§ The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Miss Margaret Jackson)
I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 6, leave out 'work' and insert 'book'.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this it will be convenient to take Government Amendments Nos. 3, 9, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 45, 49, 53, 54, 55, 59, 61, 62, 64, 66, and 67; and Amendment No. 76, in Clause 5, page 5, line 37, at end insert'"author" means the person or persons credited in a publication for responsibility for the authorship of that publication '.
§ Miss Jackson
All these are essentially the same amendment, seeking throughout the Bill to remove references to "works" wherever they occur and to restore to the Bill the word "books" They are intended to restrict the scope of the Bill to the form in which it was introduced. The scope of the Bill was extended by an amendment in another place and our attempt in Committee to restore the original wording was not successful. However, I said then that we would seek to do so again on Report.
Before setting out our reasons for pressing this matter again now, I must make the Government's position perfectly clear. The widening of the scope of the Bill in the form in which it now stands is unacceptable to the Government. It is essential, if we are to retain any hope of early implementation of the Bill, to keep to proposals which we know to be practicable, at reasonable cost. However, I hope that the House will bear with me 1143 if I go briefly over the reasons for our position.
Historically, public lending right has been pressed—
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
Does that mean that if we succeed in defeating the Government over these amendments, they will drop the Bill?
§ Miss Jackson
Of course the hon. Gentleman is aware that the stage at which we are now discussing the Bill is not its final stage, that there is scope for considering how the Bill emerges later from this House. In moving this amendment the Government are seeking to save the Bill. I hope that that answers the hon. Gentleman's question.
As I was saying, public lending right has historically been pressed for the most part as a limited measure for authors of books. The authors' long campaign was fought, and has gained sympathy in many quarters, on the use of books in public libraries. It was in the specific context of books—
§ Mr. Nigel Lawson (Blaby) rose—
§ Miss Jackson
I will go on a little further, if I may.
It was in the specific context of books that the Government promised when they took office in 1974 to seek to legislate, and the technical study which with much difficulty settled the practical framework for the Bill covered only books. There has been little demand, until the Bill actually appeared, for a more wide-ranging public lending right. This is a concept on which the Government, while recognising some substance in the argument, must reserve their position.
§ Mr. Lawson
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way, particularly as I did not have the privilege of serving on the Committee, although I have read the Committee Hansards from cover to cover—and a very good Committee it was, marred only by the paucity of words from my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). I want to ask a question which is crucial to what the hon. Lady is saying. What is the definition of "books" within the meaning of the Bill?
§ Miss Jackson
I shall come to that in a moment. If the hon. Gentleman will have a little patience until we get further into the debate, he will find that his questions are answered. If he was anxious to be a member of the Committee, I am not sure why he did not volunteer. Certainly it was not the most entertaining Committee on which I have served.
§ Mr. English
I am grateful to my hon Friend for giving way and I realise that she is suffering from, rather than responsible for, the Bill. Could she explain a very simple point? Libraries currently issue books, records, pictures, sculptures and toys. Would she tell me why only the literate taxpayer should have to pay for this? Why should only those who read books borrowed from public libraries have to pay? Why should all those who borrow records be exempt?
§ Miss Jackson
My hon. Friend is aware, as will be the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) if he has read the reports of our Committee debates, that I have explained all these things a number of times. If I may be allowed to proceed a little further, I have every intention of explaining them again. Then I hope we shall be able to make clear once and for all why we feel this way.
As my hon. Friend has said, the use of materials other than books—he named a variety of materials, but records, cassettes and slides are generally recognised as the most commonly used—is on the increase, but, as I said in Committee, it is still the case that the issue of various items of this kind is still a very small fraction of total issues. For example, in 1974, it represented only 1½ per cent. of the total of issues from public libraries in England and Wales and we see little likelihood of that pattern changing significantly in the foreseeable future.
My hon. Friend will also know that we have argued that there are other sources for people who produce works such as records to gain revenue from the use of their works. The efforts of bodies such as the Performing Right Society give composers, lyricists and others a return from public performance of sound recordings, the like of which is not available to most authors of books.
1145 There is room for doubt whether the term "works" could in this Bill embrace gramophone records and cassettes, which are generally acknowledged as the most common other items available in libraries. It is clear that the supporters of the change by the other place and those hon. Members who agree with it intend that it should cover records and cassettes, but I am advised that "work" is a term of the Copyright Act 1956 which does not extend to items covered by Part II of that Act—namely, sound recordings, films and the like. It would be necessary to redefine "works" in the context of this Bill if we were to try to cover them for the purposes of PLR.
The most compelling argument for not providing for "works" in the Government's view is that an effective scheme for "works" is not practicable at present. While the technical investigation group did not examine "works", its findings in respect of books are highly pertinent. Its conclusion was that for the accuracy and efficiency we should all wish to see in a scheme to distribute public funds it was essential to have a referencing system that provided unique identification of individual books, was comphensive and standardised, and could readily be automated. It concluded that without such a system the processes of registration labelling and data gathering in libraries would be so difficult, disruptive and costly as to render the operation virtually impossible. Books have the international standard book numbering system of which we propose to make use, but if that were not the case it is open to doubt whether we should have even this Bill before us today.
As we also made clear in Committee over and over again, there is nothing comparable in the way of an individual labelling system for records and cassettes. They rely at present on manufacturers' individual systems and, contrary to what was suggested in Committee, nothing of the sort is in prospect. It is not just a matter of developing a new piece of equipment, however costly it may be; a complete system having the support of all the many companies in this field would have to be developed and fully tested in operation for some time for effectiveness. I repeat that there is no sign of such a major prac- 1146 ticable, efficient and workable development in the foreseeable future.
The second main conclusion arising from the study of the technical group, to which again we drew attention in Committee, is that this system would be economic only if it could be based on returns from a sample of public libraries. We know that holdings and use of records, cassettes and other items are very different from one library to another, let alone from one authority to another. By no means all library points provide these items and where they do the size of the service can vary considerably. Also, practice varies in charging for use, which again could affect use. It has not been established, and it could not be established without much difficulty, trouble and extra cost, whether a statistically satisfactory sample could be established in the foreseeable future.
Finally, I would remind hon. Members that in copyright the position for sound recordings is rather different from that for books. There can be several different contributors to many sound recordings—the composer, the lyricist and the arranger—and all may have a copyright interest. Also, for example, each piece of music on an LP could involve different people and different interests. All these problems would apply equally to PLR if the Bill were to be extended. All these problems would have to be solved before the conferment of benefit in the way of public money could be enshrined in legislation.
At a time when we cannot say how soon money will be available to implement even the limited scheme proposed by the Government in the Bill, at a time when all hon. Members are continually pointing out the cost of administration and the need to keep it down to reasonable proportions, and at a time when we do not have practical means of extending the Bill beyond what has already been established, to extend the Bill in a way that would have practical and major expenditure implications does not make sense.
§ Mr. Lawson
The hon. Lady undertook in the course of her remarks to tell me the definition of a "book" within the meaning of the Bill. She has forgotten to do so and I should be grateful if she would do so now.
§ Miss Jackson
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. As I think he is aware, there is no definition off "book" in the Bill. We have no wish to write in such a definition. Our contention is that what in general constitutes a book is well understood. It is also our intention to avoid complicating matters too much by carefully restricting the scheme to books with single authors, and not including multi-author works and multi-reference books. We feel that to extend the scheme in that way would be impractical and cause too much complication. We are leaving the definition to the common understanding of what is constituted by a book.
§ Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)
When the hon. Lady referred to "multi-author works", did she mean multi-author works or multi-author books?
§ Mr. English
There are good precedents in law for a manuscript being described as a book, for the simple reason that the law of England is older than printing. I take it, therefore, that my hon. Friend accepts that written works such as would normally in common language would be described as works but which are manuscript books would be included, because they are in law books, although other works would be excluded?
§ Miss Jackson
If these pieces of paper to which my hon. Friend refers are published and available for lending in a public library and if the authors are registered for public lending right, my understanding is that public lending right would be available on them.
It is intended to set out many of these details in the scheme. It is one thing to establish the principle of public lending right now, in the knowledge that the scheme will have to wait and when the time comes we shall be able to work out those details because there is a practical, available and reasonable basis for the scheme; it is quite another to legislate, as would be the case with the Bill as it stands, for a provision which we can see no way of implementing.
I ask hon. Members to share with the Government the desire to see progress made where it is possible to do so satisfactorily and with regard to economy, 1148 to weigh carefully where the real advantage lies when we are considering the amendment and to support the amendment.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelms-ford)
I am sure that we are all delighted that at long last the Public Lending Right Bill has reached Report stage. The Opposition pioneered this remedying of injustice to authors. The principle that lies at the basis of the Bill—in particular the £1 million of public funds to be made available to finance the right and the fact that that is to be drawn from Government and not from local authority sources—was agreed by the Conservative Cabinet on 7th February 1974. Had it not been for the unfortunate accident of the dissolution of Parliament on 8th February 1974, this reform would long ago have been on the statute book.
There has been a very chequered history. After the dissolution of Parliament, I was, naturally, anxious that this pledge should be in the Conservative election manifesto. Unfortunately, owing to the speed at which that manifesto was produced, the typist left that pledge off the end of the page. My hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson), who at that time was a strong supporter of the measure, was engaged in a minor but important capacity m drafting the manifesto—the responsibility for drafting the manifesto is with the leader of the party, who naturally gets the best brains available—will be able to confirm my recollection of this.
Fortunately, the matter was put right, because on seeing what happened I was able to go round to 10 Downing Street, then occupied by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and he at his first Press conference on the election, repeated the pledge on public lending right. At that time there was no mention of it in the Government's manifesto.
§ Mr. Lawson
I confirm entirely what my hon. Friend said. It was because of the hasty compilation of the manifesto that the pledge was left off, and I take full responsibility for that. I remind my hon. Friend that I do not sink to blaming typists or functionaries of that kind. Although I am a supporter of public lending right, I am not a supporter 1149 of this Bill, which has nothing to do with a public lending right.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I am grateful for that expression of confirmation and support from my hon. Friend. I am interested to know that apparently all he did was to type the manifesto and that he was not responsible for anything else in it. I hope that his typing has improved, or that he has a good secretary who will enable him to communicate rapidly, coherently and fully with his constituents.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) to say "Of course". I wonder when he is coming to the amendment that we are discussing. So far I have heard no reference to it.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I thought that the hon. Member for Chelmsford might take the opportunity to give a definition of "book" as opposed to "work", but he has not done even that.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
You may have been wondering, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when I was coming to the amendment. I was wondering when you would draw my attention to that fact.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving me that hint. I shall certainly do so at the earliest opportunity if he again gets away from the amendment.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
Not even I, with my well-known rashness and temerity, would dare to transgress further. I am afraid that the rest of what I was going to say will have to await the publication of my memoirs. At the present rate it will probably be in the second volume. My memoirs will be a whole set of books which might be described as the "complete works".
