HC Deb 08 June 1964 vol 696 cc120-42

Amendment made: In page 1, line 20, leave out "Minister" and insert "Secretary of State".—[Sir E. Boyle.]

7.30 p.m.

Mr. Chataway

I beg to move, in page 1, line 21, after "provision", to insert "or use".

The purpose of the Amendment is to meet a point put in the Standing Committee by the hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. C. Johnson), and supported by the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White). They pointed out that the Clause refers to provision only and that it might be thought that it did not include use. It is certainly my right hon. Friend's intention that the National Advisory Councils should have the duty of advising the Secretary of State on matters connected with the encouragement of the use, as well as the provision, of public library facilities. I therefore suggest that this will be thought to be a useful Amendment.

Mr. Willey

I thank the Joint Under-Secretary on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. C. Johnson), who is at present abroad, I think—probably on Council of Europe business. I can understand why the hon. Gentleman has at last intervened, because when we discussed in Committee the Amendment on which we are told the present Amendment is based, his right hon. Friend said: … frankly, I should not like to encourage the Committee to think that I am likely to put down an Amendment on this point."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E. 17th March, 1964; c. 47.] I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman has supported this Amendment.

This is not quite the Amendment we discussed in the Standing Committee. That Amendment sought to insert the words "and the encouragement of their use". It referred to facilities. I therefore put it to the Under-Secretary that this present Amendment, which obviously extends the Bill in the direction we want it, includes the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South in support of his Amendment. In other words, if we accept this Amendment, can we assume that it is wide enough to cover not only use in the narrow sense, but encouragement of the use of the library service? It was the general wish in Committee that that should be so.

It is important that we should get this right, because we are now considering the National Advisory Councils which will play a very important part in promoting the improvement of the library service. The Bill would certainly have been too narrow if the interest of the National Advisory Councils had been confined to the provision of library facilities. We are now considering an Amendment which will make it clear that their interest will not only concern the provision of facilities but the use of those facilities. Does "use" include steps taken to encourage that use and to promote the better use of the library service?

Mr. Chataway

I give the hon. Member the categorical assurance that it does.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Boyden

I beg to move, in page 1, line 21, after "facilities", to insert: including facilities for the assistance of students". The purpose of this Amendment is to bring within the terms of reference of the National Advisory Councils in England and Wales the service for students, including facilities for their assistance. It is very timely to put in this provision now, because the whole library service in higher education and for students is undergoing reconstruction. The universities have now realised that university libraries are far from adequate, and the Joint Under-Secretary and his Department have been looking seriously at the provision of libraries and library facilities in the training colleges. Most of us would be very critical of the provision of libraries in most of the technical colleges and in the colleges of further education.

Now that these problems are in the public mind and the departmental mind and great thought is being given to them, it is highly appropriate that this service should take cognisance of what is going on and take steps to see that the development of the public library service goes side by side with that in higher education. It is not just a matter of devoting money for the provision of books for students in public libraries, but of developing those points in the public library service that will be particularly helpful to students without overlapping their own provision in university and training college libraries.

One thing about which the Library Association is very concerned is that throughout the country teaching staff and students are making more and more use of background material which they can get more easily in public libraries and which has more public interest than if it were in their own libraries. The Association gives as examples atomic energy publications, Government reports and United Nations documents. Whereas, in the training college library, it might be argued that it could not spend much money on United Nations documents, there should be a good service in the public library to which the training colleg student can go

We argued in Committee that this should be a matter for special Government grant. We cannot pursue that subject now, but if public grant cannot be made to build up certain public libraries in this respect, at least the Council that is advising the Minister in this way should take note of it and, in due course, perhaps the Government might be led to making financial provision as well as the actual provision of books.

A second need is the need for students to use the public library during vacations. Students, can borrow from their own university or training college library but cannot bring away anything like the number of books they require. Therefore, a certain number of public libraries should, when they are likely to be extensively used by students in vacations, pay special attention to the need to have students' books available to meet this particular demand, very often at a time when the demand from their own readers is not quite so heavy.

