§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Second Reading [26th May].
§ Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Jasper More (Ludlow)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before we embark on this important Bill, may we have a statement from the Government on whether they intend seriously to pursue this legislation tonight? During the past weeks there have been a number of occasions on which the legislation in question has been abandoned and we have been sent home. It would be regrettable if the time of the House were wasted tonight, because we know that fewer than 100 Government supporters are present.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member has made his request. The House has just reached a decision that the Bill will be debated.
I have to announce that I have not selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English).
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Mr. David James (Dorset, North)
I have no interest to declare, because although I was formerly a publisher and author I am neither now. I rarely congratulate the Government on any of their achievements, but I want to congratulate them on introducing the Bill. In doing so, I shall be extremely brief in this temperature.
I pay a tribute to that great and good former colleague Sir Alan Herbert, because I inherited his brief, as it were, on public lending rights 16 years ago and I have been doing my humble best to promote it ever since. I have looked it up in the Library, and I see that as long ago as 1961, when I was a relatively new boy, the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), the present Home Secretary and I sponsored a motion in favour of public lending rights. I shall not bore the House with its terms, but it was broadly speaking in favour of the Bill.
1096 We did the same thing again in 1963. Unfortunately, the Government of the day had overlooked this fact when producing public libraries legislation, with the result that I led a deputation to see the then Prime Minister, now Lord Home, who promised that if he were returned to office he would legislate on this matter at once. In the event, he was not returned and I lost my seat, so the matter went by default.
Subsequently, after I had endured my six years' exile, we had another go. All these Early-Day Motions were supported by more than 100 Members. In 1973 I was supported by the late Maurice Edelman, whose death we all so much regret, and also by one of the contenders for the Liberal leadership. Once again, an all-party motion secured more than 100 supporters.
The Bill is very long overdue. I hope that the Government will not think it sour grapes if I say, "Thank God, they are doing it at last". I wish to do no more than say that this is the culmination of a long campaign of 25 years' standing which was launched by Sir Alan Herbert and in which I have been proud to play a very small part.
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I hope to be reasonably brief in supporting the Bill. There is a measure of cross-party agreement on this matter, as indicated by the fact that the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. James) found himself in the uncharacteristic situation of heaping praise on the Government of my party.
I think it is right to say that those of us who support—[Interruption]. I am told that I have to declare my interest. Technically I have an interest, being one of six or seven joint authors of a book called "The Socialist Future", which young Members of the 1966 Parliament—[Interruption]. If Opposition Members will subside, I shall tell them of the exiguous nature of the interest I have to declare. We produced that book in the early stages of the 1966–70 Parliament. None of us has had any royalties, and the book was a loss for the publishers.
In so far as that is an indication of something to be declared, I suppose I have fulfilled the requirements of the debate by doing so. It also illustrates, in perhaps a rather extreme form, the 1097 problem which most of us recognise, that for the most part authors, of whatever literary merit, earn very little indeed from their writings. In my own instance, we earned nothing at all.
§ Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)
I take it that the hon. Gentleman realises that for some extraordinary reason multi-authorship is excluded from this extraordinary Bill, so that he would not benefit even if he was receiving financial reward from his book.
§ Mr. Lee
That is some compensation. It is also a reminder of something to which I intended to refer later—that is, that although the Government are to be congratulated on recognising and, for the first time ever, seeking to enshrine in statute this extension of proprietary right, this is a far from perfect Bill.
I was not able to be present for the earlier debate, but I read carefully what the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) said. Many of us feel that the exclusion of research works and the failure to extend the powers to cover cassettes and other rights are indications of the Bill's shortcomings. However, these are nothing as compared with the meanness of the scale upon which the thing is done.
I shall not go into the argument as to who can claim a greater degree of virtue with regard to the scaling of these matters. I know that the figure of million was originally suggested and was mentioned during the course of the debate last time by the hon. Member for Chelmsford. By any showing, however, this is an extremely modest figure. It does not take much imagination or much arithmetic—and mine is generally fairly faulty—to realise that the amount that anyone can hope to derive from implementation of the Bill will not be very great.
I want to talk about one or two of the technical problems in the Bill. It is by no means clear whether the Minister sees it as an extension of the copyright law. Clause 1(7)(b) deals with transfer by assignment and by testamentary disposition—in other words, it is as if this is to be a disposable right in the same way as a copyright can already be transmitted and has been for many years. It would be strange if this legislation were to be on all fours with copyright. Although during their lifetime authors will earn 1098 very little, as the scheme is envisaged, if it is intended to subsist for 50 years after the death of the person in question or any other assignee, which is less justifiable still, the right created under the Bill will be weird indeed.
I hope that the Minister will say that this legislation is not intended to be equated with copyright. If the hon. Lady were minded, for the purposes of simplicity, so to equate it, one might say that the scheme would be far better if it were cut back, so that this became entirely a personal right which died with the author. After all, it is the author whom one wants to reward for his creative activity, not his heirs, his successors or his assignees.
I know from experience of having dealt with proprietary rights under the copyright and merchandise marketing legislation for the BBC that a number of creative people—I use that term to cover a wider scope than authorship as envisaged in the Bill—because of their economic weakness often sign away all their rights in a work at an early stage and can never thereafter benefit from its reproduction, publication, adaptation or broadcasting.
I hope, therefore, that it is intended to make this right non-assignable. We could amend Clause 1(7) so as to achieve that end and this would help to protect the author, in a sense, against himself. It is not a novel concept in law to deprive someone of the right to contract away certain rights. In some branches of contract law that is already done, and it would be reasonable to do it in this case.
I turn now to something with which the Bill does not deal because it is to be financed entirely from Government funds. I think that amendments to introduce this suggestion would be regarded as ultra vires the Long Title. Although many of us are wholy opposed to library charges for raising revenue, the same objection does not apply to charge as a form of royalty for authors. This is not a new concept, but the Government have shied away from it.
I stick my neck out and say that I see no reason why a person should not pay a modest charge for the right to use another person's brains on paper. After all, a man can contract to borrow another man's car or television set. Why should not one be obliged, as an ordinary 1099 principle of contract law, to pay for someone's creative activity, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins) pointed out in the earlier stages of this debate, he may have sweated over and slaved to produce over many years?
§ Mr. Douglas Hurd (Mid-Oxon)
Does the hon. Member accept that he need not be so modest? The proposal he is now making was the proposal Sir Alan Herbert originally made—namely, the idea that public lending rights should be financed by the borrower. If this were accepted, possibly public lending rights could be highly generous in the way being suggested tonight.
