern schoolboys and girls interviewed by the social survey for the Crowther Report had at one time belonged to a public library but that only 16 per cent. still belonged two years after leaving school. I regard this, as I am sure does the Minister, as a failure of educational responsibility. The Crowther Report also points out that as we make extended provision in education and reach the provision of county college education, then the youth service and the library service will become increasingly important.
When we turn to Newsom we go a stage further. It is very difficult to disentangle the two interests. The Newsom view—I think the right hon. Gentleman would accept this—that one must have an outgoing education in the last year or two means that one has to have a direct association with the public library and direct use of the public library. Therefore, here we have not 1275 only the importance of the provision of the library in the schools but the importance of encouraging children to turn to libraries outside the schools, and the use of the library directly for education purposes. Newsom points out—we get this at every stage when we consider education—that there is valuable co-operation in some areas and in other areas very little co-operation between libraries and schools.
I have mentioned Crowther and Newsom. We have had reference to children and libraries. Probably a very real and difficult problem—my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) referred to it—is that of the adolescent and the library. I welcome as one of the desirable aims of a library authority the provision of gramophone records and films. If we are to think of adolescents, we must think very much of these additional attractions. Here we are immediately faced with very real difficulties. If we provide records and the records are to be heard, we shall have to provide special accommodation in the library. Nevertheless, these are the sort of things we ought to be thinking about it.
Oddly enough there is no reference to the library in the Robbins Report index, which is remarkable. I mention this because it brings out something which has emerged from some of the contributions made today. We ought not to regard libraries in a National Assistance sort of way. I have tried to emphasise that libraries are not only essential as part of our cultural entertainment but essential to education. They are particularly important in higher education. We have had no refernce during the debate to technical colleges. I should like to know more about the development of libraries in technical colleges, particularly in view of what my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland said about the technologist and his reading. I should like to know more about not only the provision of libraries but the co-ordination of the libraries within the general library system. We must particularly consider, especially in the next few years, the importance of the public library to the student.
Earlier today we discussed a statement about university grants which reflects the 1276 increased number of students. Here we have almost a new factor which will make very real demands on libraries. There has been reference to the pathetically small part of total expenditure which local authorities spend on library buildings. The right hon. Gentleman could do a very useful service here. His Department has done very good work in the design of buildings not only in schools but elsewhere; I have in mind youth centres also. I feel that the Ministry might well plan a library not only to meet the immediate requirements of providing a building which will attract the public to make use of the facilities but to make provision for the new needs. That is why I mentioned the adolescent and the student. I have seen some very good examples of provision for study, for the student and also in respect of homework. The Ministry ought to take the opportunity of doing what it has done in other fields, and build a prototype library which would encourage other authorities to build much more modern libraries equipped to meet the new needs.
Among recent developments have been such courses as that on Southern Television and I hope that this has brought an encouraging increase in the use of local libraries. We on this side of the House have proposed a "university of the air" and Sir Hugh Greene has suggested that sound radio could be used. In this way we may have scores of university courses. If these developments go ahead there will be far greater reliance on public libraries.
In this context the Bill is disappointing. We would like it to have been more imaginative, more in tune with the new demands. However, we welcome it and the acceptance of responsibility by the Minister of Education for the library services. We hope that, despite the doubts I have expressed, this will lead to rapid improvement of those services and that, even within the confines of the Bill, if we are unable to expand it in Committee, an inspectorate will be formed, standards set and provision made for regular review of those standards.
We hope that the Minister will be encouraged to reconsider the general block grant, for the Bill demonstrates the need for providing specific grants to promote specific activities. If the 1277 right hon. Gentleman is serious in accepting responsibility for promoting the expansion of services such as this, then the only effective way in which to do it is to use the grant element, with the Government not only providing the framework of the service but also contributing money to see that the job is done.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Minister of Education (Sir Edward Boyle)
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) began with a courteous reference to me and I should like to respond by apologising for any discourtesy to the House if hon. Members and outside interests have not had a long time to consider the Bill. It sometimes happens at this stage of the Session that an unexpected day becomes available for legislation not in the most urgent category. This Bill had been waiting for introduction for a long time and I hoped that the House would, in principle at least, welcome its appearance even at relatively short notice.
