HC Deb 14 October 1975 vol 897 cc1113-4
5. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement of Government policy on public lending right.

24. Mr. Moate

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on Government policy towards public lending rights.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Hugh Jenkins)

As I assured the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) on 15th July—[Vol. 895, c. 444–5.]—progress is being well maintained, and the Government intend to bring forward detailed legislative proposals as soon as possible.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Since the hon. Gentleman has already promised the House solemnly, three times, that legislation would be introduced this Session, what reliance can be placed on his promise today? When these proposals do see the light of day, may we have a guarantee that it will be principally a loan-based scheme, financed from the Exchequer and not by the local authorities, and that the hon. Gentleman will do his best to get the measure on the statute book before the rumour in The Guardian that he is to be replaced by a noble Lady is fulfilled?

Mr. Jenkins

On the serious part of what the hon. Gentleman has said, I point out to him that I have made clear to the House on several occasions precisely why we decided to change our plans in this matter. We could easily have introduced legislation in the present Session, but it would have been totally unsatisfactory. We could have introduced the legislation which he himself was proposing to introduce, but that would have been totally unacceptable to the authors. I am glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman has changed his tune and wants a different type of legislation. The legislation which we shall introduce will be acceptable to the authors, and we hope to have the plans before very long. I am awaiting the final report of the technical investigation group. When that report is received, we shall proceed further.

Mr. Moate

Any system of public lending right will involve several million pounds of expenditure by ratepayers and taxpayers. Does the hon. Gentleman understand that when he brings forward his legislative proposals they will not be wholly welcomed, particularly by the many people who dislike the idea of there being a massive State subsidy for unsuccessful authors?

Mr. Jenkins

As the hon. Gentleman will have observed by the reaction to that supplementary question, many hon. Members on both sides of the House do not agree with him and will welcome the legislation when it comes forward, which I hope will be before very long.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Will the Minister come clean and tell us how much money will be involved in producing meaningful awards for the authors whom we all want to help? How much per year will the Minister provide for the scheme?

Mr. Jenkins

The Bill, when it is introduced, will provide the answers which the hon. Gentleman seeks.