§ Mr. Lee
I agree. I am not suggesting any originality in my idea. I put it in rather tentative and cautious terms because I fear that some of my hon. Friends who object so very strongly to the idea of library charges for economic purposes, as indeed I do, might be chary about accepting this concept because it involves members of the public paying for some services that previously they have had free.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
I presume that my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) realise that the Bill does not apply at all to libraries which make library charges. The peculiar thing is that there is no public lending right there, as it is only libraries which do not charge which have a public lending right.
§ Mr. Lee
My hon. Friend has referred to yet another of the anomalies. As I have said, this is far from being a perfect Bill. Come to think of it, it is difficult to think of a Bill produced by any Government for any purpose that is perfect. This Bill is riddled with unsatisfactory features. I hope that that will not be regarded as a reason for objecting to it and will not be regarded by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) as a reason for filibustering.
It is right to recognise this as granting justice to a not particularly wealthy section of the community. It is long overdue. It is a belated recognition of a person's fundamental right in another form—an extension of the concept of copyright in the general sense of the word, to protect something which a per- 1100 son has created and which has enriched the community as a whole.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)
Although I do not think that this time of night is the appropriate time to be debating a Bill of this importance, and although I think that the intentions of the Government must be in some doubt when they bring a Bill on at this time of night and in this fashion, nevertheless there are clear advantages in having a debate at this time of night. We are not subject to the same limitations of time as we would be were the debate finishing at 10 o'clock, which would be the normal time for a debate of this kind to end. Needless to say, within the rules of order, many arguments could be advanced, and I hope that the House will understand if on this issue I advance the arguments at some length.
I regard the Bill as of some importance. I have criticised the legislation on a number of occasions. I wish to explain briefly why I believe that this is bad legislation, for a number of reasons, and why it would be wrong if the House were to give the Bill a Second reading tonight or whenever the Government decide to bring it back again. On a number of occasions in recent weeks the Government have changed their minds fairly soon after 10 o'clock, and perhaps we shall see another example of that tonight.
The strength of the case for public lending rights springs from the success of the Performing Right Society. If one could look for any area that has given grounds for believing in public lending right, it is the success of the PRS. It is worth looking at the PRS to see whether it is a properly analogous organisation.
The objects of the Performing Right Society are to exercise rights over public performance and to collect fees by way of licences for the public performance of the copyright of musical works which it controls. It is a society which has been immensely successful. The Times of 9th April reported that the new agreement with the British Broadcasting Corporation increased the society's income by another £1 million to a total of £4½ million for 1974, this money coming from the licence-holders, and that its total gross worldwide revenue in 1974 was approximately £14½ million. The Society spent over £2 million on administrative expenses.
1101 I do not seek in this debate to criticise the Performing Right Society—that would obviously be out of order—but I would say that monopoly powers of the kind we have given to such societies need to be exercised very judiciously and need to be scrutinised by Parliament, perhaps more rigorously than the Performing Right Society is scrutinised. I think that the importance of the PRS is the significant growth in income. I am sure when the society began we did not talk about £14½ million income. It could be that PLR tomorrow could be what PRS is today, with much of its revenue coming from the taxpayer. Let us have no misunderstanding about that.
We are told over and over again that the Bill will cost only £1 million and only several years hence. Mention has, however, been made of a cost of £5 million. Therefore, that amount is already in the consciousness of the Government about the level of expenditure that is necessary. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. JohnStevas) said that we should start by increasing it to £.1½ million, so that the administrative costs were on top of the £1 million.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
There is absolutely no limit to the amount to which it could he increased. It could be increased to £10 million, quite legally, by Order.
§ Mr. Moate
Although the Order is subject to the affirmative procedure of the House, it is quite clear that we could well be on the road to massive public spending on this exercise, not necessarily next year or the year after but in the years ahead.
This is where I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford is not present because we are entitled to ask him, as our official spokesman on this issue, why he is advocating something that will involve an increase in public expenditure when it is fundamental to our economic strategies that public spending has to be cut. It is no use saying that the Bill represents a particularly desirable scheme. Cuts in public spending mean cutting many of the schemes we consider desirable. The argument could be used that public lend- 1102 ing right will be several years ahead. But public spending cuts are not something that we shall be involved in for only the next year. We shall be involved in them for year after year. Cutting public expenditure will be a long haul indeed.
§ Mr. David James
This is a Bill of principle as to whether authors should have their works lent free.
§ Mr. David James
This is a Bill of principle, and the detail of it is something that can be argued out over the next decade.
§ Mr. Moate
I shall certainly come to the issue of principle, because I disagree with my hon. Friend on that point. To suggest, however, that this is principle and not money will come as a great shock to the authors who are expecting to receive money. My hon. Friend is being a bit disingenuous to say that this is principle only and that it does not involve money. It not only involves money, but it could involve substantial sums of money at a time when the Conservative Administration will be having to cut—
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Miss Margaret Jackson)
Since the hon. Gentleman has referred to his hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), may I remind him that we had something in the nature of a statement from the hon. Gentleman the other day to the effect that the Conservative Administration which he expects to see in the near future would not cut the education budget?
§ Mr. Moate
I suspect that we shall help my hon. Friend in that intention if we remove from him the onus of this legislation. I am sure that my hon. Friend—and even the Government, I suspect—will be grateful if this legislation never gets on to the statute book. We shall be doing a good job if we do not give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
I recognise that the ditching of an election pledge means nothing to the Opposition Front Bench, but it means a good deal to the Government and they intend to fulfil this election pledge, as they have fulfilled their other election pledges.
§ Mr. Moate
Not at the election. It was not in the election manifesto. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins) is not now speaking on behalf of the Government—not that I regret the presence of the hon. Lady the Under-Secretary. Nevertheless, if the House can dispose of this legislation once and for all and defeat it, we can all say that honour is satisfied. Both sides will have paid their tribute to the authors and we can then forget about this odd legislation.
What a strange priority this legislation is, at a time when we are talking about spending cuts. The Department of Education and Science has not got enough money for many desirable projects, and yet it says that it will spend money on authors. I find this a very odd sense of priorities, and I am sorry that the amendment of the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) was not selected.
I return to the attitude of my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench. If they feel that this scheme deserves support, why do it now? If they feel that this is a meritorious Bill, why will they give the Government credit for putting the legislation on the statute book while a Conservative Government in the future will get the burden of having to finance the costs? The present Government will get the credit and none of the difficulties of financing it. It would be much more honest to wait until the money is available—if it ever will be available—before trying to pass this legislation.