I fully appreciate the reasoning behind the Government's stand on the question of deleting "works". By that I mean that I fully understand why they want 1150 to take out "works", although I do not appreciate the Under-Secretary of State's logic. The hon. Lady has made the best case she can, but it does not logically stand up.
The "works" amendment was inserted in another place and the Government attempt to remove it in Committee in this place. They failed because they could muster only four votes in favour of that course. One vote was from the Under-Secretary of State herself and another was from her supporter, the Whip on the Committee. Those two votes can hardly be counted as "free". Therefore, there were only two votes in Committee in favour of taking out "works" and substituting "books".
A most formidable alliance was ranged in opposition. No fewer than 12 Members of the Committee voted freely and supported the retention of "works". The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins), as always taking a heroic course, abstained. There is no doubt that the amendment has widespread support. Were things normal regarding the Bill, I should have no hesitation in saying that we would insist in taking the matter to a Division. The only case that has been made by the hon. Lady is that the amendment would involve an unacceptable widening of the scope of the Bill. It is only the scope of the Bill that has widened, nothing else.
By accepting the amendment a principle is established, but the principle is brought into practice only when the scheme is put forward under other clauses. This is purely a widening of the principle. It in no way commits the Government to implementing an extension of the scope of the Bill at any time. In other words, it is purely enabling. That is the fact that was glossed over by the hon. Lady.
On grounds both of justice and logic there is every case against the amendment and for retaining "works", as was insisted upon in Committee and in another place. It was my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley)—alas, he does not seem to be here to listen to the tribute I am about to pay to him—who put his finger on the real point when he challenged the hon. Lady. He asked whether her attitude meant that if "works" were left in the 1151 Bill, the Government would abandon the Bill. The hon. Lady is too adept a parliamentarian to fall into the trap that was laid so seductively before her, and she sidestepped the question. However, she made her own position quite plain when she let fall a phrase about saving the Bill. She suggested that the Government were moving the amendments to save the Bill.
What did that mean? It meant that she was saying as directly as she dared that if "works" remained the Government were likely to abandon the Bill. That is an extraordinary attitude. It shows how lukewarm is the Government's support for this measure. They would welcome an excuse not to go forward with it.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy, which I trust will never fail him. I take it that the Bill has his support, and not merely his support for the principle. His party's support seems to be marked by its failure to command the presence of its Members and the support of its Members. If the hon. Gentleman looks behind him—
§ Mr. Ian Sproat (Aberdeen, South)
There are more Opposition Members present than Government Members.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
Perhaps the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) will look behind him. How many of his hon. Friends may be counted as supporters of the Bill?
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
There are only two Back Bench Labour Members in the Chamber. I discount entirely the presence of the Minister and the Whip, her hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard), on the Government Front Bench. They are not there for this statistical purpose.
As I look at the Opposition Back Benches I can see three Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for West-bury (Mr. Walters), who have been in the forefront of fighting for the Bill. I see two of my hon. Friends who are 1152 opposed to the Bill. I see the Opposition Front Bench groaning, if I may so put it, with talent. Indeed, the Shadow Leader of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), is here to see that nothing goes wrong. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke), the Chairman of the Arts Committee, is taking advantage of this opportunity to sit upon the Front Bench and give his support to the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont), who has so distinguished himself in his heroic fight to maintain parental choice in Kingston, has taken a few moments off from that battle to give his support.
It was rather unwise of the hon. Member for Putney to draw the attention of the House and of a wider audience outside to the fact that, although the Opposition Benches are crammed with supporters of the Bill, there is a paucity of support from Labour Members. Let us hope that they will be ready to troop into the Lobby at the appropriate moment.
I have long ago given up attempting to impose a party line upon voting on the Bill.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
My hon. Friend is not one who is liable to change his mind at the behest of Whips. Anyway, his considerable talents are being diverted into other directions at present. I hope that means that he has lost energy for opposing the Bill. We have always accepted that on this matter Members must vote according to their conscience. That does not apply to the Front Bench of the Conservative Party, who are bound by the collective responsibility of the Shadow Cabinet.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
It is true that there is a free vote for Back Benchers. I must make it equally plain that it is the decision of the Shadow Cabinet that the Bill be given every support. Just as the hon. Lady and her colleagues have been supporting the Bill from the Government Front Bench, so we support it from the Opposition Front Bench.
§ Mr. St John-Stevas
It is not a matter of a whipped vote for the Opposition Front Bench. The Opposition Front Bench takes responsibility for the policy decisions of the Shadow Cabinet.
§ Mr. Hngh Jenkins
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order, when we are dealing with this amendment, for the hon. Member to reveal the grisly goings-on of himself and his Front Bench?
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
We must not turn this into the Book of Revelations, nor into the works of revelation. I merely point out that in this respect the Bill has the full support of the Opposition Front Bench.
Quite naturally, there is a division of opinion on the Back Benches. Although the majority of my hon. Friends support the Bill, those of my hon. Friends who are opposed to it have a perfect right to make their views known, just as Government supporters who are opposed to it have availed themselves of that privilege. However, I hope that all those who oppose the Bill will put forward their arguments reasonably and rationally and will make no attempt to filibuster or to block the Bill. That would be highly undesirable.
I have been diverted by these relevations from what I was saying about the Minister, and I want now to turn to one of her revelations when she said that the Government wanted to "save" the Bill. I suggest that that is a clear indication that, if the word "works" is not expunged from the Bill, the Government support which the Bill enjoys at present cannot be relied upon in future.
Therefore, although the case in justice and in logic for the inclusion of "works" has been made out and although the argument which has been put into the hon. Lady's hands by her Department does not stand up to examination, we on the Opposition Front Bench will not press this matter to a Division. How- 1154 ever, we hope that at a later stage it will be possible for the hon. Lady to have second and wiser thoughts.
Alternatively, we hope that a subsequent Administration will be able to widen the scope of the Bill so that the word "works" may be included. That may be implemented at a time when the economic climate of the country has improved, probably under another Administration.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I must draw the attention of the House to the fact that, as it stands on the Notice Paper, Amendment No. 1 is defective, since it purports to leave out a word which is not present in the text of the Bill. I cannot put the Question on it, therefore. However, I call the Minister formally to move Amendment No. 3, which is substantially the first of this group of amendments.
§ Amendment proposed: No. 3, in page 1, line 9, leave out 'works' and insert 'books'.—[Miss Margaret Jackson.]
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
We are grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for putting this matter to rights so succinctly. We wish only that the same talent were apparent among Government supporters.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
I rise to support Amendment No. 3.
The difference between the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and me is that I decided in Committee that it was not desirable to press my opposition in this respect whereas he has only just reached that conclusion. However, all those who repent are welcome. The hon. Gentleman's belated acceptance of the reality of the situation is equally welcome.
I am glad to hear that the Opposition do not intend to oppose this proposal. When I occupied a ministerial post, I received a deputation from the record manufacturers led by Sir Joseph Lock-wood, a man whose personal charm overcomes his political opinions. The entire delegation was opposed to the inclusion of the word "works". I was able to make it clear to the members of the delegation that I doubted whether that would be possible, in any event. Later on, the word "works" was inserted by the Lords. However, the Government 1155 came back on it and tried again to change it to "books".
The answer is fairly simple. The Bill is a pioneer Bill. It seeks to blaze the trail. Therefore, much as I wished to press the issue and to widen the concept and range of the Bill, I think that it is reasonable at this stage to accept that a pioneer Bill of this kind must be limited if it is to get on the statute book.
I hope, therefore, that after due consideration the House will give the Government its full support. These Government amendments should be accepted. I hope that there will be no opposition to them.
§ Mr. David Walder (Clitheroe)
I wish to support the Minister, even though she is aware that my support for the Bill sits on a knife edge in that I support the principle even though a number of the details worry me.
The House knows that I have already-declared my own special financial interest in this matter, and I do not think that I need repeat it. However, it is only fair to say that my interest in the welfare of authors is simply on the basis of books borrowed from libraries. If the hon. Lady wants a definition of a "book", I have no doubt that Gertrude Stein can supply one—a book is a book is a book. I suspect that hon. Members who waste our time asking for definitions are concerned only to waste time.
But I am concerned about books borrowed from libraries. If the author suffers, that is where he suffers. It we are to introduce "works" to cover possibly records and possibly cassettes, I ask the House how much further we are to go. We hear talk of sculptures. However, I have not heard of sculptures being borrowed from institutions and libraries.
Like the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins), I prefer to think of this Bill as a pioneer. It is obvious that it will be difficult in its implementation and working. For that reason, I am content to stay with "books" rather than to widen and to complicate the issue by seeking to turn "books" into "works".
§ Mr. Sproat
I am sorry to begin this brief Report stage by disagreeing with my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Walder). I did so once 1156 or twice in Committee. However, I had hoped that a new spirit of amity would prevail on the Floor of the House during the Report stage. I disagree, and I hope that many others of my hon. Friends do, even if my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) does not intend to lead his troops into the Division Lobby.
The fact that you pointed out, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the amendment was defective had a symbolism and importance which went far beyond the brief intervention which it produced—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am sure that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) has misinterpreted my intimation to the House. It was simply that the amendment should have been numbered "1", and not "3". It was not defective. Amendment No. 1 would have been in order if the word "works" had occurred in the line mentioned in it.
§ Mr. Sproat
If it had been a more serious defect, it would have been typical of the Bill. It is an extremely ill-drafted Bill, as the opposition to it proved time and again in Committee.
That brings me to one of the more extraordinary features of this debate. In Committee, we heard a great many extraordinary arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins) when he was the Minister responsible for the Arts. But today he had the temerity to say that the Opposition were at fault in not having a sufficient number of their supporters here. There are only two Back Benchers on the Government side now, and on one occasion in Committee they could not even find a quorum. After 20 minutes of being quorumless, the Committee had to be abandoned. At least my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke) was present, and I and my hon. Friends were there.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
For the sake of accuracy I would point out that on the occasion to which the hon. Member refers there were no Members of the Opposition present to make up the quorum.