The third requirement is the actual sitting space in libraries, particularly in places where there are great concentrations of students. This problem is particularly acute in the London boroughs. The National Advisory Councils must not only survey those places where there are university and training college students whom it is possible to locate by the site of the college or university, but must also take some note of overseas and private students who, in increasing numbers in London, Birmingham and some of the other great centres, are using the public library service. We go to some trouble in our technical assistance for students overseas to provide places in technical colleges for them. That has been a considerable and welcome development over the last few years. We have not applied our minds to anything like the same extent to the provision of extra mural facilities in the public library service. There are many other things which need to be done, but these are some of the major works which the public library service needs to develop to assist students, and these are the things to which the Councils could apply their minds.

There is no question that there will be a great increase in the demand on library services because of the expansion of higher education, and in the library service itself the more people with education the more the system will be used. It seems to me therefore that there is quite likely to be a development of quantity which will affect the quality of provisions in the libraries. Realisation of the deficiencies in the provision of books in higher education is belated and it is significant that the Robbins Report contained only a rather inconsequential sentence about libraries which said that a library in a big university was likely to be more efficient in terms of money than one in a small university. This was not a very studied comment. It revealed the way in which in the last 10 to 15 years we have not given proper attention to the provision of books in higher education.

One of the odd features about the provision of books in the universities is that the better the library in the university the more the university tends to spend on books. Oxford University, which has 3 million books, spends £41 per student. Exeter University, which has only 127,000 books, manages to spend only £18 per head. In other words, the better the library the better it gets. This is a characteristic which the public library service should watch in relation to students, and I hope that this is the sort of problem to which the Advisory Councils will give attention. I hope very much, therefore, that the Government will accept this Amendment and this direction to the Councils.

Sir B. Stross

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) will agree that not only do we need in "facilities for the assistance of students" more books and better space and accommodation, but also an adequate supply of trained staff who can advise the students.

Mr. Boydenindicated assent.

Sir B. Stross

I knew that my hon. Friend would agree.

I am disturbed about something which is happening in some parts of the country. Here we are debating a Bill soon to be enacted and yet at the same time advice is being given to local authorities by a private organisation and method body on how they can prune their expenditure and cut down staff in the library service. I am disturbed to have to admit that this has happened recently in Stoke-on-Trent. It is a serious matter. The city is not rich and the rates are a burden on the people.

The number of staff available in the library service is one to about 4,700 people. This is not very good. The recommendations are that ideally the ratio should be about one to 2,500 and, therefore, Stoke-on-Trent is already not very well off in the provision that it makes. The matter has been made worse by the fact that we have a remarkable new type of university on our doorstep in Keele University. The very type of service for which my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland asks should be available to it.

7.45 p.m.

Quite apart from that, to find that it is possible for a private organisation, which takes a large fee for the advice that it gives and in giving that advice employs a staff which has no knowledge whatsoever of the library service, should persuade a great local authority that by natural wastage it can diminish its library staff by six, makes me ready to weep. I have to admit that this has happened against the best advice of many members of the local libraries committee. The matter went through the council and I have to ask the Under-Secretary what he and his right hon. Friend propose to do about cases of this kind.

We have the Minister advising certain standards and a private firm of so-called consultants taking a fee for giving exactly contrary advice, and able speciously to show with its advice will save money and achieve certain ends, whilst damaging the library service in the process. I know that we have just passed a new Clause 1 which enables inquiries to be made, and I know that the Under-Secretary knows about this case. Will he take steps to remind the local authority in Stoke-on-Trent that what has happened is against the best interests of students and of citizens generally and advise the authority to reconsider the whole matter? If the hon. Gentleman will do that, I shall be happy and he and his right hon. Friend will be doing no more than their duty.

Mr. Denzil Freeth

I should like to leave the point raised by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Sir B. Stress) and return to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) in moving the Amendment. The more I think about the Amendment the less I feel in favour of its inclusion. We are now discussing the subjects upon which the two National Advisory Councils are to advise the Secretary of State. The Bill as drafted states that that advice shall be upon such matters connected with the provision and use of library facilities as the councils think fit. Presumably it is a corollary of that statement that the Minister will pay attention to their advice and act upon it if action is called for and is within the powers granted to him by the Bill.