On the question of money, the Government have given several assurances that expenditure on public lending rights would not reduce the money available to the library authorities for their book funds. We would be a bit naive to swallow that. For example, we are by no means certain of the shape of that local government finance will take in years to come. It is possible that it will be in a quite different form. Anybody looking at the whole scene, as the Secretary of State for Education and Science ob- 1104 viously would, might well say that £X million is going on public lending rights, and that could mean less money for the libraries. Already we see considerable cuts in county spending programmes on books.
The Kent Messenger of 14th May stated:Kent has got to cut the money it spends on books by £74,000 this year…Most of the cuts hit the book fund, but the school library expenditure will be £4,000 less than last year.…In some counties the cash cuts have been so severe that the public had been asked to donate their old books to boost dwindling stocks. Waiting lists for new books are up to seven years long and mobile library services are becoming a thing of the past.Kent can take pride of place among almost all county councils for the quality of its service. That is typical of the pressures being exerted on library authorities throughout the country. Extending public lending right will make those pressures even greater.
We would be foolish to imagine that the money will be produced magically out of the air and not out of that allocated by the Government for library services. The case for the Bill is poor on the grounds of public spending alone. It is a most inappropriate proposition to put before the House—by the Government or by the Conservative Party—at this time. It is offensive to the public. We are told that other desirable projects are to be cut, and yet the Government are to spend more than £1 million on this project.
However, cost is not necessarily relevant to the argument of my hon. Friends because they believe that authors are being deprived of justice because their books are lent out on a large scale. They say that if musicians can secure such rights, why should authors not have them to? But there is a fundamental difference which demolishes that argument. The composer of music depends for his earnings on some reward for the performance of what he has written. By contrast, the author gets his return from selling a physical item for which he receives a fair return—the market price for a product. The author is a contractor who willingly sells a product. He does not depend upon a performance.
One can defend the right of a musician to a reward for the performance of his music, but the same argument cannot be 1105 applied to the author of a book. Once an author has willingly sold his book, I do not see how he can retain a physical right in it. The supporters of that argument could just as well say that an artist should retain a right over a picture which he has sold.
§ Mr. Moate
One might say that every time a picture is displayed in a picture gallery, a fee should be charged. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. James) intends to propose a picture viewing right for artists. He mentioned television sets and motor cars which are rented out, but the manufacturer does not receive a royalty everytime a motor car is hired out. That is no comparison—unless my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North is proposing a public hiring right for motor car manufacturers.
§ Mr. David James
Does not my hon. Friend realise that, if one buys a picture which arouses considerable public interest and it is reproduced, the artist and not the purchaser of the painting will retain a right and is entitled to charge a fee?
§ Mr. Lee
Does the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) accept the right of authors to be protected by copyright, remembering that the Copyright Act 1956 was introduced by a Conservative Government and extended the scope of copyright to literary activity just as much as it did to musical and other activities?
§ Mr. Moate
I do not think we are talking about copyright. We are talking simply about a charge for lending. The author is entitled to copyright protection, but it is not particularly relevant to this case.
I do not believe that a property right continues once a book has been sold to another party. I have heard no evidence to suggest that it does. But if it is a right, let us examine how the supporters of the Bill regard that right. I do not think that they place a very high value on it. They say that at present there is just a £1 mil- 1106 lion fund. In the first half of this debate some weeks ago, it was said that that was worth one-tenth of 1p a loan, or £5 per author per year.
Secondly, the supporters of the Bill are nationalistic about the right. Apparently, it is available only to British authors. In the other place, the supporters said that the payment would not be available to foreign authors. The Times argued the case very well in a leading article which asked whether justice stopped at Dover. If an author has an intrinsic right in a book he has written, why are we saying that public lending right applies only to British authors? To allow nationalistic considerations to creep in undermines the argument that it is a right.
The Times said:The spectacle is of authors on the verge of successfully claiming in the name of justice"—I dispute that—a long-buried property right, insisting that the law deny that right to foreign authors whose books are read from the same libraries (unless their countries grant reciprocal rights, which of course most of them do not). Justice stops at Dover? Perhaps Lord Douglas of Barloch got it right. He supported the exclusion amendment without in the least approving of the Bill, which I think is perfectly nonsensical.…Why should we tax the people of this country to pay a bonus to foreign authors?That brings this supposed right down to a sordid level.
If the Government and the supporters of the Bill are to argue that this is a right, they must extend it to foreign authors. If they say that they will not do that until their is reciprocity with other countries, the least they can do is to hold the money in trust until they are able to pay it to overseas authors.
There is another way in which the Government undermine the right. They now say that there is to be a cut-off point so that the more successful authors will not scoop the pool. What sort of right is it that is subject to a sort of means-tested benefit? It is either a right or it is not. We cannot tell an author "Because you have been successful, your rights will be denied you in full." That would be nonsense.
I again quote The Times, which apparently supports the Bill but says that the rightis beginning to look…more like yet another state hand-out…having established the proposition they"—1107 the advocates of PLR—immediately undermined it by proposing a cut-off point to the disadvantage of best-selling authors…What w as being claimed was justice, the restoration of a property right".It is hard to justify it as a right when a cut-off limit is imposed and it is made like another means-tested State benefit.
These restrictions undermine the case advanced by the supporters of the Bill that there is an intrinsic, inherent right belonging to the authors when books are lent by libraries and not sold to the public. The case looks more and more like simply a desire for financial support, albeit modest, for authors from the State. Therefore, it is only right to examine whether such State support is deserved because authors are being deprived by a peculiar feature of the British system of public lending. That does not stand up to examination.
It is fair to say that most authors deny that they are seeking financial support for indigent authors, although some supporters get close to doing so. That is a dubious argument. On 26th May the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) suggested that this was the beginning of giving a working wage to all authors. I find that a most depressing prospect. Is it to be envisaged that everyone who sets up as an author is automatically entitled to a working wage? It is a suggestion and a phrase that had been used on more than one occasion. Are we to be faced with the prospect of the State, in all its wisdom, deciding who shall be an author and what the working wage of authors is to be? To be fair to authors, I do not think that the majority of them would advance that argument.
The case for financial support for indigent authors is a weak one that is far better left aside. We are told that 55 per cent. of authors have an income of only £10 a week or less, but we know that the Bill will not make much difference to them anyway. Initially it will be a modest drop in the ocean. If that is all they earn, it may be all that they deserve. It may be that they deserve to be unsuccessful or that they are only part-time writers.
The case is made that it is the sales to and the lending by libraries that deprive authors of their livelihood. It could be presumed from that argument that authors or publishers sell books to 1108 the libraries only reluctantly. If that is so, presumably they are not too keen on libraries purchasing too many of their books. Presumably, when they sell them to libraries they try to extract the maximum price or charge a higher price. But the reverse is the truth: they give a discount to the libraries. The publishers give substantial discounts on reference books and ordinary books, but surely that would be the last thing they would choose to do if they felt that the libraries were cutting their book sales. They rightly regard libraries as good customers.