§ Mr. Sproat
The hon. Member for Putney is in danger of splitting hairs. We were in the Committee Room but for tactical reasons we were not technically 1157 in the Committee because we wanted it to adjourn. Mr. hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford has rightly stressed his firm adherence to this Bill throughout. But the hon. Member for Putney did not support this amendment in Committee. To the best of my recollection he abstained. Therefore, he is in no position to criticise my hon. Friend for changing his mind. If he supports the Government tonight, he, too, will have changed his mind.
As someone who is not in favour of the Bill and who intends to vote against it, I would agree that there is some merit in rewarding authors, but whatever that merit might be it is not contained in this measure.
It is no good hon. Members opposite throwing up charges of Philistinism and giving us hard luck stories about authors. We are not debating the principle; we are debating the details. The details in this Bill are bad, and that is why some of us will oppose it throughout the Report stage.
It could be argued that I should favour this amendment which restricts the effects of the Bill by taking out the word "works" and putting in the word "books". Perhaps the proponents of the measure would expect me to welcome this diminution of the evil which it will spread. But I do not propose to follow that argument on this occasion. The Under-Secretary said that if this amendment were not carried, the Bill would be scrapped. That, on its own, would be a very good reason for opposing the amendment.
I take up the point of the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) who talked about literate taxpayers paying for the effects of this Bill and this amendment. This is one of the reasons why we are against the Bill—precisely because it is not just the literate taxpayer but every taxpayer who has to pay, whether he is literate or illiterate, whether he has ever borrowed a book, or has the intention of doing so. One of my fundamental objections is that the rewards to authors will be funded centrally, and not by those using the library.
The Under-Secretary made some play of the fact that the word "works" would not include gramophone records. She cited some Act the name of which I did not 1158 catch. But I am sure there is a word which would be acceptable which would include gramophone records—perhaps the words "gramophone records" could be written in. But taking out the word "works" means not including pictures, sculptures, cassettes, video-cassettes and even toys which I believe can be lent out by public libraries. One thinks particularly of blind people who are more dependent on cassettes so that they can hear stories told.
Why should not authors receive money for their stories which are lent out as cassettes just because the work is not in book form? The Under-Secretary's argument is that this concept of "works" which we discussed in Committee is not on because it does not embrace gramophone records. But we could change that quite simply.
The broad principle of justice upon which I and my hon. Friends based out case on Second Reading and in Committee was that if it was right for authors to get a reward when their books were borrowed from public libraries, it was right for authors of other works to get the reward as well. It is not good enough to sweep aside the justice of the case because of bureaucratic complexities. We had the Prime Minister speaking on the same subject this afternoon. It is a very dangerous principle to be concerned not with justice but merely with problems of administration.
If the House decides that it wants to pass this Bill, broadly it should apply to all those whose works are taken out of public libraries. That is the principle on which we take our stand. The Undersecretary dismissed this as administratively impossible and too costly. That may be so, but it is no use a Minister saying that something is too costly without making any attempt to evaluate it.
How costly would it be? How costly would it be to include pictures, sculptures, cassettes, video cassettes and toys? How costly would it be if we just extended it to gramophone records? If it were extended to gramophone records my hon. Friends and I might just be persuaded to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford into the Lobby, or at least to abstain. If we are to be so persuaded, we must know the exact cost.
1159 I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe about sculptures. He said that he did not know how often they were borrowed from libraries. I do not know either, as I have not borrowed a sculpture, and I do not imagine it is a common event. If it is not common, it cannot cost much. Therefore, the argument of cost falls.
Then there is the instance of pictures. Many of us have benefited from the idea of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West of adorning the walls of the Palace of Westminster with pictures. I imagine that he gets them from some central source, such as the Department of the Environment. This is just one example of how our lives are brightened by pictures. Other people may want to borrow pictures from public libraries, and why should they not do so?
The Under Secretary must know how many public libraries lend out pictures. I do not know. I cannot accept her argument that it is too costly unless she tells me how much it will cost. How many people borrow pictures from public libraries? The Minister must have some statistics or she would not have said that it was too costly, unless she is simply guessing. If she is, I cannot accept what she says.
I should be very happy to accept her argument about cost as one which vitiates vast areas and tracts of the Bill, but I cannot do so on this point, because we have no figures. In Committee we discussed a number of times the situation in the Federal Republic of Germany where, as I understand it, a Bill on a public lending right has been passed but is not in operation. I should like to know whether the German Bill covers "works". Does that Bill cover gramaphone records? That would be relevant in view of the degree of interest there is in music in Germany. If the Germans include gramophone records, why cannot we do the same?
I understand that at the moment there is a charge in the public libraries in Britain when someone borrows a record.
§ Mr. Sproat
I am grateful to the Minister for that correction. Is it the case that some libraries impose a charge while others do not?
§ Mr. Sproat
If a charge is made by some libraries, it is possible in principle for all libraries to do the same. If all could do so, it would be possible to know the number of records that were borrowed, and by knowing that number we would be able to determine the cost. Therefore, in the absence of further evidence about gramophone records, the argument of cost will not stand up to close scrutiny.
The Minister tried to chill our blood with descriptions of the bureaucratic complexity which would arise from the wider provisions of the amendment. I am not prepared to accept bureaucratic complexity as a blanket argument for denying justice to authors. The Minister said that it would be difficult to apportion the PLR on gramophone records because there were a number of tracks on each side of a record which involved different artists in different ways. For example, the soloist, the orchestra, the owner of the copyright and so on are all involved.
I accept that there are difficulties, but they are not insuperable. The money could easily be paid to the copyright holder, who could distribute it to the various artists involved as they might see fit under a separate contract. I accept that it would be more difficult to apportion the reward on gramophone records than on books. But although difficulties would arise with records, that is no argument for excluding the works which we would seek to include.
The Minister cannot say, for example, that paintings give rise to the same sort of problem. There is only one "author" of a painting, and that is the painter. There would be no difficulty in apportioning the public lending right. A sculpture is the work of only one man or woman. I believe that we can ignore toys. I would propose to amend the Bill to exclude toys if that became necessary. It is ludicrous to suggest that toys should be included. There is an aesthetic and instructional value in books, paintings and music, but the same cannot be said of toys. A toy cannot be on the same level as Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
We come then to the question of defining a book. It is all very well for the Minister to say that she will not include a 1161 definition but will rely instead on common understanding. If any of us went to court and said "It was my common understanding that such-and-such applied" we would not get very far. My hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe advised us to read Gertrude Stein. It is a bit much to expect those of us connected with the amendments to read Gertrude Stein, but if we did we would find a definition which, while it might be clever, would not be helpful. Does my hon. Friend think that the definition would be very clever or very helpful?
§ Mr. Sproat
It might be very clever, but it would not be very helpful. It would not help if the Bill said:a book is a book is a book.What would happen in the case of a magazine? What would the situation be if in certain households it was common understanding that a magazine was a book? Would the Minister's proposal be sufficient in such a case? My hon. Friends have asked whether the Conservative manifest would count as a book within the meaning of the scheme. If my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) wrote it, would he, as author, be entitled to get something for it? The Minister owes the House a definition of "book". It is too imprecise to rely upon "common understanding".
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford rightly said that the Conservatives pioneered the Bill. I would not want to take a great deal of the credit for that. I was shocked to hear my hon. Friend tell the House that he did not intend to vote on the amendment. He voted in favour of it in Committee. I do not think that any new arguments have been advanced by the Minister to make us change our minds. My hon. Friend make a good speech in Committee. He even persuaded the hon. Member for Putney to abstain, and that is no mean feat. But, having conquered these oratorical and persuasive heights, he is now prepared to abandon the case with a mere 15-minute speech which failed to convince us.
I must tell my hon. Friend that it would certainly be my intention, if I received support from my hon. Friends, to divide against this amendment. It 1162 has, after all, already been passed in Committee with a lot of support from now absent Labour Members. The idea of works, not books, was accepted in the other place. I cannot see why the Conservative Front Bench, having seen these; two splendid victories achieved for justice for authors of all works, should now lightly abandon them.
I hope that my hon. Friend will revise his intention, compel the Government to stick to the wording that we had in Committee, and ensure that, if there is to be are reward for authors out of this Bill—an average of about £5 is a pretty piffling reward—it is equitably shared amongst all purveyors of aesthetic value, whether books, pictures, gramophone records or sculptures.
§ Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)
The silent majority in Committee give tongue on Report only if they see majority verdicts overturned. The majority verdict may well be overturned. Indeed, it is almost certain to be overturned in view of the notice of intent already served by the Opposition Front Bench. I must state my own intention for my hon. Friends in view of the way in which the Bill has been held up at all stages.
I propose to support the Government on this amendment, although with a bad conscience in the sense that we are facing two difficulties here. One is the timetable problem of getting the Bill through. We all know how it has been prevaricated. We all know the hours of endless ennui we had to sit through in Standing Committee, many of us not saying a word in those proceedings, however much we were goaded. We all know that, unless the Bill proceeds to another place tonight, it will be lost for this Session and probably for good. None of us wishes to see that happen. I place priority on that in my argument.
I think that we are doing something which is, in essence, rather dangerous. By excluding "works" from the Bill, we are setting out an exclusion which, in years ahead when this legislation is enforced, will be seen to bear more hardly on some deserving authors. I shall give one or two examples.
It is right that those who have decided to vote for this group of amendments should set out clearly on record why it is necessary, in future, to include the 1163 principle of collective authorship and of works which extend far beyond the printed book if we are to do justice to the author and to the creative act. The difficulty with collective works—this arises on a later group of amendments and it is the essence of the argument whether reference work should be included—is that we must accept that there is some natural justice in rewarding people who have provided the impetus for certain creative works.
It is true that some works of art are wholly individual not merely in creation, but in execution—for example, pictures and sculptures. But it is not so true of anything which demands the preparation of a gramophone record, tape recording or video cassette. These things more and more in future will be the works of which the Bill speaks.
Many people whose entire income derives from the written word will get very small reward from the Bill as it stands, but their remuneration from it might be increased if the works in question were allowed to include the spoken rendering of their original written work. An example of this is poetry. The late Dylan Thomas as a struggling poet was rarely able to afford the bus fare to get to the BBC to work on his occasional masterpieces there, but he made a certain amount of money—although very little—from records of his poetry, poetry which when published had limited sales, as poetry tends to have.
Those records, which can now be borrowed from the libraries, are a moving experience and they deserve a wide circulation. Were such a poet alive today, he would be able to profit from the provisions of the Bill. That is an example of the kind of work which ought, in common justice, to be included in the Bill, despite the arguments about a time table and strategy which go the other way.