The Bill, however, deals with libraries which are financed wholly by the ratepayer except in so far as certain Amendments and certain Clauses permit money to be obtained by means of fines and by lending certain articles. In other words, we are dealing here with a rate-financed service. It seems to be a little hard upon the ratepayer to suggest that he should be responsible for securing the provision of adequate library facilities for all the students who may happen to be within the borough or city where he lives.

The ratepayer already sees the universities not paying full rates. He knows perfectly well that large areas which might be put to rate-producing uses are used, very rightly, properly and desirably, for educational buildings. I think that he considers that the body primarily responsible for providing books for students should be the educational institution to which those students go. I suggest that the primary duty of providing books for students in universities and technical colleges, in particular, should rest on the universities and technical colleges and that the duty of providing books for those still at school should rest on the local education authority which is partly rate-financed and partly financed by the central Government. It seems to me quite wrong to put upon the ratepayer the whole duty of providing facilities for the benefit of students.

I hope that in a number of cases local authorities will provide books for students in their libraries, if one accepts the word "student" as meaning the adult student as well as the youthful student and what I might call the amateur student wishing to study a foreign language or ancient history apart from the person embarking on a set course of study leading to a diploma, degree or certificate. It is asking a very great deal of the ratepayer to suggest that this should be his job. It should be the job of the educational institution which the student attends primarily to provide the books needed.

If the local authority is able to provide a good range of, say, French literature for those studying French, or a good range of engineering literature for those studying engineering, well and good. But I do not think that we should write into the Bill a provision which seems to me to imply that the local ratepayer should be responsible for providing books and facilities for all the students at all the institutions of education, whether universities or not, which may happen to be in his area.

Hon. Members who were on the Standing Committee will remember my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) drawing attention to the very large number of students in Bristol who occasionally take up a lot of space in the reference libraries, and so on, which the local ratepayers would like to occupy. As I have said, we shall run into very grave difficulties if we put on the ratepayer this very substantial burden. If we do not mean to put this burden on him and on the local library authority within the framework of the Bill—and we cannot, on Report, argue about whether there should be Government grants to the library service—I do not think we should add these words to the Bill.

Mr. Duffy

I have some sympathy with what was said by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth). Those who have anything to do with a city or town which houses a university, college of advanced technology, college of technology or training college see the students from those educational institutions spilling over more and more into the local libraries. This is of serious concern to ratepayers, because they are often squeezed out. There are queues in the morning outside some libraries. In some areas places are booked at a very early stage in the day and places cannot be obtained after ten o'clock in the morning.

The situation is particularly acute in London. Here libraries are taking the strain of a very unsatisfactory "digs" situation for coloured students. The position for local ratepayers is even worse than the hon. Member for Basingstoke described. Yet I wonder whether he is taking too gloomy a view, whether he is being unnecessarily restrictive and, if I may say so without wishing to give offence, being perhaps too narrow in his view.

We know that for a few years to come, because of population growth and lack of accommodation in educational institions, there will be a pressure for seating space. Ratepayers will, perhaps, have to take a more generous view than that taken by the hon. Member and recognise that they have to bear with this situation for a few years to come. It may be that ratepayers will take an even broader view and that they will recognise that some of their libraries house material which even local university libraries do not house—for example, old newspaper files which can be consulted only in those libraries by students.

Mr. O'Malley

Would my hon. Friend agree that in the past ratepayers have taken a much more generous view than the extreme view of the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth)? The evidence of this is the great libraries in the university cities which have been built up from the nineteenth century.

Mr. Duffy

I agree. For example, the City of Leeds has a library which, in many important respects, has much more to offer the students than the university library. Of course, it attracts students from the University, but—

Mr. Denzil Freeth

I did not mean to interrupt the hon. Gentleman in mid-sentence, but since I have done so may I say this. My point was not that it was wrong or undesirable for students to use the public library, but that it was undesirable that we should put on the public library the primary responsibility of providing facilities for them.

Mr. Duffy

This is what happens. The City of Leeds Library has this problem of pressure on space and seating accommodation, but I am not aware that it is a matter even of irritation among a number of ratepayers in Leeds. Although I am in no better position to comment on local opinion than the hon. Gentleman, as far as I know, the ratepayers in Leeds accept the situation. I know that some ratepayers recognise that there is a certain amount of reciprocity in this situation and that if the library which they support as ratepayers is readily available to students the university library is available to them and that it will issue temporary readers' tickets to them.