I believe that authors and their representatives are biting the hand that feeds them when they ask for another £1 million now and much more later. Let us examine the figures. I recently asked a Question on this issue, and the answer revealed that the State accounts for about 40 per cent. of book sales. The 1972 figures reveal that libraries bought £18 million worth of books and that school hooks accounted for £33 million. The State is already buying books to the tune of £51 million, representing 40 per cent. of the market. Far from libraries and the Government undermining the position of authors, I suggest that they are their main support.
Surely there is not much of a case for authors saying "Please let us have another £1 million" at this time or, indeed, at any other time. To my mind, it is a right that does not exist.
Let us examine whether people do not buy books because the libraries are lending them so prolifically. For some reason, reference books are left out of the Bill. I cannot understand the logic of that. Are the Government suggesting that if the libraries stopped stocking reference books the public would rush out and buy expensive reference books on a large scale from the bookshops? That does not appear to be a plausible proposition. Surely there is no evidence to suggest that library lending is undermining those sales.
The taxpayer already gives a great deal of support. There is not much of a case for arguing that authors should receive more from that source. If authors are inadequately rewarded, and it is possible that many are, the mistake may lie in their negotiations with their publisher. Maybe their return is too small because the margin from their publisher is too 1109 small. Perhaps publishers reckon that they are getting too low a market price, but that is a matter for the market and for negotiation between authors and publishers. It is not a matter for the taxpayer. When a contract is freely entered into, it is something of a nonsense for the State then to say "We will intervene to give a bit more money to one of the parties because the market is not giving a fair return".
Even more of a nonsense is the scheme itself. Although the scheme analysed by the working party's report might not be the final scheme, it gives fair guidance of what is likely to happen. If authors are running away with the belief that somehow justice will be restored to them by this Bill, I think that their illusions are about to be shattered.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
The hon. Gentleman seems to be falling between two stools. On the one hand, he is saying that authors should not have anything. On the other hand, he appears to be saying that the scheme does not give them enough. Is he arguing that they should have more, or nothing?
§ Mr. Moate
I am saying that if they are entitled to a reward it should be a reward brought about by their own efforts, through the market mechanism which until the present has worked satisfactorily. If authors believe that this scheme will earn them extra money, I think that they are in for a severe disappointment.
Let us look at the figures. A writer of popular fiction with 13 titles to his credit might get £1,261; a writer of regional Welsh fiction would receive the massive figure of £2; other authors would receive £3 or £7. Some authors will even receive as little as 21p per annum out of every £1 million put into the scheme. I regard this as a feeble scheme that will earn from authors derision rather than respect.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)
The hon. Gentleman says that the scheme deserves derision from authors. Will he substantiate that argument? Perhaps he will give the names of a few authors who feel that the scheme deserves derision—because every author to whom I have spoken about the matter has been totally in favour of the Bill.
§ Mr. Moate
I only wish that I had met many enlightened authors like the hon. Gentleman. If the scheme is implemented, I believe that it will seen to be so puny, ineffectual and unhelpful as to earn derision from authors. Of course, it would earn the respect of authors if they were to have a fund of £5 million or £10 million, but as the scheme stands it is a joke.
This is a bad Bill, it is bad in principle, and I hope that the House will reject it tonight. If the House rejects the measure, I am sure that that would meet with Government approval, as is obvious from the fact that they now appear with little or no support from Government Back Benchers. Therefore, I trust that the House will reject this legislation.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
I start by examining the principle of the Bill and say that I can see that there might conceivably be a benefit in giving a scholarship to a prospective author who might be tied down by his work in such a way that he cannot spare the time to write. I see no reason at all why public money should be given to bad authors who have published books that no one wants.
§ Mr. English
If hon. Members do not think that that is what the Bill is for, I ask them: why does the Bill fail to deal in any way with the law of copyright? According to the Press, the first payment to the author of the book "Jaws" was a capital sum of £8 million. That was a book somewhat unfair to North Atlantic sharks. Unlike the Australian sharks, they have eaten only about two people in the past 50 years whereas the Australian sharks do it on a larger scale. In terms of money, presumably that author would not be particularly worried about any sum likely to be paid out under the Bill.
If, on the other hand, someone writes a book that is bought solely by libraries 1111 —a book which no individual wishes to buy, which libraries buy purely because they think it is something they ought to buy, even if they make a misjudgment—because one or two people borrow the book the author will receive a payment under the Bill. Effectively, we are saying that the purpose of the Bill is to pay taxpayers' money to authors of books that no individual wants to buy. [Interruption.] Does my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) wish to intervene?
§ Mr. English
I thought my hon. Friend said "That is middle-class attitude." I am quite prepared to discuss my origins with my hon. Friend at any time, but I do not think you would rule me in order if I were to do so, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
§ Mr. English
Indeed. I am prepared, if necessary, to animadvert on the subject of that book now if you were to rule me in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The essential point is, what are we proposing to do? We are proposing to spend taxpayers' money at a time when, according to all reports, which I have some reason to believe to be true, the Government are seriously considering whether there must be some curtailment of public expense.
All I can say to my right hon. Friend the Minister is that, if the Bill is passed and if her Department is advocating the expenditure of money on behalf of the Bill, I hope she will not come to the House supporting any curtailment in the expenditure of the Department of Education and Science that excludes the subject matter of this Bill and includes anything else. The first priority of the Department ought to be to educate people to read books, not to pay money to authors who are almost by definition bad authors.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
My hon. Friend appears to be objecting to the expenditure of the sum of £1 million on the arts. Will he tell us whether his philistinism is directed solely to authors and literature 1112 or whether it is general and he objects to all expenditure on the arts, on the Arts Council, on museums and libraries? How all-embracing is the philistinism which he is expressing?
§ Mr. English
I am quite prepared to answer all those points, though many of them are not relevant to the Bill. Let us get rid of this funny little sum of £1 million.
To be blunt, the memorandum on the financial effects of the Bill does not even state the truth. It states:When the scheme is in full operation the charge on public funds will be £1 million or such larger sum as may be specified by an order under Clause 2(3) of the Bill.That does not happen to be true. Although there is a limit of £1 million on the fund, paragraph 2(1) of the schedule states:There shall be paid to the Registrar out of money provided by Parliament such remuneration and allowances as the Secretary of State may determine with the approval of the Minister for the Civil Service.The costs of the principal administrator of the scheme—yet another person added to the number of civil servants—are to be met out of taxpayers' money. Some persons are chargeable on the fund but the Registrar is not.
§ Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
Does the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) agree that the matter is further confused by Clause 5(5), which states:Nothing in this Act shall impose any charge on the people or on public funds"?
§ Mr. English
I suppose it is possible to get over that by the simple process of believing—as is legally the case—that the schedule is not part of the Act, but the hon. Lady makes a perfectly valid point. There is a discrepancy there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins) will see from Clause 2(2) that the total of the sums paid out of the fund shall not exceed £1 million, with various small provisos, but according to paragraph 2(1) of the schedule the Registrar is to be paid such remuneration and allowances as the Secretary 1113 of State may determine out of money provided by Parliament, not out of the fund. My hon. Friend was the Minister who no doubt drafted the Bill, but I think he will find that between the time he left office and the Bill arrived here it has been changed.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
My hon. Friend has it wrong. I readily appreciate that he will not accept that he has it wrong, so I leave it there.
§ Mr. English
We can no doubt discuss it in Committee.
We are told that it is only £1 million. I have heard that argument somewhere before. I think I am right in saying that the first amount of taxpayers' money spent on education was about £40,000, in the nineteenth century. Even taking into account inflation between the nineteenth century and now, that was an extremely small amount of taxpayers' money to be spent on education. It has increased somewhat since then in real terms, allowing for inflation.
When we pass legislation which embodies a principle involving a small sum of money, it sometimes happens—education is a good example—that eventually an enormous sum of money comes to be spent upon that principle. Indeed, that is what many of the supporters of the Bill wish to happen. They wish to embody the principle in an Act of Parliament and then say that the sums involved are ridiculously small and should be increased. Slowly and relentlessly, they will no doubt be increased. Once the Bill becomes an Act, no further Act of Parliament is necessary to increase the amount. A mere Order will be necessary—admittedly it has to be approved by the House—but no further Act of Parliament is necessary.
§ Mr. Lee
Does my hon. Friend subscribe to the Poujadist view that one might expect from the Opposition Benches, and which has already been manifested, that there is something intrinsically bad in any Government expenditure? Some of us subscribe to the opposite view, that prima facie there is a great deal to be said for public expenditure.
§ Mr. English
I think that most Members, oddly enough, happen to have the belief that some items of public expendi- 1114 ture should be spent, and most Members, oddly enought also, happen to believe that some items of public expenditure should be cut. I think, that my hon. Friend, for example, would not disagree with me if I argued that defence expenditure should be cut. He might even be supporting me if that was the argument. Most Members believe in spending public money on something and in not spending it on some of the things on which it is spent.
What I am saying at the moment, as I put it in the reasoned amendment which Mr. Speaker saw fit not to select, is that amongst other priorities I think that mothers, for example, particularly mothers without the support of the father of the family, deserve public expenditure rather more than authors who are either prosperous or bad. [Interruption.] Let us get this clear. We are giving money under this Bill either to authors who are already prosperous because of copyright laws or to authors who are so bad that no individual wants to buy their books.
§ Mr. English
If a mother is an author and is any good, she will get far more out of the copyright laws than out of the Bill at the moment. But I am surprised, if I may say so, at what my hon. Friend the Member for Barking described as a middle-class attitude. What my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger) is really saying is that a child is better brought up if the mother is capable of being an author than a child would be if that was not the case. Therefore, an ordinary working-class mother who may not be capable of writing books and selling them is to be automatically poorer than someone capable of being an author under the Bill. That is what my hon. Friend says. She is singling out authors, as the Bill does, for payments by the State. I would rather single out mothers as such than authors as such.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)
A week or two ago we had the Social Security (Amendment) Bill, which proposed a net increase of £750,000 in 1115 earnings disregards to 300,000 single-parent families. Is that the kind of comparison the hon. Member has in mind?
§ Mr. English
I do not recall that occasion, but my reasoned amendment was that the Child Benefit Scheme should take priority over this Bill. That scheme would have cost in gross but not in net terms over £1,000 million. That is the comparison I was making.
I turn now to some of the peculiarities which seem to be embodied in the drafting of the Bill. Clause 1 establishes this strange public lending right. Why is it that this Government, whom I support because I believe them to be a Socialist Government, are basing this public lending right purely on the lendings of local authority libraries? Whey are they missing out all the libraries—they still exist—which charge a fee for lending a book? Are they doing so because those libraries are making money? Do they really want to charge people on the lendings of local authority libraries and not in any way relate this right to the activities of people actually in the business of lending books?
There are organisations with great libraries which are included in the subscription charges for membership—for example, the clubs of central London. The Athenaeum has an excellent library. Anyone who has eaten food there will agree that the library is its main facility—it certainly does not offer food as good. All these organisations are missed out too. The author gets no public lending right from libraries which exist primarily as libraries charging subscriptions. Where are all these arguments of principle?
The argument of principle seems to be that if a book is borrowed from a local authority library the taxpayer, who has already paid for the library to be built, thereby gives the author the chance of having his books borrowed and read by a wider public, should pay a public lending right. It is being suggested that taxpayers' money should be used to support borrowing by people who cannot afford the subscription to the London Library, the Athenaeum or any other such institution. Why are authors not to receive a public lending right on borrowings from these institutions? Is it because these institutions might have objected?
§ Mr. English
I agree that the food at the Athenaeum is absurd. The hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) is an expert on the subject. In organisations which he controls, the food is much better.
§ Mr. Jasper More
The hon. Gentleman has been speaking about the clubs of London, particularly the Athenaeum. Surely the best club in London is the House of Commons. I declare an interest as a member of the House of Commons Library Committee. What has the hon. Gentleman to say in relation to the question of public lending right and the Library of the House?
§ Mr. English
I was coming to that later, but I shall deal with it now if the hon. Gentleman wishes.
This is the first Bill since the beginning of the eighteenth century which allows payments from the Crown to be made to hon. Members—apart from their salaries and allowances—without their being excluded from membership.
There are those in the House who have an interest in the Bill. The Registrar of Public Lending Right is included in the schedule to the Bill as being subject to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, but there is nothing to prevent people who receive money under this measure from sitting in the House. That is a most unusual procedure.