The Bill made its first appearance on the Order Paper on Friday week, but I recognise that there has not been a great deal of outside discussion. I cannot help feeling, however, that it has not a great deal of political content and will not catch the eye in this particular year. But to hon. Members on both sides who talked of inadequate notice, I would say that perhaps this full debate on Second Reading has to some extent made up for it. I cannot say precisely how long it will be before we proceed to the next stage. Standing Committees A to G are in labour and it may well be that, without any effort on my part, there will be some delay before we reach the Committee stage.
On the whole, the Bill has received in principle a good welcome from the House. On the other hand, as we have experienced before, most Bills involving local Government reform are welcomed in principle but objected to by nearly everyone in detail. I was reminded as I listened to some of the speeches today of the famous remark by Professor F. M. Cornford in "Micrographia Academica" when he said that there was only one reason for doing anything and that the rest of the arguments were for doing nothing. I am bound to say that one can always find a great many 1278 excuses for not introducing a reform of this kind, but I will try to answer the main anxieties which have been expressed by hon. Members.
First, I should like to say that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North is quite right when he says that the important principle in the Bill is that the Ministry of Education becomes responsible for promoting the library service. I will have something to say about finance later, but I want now to emphasise that this is a service which is now expanding. Rateborne expenditure on the purchase of books has risen from the time when the Roberts Committee was sitting from just under £4 million a year to £6 million a year. Even taking into account the increased prices of books, that represents a considerable increase. The increase in capital expenditure may be rather more than the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland suggested. For example, when the Roberts Committee started its work, the total of loan sanctions for public libraries and museums was just over £400,000 a year, while the figure for 1962–63 was more than £3 million and the estimated figure for the financial year which is now ending is about £4 million. While I recognise that there is an enormous backlog, this is one more respect in which there has been considerably more educational building, as it were, during recent years.
Having said that by way of introduction, I now come straight to the point which has been raised by the great majority of hon. Members who have spoken and particularly by many of my hon. Friends. This is the question of the existing library authorities with populations below 40,000. As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said in his admirable introduction, if these library authorities think that they can satisfy the minimum requirements, they can apply to the Minister for the continuance of their powers.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have been speaking about what they have described as the threat to these smaller authorities. We should remember who they are. My hon. Friend gave the figures. There are 181 existing library authorities with populations now below 40,000 and of those 95 have popu- 1279 lations below 20,000. My hon. Friend also pointed out why we had taken a figure in the Bill different from that of the Roberts Report, and I do not think that anybody has criticised the figure of 40,000 as such. The question has been what would be the criteria which the Minister would use in deciding which of these smaller authorities should be able to continue its powers.
It is fair to say that throughout the debate two points have been made, and both are perfectly fair and valid. Hon. Members have said that we should not proceed by rule of thumb, and they are absolutely right about that. One reason why we should not so proceed was clearly put by the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving)—who, if I may say so, made an excellent speech—when he said that the Minister must have in mind not only the service which the existing authority could provide within its area, but the level which would be available in the area as an alternative. In considering whether an existing small authority should continue, we should also consider what the alternative would be and what the county service was like.
My only comment is that it also applies the other way round. In considering applications, the Minister must bear in mind not only the service which the authority can provide within its area, but also the effect on the county of taking the area out of the county library service. That is to say, one must bear in mind here the inter-relationship between a small authority and the country which surrounds it. But I agree with my hon. Friends who have raised this point, that we must not proceed by rule of thumb and we must consider the particular circumstances of every small authority. On that there is no difference between us.