My second example concerns the increasing use, particularly in education, of tape recordings of talks, discussions and recorded sections from books. The Open University, which uses this method extensively, lends out these things, presumably having paid something to the authors concerned. I think that the Open University is setting the stage for much more extensive borrowing in future of tape 1164 recordings of recorded sections of what was originally written work.
My third example is in an area of which I have some professional knowledge—the increasing use of the video cassette which derives from what, in the first instance, was the single inspirational act of writing a play or some other work. We have a generation of playwrights, some or whom write exclusively for television, whose income depends on their creative flow being sustained by television.
There was a rather moving interview recently in one of the Sunday papers with the playwright Dennis Potter. He has written 17 plays for television. He is now crippled by a painful and debilitating illness. It is not clear how long he will be able to go on writing, although he is still a comparatively young man. If the illness forces him to stop work, he will not be able to get anything from the Bill because he has written no books and therefore would have no royalties forthcoming from library borrowing.
All his creative work through his creative lifetime has gone into the writing of television plays. In future, when we have cassette recording in the home for the individual viewer—that technological change is literally just round the corner—his plays may be borrowed from the library and produce some kind of income for him and such other authors.
We know that many such creative artifacts have been bought up already by the enormous multi-media cartels, which will use them when the cassette revolution breaks out. We are saying that all such works should be excluded from the Bill more or less for all time. We should put on record that creative work as it becomes an increasing part of the stipends of authorship, should be put back into this legislation at a later stage.
In future we shall be dealing with a number of authors who do not derive most of their benefit simply from writing books in the sense that we know it now and who will be working creatively for a public which borrows in part their works in the form of tape recordings and video cassettes. In the home of the future there will be shelves of video cassettes as we now have shelves of books.
1165 Looking to that future, which is not very far ahead, we can see why "works" should be in the Bill. I regret the exclusion of the word "works". We should therefore put on record that in future "works" ought to be encompassed within the intentions of those who have pioneered and fought for this measure.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Moate
I hoped that the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. White-head) would restore my faith in the consistency of hon. Members, but my hopes have been dashed. However, at least he had the good grace to concede that he would support the Government reluctantly.
He argued that the amendment in favour of "works" should stand but said that to vote for it would be wrong. While he satisfies himself that the practicalities of the situation demand that sacrifice, others outside the House will fail to understand why a matter that has been resolved in a different way on a number of occasions should be suddenly overturned without any opposition. It is a matter of sadness that it should happen like this regardless of the significance of the amendment.
The history of the proposition shows that it is not an issue of total insignificance. In the House of Lords and in Committee in this House it was regarded with considerable importance for the reasons enunicated by the hon. Member for Derby, North. In the Lords it was the subject of an important amendment and extensive debate. The amendment to insert "works" instead of "books" was carried against the Government's wishes by a substantial majority. When it came to Committee stage in this House, the Government were defeated not by just one or two votes but by 12 votes to four—a substantial majority.
For extraordinary and obstinate reasons, the Government have brought it back and have said that unless they get their way, the whole Bill will fall. The Minister did not use those exact words but I am sure that that is what she meant. If that is true it is an extraordinary and amazing proposition. If it is not true, how pathetic it is for Parliament to capitulate to such an extraordinary threat from the Minister.
1166 My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) voted for "works" in Committee, as did the hon. Member for Derby, North. Now they give in because the Minister says that it is unacceptable. What is the proposition? It is to change the word from "books" to "works". We are told that that would mean adding an extra 1½ per cent. to loans under the Bill. Are we to be told that because the Bill would cover the lending of future sculptures, cassettes or records, the whole Bill becomes unacceptable? I do not believe that and nor should my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford.
If that is true, what an extraordinary position it is for the Government to adopt. Are they so totally lukewarm or hostile to the Bill that they are prepared to abandon the whole of it because of the idea of "works" instead of "books"? Even more remarkable is the ease with which my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford is bowled over by the hon. Lady the Minister, who did not advance one argument additional to those used in Committee.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I was not bowled over by the hon. Lady or by her arguments. I merely noted that since we discussed the Bill in Committee further time has elapsed and we are now almost at the end of the Session. Whether the Minister meant that threat or whether she could put it into effect at this stage it is too great a risk to take. I have not changed my views on the merits of the amendment. My judgment is purely practical. We would rather have an imperfect Bill than no Bill at all.
§ Mr. Moate
I understand that the Bill is about principles, but the more we progress the more it seems to be about the lack of principles. We had our first vote in Committee at a late stage in the Session and it is not valid to say that time has elapsed to such a degree. Although the Minister did not say so publicly, it was clear in Committee that she had advised her hon. Friends that if the amendment was carried, the chances of the Bill's survival would be undermined.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)
Is my hon. Friend aware that as early as April the same threat was 1167 made by the use of the phrase "fundamental objection"?
§ Mr. Moate
That demonstrates that whilst the point is fairly narrow and the cost of administering the extension minor, the principle is fundamental. If we are to try to reward—which is the object of the Bill—those involved in the creation of material which is lent by a library, we must ensure that the principle is properly established. That is what the House of Lords was about and that is what my hon. Friend was about in Committee. But suddenly we have this capitulation.
If the opportunity arises, I shall certainly vote on this proposition. There are 17 amendments linked with it and, unless I am mistaken in my understanding of procedure, the House has to pass each of the Government amendments. If my hon. Friend thinks that he can save time simply by accepting the Government's tank tactics on this issue, he will find that he loses ground rather than gains it.
I turn to the practicalities of the proposition. The Minister has produced a poor case against it. Her prime argument seems to be that the whole scheme depends on the International Standard Book Numbers but she has never answered the fundamental question about the system. Not all the publishers use the system and there are therefore many books in libraries which do not have an ISBN number. How, therefore, can she say that the scheme will be administered on that basis? If what I say is true, the Minister cannot use the argument to exclude "works" because cassettes or tapes have no ISBN number. She has no case.
I do not understand why the Minister is making such a meal of the amendment and I fail to understand why my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford has accepted the argument with such alacrity. The hon. Member for Derby, North is right about the long-term effects. There will be greater use of video cassettes in the future and they will be on loan from libraries. It is surely right to establish now the principles that will apply in years to come.
My hon. Friend said that perhaps at a later stage we could introduce amending legislation. But we are now establishing the principles for a scheme which 1168 might not come into operation for several years and we have been told that there is hardly any chance at all of further legislation in this direction for many years. We are establishing principles and guidelines that will operate for decades. Therefore, my hon. Friend is being misled by his own arguments if he thinks that at some future date the principle can be widened to include works. It will be a gross and evident injustice if those who have created the video cassette, those who inspired it in the first place, do not have a lending right.
I am not sympathetic to the Bill. I think that technically it is very bad. It is financially irresponsible, riddled with nonsense and contradictions, and founded on a dubious principle. But if we are to have a Bill it should be as fair as possible, and to be fair it must include as many authors and creators of works lent out through the public lending system as possible. The hon. Lady told us that "works" represent only 1½ per cent. of the total loans made by the libraries. Therefore, it seems to me right to extend the scheme to include them. The House should stick to its guns. It is pathetic to see hon. Members so easily persuaded, not by the hon. Lady's arguments—because she advanced no new arguments—but by the Government's tactic of saying that the whole Bill will be lost if the amendment is not carried.
I turn to the definition of "books". It is an extraordinary failure of such a Bill not to include definitions of books and authors. On an earlier occasion my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Walder) said cleverly "A book is a book is a book" and thought that that was a helpful and clever description. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) then asked "What about a magazine?" Only this morning I was looking at a magazine with an ISBN figure. There may be many more magazines with an ISBN marking. Is a magazine with an ISBN marking eligible for registration under the scheme? If the term "book" covers magazines, where does the hon. Lady get that definition from? If there is a definition extending "book" to include magazines it should be in the Bill, or the hon. Lady should give us an explanation. So far, however, there has been no definition of a book.
1169 What is much more important is to define "author". I ask the House to consider the extraordinary nature of a Bill that seeks to make payments to authors but nowhere tells us what an author is. The term is widely used, and certainly not exclusively in relation to the authorship of books. I saw the other day that the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) was described as the author of most of the present Government's problems. I am sure that the hon. Lady does not intend to include that sort of authorship in the Bill. There are many uses of the term. It is most unsatisfactory that we should have this sloppy drafting in such a Bill. On any more normal Bill it would have been challenged by the Opposition and forced to a vote, and by now we would have sorted out some of these unsatisfactory points. What is the proper definition of an author?
To emphasise the importance of the matter, I wish to give a number of examples of total confusion that will continue, if public lending right is ever established, and could cause legal wrangles and great problems for the Registrar, if we ever have a Registrar. I have here a letter to Lord Strabolgi from an author and managing director of a firm of publishers, Mr. Bruce Main-Smith. I have permission to quote the letter. Mr. Main-Smith, whose company is BMS Ltd., gives a number of examples of how the term "author" can lead to confusion. I am opposed to the Bill. Only those who are opposed to it seem to have made practical points about its technicalities. I hope that despite my opposition some of these points will be taken seriously, although the chances of serious amendment to the Bill seem pretty slim.
Mr. Main-Smith writes:
I hope that the hon. Lady can tell us the answer, because it is her Bill. It is not enough to say that that will be left to the scheme. It is a legal definition that must be incorporated in the legislation.
- "(a) 'Clean To The Finish' is 'written' by the 11 times world champion Sammy Miller. It was however ghosted by M. J. Bashford. And edited by me. And the copyright is the clear, entire property of this Company. To whom do the royalties under PLR accrue? I would say the copyright holder, namely BMS Ltd.
- (b) 'The Keig Collection' contains 600 wholeplate photographs with captions. The photos are under royalty to S. R. Keig Ltd., the world's oldest commercial studio, the captions are by R. R. Holliday and are my entire copyright, and the book is edited by
1170 me and published by me. Does a photographer get PLR? The book of course has no author as the word is ordinarily understood since there is no text."
Mr. Main-Smith continues:
- "(c) 'The Motorcyclists Encyclopedia' is written by me and published by my Company. The copyright can be transferred at the stroke of a pen to BMS Ltd. but has not been so handled. Who is the author? The author is not named though I wrote it."