Let any hon. Member name another payment from the Crown—apart from salaries and allowances—given not to everybody, but only to a specific class of persons, based in this case upon their professional authorship, that would not disqualify an hon. Member from sitting in this House.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
My hon. Friend is making a point of total absurdity. He is suggesting that none of us should receive any salary or allowances as hon. Members. There was a point at which he came nearer to reality than in his absurd remarks just now. That was on the question of why the Bill applies only to public libraries, on which my hon. Friend challenged me personally. The point is this. Here is a Bill which, as has been rightly 1117 said, establishes a new principle. It must establish it at some point. The point at which it has been chosen to establish it is public libraries. If the Bill were to be extended wider than is proposed, the individual sums being paid would be even smaller than my hon. Friend is suggesting, or alternatively, the overall sum would be extra large. One cannot win under that argument. In whatever circumstances, my hon. Friend intends to oppose the Bill. Whatever the Bill says, he will say that it is wrong.
§ Mr. English
My hon. Friend should allow me to make my own speech. I am prepared to explain my motives. My hon. Friend does not need to assume them for me. He never answered my first point. I allowed him to intervene to answer my point. He simply said "That is absurd—salaries and allowances of Members". I have already twice, perhaps three times, mentioned salaries and allowances and said "other than that".
§ Miss Margaret Jackson
I was hesitant to intervene in the debate, but, if my hon. Friend will forgive my saying so, he is being absurd. I shall give him one example of an allowance paid under legislation of this House and not payable to everyone. Family allowance is paid under legislation of this House. It is not paid to any Member who is not a parent.
§ Mr. English
The comparison is not very good. If my hon. Friend looks back at my words, she will find that I also said paid to people particularly and solely because of a particular profession or qualification. I am sure she will find that if she looks it up tomorrow.
We are not talking about social security payments. I wish that we were talking of the Child Benefit Bill at this hour of the night. It would be of some greater use. We are not talking about a payment to people to encourage them to enter a profession, because this is not payable to people who want to write a book but who are precluded from doing so through circumstances and difficulties of their own. We are talking about people who have already become authors, have joined the 1118 profession and have had a book published. They are people who have not only written a book but have persuaded a publisher to publish it, presumably on the ground that the publisher at least will get his money back—either that or we are talking of people who go in for the old Victorian practice of getting books printed out of their own money, in which case they must be substantially rich in any event.
We are talking of people who have persuaded a publisher to publish on the ground that he will get his own money back, and presumably the authors will get a royalty for persuading libraries to purchase the book. If the first two events have happened, and assuming that the publisher has got his money back, we are then talking about the authors getting additional money from the State because people borrow their books, and only from libraries provided by taxpayers' money and not by any other money.
Let us be specific about what we are talking about. If the taxpayer has given the author an opportunity for his books to be borrowed from a free library, he is to get additional money from the taxpayer, but not if they are borrowed from any other library. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney said that the reason why he did not specify any other libraries was to reduce the opposition that the Bill allows.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
My hon. Friend should be fair. He is arguing basically that he is opposed to the whole principle of public lending right and he is adducing all kinds of reasons against it. However, he ought not to denigrate all the efforts of those who want to see the Bill become an Act. What my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins) said was that in establishing a new principle there must be some reference point in the establishment. That happens to be public libraries, but it could extend further. However, my hon. Friend did not say that it was because he thought that it would be too expensive or anything like that.
§ Mr. English
If the Bill has a Committee stage, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Putney will be supporting an amendment on those lines. I shall certainly move one if the Bill gets a Second Reading.
1119 I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary a few questions on the text of the Bill. Why is there no mention in it of some of the points that were made by my hon. Friend which have been mentioned by Ministers and mentioned in the document as well as in the debate? It is said that it is the Government's intention to have a cut-off point so that rich authors do not benefit. Why is that not in the Bill? Why is the Bill so worded that any author can get the money? Why are the Government saying that it is not their intention to benefit authors above a certain amount —the rich authors? Are they saying that in order to get the text of the Bill through its Second Reading more easily? If not, why not put the appropriate words in the Bill and say that there shall be a limit?
§ Miss Margaret Jackson
Perhaps I can deal with that in order to stop my hon. Friend from reiterating many similar points. As is made plain in the Bill, the intention is to give parliamentary approval to the instigation of a scheme. The point that my hon. Friend has made —and many more of that kind could be made—is a matter for the drawing up of the detailed scheme. The intention of the Bill is merely to establish or not, as the House chooses, a right and to give sanction for the devising of a scheme. It was made plain in the studies that led to the preparation of the Bill that devising a scheme would take a considerable time, possibly two years. The point which has been raised is for the scheme rather than for the Bill.
§ Mr. English
In other words, it is a matter for the Government and not for the House. Clause 3(2) says:If the draft scheme is approved by a resolution of each House".There is only one Resolution by each House. There is no opportunity, as there is not with Orders, to amend it. If the Minister brings in a ridiculous scheme, the House will not be able to amend it.
§ Miss Margaret Jackson
My hon. Friend knows that the House will have every opportunity to put forward detailed considerations of the kind he has in mind when the Bill reaches Committee stage. It was suggested by the technical advisory 1120 group that the scheme was likely to be so complex and would require so many arrangements with the people on the ground that it might take two years to set up. My noble Friend Lord Donaldson said in the other place that he would seek to publish a Green Paper, or a White Paper or another kind of consultation document, on this matter as soon as possible after the Bill received its Second Reading, or after it had become law. There is the Committee stage to come, there is the consultation document and there is the scheme itself. As my hon. Friend knows, it is not unknown for people to allow schemes to go through which they approve in principle although they dislike minor points about them.
§ Mr. English
My hon. Friend is putting up the best defence she can, but many assurances have been given by Ministers of all parties to the effect "If you allow me to have the Bill, it is not my intention to use a clause in a particular way", and subsequently that has been ignored. Long experience leads one to the view that it is better to write something into the Bill and not wait for a subsequent scheme to be drawn up in accordance with the desires of every Member of the House.
There are some other strange features of the Bill. I am glad to see the Secretary of State here. Why is it that throughout the Bill all powers are reserved to the Government and the Registrar? If the Government believe in the scheme, if the Registrar refuses a claim, why are the courts precluded from considering whether that claim is just? It seems a strange practice if it is solely for the Registrar to decide whether a claim is just. Nobody who thinks that he is badly treated can go to the courts and get the money that he considers is due to him is the Registrar says "No". I should be grateful if the supporters of the Bill would tell me why that should be so.
Why is it said at one point that the costs of local library authorities should be reimbursed? Incidentally, that is another cost which has not been spelt out in the Financial Memorandum, although it is mentioned. A local authority cannot go to arbitration if it disagrees, about the cost or anything like that. On the contrary, the decision of the Registrar or, 1121 in some cases, the Secretary of State is final. The Bill is deliberately drafted to make absolutely certain that nobody can change anything, including all the details that the Government have promised us. The House will eventually have to say "Yea" or "Nay" to whatever scheme is put before it. Presumably hon. Members who are now likely to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill will vote for the scheme even if it differs in some respects from what is said in this and subsequent debates.
