HC Deb 29 January 1974 vol 868 cc224-5
5. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will introduce legislation on public lending rights to provide authors with additional remuneration related to the library use of their books and ensure that the cost does not fall on borrowers or on local government funds.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

As I said in the reply I gave to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Jeffrey Archer on 18th January—[Vol. 867, c. 181.]—my right hon. Friend and I are impressed by the arguments for seeking to recompense authors for the use of their works through public libraries, but there are difficult practical problems which we are studying urgently. The Government have no intention of financing any possible scheme by a direct charge on library borrowers.

Mr. Jenkins

I am grateful to the Minister for the latter point. In his consideration, will he bear in mind the necessity to meet the cost from central Government funds and the desirability that payments should be made on a rate per loan basis, and should be payable to all living authors?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I shall bear both those points in mind. The main practical problem I must face is to devise a scheme which will be simple to operate and will not consume in administration most of the resources which might be made available, at a time of severe economic crisis.

Mr. Faulds

Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that he is not seduced by the arguments of the Society of Authors, which is arguing for what is in fact a purchase right and which has totally abandoned the real intention of a public lending right?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I must pay full account to the views of the society. I shall also pay attention to the views of the Writers Action Group. I hope that I shall be seduced by neither.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

Why has my hon. Friend necessarily ruled out the suggestion that borrowers should pay something indirectly towards the authors whose books they borrow?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

To go from museum charges to library charges would be to go out of the frying pan into the fire.

Mr. Strauss

Has the Minister yet met the representatives of the Society of Authors and the Writers Action Group, both of which have strong claims to put forward and feel very keenly about them? Has he tried to get them to agree on a workable scheme, and if so, with what result?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I have met them, and have had long conversations with both. I have'tried to get them together to agree. I have not yet succeeded, but I live in hope.