I do not wish to bore the House by giving too many examples, every one of which is a further demonstration of the Bill's lack of clarity on this important point, but there are some examples that I should like to give, as follows:
- "(d) 'Pioneer Motorcycles' was originally written by Harold Connolly, the copyright is vested in East Midland Allied Press Ltd in part, additional material was written by C. E. Allen at my behest and I purchased the copyright from him. Two names appear as 'authors' on the cover. Is the PLR then split? …"
- (g) 'The Castrol Book of Motorcycle Care' was written by me and the copyright sold to Burmah Castrol. Which of us gets the PLR money? No authoriship of the revised edition recently published by Haynes is attributable. Will the library analyst make it plain whether the first edition or the second is the one loaned out?"
Mr. Main-Smith adds as a footnote:'Author' is most usually defined as someone who brings something into being. Photographers thus are authors. Editors are 'authors superieur' and far more deserving on this definition than writers—editors create, as do publishers.There we have a whole range of examples demonstrating the vital need to put a definition of "author" into the Bill. I tabled my Amendment No. 76 in an endeavour to do just that. I do not claim that its wording is perfect. I find no defect in it, but it would be arrogant of me to assume that it was right. I propose simply that'Author' means the person or persons credited in a publication for responsibility for the authorship of that publication".I admit that that imparts a new requirement. Every new publication would need to show on the title page who was its author. That would introduce a statutory requirement by the back door, but 1171 that is exactly what the Minister is trying to do with the ISBN system.
To leave the situation as it is, totally unclear, with no definition of what an author is, will cause great problems.
We touched on this briefly in Committee. I asked what would be the position if there were a dispute as to who was the author of a publication. I had submitted an amendment which suggested that whenever there was a legal dispute about copyright the Registrar need not make any payment until it was resolved.
Perhaps the hon. Lady would care to take this opportunity to elaborate on the most extraordinary statement she then made. She said that there was no problem. She also said:However, I can set the hon. Gentleman's mind at rest immediately by telling him that books which are subjected to legal proceedings are in any case withdrawn from public libraries."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 4th November 1976; col. 365.]That may be something that the hon. Lady thinks might happen, but I am assured that it positively does not happen.
It would be quite extraordinary it whenever there is a clash about authorship—whether it is the photographer, the editor or the ghost write—all the libraries throughout Britain were immediately to withdraw from their shelves the book concerned. But that was the statement the Minister made about copyright, and presumably it is what she thinks will happen with regard to PLR as well. Perhaps she will correct the misleading answer that she gave in Committee.
More important, I hope that the hon Lady will concede the need for a definition of authorship, because at the moment it is nonsense and she makes it a worse nonsense by saying repetitively that multi-author works will be excluded. It is a very unfair proposition, and I can see no justification in equity for excluding multi-author works from public lending right.
The hon. Lady has no basis in the Bill for saying that. She is simply relying on the Government's understanding of what the scheme will look like in several years' time. That is a grossly unsatisfactory position, but if the hon. Lady continues to tell us that multi-authors are excluded she ought to tell us why this is so.
§ Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire)
Perhaps I might tell my hon. Friend that I am a multi-author. I have a poem in Antonia Fraser's book of Scottish love poems, and as such I am a multi-author. That is what a multi-author is.
§ Mr. Moate
It is always helpful to have these simplistic suggestions. My hon. and learned Friend's suggestion rivals the one offered by my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe when he said that "A book is a book is a book." Whether such definitions would stand up in court, as they might have to do, is a rather different matter.
I am glad that we now have the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) in the Chamber with us, because he was one of those who voted for the proposition that "works" should be included in the Bill instead of "books". That being so, I hope he will demonstrate that he has rather more fibre than others who have simply capitulated in the face of one of the most odd threats I have ever heard from a Government, namely, that the whole Bill will be jeopardised if the Government do not get their way in regard to an amendment which was carried so overwhelmingly in Committee with the hon. Gentleman's assistance. I hope that he will restore my faith in parliamentary consistency and show the necessary resolution to join some of us at least in voting for the rentention of the terms "works" in the Bill.
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)
I am so easily tempted that I cannot avoid replying to this obvious provocation. May I assure the hon. Member that we on the Government side jump at the opportunity to show our moral fibre because we have a bit of that old political quality left. I still maintain my argument for the preferability of "works" rather than "books" in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman must wait to see what my decision eventually is on that.
§ Mr. Moate
I shall live in hope that the hon. Gentleman as much fibre inside him as he has externally and that he will join us in the Lobby on this issue.
I conclude by pointing out that the amendment favouring "works" instead of "books" is very much in line with the support given by those who have been 1173 campaigning for public lending right, namely, the Writers' Action Group and the Writers' Guild of Great Britain. They, too, urge Members to support the amendment. They say:Writers support the amendment, passed by the House of Lords, of 'books' to 'works'. This will make it possible for cassettes, gramophone records, pictures, scores, etc. that are lent by libraries to be included in the PLR scheme by statutory instrument, without further amendment to the Act, as and when techniques and funds permit. We do not expect works of all kinds to be paid for from the start.I am in total agreement with the case made there by the Writers' Action Group.
§ Mr. Body
I am rather an intruder, being the only Member who was not on the Standing Committee to take part in the proceedings so far. But I have sought to catch up with what happened and I have read all the contributions by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate). Having read them, I am driven to the view that this is a messy Bill and that if the amendment is carried it will make a still greater mess of the Bill and make a mess of the principle of public lending right.
For that reason, I hope that the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds)—who has made his views very plain on this issue both in Committee and in this Chamber—will vote according to his voice, oppose the Government's amendment and seek to make sure that the Bill continues in its present form.
I thought that the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) was rather pessimistic when he said that if the amendment were not varied the Bill would be lost for good. Did he really mean that the authors and others who have an interest in this—and I should like to think that the principle could be extended to all artists—would be denied the principle of public lending right if tonight the Government's advice is not taken? If the hon. Gentleman believes that, and if that view is shared by his hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East, it means that he has very little confidence in his own Front Bench. We know that that confidence is sometimes muted, but the hon. Gentleman would have even less than usual because it would confirm, would it not, that the Government are 1174 not really in earnest in pursuing this principle if they are not to—
§ Mr. Faulds
I am delighted that I am being drawn in evidence so often, but I wish that Conservative Members would allow me to make my own points, if I wish to make them. The reason for my intervention, however, is to state that the Government Front Bench under the present Prime Minister has my wholehearted support in all its policies.
§ Mr. Body
That is very clear, but those who have read the proceedings of the Standing Committee will have noticed that the hon. Gentleman was rather taciturn in his support for the Bill and did not say very much about it. When he had the opportunity to enlarge upon his argument in favour of "works" rather than "books", he might have said more than he did. The important point, however, is that he voted in Committee for "works", and we look forward to having him vote for "works" tonight in order to keep some sense in the Bill rather than make it a messier Bill than would otherwise be the case.
I am disappointed in my own Front Bench. It is very seldom that I am disappointed. I am normally in agreement with my right hon. Friends whatever they say, and in particular with everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) may say. But my hon. Friend is evidently a late convert to "books" rather than "works". Quite obviously, in the last few days something has made him a convert. He voted quite clearly in Committee a few days ago in favour of "works". He was one of the 12 hon. Members who voted for the amendment as against the four who supported the Government. Again this evening he spoke in favour of "works", yet he draws back when it comes to voting. I think that he went so far as to say that he would go into the Lobby with the Government on this issue.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) did not go that far.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford said that we did not wish to do anything to prevent the Bill reaching the statute book. From noises that the Government have made, there is no doubt that they would use this as an excuse for dropping the Bill.
§ Mr. Body
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke), whose judgment I respect, says that there were noises suggesting that the Government intended to drop the Bill. If my hon. Friend is right, those noises must have been uttered in the last few days since the vote which he and certain of my hon. Friends recorded upstairs. Can that be the case? My hon. Friend will be familiar with what was said in the other place as long ago as 27th April, when the Minister with responsibility for the arts canvassed the various arguments in favour of "books" and against "works" and pointed to one very fundamental objection. I suppose that the Minister meant what he said.
There was not merely a fundamental objection in regard to the amendment moved by Lord Willis in favour of "works" which caused the Bill to take its present form, but the Minister let it be known that a deal had been done between his Department and the rest of the Government, in particular the Treasury. He gave the other place to understand that no progress could be made with the support of the Government on the subject of a public lending right unless the scheme were limited to books that were loaned out. That was said to be the objection to inserting "works" instead of "books".
The Government felt so little enthusiasm for the principle of public lending right that they sought to allow a scheme with only minimal effect, limited to a sum of £1 million and limited only to one kind of authorship and only to books loaned out. That decision was reached despite all that was done by the technical advisory group and despite all the weighty arguments with which we are now familiar in favour of the principle of a lending right.
1176 In regard to that fundamental objection, the hon. Lady the Under-Secretary of State has been charmingly taciturn and, indeed, almost blissfully mute. She has not gone nearly as far, either on the Floor of the House or in Committee upstairs, as did her colleague the Minister in the other place. Will she say whether the account given by the Minister in the other place was correct? Is there still a fundamental objection, and is the fact that the Government are in favour of "books" and opposed to "works" simply the result of the deal that was manifestly done between her Department and the Treasury?
That fundamental objection still does not make sense. We know that the Bill will not be operated until about 1980. If that is an incorrect assumption, perhaps the Minister will correct me in due course. Therefore there is still four years to go before the scheme can be put into effect. Are we to assume that the Government, assuming that they remain in power for four years, will not be able to find any more time? If that is the case, it shows that they have very little fervour for the introduction of this principle. More than that, however, when the noble Lord revealed that the deal had been done he gave the reasons. He said that all Government Departments were short of money and that they had to come to this bargain.
Are we to understand from the hon. Lady that this situation is to continue until 1980? Does it mean that we must wait for some time after 1980 before there is a satisfactory scheme embracing all public lending rights? It must follow that at a later stage after 1980 we shall have more legislation. However, is that not an untidy way of going about the matter? Would it not be more sensible that the full principle involving a public lending right should be enshrined in an Act of Parliament to be put into effect at such time as is financially convenient to the Government?
If that is the case, why cannot we have a Bill properly drawn up and considered by this House rather than a measure brought in at the tail end of a Session? Why cannot such a Bill be quietly considered by a Committee and its implications and details then be fully fought out? What will happen under 1177 these provisions is that the only beneficiaries will be in a minority when we should be considering artists as a whole—not only authors, but sculptors and painters.
I hope that the Minister will be a little more forthcoming and say explicitly what kind of bargain was struck. Can she confirm, or does she try to deny, what was said in another place by the Minister responsible for the arts? Can she go on to say, assuming that the Bill is enacted, what further steps the Government have in mind towards whatever works are to be embraced by the principle?