Let us consider this principle, but let us consider it at a time when we can spend public money and when there are no other priorities. Let us consider it in detail and not merely leave it to some vague future scheme to be drafted solely by the Executive of the day, whatever they might be.
§ 11.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Arnold (Hazel Grove)
To the extent that any moneys which become payable to authors under the Bill will be only in accordance with a scheme to be prepared and subsequently brought into force, of course, as my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) said, we are principally concerned with the establishment of a right and of a principle. It is worth bearing in mind that authors and their representatives, and others who have campaigned long and hard for this legislation, are maintaining that the system of free public lending works to their unfair disadvantage and that, therefore, Parliament must decide whether the public interest requires conferring a right to mitigate what authors believe is an inherent unfairness and injustice under the conditions of present-day usage.
Where public lending is concerned, authors are protected by copyright only when somebody seeks deliberately to reproduce their work. The same position, of course, applies to composers and lyricists when, as my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham said, their work is available in a public library.
Copyright, involving at is does reproduction, does not attach itself to the act of lending. However, in terms of practical usage, whereas authors have outlets for their work in the form of individual customers who may or may not include public libraries, lyricists and composers have far more powerful outlets, as I shall seek to show.
1122 I certainly take the point of the analogy mentioned in connection with the Performing Right Society. Here I should mention an interest as I am a member of that society. I think it relevant in terms of the present debate in that it was Parliament which conferred performing right in 1911, and it is Parliament which is being asked to confer public lending right tonight.
The situation now, for illustrative purposes, as my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham pointed out, is that the PRS is in the happy position of having negotiated with the BBC for the coming year an increase of a little over £1 million over that which it received last year, so much so that its royalty for 1975ߝ76 has been fixed at £4.35 million, which contrasts remarkably with the £1 million proposed under the Bill under the scheme to be brought into force. Where the PRS is concerned, it is, under the terms of the arrangement made with the BBC, entitled to some 2 per cent. of the BBC's overall licence revenue, which must inevitably bring the PRS a considerable sum of money.
References to the performing right, and, indeed, to copyright lead me to the general reflection that it is important to emphasise that the essence of copyright is that the owner is free to fix the price at which the works are used. Certainly, where members of the PRS are concerned this is something which takes place all the time. There is no obligation to belong to the PRS, but it is convenient to do so because it can negotiate on behalf of its members the manner in which their collective copyrights may subsequently be used.
I employ the word "used" advisedly because it is precisely the notion that authors should receive some recompense for the use of their books in libraries, thereby establishing that use as a right, that is at the very heart of the Bill. In essence, authors are effectively negotiating with Government and Parliament in an attempt to ensure that what they see as their difficulties are met.
It is not an argument against the Bill to say that the sums which will flow from it are chickenfeed and that because they are very small they should be dismissed. A large number of authors will welcome whatever they receive under the Bill. Various figures have been mentioned, and 1123 some are indeed very small. But even if the figures are only £5 or £10 per annum, does that matter? For example, a large number of song writers who published songs in the late 'twenties and early 'thirties may now be unknown but are very grateful, particularly in the light of the taxation aspects, to receive such sums as they are able to do.
Some people may say that authors receive a royalty when a book is sold to a public library in the same way as a composer or lyricist does when a gramophone record is sold in a shop. But although records may subsequently remain in the home indefinitely and a book which is borrowed from the library has to be returned, nevertheless, in the world of practical usage, the outlets for people engaged in music where performing right is concerned are far more numerous than those of authors.
The problem as authors see it is that, Parliament having conferred a right in the case of performing right, they are unfavourably placed when it comes to the use of a work which they would regard as being equally in the public domain, irrespective of any choice in the first instance on the part of the individual citizen to partake of a particular work. The PRS has negotiated agreements with airlines, bingo halls, hotels, pubs and a whole host of organisations and interest groups, which bring in a substantial overall sum to the lyricists and composers concerned.
It is important to say, therefore, that with performing right the resulting emphasis on the concept of use irrespective of choice has, not surprisingly, led authors themselves to the view that they too should be recompensed, even though individual choice is exercised in taking a book from a library. They believe that use should be enshrined as a right. It is for the House tonight to decide whether that right should be granted. Fortunately, both Front Benches are committed to its implemenation. I say "fortunately" because in this case both sides have a duty to honour a past engagement.
Given that the money for public lending right will come from the taxpayer, there are those who say that the reader should pay, since we do not get free concerts or football matches and, there- 1124 fore, why should books be the only type of entertainment that is free? However, public lending right is not an act of charity to impoverished authors but an acknowledgment that authors have a right to be paid for the widespread use of their work, like anyone else. I believe that here the customary usage and habits of our people accords ill with the notion that they should have to pay for borrowing from public libraries. This is a fact to which I attach considerable importance when it comes to the issue of public opinion.
I recognise that the public will nevertheless pay in the long run through taxation, but we have to take a view about remedying what has been presented to us as a grievance. I believe it is a real grievance, certainly in terms of usage in the modern world. It is a troublesome grievance and a justified one. I hope personally, therefore, that the principle of public lending right will be accepted and that the Bill will become law. I also hope that economic circumstances will improve to allow an increase on the £1 million referred to in Clause 2.
§ 11.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
I speak for a number of my hon. Friends and for the Opposition in deploring the suggestion from the Government Front Bench that the debate should be adjourned, for a second time. We are quite prepared to carry on the debate. A number of hon. Members are opposed to the Bill, either on principle or on detail, but I am sure it is right that we should carry on and endeavour to get the Bill into Committee. That is what a majority of my party would wish to do. Even though I know that some hon. Members have reservations, these issues of principle can be thrashed out in Committee.
The Government know that their legislative programme has got itself into such a state that if they chicken out it may be very difficult to bring the Bill back to the House this Session. That would be a great misfortune. Therefore, I cannot support the suggestion that the hon. Lady has made.
§ 11.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
I must confess to being extremely disappointed with the motion. It was well within the Government's knowledge that a number of hon. Members were opposed to the Bill and that a number were in favour of it. It reflects very badly on the Government for having chosen to put it down this evening and, knowing perfectly well the circumstances of the business of the House today, that they should now change their mind. It leads me to believe that they feel that they ought to abandon the Bill altogether.
If the debate is abandoned tonight, the Bill will not reappear on the Order Paper at a suitable time in order to make progress. If it is the view of the House that insufficient Members are concerned enough to attend, either for or against the Bill, the matter is one that will have to be decided. If it is the will of the House that the Bill should not proceed, let us end the Bill honourably—not dis-honourably by abandoning it without saying where we are going.
