HC Deb 03 December 1973 vol 865 c891
8. Mr. Probert

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received concerning the designation of library authorities in Wales ; and what action he proposes to take in this matter.

Mr. Peter Thomas

Representations have been made to me by seven local authorities and a number of Members of Parliament. I am arranging to receive deputations jointly with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

Mr. Probert

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that many district councils in Wales are alarmed at the prospect of losing local control of their libraries, particularly as they believe that the inevitable consequence will be a deterioration in the library services? Will he promise not to take responsibility for the library services away from the district councils, particularly as promises were given by the Minister of State when we were reviewing those services during the Committee stage of the Local Government Bill? A promise was then given to the people of Wales that the district councils in Wales, in particular, would have responsibility for the libraries.

Mr. Thomas

On the last part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, what the Minister of State said was clear. It was no more than a confirmation that there is nothing in Section 207 of the Act to prevent a district council in Wales from being designated as a library authority. I am aware that many district councils are anxious to retain their library functions. If the county council agrees, library powers can be delegated to a district council on an agency basis. We are anxious to achieve the maximum efficiency for the public library service, and, with my right hon. Friend who is constitutionally responsible for this matter, who is consulting me, I am anxious to go into the matter in some detail and to have the discussions which we have promised to have with hon. Members and local authorities.