I join in the criticism directed at the Government because of their failure to define "books". We know that there must be a definition sooner or later. That definition is not in the Bill, but the other place was told by the Minister that it would be included in the scheme. That means that this House is to be deprived of an opportunity of defining "books" and that this matter will be left to others to decide.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
In advance of the scheme, the Government have given an undertaking to publish a Green Paper that will cover this point. They have not yet given an undertaking that they will afford an opportunity to debate the Green Paper in this House, but they would be well advised to do so. It is certain that when the scheme is eventually published it will have to be approved by both Houses. The only thing that remains uncertain is whether the Government will give time for a debate on the Green Paper. The Under-Secretary is not in a position to do that, but my hon. Friend and other hon. Members will be able to apply pressure to make certain that the Government give time for a debate.
§ Mr. Body
I gladly echo what my hon. Friend has said, I am not averse to the principle of public lending right, but I am concerned about the way in which the Bill is phrased. What my hon. Friend has said confirms my interpretation of Clause 3, which makes clear to me that in due course—sometime before 1980—the Government will produce a draft scheme to implement the Bill.
That scheme will be put before this House and we shall have an opportunity to vote on it, but I understand that we 1178 shall not have an opportunity to amend it. If we have a Green Paper before that, we may have an opportunity to debate it. We certainly should be given such an opportunity. We shall be able to express our opinions about the contents and be able to say what we think a book is and how it should be defined.
However, we shall have no legislative right in the matter. We shall be depriving ourselves of that right. By passing the amendment the House would, in effect, be saying that we were handing over to those in the Department of Education who advise the Government the right to say what the definition of a book is to be. That is unsatisfactory. This House is the proper place for the decision to be made. It is most unsatisfactory for this kind of definition—this is a matter which may go to the heart of the principle—to be delegated to the Government rather than decided here.
There will be a difficulty about deciding what a book is. The problem was highlighted in another place when the Minister with responsibility for the arts said that there were two meanings of "book". One may say that one has written a book, and even though it were only in manuscript form that would be a truthful statement. On the other hand, we can point to a book on a shelf and say "that is a book". That would be an equally truthful statement.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) rightly raised this point earlier. There are numerous manuscripts in libraries which are not in the form normally associated with books. What will happen when they are loaned out? Will they be excluded from the scheme? This is a small point and I do not wish to labour it, but it shows how important it is for the House to define these words rather than leave the definition to officials who cannot be challenged or questioned.
None of us wishes to be accused of taking too much time. We have a long way to go, but I hope that the Minister will reply to the points I have raised.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. English
The Bill was introduced and supported by interested parties. You may not be aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I asked your predecessor in the Chair whether I would have the opportunity of 1179 raising this issue at some point. He said that I might be able to do so on one of the amendments. I hope that you will agree that this is an appropriate one.
It is fairly clear that many hon. Members are interested parties in respect of the Bill. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), for example, have both published books and are therefore interested in the outcome of the Bill. They are also both supporters of it. I know of other hon. Members on both sides who, because they have had books published, have decided that they will not vote on the principle because they do not wish to vote on something in which they have an interest. I respect those hon. Members.
We should recollect that the Government introduced the Bill into the House of Lords with the word "books" in it. Another place, which passed the Bill overwhelmingly, nevertheless replaced "books" by "works", and in Committee in this House the Government attempted to reverse that amendment. It was appropriate and in accordance with the wishes of the majority of hon. Members that the Government's proposal was rejected by 12 votes to four. Not only people with doubts about the Bill voted to reject the attempted reversal of the Lords amendment; those who support the Bill did the same. They were quite right, because as the Bill stood originally, and as this amendment would make it, money was provided only for authors of books, but it would be taken out of the pockets of every taxpayer, including those who do not or cannot read.
If we are to have a public lending right, it is surely better that it is applied to all lending. Lending from local authority libraries includes not only books but records, cassettes, paintings and sometimes small sculptures. I mentioned in Committee that in Nottingham, subject to the present restrictions on public expenditure, the county library is prepared to lend toys, as is done in many other places.
Toys are suitable for lending because the average child takes an interest in a toy for a relatively short time. When a child is no longer interested, the toy can be returned. A library for toys is a per- 1180 fect method of buying on behalf of the public and lending to parents.
It is extraordinary that authors of books should be so arrogant as to believe that they are the only people who have any right to public lending right. Apparently authors claim that this great right, which does not exist in practice in any other country and in Germany exists only in theory should exist for them alone and not for the producers of any other work. It illustrates arrogance on the part of authors and a complete—
§ Mr. Faulds
My hon. Friend is exhibiting his ignorance about this matter, because this principle is practised not only in West Germany, where it has just been introduced, but in Denmark and Sweden.
§ Mr. English
I am grateful to my hon Friend, who, if I recollect aright, voted for keeping "works" in the Bill, as I have no doubt he will tonight. I am sorry if I was wrong. I was citing the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins), who had some association with the production of the Bill, who said in Committee that this principle had not been legislated into existence in any place in the world except Western Germany, and had not come into practice there, so that it was not of practical application in any country so far.
§ Mr. Faulds
Of course, I withdraw the imputation about my hon. Friend's ignorance, but it is extremely indelicate and unkind of him to advertise the ignorance of the ex-Minister.
§ Mr. English
My hon. Friend the Member for Putney, if he was ignorant—I do not accept the fact—made his own advertisement in the columns of Hansard. I am merely citing what he said in a public proceeding. My hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) would be the first to support me, I think, because he was one of the 12 who voted against the proposal to delete the amendment made in another place. Whatever our other arguments may be, on this issue he and I are at one.
I do not dispute that a public lending right should exist. I never have disputed that. I did not vote against it on Second Reading. However, if a public lending right should exist, it should exist for everyone. At a later stage we may come to the question whether it should exist from every library, but I 1181 am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you would rule me out of order is I raifed that question now. It should exist not only for all loans from all libraries but for all loans of ail sorts of works. That is the point at issue in the amendment.
I cannot but feel that it has a peculiar aptness. I must add, to defend my hon. Friend the Member for Putney, who was one of the architects of the Bill, of which the hon. Member for Chelmsford claimed to be an architect even before my hon. Friend the Member for Putney, that the hon. Member for Chelmsford voted to keep "works" and my hon. Friend the Member for Putney, who no doubt felt other commitments from his past activities in Government, abstained on the whole issue. There was no one except present Ministers of the Crown and some of their lapdogs who actually tried to defend the indefensible.
I do not always agree, as has been apparent from Divisions last week, with amendments made in another place, but on this occasion it is absolutely clear that their Lordships made an amendment of eminent sense. I hope, therefore, that the House will agree to retain the Bill as it was amended in another place and as its amendment was retained in Committee.
There is no possible reason, other than that adduced by my hon. Friend the Minister, for putting the word "books" back. The reason adduced by the Minister was one of the weakest I have ever heard. She constantly reiterated it in Committee, but her basic reason has nothing to do with the text of the Bill. If she will forgive me for using the word, she keeps on bleating. She keeps bleating about the existence of a scheme. The scheme has never been presented in the House. Under the Bill, it should be presented to the House eventually.
A scheme has been prepared by a technical committee, and that says how, if the Bill contains the word "books", public lending right should be implemented. The assumption seems to be that, once a technical committee has decided how something should be implemented, automatically this House is precluded from making any change in what is supposed to be implemented. Because a technical committee says "This is how you can implement a public lending right in relation to books", we are not, there- 1182 fore, allowed to put in the word "works" instead. Because the technical committee was, like many technical committees, so short-sighted as not to think of the existence of records, cassettes and other things, both Houses of Parliament must refrain from applying a public lending right to other things lent out from libraries.
The technical committee has not considered this. I could not care less whether or not a technical committee has considered it, but if a public lending right is just and proper it should apply to everyone. It should apply to the producers not only of literary works but of auditory works, things one can hear as well as things one can write.
I ask my hon. Friend the Minister a question that I asked her in Committee but to which I never got an answer. The extraordinary thing, taking the most closely analogous case, is that under the Bill, if one writes a book and it goes into a local authority library, one will get a payment once that book is lent out. If one puts the same work on to a tape by reading it out and the tape is then lent out, being an auditory version of the same work, in the way that the Minister wants, it would appear that one will not have a public lending right. What on earth is the sense in that?
Charles Dickens is reputed by many to have had a very bad English literary style. His novels were produced in parts and he would also read to very large audiences, for which he got a fee—the nearest thing to the modern radio and television broadcast. He went around the country reading his own novels and getting a fee for it. There is nothing wrong in that. However, it appears that if one had the exact equivalent in modern times of literally reading one's own novel, if the author read his own novel on to a tape and that was lent out from a library, there would be no public lending right.
Rights are not the sort of things that can be eroded in small degrees like this. If a right is to be created, or if it exists, it is a generality. If one cares to say that the argument for a public lending right at all has in large part been that it is immoral and unjust that an author should not get some degree of benefit from the fact that people borrow his books as distinct from merely buying them, if 1183 he should have a right to some personal benefit because people borrow his books, why on earth should he not have a right to some benefit if people borrow his cassettes? If he read the exact text of his book on to a cassette, why should he not have that right?
There is some strange quirk, which I suspect is in the Treasury. Anyone who feels that the word "quirk" applies to those in the Treasury is entitled to think so. Some quirk in the Treasury—
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Jackson
I hope my hon. Friend is aware that "Quirk" is a surname. As a matter of fact, it is my mother's maiden name.
§ Mr. English
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I can assure her that I am aware that it is a surname which, if I recall aright, comes from the Isle of Man. I understand that all surnames beginning with "Qu" come from the Isle of Man. However, I shall not dispute the particular origin or the immediate origin. Indeed, if I went into that it would take me a further five minutes, which I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you would not wish me to do. I apologise to the Minister, because I had no intention of bringing her maternity into this argument.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will continue with the main substance of his argument in connection with the amendment.
§ Mr. English
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I was being distracted. Someone in the Treasury whose surname is not but whose nature may be quirkish seems to have the belief that a moral right to payment, on the occasion of the lending of a work, is valid only if the work is written as distinct from if the work is spoken, sung, played, painted, carved or constructed in any other way. I regard that as very weak morality. I sincerely hope that the House will not wish to reverse what its own Committee and the other place decided. It is fairly clear that on this issue anyone who claims to be in support of the Bill—for example, my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East and his colleagues who served on the Committee—can hardly say that he is in support of a 1184 principle only for some people and not for others.