I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will accept the Amendment. It does not put forward a wholly satisfactory remedy. Nevertheless, it meets a very serious short-term need. The question of physical facilities for students in our library is of very great importance at present. I hope that it will not always be as acute as it is now. I trust that for the sake of the library system as a whole, even when the situation becomes less acute, the interchange of facilities and cooperation between local libraries and educational institutions will be recognised as necessary. We recognised it in part in Committee. I hope that the Amendment will be accepted.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)

I rise to say a few words on the Amendment mainly because of the criticism which has been levelled at it by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth), who, I know, has a wide opinion of what our educational facilities, especially on the scientific side, should be.

I was surprised at the hon. Member's comments. He must appreciate that a tremendous expansion is taking place in educational facilities even under a Tory Government. The Government have been urged by the people to make expansion possible. One is shocked by statements such as those made by the hon. Member for Basingstoke that that kind of attitude to education in its wider sphere should still be in the minds of Government supporters.

Because of the lack of facilities within a university and the lack of accommodation within the boundaries of the cities and wherever the universities are situated, many students have to reside at home. Many of them live in lodgings several miles from the university. Therefore, at weekends they take advantage of the facilities, small as they are, which are provided at many of our libraries.

I come from an area which is about 12 miles from Sheffield. Many students who attend Sheffield University reside at home. These are the students for whom we should have a great deal of thought. If the hon. Member for Basingstoke thinks that the Amendment would place too large a burden upon the ratepayer and as he agrees—at least, I hope so—that there should be a great expansion in education, why does he not put down an Amendment for Government provision to local authorities to extend and increase the facilities by way of accommodation for students when they are away from their universities?

I fully appreciate the difficulities that might be placed upon ratepayers and local authorities, but my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Duffy) has pointed out that in almost every instance, ratepayers would willingly bear this extra burden. If we are to talk about the development of our educational system and if we are to have a "university of the air", we have to think not only of the existing students at universities, but of the adult student also. I appreciated what the hon. Member for Basingstoke said about the adult student. We will, I hope, continue to give facilities to people in all walks of life and in all age groups further to extend their education. To do this, we must provide more facilities through our local libraries.

Our libraries have to be developed and improved. We have just had a debate on an Amendment to substitute "improvement" for "development". We must both develop and improve, and I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment. No committee or council which advises the Minister would fail to take into account what further education means to people—students as well as adults—who cannot at particular times during the year take advantage of university library facilities.

Local library committees are trying to provide good reference rooms and reading rooms for students and others who want to extend their education. Because of the tremendous requirement from the people for further education, and the demand from youngsters to improve their educational standards so that they are capable of passing examinations, our local libraries are becoming inundated by the demand. I hope that the Government will not only accept this important Amendment because of the principle behind it, but that they will consider helping local authorities to provide these facilities which the people demand and about which we all talk so glibly.

We say that we must improve the educational standards of our people and that if we are to compete in the world of today, educational facilities must be greatly improved. Here is one way in which we can supplement the educational facilities of our universities for a section of the community. I refer to the students; and those who seek further education in later years. I hope, therefore, that the Government will not only accept the Amendment, but will make provision for a financial contribution to the local authorities who supply these good facilities and that they will take cognisance of the points of view expressed by the hon. Member for Basingstoke about helping the ratepayer so that he does not have an extra burden to bear.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)

My hon. Friend the Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) has raised the problem from his area of the day student at Sheffield University and elsewhere who uses the library facilities in that part of the West Riding. My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) has raised the more general problem in different parts of the country. In recent years, I have had occasion to use the excellent library facilities provided by the metropolitan boroughs, which are in process of disappearing, and I know from personal experience that if one goes to one of these libraries shortly after they open in the morning, one is lucky to find a place to work. This applies not only to inner London, but is true also as one moves further out.

My hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Duffy), with his knowledge of the work at the University of Leeds, raised the problem of that city which arises from the large number of students who use the central library facilities there. I add also from practical experience the use that is increasingly made of libraries by students following correspondence courses. This is a field which is sometimes slightly sneered at as not being quite educational in the general sense. In my view, it will expand.

In dealing with the problem, the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth) properly argued from the premise that the libraries are paid for from the rates and that it is not right that the expansion and problems accruing to the library service should fall upon the ratepayers. I have some sympathy with that argument arising largely from my view that rates are a regressive tax and that extra burdens should not be imposed upon this source but that the finance should come from central sources.

I wish to point out to the hon. Member for Basingstoke—and, unlike him, I support the Amendment—that all that the Amendment asks is that advice should be given by a library advisory council to the Minister. The problem of the use of local libraries which are set up to provide facilities for local ratepayers is, surely, a question on which an advisory council might properly advise the Minister.

Surely it is time that regional consideration was given to this problem. As the Secretary of State is now responsible for university education also, it may well be that there could be discussions between the two sides, particularly in, say, the City of Leeds, part of which I represent. The Amendment does not ask for additional financial burdens to be imposed upon the ratepayer. There are these real problems and it is time that they were dealt with. There is an influx, which is getting larger, I believe, of students from the Commonwealth who come not only to university in this country, but come "on spec" in the hope of obtaining a university place and eventually end up at some other different institution.

This is a great national problem and it is a problem in the City of Leeds. I support this Amendment not because it puts more financial burden upon the ratepayers, but because I believe that it is appropriate that the library advisory councils should advise the Minister on this problem because it is outside the normal problem faced by a local community providing library facilities.

Mr. Blackburn

I shall not detain the House for more than a minute or two, but I have some difficulty in understanding the objection which the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth) has to this Amendment. If we were placing a statutory obligation on every local authority that it should provide facilities for the assistance of students I could understand his objection, but this Amendment does not do anything of the kind. It merely provides for one of the things which the Library Advisory Councils could report to and advise the Secretary of State upon.

As the Clause says: There shall be two Library Advisory Councils … and it shall be the duty of each Council to advise the Secretary of State upon such matters connected with the provision of library facilities and we want to add including facilities for the assistance of students". As the hon. Gentleman and the House know, many libraries already provide assistance for students. Surely it is a sensible thing that these advisory councils should be able to report to the Minister and say, "This is a provision which is already being made and we think that it would be an advantage if an extension were made and if additional facilities were provided"—in such and such a place, and in such a direction. That is the sort of thing I envisaged would be done if this Amendment were accepted.

I really cannot understand the objection which the hon. Member for Basingstoke has to that sort of thing happening. He knows as well as any other Member of the House that many of the large cities are providing excellent reference libraries which are of great help to the student population. To me it seems only sensible, if we are to have an advisory council of any kind, that one of the things which the council should do is to report to the Secretary of State upon such matters.

Mr. O'Malley

A number of my hon. Friends have expressed sympathy for the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth). I cannot express such sympathy, because it seems to me to be—

Mr. Blackburn

I hope that my hon. Friend is not including me amongst those he says are expressing sympathy. I was expressing surprise.

Mr. O'Malley

I accept what my hon. Friend has said.

What I was going to say was that it is a feature of the actions of hon. Members opposite that the nearer a General Election comes the greater is their expression of concern for the welfare of the ratepayers. With respect to the hon. Member for Basingstoke, it seems to me he was being somewhat parochial on the question of the financial liability on the ratepayers.

Particularly at this time, when rates are genuinely becoming a burden in most parts of the country, we must give due consideration to this factor, but the party opposite has been in power for 13 unfortunate years and in that time it has done nothing to remove the worst abuses of a system of taxation which is thought by many people to be absolutely inequitable and regressive.

However, what I wanted to say was that although I recognise that there is here a genuine concern for the present situation of the ratepayers, as my hon. Friend has just said all that this Amendment does is specifically to say that the library advisory councils shall advise the Secretary of State upon matters connected with the provision of library facilities including facilities for the assistance of students.

Although it is, perhaps, invidious to start establishing priorities and relative degrees of importance for the various sections of the community who use the public library service, I do not think that I would be going beyond the reasonable bounds of propriety in saying that in the long-term interests of the country one of the most important functions of the library service is to provide for the present and future generations of students.