The second point made by many hon. Members was that not only should we not proceed by rule of thumb, but there must be clear guidance and, as it were, objective guidance on this point. I have no doubt that when the time comes the Minister of the day will send out a circular on the Act in which he will have to go into considerable detail about criteria. We already have some useful criteria set 1280 out in the working Party's Report on standards—what has been referred to in the debate as the Bourdillon Working Party—at page 18, paragraph 50. I envisage a circular being sent out setting out criteria pretty close to those already adopted by the Working Party. Certainly I think that, in general, it will be possible to use the Working Party's Report as a guide, because it emphasises the need for not proceeding by rule of thumb, and, above all, the need for local co-operation, and I think that the criteria set out in its Report gives some idea of the sort of circular that will be needed when the time comes.
There is one other point that I should like to emphasise to the House. It is true—and hon. Members like my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth) have referred to the fact—that under Clause 6(3) the county council is to be consulted. It says:Before determining an application … the Minister shall consult the county council …I remind my hon. Friends that it is the counties that are consulted, but it is, of course, the Minister who determines. That is to say, there is no question of the county councils being the only bodies whose views have to be taken into account.
I sum up this part of what I have to say by saying that I think we have many factors to take into account. There are disadvantages, too, to many very small public library authorities, and I shall mention two of them. The first is the pure matter of cost to the ratepayer. Paragraph 57 of the original Roberts Report of February, 1959 says:… the public library service is not maintained, as many other local services are maintained, at a cost strictly proportionate to population, since the range of demand from a population of 20,000 in one area may be as wide as that from a population of 50,000 in another …I think that is true. I also suspect that we are moving into a period when it is going to be increasingly difficult for many small authorities to provide the full range of library services that are going to be demanded.
One has to think not merely of the services which have been provided in the past and the demand for them in the past. We have in this Bill to look ahead and consider the library service as it is going 1281 to develop over the next 10 years. I assure my hon. Friends that I recognise the need for judging cases on their merits; for setting out so far as possible objective criteria in advance of the Act actually coming into effect, and I assure my hon. Friends that if a really good service is being provided at high cost, I am sure that the Minister of the day will not necessarily condemn it, and there is no idea here of the Minister automatically underwriting the desires of the counties in any particular part of the country. We want to strike a balance between all these factors.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
My right hon. Friend says that he will consult county council authorities. Will he give an assurance that he will pay equal attention to the views of the non-county boroughs which have established libraries to the desired standard?
§ Sir E. Boyle
I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. I thought that I explained a few minutes ago why the counties are specifically written into the Bill. The reason is that non-county borough services and county borough services may react on each other, and it is only fair that counties should be specifically written into the Bill. But that does net mean that counties are the only people who will be consulted—and they are certainly not the only people whose views the Minister of the day will take into account.
In response to the point raised by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) and the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones), there is nothing to prevent a Minister's telling an authority which has applied for a continuance of its powers that he will give it the opportunity to improve its service before rejecting its application. I do not want to strike a balance unfairly either way, however, and circumstances might equally arise when a Minister must not hesitate to exercise his powers when he thinks the case is clear. There will be such occasions. The important thing is that justice should not only be done but should be seen to be done, and that all those concerned should feel that they have every opportunity to put their cases.
There is one point that I ought to make concerning reviews of local government. If it appears to the Minister that an area 1282 is liable to be so affected by an impending review under the 1958 Act that a decision about the future exercise of library powers cannot be immediately taken, consideration of the application should be deferred until the position has been clarified. I would only add that that fact cannot be used as a reason for what I would call an indefinite filibuster. I have deliberately referred to an impending decision on local government reform. There may be occasions on which this point is very relevant. My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) quite properly raised this question. I should not like to think that the possibility that an area might come under review in a few years' time could be used indefinitely as a reason for delay. On the other hand, where a review is impending, or is likely to take place shortly, it might be a good reason for not interfering with existing powers. I have deliberately devoted some time to that subject because it was referred to by so many hon. Members.
I also want to say a word on the subject of inspection. In my opinion a system of inspection on lines similar to that of the schools inspectorate could not be right for this service. I do not think that it would be practicable. But the post of library adviser in the Ministry, which has hitherto been on a temporary basis, has now been made permanent. We cannot stop there. This must be a basis for further action. The Bill will not come into operation until 1st April, 1965, at the earliest, and there will have to be an appropriate strengthening of the staff of my Department to cope with the extra work that will fall upon it when the Bill comes into force.