§ Miss Margaret Jackson
I shall try to deal as briefly as possible with the points which have been raised. Some of them have already been raised in Committee. The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) asked about the use of international standard book numbers. Again I must say to him, as I said in Committee, that it is our understanding that the great majority of publishers use international standard book numbers despite the fact that the hon. Gentleman managed to find one who does not. If there are books in libraries which are eligible for public lending right but which do not bear international standard book numbers it will be possible, by arrangement with the organisation involved, to assign them numbers so that they may participate in this scheme.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) asked whether the scheme which is under consideration in Germany covered "works". It is my understanding that it is hoped that the German scheme will cover "works", but it is still very much at the stage of being worked out; it is by no means clear that it will be able to do so. Nor is it clear what method is proposed to be used, although we do know that the proposals are differently based from ours. There, they are being based on an extension of the law of copyright.
Several hon. Members asked for a definition of a "book". Indeed, the hon. Member for Faversham went into the matter of defining an author. The main point is simply that it is the general rule that a word which is not specially defined in statutes is construed as bearing its original meaning. We do not define such a word unless there is some wish either to enlarge or restrict its meaning, as the case might be, or include or exclude some shade of meaning—[Interruption.] I am sorry if my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) does not wish to hear me reiterate views which I have already expressed, but I am a little tired of all the other arguments which many other hon. Members have constantly reiterated in this debate.
It is the case that under the scheme there will be some definition of "book"—in order to exclude a magazine, for 1185 instance. It is not common to define such a term in a statute unless it is the wish to particularly restrict or extend it.
That also applies to the definition of the term "author".
The hon. Member for Faversham spoke at some length about his wish to see that term defined in the Bill. He will be happy to know that we do not intend to define it, for all the reasons he put forward, namely, the problems of people such as editors and illustrators.
It is our hope that, in the years to come, as resources for this scheme perhaps increase, it will be possible to extend the scheme to cover books by more than one author and, ultimately, to cover such people as editors and illustrators. It is because we wish to leave that possibility open for the distant future that we do not wish to define the term "author" in the Bill.
I would also point out that many of the definitions of the terms that the hon. Gentleman sought to query are covered in the text of the Bill. He used the example of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) being considered to be the "author of the Government's ills". I would point out that one cannot take the Government's ills out of a public lending library and, consequently, there is no question of any confusion of that kind arising.
The other point arose in the speech by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body)—
§ Miss Jackson
It will be up to the registrar to define, as in all cases, whom he considers to be the author of a book. If it is considered to be a multiple-author work, it is not our intention that it should be included in the initial scheme. No such problem can, consequently, arise.
The hon. Member for Holland with Boston put forward the argument that if this amendment were supported and the Bill retained as it now stands it would be less messy than if the amendment were made, as we seek to do. I cannot accept 1186 that argument. I have sought to show the hon. Gentleman, however unconvincing he may think it, that it will be much more messy to leave this provision in the Bill because we have at present no means of implementing it. Not only have we no means of implementing it, but we see no way in the foreseeable future of being able to implement it. We think it more sensible, efficient and conducive to keeping down the costs of this proposal to exclude "works" from the Bill.
§ Miss Jackson
I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman is mistaken. The technical investigation group did not consider "works". It considered other matters such as reference books. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West is being unjust to the technical investigation group. It is quite possible that the consideration of "works" was not referred to it. It is my understanding that the technical investigation group did not find a scheme for "works" to be possible. Indeed, we do not see it as possible because of the enormous difficulties that we have already gone over in Committee. I do not wish to delay the House by reiterating this argument yet again. I covered it in my first speech. The operation of the Bill, we think, makes it difficult, if not impossible to include "works".
I find it ironic to be chided for lack of fervour in support of the Bill. It is a little unfair that those who are the Bill's most fervent opponents criticise the rest of us for not wishing to extend it. I am in little doubt that it is their hope that the Bill would be withdrawn if the amendment were defeated. I ask those who are supporters of the Bill in the genuine sense, and who wish to see it on the statute book, to support the Government's amendments, and to remove the term "works" from the Bill and to substitute "books".
§ Mr. Lawson
I apologise to the House and to the Minister in particular that I have not been able to be here for the past hour and a half because I was at an important Committee upstairs. But am glad that I was here able to listen 1187 to the latter part of her winding-up speech—and I took it to be that—on this amendment.
I dissent from the hon. Lady altogether in her suggestion that what we have here before us is a public lending right We have nothing of the sort. We have a subsidy to authors. It would be just the same as if the farm subsidies were to be christened a public eating right. There is no question of a right here.
The original scheme, of course, was a question of a right. A payment was to be made, and this seems to be perfectly sensible, by every library borrower, which would then find its way to the author as of right. That was a right—an arrangement between the borrower and the person whose work or book he was borrowing. This is nothing of the sort. It is a State subsidy, miles away from public lending right, and the title of the Bill is contrary to the Trade Descriptions Act.
I should have begun by declaring an interest of sorts. I am a director for the time being of a book publishing firm and I am also a kind of author. I say "kind of author" because I discover from listening to the hon. Lady that I am a multi-author. My friend, Mr. Jock Bruce-Gardyne, who was formerly the Member for South Angus—soon. I hope, to return to these Benches, where he is greatly needed and where he made such a contribution—and I have just had a book published by Macmillan called "The Power Game", which has been well received in the Press.
I suspect that very few people will buy that book. It is priced rather highly at £7.95. I think Macmillan feels that whereas publishing is a gentleman's occupation, selling books is rather vulgar. Therefore, the only people who receive it will be those who borrow it from libraries. I think that on a later amendment we go into the question of whether forms of libraries other than public libraries will be involved in this, so that this is very important to my book. It will, no doubt, find its way chiefly into university libraries, which are not public libraries within the meaning of this or any other legislation.
I discover to my sorrow in a way that the hon. Lady intends to discriminate 1188 against me. Because I wrote the book with Mr. Bruce-Gardyne, I do not qualify; I am a multi-author, so I do not qualify for anything out of this. If, however, we had written and published half the book each, we would have done. I do not see the justice in this. It seems very un-Socialist. If one thinks of the Webbs and the Coles—G. D. H. and Margaret Cole—those great Socialist uxorial combinations of authors, one feels that this is a very strange form of discrimination.
I was slightly relieved to hear the hon. Lady say at least that she intends to go beyond the single solitary author and go perhaps further and include the multi-author, as she rather inelegantly described him or her, in due course. I should like to hear more. I do not know whether she described it when I was out of the Chamber, in which case I apologise for not being here to hear it, but it seems rather strange. [Interruption.] Since my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) is muttering from a sedentary position, I would say that one form of interest that I do not have to declare is a typing interest. Why is it impossible to include right from the start, if the hon. Lady were having a proper scheme, books written by two authors?
I have another past interest to declare, and this is something which concerns me greatly. [Interruption.] I wish that the hon. Lady would have the courtesy to pay attention to the hon. Member who is speaking instead of talking to my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford. It is intolerable that the Minister never takes the slightest notice of anything that is said and is not even aware that she is being addressed at the moment. This form of discourtesy is a discourtesy to the whole House. Otherwise, I would not have raised it.
§ Mr. Lawson
I think that my hon. Friend is right: we have an incipient Government of national unity. The hon. Lady is still gossiping and chattering away and not taking the slightest notice.
§ Miss Margaret Jackson
Since the hon. Gentleman was not here for much of the 1189 debate, it is a bit much for him to complain about my behaviour.
§ Mr. Lawson
If the hon. Lady had not been gossiping and chattering, she would have heard me refer to that very point a moment ago and explain why.
What I want to draw to her attention is this. One of the important parts of our literary and cultural heritage is the weekly magazines. I used to be the editor of one of them, the Spectator, and one of the great problems we had on the Spectator, and the problems which were met by the New Statesman and other magazines—magazines, incidentally, of a type which are not to be found in any other country—are that more and more people were borrowing these magazines from libraries—in which I include not just public libraries but university libraries, common rooms and clubs, the House of Commons Library and so on—and not buying a copy. This made the viability of those magazines very difficult.
It seems to me that, if there is a case for a public lending right on books, there is just as big a case for a public lending right in the case of those political and literary magazines.
§ Mr. Lawson
I heard her remarks to that effect as I was entering the Chamber. I was not convinced. I am seeking slightly to help the hon. Lady first of all by trying to show the necessity that there is for this sort of assistance, if there will be any assistance at all, to authors.
For example, it is generally accepted that those weekly magazines, the New Statesman and the Spectator, have about eight readers per copy, whereas the normal newspaper will have two or three. This makes a tremendous difference to the whole economics of these weekly magazines. I realise that the hon. Lady says that she is concerned not with other people—editors, publishers, illustrators and so on—but only with authors. But this problem for a weekly magazine can be got round rather simply once she has 1190 got over her multi-author hurdle, if I may put it that way.
Under Clause 1(7)(b), the public lending right if it existed could be assigned and it would be the normal practice in the case of a magazine for the various authors who had contributed to assign the public lending right to the magazine, to the paper, just as in the same way today they automatically assigned the copyright of what they write to the newspaper or to the magazine.
§ Mr. Sproat
Earlier on, my hon. Friend made an interesting point which touched our hearts about the financial loss which would be suffered by himself and Mr. Jock Bruce-Gardyne because they were so-called multi-authors. Taking up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate)—namely, that an author is an author is an author, if I may paraphrase the quotation of my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Walder) from Gertrude Stein—could not an author assign his right as a dual or multi-author to one single person, who for the purposes of the Registrar would be the author who would then be able to take the money and divide it, perhaps taking a slight percentage? In that way, could not my hon. Friend divide the money between himself and Mr. Bruce-Gardyne? Would not that be possible, and could it not be done for magazines as well?
§ Mr. Lawson
What my hon. Friend says is perfectly possible. It has also occurred to me that the sums at any time became large, two authors would write under the pseudonym of a single person. Behind one name—John Smith—there would lie perhaps two or three writers. It would be impossible to divine how many there were.
Although the hon. Lady said that she could not include multi-authors or even dual authors in her scheme, she gave no convincing reason why that should be so. I do not intend to speak for long, because I was out of the Chamber for some time and it would be discourteous for me further to take the time of the House. I have been racking my brains to find a justification for this enterprise. The only justification I can find is that it is a way of channelling funds from the poor to the rich and successful authors. There seems to be some justification in that, not because I am in favour of that principle 1191 in general but because the balance of the taxation system has gone so far in one direction that in this small way the Government seek to redress the balance. That is the only crumb of comfort.