8.15 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) knows there are students who are in universities, but also students who are at work during the day, in aircraft factories, for instance, and students who study through extramural departments, and they are often outside the university towns. I find that the facilities in so-called reference and reading rooms in many of the smaller libraries are woefully inadequate for the needs of this mass of students. One should bear in mind that this type of student in the coming decades will become increasingly important, numerically and in every other way.

Mr. Wainwright

I agree, but the facilities are lacking not only in the areas of the small authorities but throughout the whole country. The demand is so great at every library where facilities are provided. The number of students and of the people taking adult education courses and wanting places at the libraries is so great that they can hardly get in. I have just heard that in one library at ten o'clock on a Saturday morning there are no vacant places left.

Mr. O'Malley

I entirely agree. I recently went into the library in a university city where I had not been for over 10 years, and I was amazed at the difference in the conditions now in 1964 compared with those prevailing in 1954 and in the years after the war. As my hon. Friend has suggested, throughout the country one of the most urgent problems with which we have to deal is that of providing places, sheer physical places, in the libraries, for students to do their work.

I think it fair to point out to the hon. Member for Basingstoke that it is not a question of separate university library facilities, on the one hand, and the local library service, on the other. The two are complementary; there is an interchange between the services. In university towns large numbers of people through the extramural departments are connected in a part-time capacity with the universities' library facilities and with the universities themselves. Moreover, libraries in university towns and also libraries in smaller towns away from the universities in many cases provide a type of service, or should provide a type of service, which university libraries cannot provide entirely by themselves.

One thing which immediately occurs to my mind is the whole question of local historical collections. Of course, such a collection is for the benefit of the whole community, including—if we want to use the term—the ratepayers of the community, but if one goes into a local collection, where there is a local collection, one finds that the great majority of the people using the local collection are undergraduate or postgraduate students doing some kind of research. So, particularly for the older libraries, which have local collections, one wants to see the advisory councils giving advice about those sorts of facilities. All too often, particularly in the smaller centres of population, what happens is that the local collections, if they exist at all, are insufficiently catalogued, or they are placed in trunks stacked in cellars, often in local council offices, and often they are lost in local council offices.

As an example, we have here one kind of facility and service on which there is a growing need for advice and guidance and the library advisory council could initiate some action through the Minister which would improve facilities for the assistance of students who want to use this service. I should very much like to have the Amendment accepted by the Minister. I hope that the hon. Member for Basingstoke will agree that it is not a question of an expense for the ratepayers. It is merely a question of the library advisory committee advising the Minister how local authorities can develop and improve services which sometimes they are already giving but which they must inevitably give and expand in the future if we are to cope with the vast increase in student numbers which we shall have in the coming decades.

Mrs. White

I should think that by now the Joint Under-Secretary of State must realise that we have strong feelings about the Amendment. It has been very powerfully supported by my hon. Friends. It was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden), who is extremely knowledgeable in these matters, with very strong Yorkshire bowling, plus a little contribution from Cheshire. It must be clear that we take this seriously.

I assume that, even without the Amendment, it might be within the sphere of the two library advisory councils to consider the matter, but we are anxious to draw it very forcibly to their attention. Otherwise we may have some difficulties. As recent correspondence in The Times has indicated, there is a certain confusion of thought among librarians in the new universities who are asking for some special organisation for small university libraries and others who have had many years' experience in dealing with student problems in the great public library service. Attention was drawn to the need for co-operation and interchange between the two systems in an interesting letter by Mr. Munford, one of the directors-general of a specialist library, the Library for the Blind. He pointed out that, rather than having a number for separate organisations to deal with this, they should be brought together so that each side—the academic side and the public authority side—should know what the other was doing.

This is the thing to which we want the library advisory councils to pay attention. A good deal of co-operation already exists in the technical colleges, perhaps rather more than at the university level. I am reminded of this by looking at the policy survey of the county libraries by the county libraries group of the Libraries Association of last year. It draws attention to the existing co-operation, particularly between the rather smaller and medium sized county authorities and the technical colleges in their areas. It points out that in some cases on the reference and technical information side integration of stock and, in a few cases, of staff is complete; in other words, they rely on one another. This is particularly true in the less populated counties where it would be uneconomical to provide a first-class technical information and reference service in both the public and technical college libraries. So it seems to me that attention should be paid at the earliest possible moment by the library advisory councils to the matter of co-ordination of stock and specialist staff.