I can imagine that a great deal of work will be involved not only in visiting libraries and giving guidance—in looking at individual libraries in consultation with the relevant local authorities and their neighbouring authorities—but also because there will have to be a good deal of technical knowledge in the Ministry. I agree about the importance of strengthening that knowledge in the Ministry.
Next, I want to answer those hon. Members who have spoken on the subject of staffing. It would not be possible for this to be a local government service, as it now is, and for the Ministry to try to set up a special salaries 1283 regulating body for local authority libraries. On the other hand I agree with the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden). There is no doubt that there is a serious shortage of qualified librarians in public libraries and a great deal of movement from public libraries to better paid jobs in other types of libraries. The point is commented on in the Roberts Report and in the working party Report on Standards. I hope that some notice will be taken of the advice given to library authorities to pay librarians adequately and, above all, to provide them with good career prospects.
This is a very rough generalisation. I fear that this service is one of which it could be said that the higher one goes up the scale and the longer one serves the more the pay tends to become not competitive with comparable jobs. It is not just the starting salary, but proper career prospects which are the most important thing in this connection. I wanted particularly to draw attention to that.
I do not think that it would be right to provide in the Bill for a statutory library committee, though I realise that where there are library committees, creating a chief librarian becomes an easier matter. I do not think that it would be in accord with the general pattern of the Bill to instruct dogmatically or lay down by Statute, but I hope that many more library committees will be set up.
I wish to come to points which have been raised by a number of hon. Members on the question of charges. I wish to apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James) for having missed what I know was an admirable and powerful speech. It was owing to my having to attend another meeting. My hon. Friend raised the question of the payment to librarians and suggested that authors and publishers should be represented on regional councils. I hope that at national level it will perhaps be possible for authors and publishers to take a bigger part. I am not sure whether regional councils would be the best place for them to be represented. But we can discuss the point at a later stage.
On the general subject of charges I agree with those hon. Members who are, 1284 in principle and in general, against them. I will give two or three reasons. First, surely it is true that those borrowers who are unwilling—I do not necessarily say unable—to pay, would lose the educational advantage of the libraries, and they may well be those people who really need this influence the most. I cannot help feeling that if there is any system of charges, the libraries which imposed charges would be liable to provide mainly what is most in demand by the majority and reduce expenditure on the material needed by the minority.
This is an argument which constantly arises in many contexts. I am not suggesting that the majority like trashy books and the minority do not. I am saying that with a system of charges I think that there would always be a tendency to discriminate, perhaps even unconsciously, in favour of books for the mass and not to cater for a number of minority tastes. One of the most valuable functions a library can perform is to cater for a large number of minority tastes. One must recognise that it is the books and other materials—films, records, whatever it may be—required by minority tastes which are often the most expensive.
It is unfortunate that when one speaks, say, about gramophone records, everyone thinks of the most popular records—I need not mention them—and the mass appeal. But I am not speaking falsely to the House when I say that one might be surprised at the number of people who are genuinely glad of an opportunity to hear ars nova music or early renaissance music, of which few performances are given, and of which it would be impossible for most people to acquire a private collection of records. It is exactly for those tastes that the public libraries so often cater: I see the great difficulty, which has been spoken about, in discriminating between fiction and non-fiction. Is one to say that travel books are more meritorious than the novels of Henry James or Proust? I do not see any way administratively round that one. It is true that today in general the borrowing of fiction is increasing less quickly than the borrowing of non-fiction.
There was a point raised by my hon. Friend about the public lending right. We can discuss that at a later stage, 1285 but I think that the arguments I have used apply to this to a great extent. The latest proposals of those who advocate the public lending right would leave a proportion of the money collected to improve the salaries of librarians. I hope it would lead to that result, but it could result in reducing proportionately the library rate.