§ 11.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Sproat
I agree, but from a different point of view to that of the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Mr. Hughes). Many of us have sat throughout the debate on two occasions hoping to make speeches, which may or may not agree with the views of our respective Front Benches. It is intolerable that the Government are so out of command of the House that we who have sat here specifically for the purpose should be prevented from fulfilling it.
Although I happen to be opposed to the Bill, I suspect that the House wants to see it go to Committee. If the House does not want that to happen, let the normal channels of the House of Commons operate to decide whether the Bill should be accepted or thrown out. A moment or two ago my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) made this very point. He said that if it was not the Government's intention to carry on with the Bill, they should say so now so that we do not sit around wasting our time. Let the House come to a decision one way or the other.
§ 11.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)
I support my hon. Friend the Member for 1126 Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes) and the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat). I would strongly support both the opponents and the proponents of the Bill who feel that we have an obligation to the House and to the many interests outside which have discussed it. The parties included such a Bill in their manifestos. To have the Bill removed once again from the Order Paper after a debate of about an hour and a half is pure chicanery. I urge hon. Members to vote against the motion.
§ 11.45 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hannam (Exeter)
As a Member who has sat through two sittings attempting to give the Bill a Second Reading, I wish to express my deep concern at the action of the Government in seeking to adjourn the debate after such a short time tonight.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to see this measure enacted and to end the campaign which has been carried on outside the House by representative organisations of authors and others. It is a disgrace that hon. Members having come here on the understanding that the Government would allow the debate to continue to a conclusion, the Government are now seeking to adjourn the debate. I hope that hon. Members will vigorously oppose this attempt to curtail the debate tonight.
§ 11.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)
I have long been committed to the principle of the introduction of a public lending right. I thought that my Government were similarly committed, since they made a clear statement in our manifesto that they would introduce such a measure. I am deeply disturbed by the apparent tinkering about with the Bill. The Government are playing monkey with the House.
I have only to look back over the last two or three weeks, during which time we have had a rash of three-line Whips on every sort of measure, but when we come to this Bill, to which the Government are committed, all that their business managers can do is to issue a small, thin one-line Whip. There is something wrong with the Government's appraisal of the importance of business if this sort of measure can be so easily dismissed. It is time that the Government's business managers began to decide what they are 1127 about. Some of us on the back bench are getting a bit sick of the way in which we are being played about with.
§ 11.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)
I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) on the strength of whipping. I think that the House depends more on the interests of Members. It is clear from the short debate we have had this evening that hon. Members are interested in the subject. I speak as one who did not intend to take part in the debate, but I intended to make up my mind on how I should vote after listening to the arguments. It is difficult to hold the various views in mind if a debate takes place on three separate days.
I should like to draw the attention of the Leader of the House—who, I understand, is again not here—to the fact that we had rail-roaded through the House a very inconsequential Bill, or draft legislation, on the numbers and sizes of vessels in which wine could be sold if the cork was taken out, yet there were plenty of Members here who could get that measure through.
Looking at the higher level of matters on which we have had to use our time and money concerning the E1 million which might go to authors, there are the questions of pay beds, the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, the Education Bill and many other topics which have a conflicting claim on public resources and on the time of the House. We ought to have the Lord President here to explain the Government's priorities.
§ Mr. English
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. To save the time of the House, would you accept a motion that the Question "That the debate be now adjourned" should now be put?
§ 11.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
I, too, join in the protest at the way in which the Government have handled this issue. On 26th May they brought forward this measure with no warning to the House, and then proceeded to adjourn the debate after an hour and a half. They are now proposing to adjourn the debate again after a further one and a half hours. Has any other important Bill ever been twice removed from the Floor of the House after a mere three hours of debate? How much time did the Government intend to give the measure? Surely they intended to give it more than three hours. The Government's action is incomprehensible.
§ 11.51 p.m.
§ Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
I wonder whether the Minister is being misunderstood. Earlier, in reply to one of my hon. Friends, the hon. Lady said "that we should not worry about the Bill because there would be a Green Paper or a White Paper. That is a topsy-turvy way of doing things. I have always been used to having a consultation document before—
§ Mrs. Knight
I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was wondering whether we were being asked to adjourn the debate because the Government want to get matters in the right order once more.
§ Question put, That the debate be now adjourned:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 30, Noes 20.1129
|Division No. 219.]||AYES||[11.55 p.m.|
|Bates, Alf||George, Bruce||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Carimchael, Neil||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Cartwright, John||Hooson, Emlyn||Snape, Peter|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Cohen, Stanley||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Tinn, James|
|Coleman, Donald||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lee, John||Woof, Robert|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|English, Michael||Penhaligon, David||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Richardson, Miss Jo||Mr. Thomas Cox.|
|Arnold, Tom||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Sproat, Iain|
|Bottomley, Peter||Hurd, Douglas||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Cooks, Robert (Bristol W)||James, David||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Cope, John||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Faulds, Andrew||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Goodhart, Philip||Moate, Roger||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Goodhew, Victor||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Hannam, John||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Mr. John Stradling Thomas.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed this day.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether the Government will let us know their intentions about the Bill. The Lord President is present, and perhaps he will find time to deal with the matter.
§ Mr. Whitehead
Order. This is a serious point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As the Bill has now been adjourned for the second time, and as my right hon. Friend the Lord President is here, I ask through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether my right hon. Friend will give us an undertaking that the Bill will come back for its Second Reading Session and that it will be not merely resumed but completed.
§ Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have never before witnessed an occasion when Mr. Deputy Speaker was on his feet, a Member got up and called "Order" and Mr. Deputy Speaker sat down so that the Member might continue. I have never before witnessed such a phenomenon. I hope that this will not be a precedent.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I understood the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) to say "On a point of order". I did not hear him say "Order". Neither the hon. Gentleman nor any other hon. Member would frighten me by commanding me to resume my seat.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am not sure whether it is in order for me to reply in this way, but I seek to reply to the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke) and my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead).
1130 It is the Government's intention to try to secure the passage of the Bill, as I have made plain on a number of occasions. The Bill has the full support of the Government. If we had not adjourned the debate tonight, I think it is likely, because of a variety of circumstances, that we would not have proceeded very far with the Bill. We shall look to a future occasion when the Bill comes before the House again.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I make it clear that there is no wish on this side of the House to impede the passage of this measure on to the statute book?
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that when the Government next bring the Bill before the House it will be at such time and in such circumstances to enable its passage to be secured.