On the question of accommodation for students, one has a certain sympathy, if the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth) will accept it, with his difficulty that in some areas the vast majority of students who wish to use a public library may not be ratepayers directly or indirectly in that place. But the problem is there, and it must be dealt with. All of us have been concerned—frankly, I have been shocked—to find in making inquiries in the last few weeks the position which prevails in regard to seating accommodation for students who wish to study at public libraries. Many people must have been moved when they read the article which appeared in the Guardian last week about the "haves" and "have-nots". If one does not arrive at ten minutes to nine and get one's ticket when the 40 tickets are issued, one cannot study that day. It is almost becoming as bad as trying to queue at Covent Garden for a ticket for a Callas performance.

One wants to make adequate provision, but, equally, one does not wish to have extra provision made in one library which means that one may have empty rooms in other places during vacation. This is the substance of the Amendment. We feel that it is of great importance now and of increasing importance in the future that there should be proper co-ordination between the academic and public library services. We are; asking that the library advisory councils should be told to consider this matter. The Joint Under-Secretary of State may say that the councils can do this anyway without the Amendment, but our reasons for tabling the Amendment are that the matter is of such importance and there are certain difficulties and we feel that we ought to draw specific attention to the problem.

Mr. Chataway

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Sir B. Stress) took the opportunity of the Amendment to raise a matter of importance in his constituency, where, as I know from various letters which I have received, a firm of consultants has recommended a reduction in staffing, and, if the information which I got from those letters is correct, the Stoke-on-Trent City Council has accepted that recommendation, but against the advice of its Library Committee.

The hon. Gentleman asked me what would be the attitude taken now by my right hon. and learned Friend. He will understand that now my right hon. and learned Friend has no standing in the matter and that until the Bill is passed he would not have power to act in a situation of this kind. If the hon. Gentleman inquires, as I think he does, what would be likely to be the reaction of my right hon. and learned Friend in the future in circumstances of this kind, I would stress, first, that it would be my right hon. and learned Friend's hope that progress would be made in the library service by persuasion and discussion. Clause 10 gives him power to intervene, but my right hon. Friend stressed in Committee that it is very much a reserve power. However, I can understand why the hon. Member should have wished to take the opportunity today to raise the matter and to point to the recommendations of the Working Party on Standards.

The debate on the Amendment has ranged widely, and I want to say at once that I have a great deal of sympathy with much of what has been said by many hon. Members. I know that their concern over the extent to which public libraries are used by students, and occasionally swamped by them, is shared by the Library Association. The Association recently expressed concern at the heavy demands made on public libraries by students.

As the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) pointed out, there is no reason why library advisory councils should not consider this question, but I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth) was being cruelly, perhaps even wantonly, misunderstood by one or two hon. Members opposite. His point seemed to me to be a fair one and not very dissimilar from that made by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden). If I understood my hon. Friend aright, he was merely protesting that the ratepayer should not have to meet too large a proportion of the demands made for library facilities by students.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. O'Malley

Will the hon. Gentleman say what his last remark—which was similar to one made by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth)—has to do with this Amendment, which merely asks for power for advisory councils to advise the Minister on this kind of thing?

Mr. Chataway

I am coming to the wording of the Amendment in a moment. I am trying to reply to a point made by a number of hon. Members opposite, who were worried by the great demands made by students on public libraries at the moment. In so far as these difficulties have arisen from inadequate provision at universities or colleges to which students belong, the remedy clearly lies in making proper provision at these institutions. Such provision at universities and colleges of advanced technology is being considered now by the Parry Committee.