That leads me finally to say a few words on the financial aspect. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North quite fairly in his speech referred in this context to the general grant. We obviously cannot debate the whole principle of that now, but I must say this to him. I think the general grant has been found much more consistent with the promotional policy in education than one would have guessed when we were discussing the 1958 Local Government Act. Few of us on either side of the House imagined that by 1964 the annual rate of relevant expenditure for education alone would be nearly £1,000 million. The rate of relevant expenditure has been going up far faster than any of us could have guessed.
I think it was always made clear by my right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary when the present Act was going through the House that the general grant was not meant to be a rough equivalent of a percentage grant for a number of services, but to be of major assistance to local government as a whole. I have the figures with me and I notice that whereas at the time when the Roberts Report was set up the total local authority income from the central Government was just over £600 million a year, this year the figure on a reasonable estimate will be over £1,000 million. While I wholly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) about the burden on the rates, it would not be fair to suggest that the central Government have not also done a great deal to finance rising local authority expenditure.
I think it would be a fairly major amendment to the Local Government Act to bring the library expenditure into the ambit of the general grant, for a number of reasons. I do not think this was what hon. Members opposite suggested. If I understood them they think that we should go back to specific percentage grants and this would be one 1286 of them. Of course the fact that we are passing this Bill shows all the more clearly how important it is for the Government to carry out an inquiry affecting the whole balance between local government and central Government expenditure as a whole. I think it reasonable to hope for a continued expansion of the library service under our present system, provided that the Government show that they are ready to go on paying a fair proportion and a fair share of the total cost of local government expenditure.
If I may end—I recall that one of your predecessors, Mr. Speaker, said that "final" was a little ominous and I know that I have already said it once—I wish to refer to the National Central Library and to another point arising out of Clause 9 of the Bill. I think that the Roberts Committee was right to want the administrative and financial responsibility for the National Central Library to be more widely shared. We can discus; this in Committee, but I ask the House to accept that a fifty-fifty principle is a very reasonable one. It would hot be impossible to devise ways in which the Library could obtain half its income from sources other than the Exchequer. We propose in Clause 9 to administer the grant to the National Central Library and after the Bill has come into full operation to stand firm on the Roberts Committee recommendation that the Government grant should be limited to one half of the annual expenditure.
I can, however, tell the House that what I have just taken away with one hand I shall, in part at least, now be able to give back with the other. The hon. Member for Dartford and other hon. Members raised the question of the scope of Clause 9 and, in particular, of some of the larger libraries which have built up specialist collections of major national and international significance, such as, for example, the Watson Music Library at Manchester. I am told that subsection (2) of Clause 9, which states thatThe Minister may make grants to any body which … makes available to all library authorities facilities likely to assist them in the discharge of their duty",can apply to a number of the cases to which, I know, the Library Association attaches special importance.
1287 I can also say a word about what one might call collections which are of intrinsic national value quite apart from other libraries. The standing Commission on Museums and Galleries' Report on provincial museums and galleries recommended that the purchase grants given by my Department from the funds administered by the Victoria and Albert Museum should be used also to aid purchases by libraries. The Government propose to accept this recommendation and to enlarge the scope of these grants to help the public and university libraries to acquire objects of art and rare or limited editions of books and material, perhaps of local or specialist interest of one kind or another.
The amount of money being provided in 1964–65 for these grants given through the Victoria and Albert Museum, including for the first time grants to libraries for the purposes which I have stated, is being doubled from an annual figure of £25,000 to £50,000. I hope that this will help some of the libraries to which the hon. Member for Dartford specifically referred.
Hon. Members in all parts of the House have generally welcomed the Bill but have been keen that this Measure should not be regarded as a threat to those smaller library authorities which genuinely believe that they are doing a good job and think that they can improve it. I end by reassuring the House that I believe that where unsatisfactory conditions prevail, the Minister of the day will have to use his powers, but, none the less, I am also sure that we have in the Bill machinery which can ensure that justice will be seen to be done. With these assurances, I hope that the House will agree to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).