HC Deb 06 March 1969 vol 779 cc657-8
20. Mr. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress has been made in considering the scheme proposed by the Arts Council, the Society of Authors and the Publishers Association regarding books loaned by public libraries; and if he will make a statement.

Miss Jennie Lee

Differing views have been put forward and continue to be put forward about the Arts Council's scheme, I sympathise with the objectives of the scheme, but it is not at present possible to devote an extra £2 million to them.

Mr. Strauss

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in view of the immense increase in Government support for the arts during the last four years, there is widespread resentment at the grossly unfair attacks made on her from some quarters in regard to this matter? Will she nevertheless press forward for the implementation of some scheme which will remove the injustice from which many authors suffer, in that they get royalties on only one book although it may be read by 100 people who borrow it from a library? Does my right hon. Friend agree that any funds made available for removing this grievance should not be channelled through the Arts Council, which exists for an entirely different purpose?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Long supplementary questions mean fewer Questions.

Miss Lee

I agree with my right hon. Friend that this is not a matter to be financed by the Arts Council. However, it is a matter to be considered by the Arts Council, because it affects writers. A great deal of thought is going into this question, but we must consider also the points of view of the Library Association, the county councils and the local councils. All that is being very thoroughly looked into.

Mr. Channon

Does not the right hon. Lady agree that a detailed experiment along the lines of the Arts Council's scheme with a library or a number of public libraries would at least show whether the scheme put forward by the Council is viable?

Miss Lee

The Arts Council has made it very clear that it has put forward some proposals. There are alternative proposals. There are alternative ideas affecting copyright and a great deal more. A working party is to be set up. Work is continuing on this. This is one of the most complex and difficult situations that the House has to deal with.