We recently had a lengthy Adjournment debate, initiated by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, when we considered progress and plans being made in providing further libraries for the teacher training colleges. I accept the difficulties that have arisen in a number of places, but it would be wrong to argue that public libraries should do nothing for students. Clearly, whatever improvements are made, the students will always be making considerable demands on public libraries. The Working Party Report said: We hope that the pressure on library accommodation will be relieved as adequate university and college buildings are provided, but a need will remain for the public library to help the student with both books and room for study. We consider that all public libraries must be prepared to play their part in meeting this need, not only for students in educational establishments but for students working on their own. The hon. Member for Flint, East and the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) were anxious to see greater co-operation between libraries. We should remember the opportunity for Library Advisory Councils to consider the working of all libraries, not only those provided under this Act but those provided otherwise, and, in addition to that, Clause 3 is relevant in that it provides for the establishment of regional councils.

The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East was the only one who addressed herself strictly to the need which she felt for inserting these words into the Bill. Of course, it is the case that the advisory councils can consider the matter. She has said that the reason for moving the Amendment is to impress upon my right hon. and learned Friend and on the advisory councils the importance of the matter. I hope that she and other hon. Members opposite will feel that that object has been achieved. I do not believe that these words add anything to the meaning of the Bill. It is not that my right hon. and learned Friend is in any way anxious to see the advisory councils in any way inhibited from considering the matter—far from it—and if in another place a similar Amendment appears, he would certainly be prepared to have it considered. But, on the basis of the discussion today, I strongly advise the House against inserting words which would appear to add nothing to the meaning of the Bill.

Mr. Wainwright

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he refuses to accept an Amendment from the House of Commons, but that consideration will be given to it in another place?

Mr. Chataway

All I said was that if this matter was raised in another place, no doubt my right hon. and learned Friend would be prepared to consider it. It is not an issue which he would wish to exclude from consideration, but, on the basis of what has been said today, and, presented with the words of the Amendment, I cannot advise the House to insert these words, because, as I have explained, they do not add anything to the meaning of the Bill.

Mr. Willey

On Report stage one is in difficulties, but had we been in Committee I am sure that my hon. Friends would have immediately intervened on the concluding remarks of the Under-Secretary. I do not for a moment question that he and his right hon. and learned Friend and the advisory councils will be sympathetic about this matter, but it is of such importance that we should express our view in legislation. The present position seems to be that if this debate is repeated in another place, possibly, probably, the noble Lord speaking for the Ministry will accept the Amendment.

I can tell the Under-Secretary that, in view of what he has said, it is most likely that this issue will be raised in another place. I hope that he will be able to assure us that not only will it be considered but that words like these will be accepted. What he has said is rather derogatory to the House of Commons. I know that there is much to be said for bicameral legislation and that something can be given second consideration, but this should not involve being told at the end of a debate here that if the Amendment is proposed in another place the Government will probably accept it.

Even if the Amendment is not accepted, in all probability this matter will be considered by the advisory councils, but when we were considering museums we could have said on the subject of charges that local authorities would pay regard to the interests of students and that it was not necessary to have a specific provision. We inserted that provision because we wanted particular attention to be called to that matter.

This is a major problem, and it will be a growing problem over the next few years. Parliament would not be carrying out its duty in the consideration of the Bill if it did not insist that this burden was placed on the advisory councils. All of us who have studied the documents prepared by the interested associations know that it is a great problem calling for a great deal of coordination and that the library is the core of higher and further education. The other day when I visited a college of further education I was delighted to see what pains were being taken to expose the library, as it were, to the students. I was impressed when the staff told me that it is vitally important to get students interested in their library. We have to tackle these two problems in order to ensure the use of the libraries and to co-ordinate them. We shall be desperately short of accommodation in the next few years.

I do not wish to query the interest of the hon. Gentleman in this matter or his integrity regarding the assurance that this will be considered by the advisory councils. In the light of what he has said, I hope we may rest assured that if this should by chance be raised in another place the Government will accept a similar Amendment.

Mr. Boyden

In view of the theoretical agreement of the Joint Under-Secretary and the lordly snub, I feel that I can do no more than beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made.: In page 2, line 4, leave out "Minister" and insert "Secretary of State".

In line 5, leave out "Ministry of Education" and insert: Department of Education and Science".

In line 17, leave out "Minister" and insert "Secretary of State".

In line 20, leave out "Minister" and insert "Secretary of State".—[Sir E. Boyle.]