§ Mr. Peter Rees (Dover and Deal)
As my hon. Friend raised the question of multi-authors, will he tell the House how the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" would be handled in his scheme, particularly if it were taken out in volumes?
§ Mr. Lawson
I am not the author of the Bill. No doubt the hon. Lady can tell my hon. and learned Friend the answer to that question. I assume from what she said that as the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" has many authors—indeed, each volume has many authors—it would not qualify. If, however, there was a work which was done in several volumes and each volume was done by a single author, I am not sure whether the volumes as such would qualify as books or whether the whole work would be considered as a single book by many authors and, therefore, would not qualify. No doubt this as been thrashed out in Committee, but when I looked through the report of the Committee's proceedings I did not find an answer to this important point on which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) characteristically put his finger.
§ Mr. Ridley
I found the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) intensely moving. I shall certainly place an order for his multi-authorial book with Mr. Bruce-Gardyne. The value of that order may be more than the value of public lending right would have been had he been eligible for it. I have at least benefited from the debate to that extent, and I am sure that I shall benefit even more when I read the book.
I apologise to the House for having missed a substantial part of the centre of the debate, having been at the meeting which my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby attended. I have had the pleasure of hearing the hon. Lady make two speeches and I thought she would like to know that, for the first time in her ministerial career, she made a convert of me. I was intending to vote with her against the Lords amendment on the ground that it might result in an increase 1192 in public expenditure if "works" were substituted for "books", but then she converted me in the opposite direction by saying that if the Lords amendment were made, she would drop the Bill. That would result in an even bigger saving in public expenditure, which is what the House should concern itself with.
Mr. Whittome is stalking up and down the corridors considering the nation's finances and wondering what severe penalties to advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer to inflict upon us. This is not the time for bold spending schemes. This is the time when we should keep our heads down and not engage in public spending, at least until we know the terms of Mr. Whittome's advice about our economic situation. Therefore, my attitude is that this is not the opportune or ideal moment to move the Bill, and the hon. Lady might be wiser to let it rest a little until the economic situation is clarified.
I cannot for the life of me see why, bad Bill though it is, we should not be allowed to seek to improve it. If we were to substitute "works" for "books", I see the technical difficulties. The brief read out by the hon. Lady contained one or two problems which should be surmounted. But we cannot possibly justify a bad Bill by saying that we are not prepared to deal with all the anomalies it opens up, because otherwise we should not get a Bill at all.
My hon. Friend the multi-author raised points which need an answer. What he said about political weekly magazines is of great importance. Even Tribune does not find it easy to survive financially and economically. If help is to be given, these magazines are amongst the most deserving cases for help. Again, what my hon. Friend said about multi-authors is valid. For some technical reason they are to be excluded. Why do we pass a Bill which has these defects?
§ Mr. Lawson
My hon. Friend is talking about "works". Does he recall that the greatest work of all, the Bible, is a multi-author work?
§ Mr. Ridley
That had crossed my mind but, in view of the time at which that volume was written, I do not think that the authors are within the scope of the Bill. It is an interesting thought that, had 1193 the Bible been written in the last five years or so, it would be classified as a multi-author magazine and would not be eligible for any public lending right.
I come to the question of what is to be included for what is, after all, nothing but a straight taxpayers' subsidy. The question of merit must arise. Some works which will be borrowed from public libraries will be of great merit and low commercial value in the market, whereas many books which are borrowed will be of high commercial value to their authors and of low merit. Some of the more vulgar detective stories which will presumably be eligible for a public lending right will receive subsidy, although hundreds and thousands of copies may be sold throughout the world, whereas a tape, a picture or a work of art which cannot make a profit for the producer and yet may be of great merit will not be eligible for public lending right.
The Bill is shot with anomalies. All we seek to do by the amendment, which I now support, fortified by the hon. Lady's assurance that she will drop the
§ Bill if we are lucky enough to carry it, is to improve it before it gets on to the statute book. Not only are we spending money which we all know we should not be spending, we are spending it in a partial, anomalous and thoroughly unfair way.
§ Hon. Members on both sides of the House who see this as a device to attract the votes of authors should be ashamed. It is a crude political bribery Bill, and the fact that it costs only £1 million enables some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to ease their consciences. They think that it is all right because it is only a housemaid's baby of a PLR Bill which will perhaps buy a few votes. I dissociate myself from that view, and, on the hon. Lady's firm assurance that she will drop the Bill if we win, I shall support the "Noes".
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 154, Noes 23.1195
|Division No. 407.]||AYES||[7.30 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Archer, Peter||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Marquand, David|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Fisher, Sir Nigel||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Ashton, Joe||Flannery, Martin||Mendelson, John|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Fookes, Miss Janet||Mikardo, Ian|
|Atkinson, Norman||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Bagler, Gordon A. T.||Forrester, John||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Bean, R. E.||George, Bruce||Newens, Stanley|
|Beith, A. J.||Golding, John||Noble, Mike|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Gould, Bryan||Ogden, Eric|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Gray, Hamish||Pardoe, John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Park, George|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Hardy, Peter||Parker, John|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Harper, Joseph||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Perry, Ernest|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Hatton, Frank||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Buchan, Norman||Hooley, Frank||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Carmichael, Nell||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Cohen, Stanley||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Coleman, Donald||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Corbett, Robin||James, David||Rooker, J. W.|
|Cowans, Harry||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Roper, John|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Ryman, John|
|Cunningham, Q. (Islington S)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Sandelson, Neville|
|Davidson, Arthur||Judd, Frank||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Kaufman, Gerald||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Deakins, Eric||Lamond, James||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Leadbitter, Ted||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Lee, John||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Dempsey, James||Litterick, Tom||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Doig, Peter||Lomas, Kenneth||Skinner, Dennis|
|Dormant), J. D.||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Small, William|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||McCartney, Hugh||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Edge, Geoff||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Snape, Peter|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||McElhone, Frank||Spearing, Nigel|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Madden, Max||Stallard, A. W.|
|Evans, loan (Aberdare)||Magee, Bryan||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Stoddart, David||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Strang, Gavin||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)||Watkins, David||Woodall, Alec|
|Tierney, Sydney||Weetch, Ken||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Tinn, James||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Urwin, T. W.||Whitehead, Phillip||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)||Whitlock, William||Mr. Alf Bates and|
|Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick||Mr. Ted Graham|
|Walter, David (Clitheroe)||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Anderson, Donald||Henderson, Douglas||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Kinnock, Neil||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Benyon, W.||Lawson, Nigel||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Body, Richard||MacCormick, lain||Thompson, George|
|Brotherton, Michael||Moate, Roger||Watt, Hamish|
|Crawford, Douglas||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)|
|English, Michael||Nott, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Parkinson, Cecil||Mr. Iain Sproat and|
|Hannam, John||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Mr. Nicholas Ridley|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I beg to move Amendment No. 4, in page 1, line 9, after 'to', insert 'as referred to by'.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this we may discuss the following amendments:
No. 5, in line 10, after 'authorities', insert:'or reference copies of books held by them for consultation on library premises'.No. 46, in page 3, line 41, after 'from', insert:'or the number of copies held for reference purposes in'.No. 52, in page 4, line 8, after first 'public', insert:'or as to copies held by them for reference purposes'.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
This is possibly the most important amendment that we shall be discussing on Report.
The Bill is designed to do justice to authors. It is not a Bill which increases public expenditure. It merely creates the possibility of an increase in public expenditure. That is a very important distinction. The Bill adds little or nothing to public expenditure at this time, although it creates the possibility of increasing that public expenditure in the future when our economic position has improved.
But even if that were the case, which it is not, it is not in any way incompatible with a policy of general reduction of public expenditure to have certain areas in which public expenditure is increased. There are arguments in certain spheres for an increase irrespective of the economic circumstances, and the increase may be of such a small nature that it can be carried by other reductions. But this 1196 Bill does not increase public expenditure. It is a Bill about a principle.
If the Bill is to command respect as a declaration of principle, it must do justice to all authors. As the Bill is drafted, it benefits only those authors of books which are lent out to the public, as is declared in Clause 1, by local library authorities in the United Kingdom. It may be that certain books which would be classified as of a reference book type are occasionally lent out. Those are covered by the Bill. But what about books which are not lent out and which can be consulted only in a library? They are excluded from any scheme which could be formed under the Bill.
The purpose of this amendment is not to say that the scheme must at any given time include these books. That can be done at various stages. But it leaves the way open for those books to be included.
I must declare my interest here—and in so doing I stress that I am not advertising—and refer to my own collected edition of the Works of Walter Bagehot, eight volumes of which have been published already and four more of which I hope are to be published next year to mark the centenary of his death. They will be followed by a final volume of letters, miscellany, bibliographies, etc., which will eventually bring what has been described by many people as one of the major works of scholarship of the century to an end. I feel that it is necessary to make that declaration because I might benefit from the borrowing of any one of those magnificent volumes.
It is extremely important that no class of authors should be treated favourably as such, and this Bill undoubtedly would 1197 benefit the writers of fiction as opposed to those who write more scholarly works, and whereas I shall not follow the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins) in his now famous assertion that reward should be made in accordance with the length of a book because merit varies in accordance with the length of a book, I think that we should pay special attention to those who spend many years writing reference books. After all, a novel can be written in a morning—certainly it can be read in a morning: perhaps I should modify that; it can be written in a week.
Here we have a question of principle. I am sure that the Minister will agree with that. Such arguments as she produced against this proposal in Committee were that it was impracticable to have such a scheme.
I do not want to go into the technical details of this proposal. However, the technical committee, which produced two reports, went into this matter and certainly it did not find that it was impracticable in the sense in which the hon. Lady said that it was. On the contrary, it produced a perfectly viable scheme and made it plain that, with the exception of 19 large reference libraries which created special difficulties, the technical difficulties could be overcome.
What is more, by the time that this scheme comes into operation, it may be that further technological advances will have been made which will render what I am saying even more compelling.
§ Mr. Faulds
I share the hon. Gentleman's surprise that the technical difficulties have been so played up. But I ought perhaps to get it on record that, before the hon. Member prepared a scheme as a Minister and before my right hon. Friend did as a Minister, I was the first person in the Labour Party to prepare any documentation about how to introduce the principle of PLR. I detailed it and costed it. It was on the basis of an annual cost of £5 million for my scheme that my right hon. Friend was able, when he took over the job just before one of the 1974 General Elections, to mention the cost of £5 million.
But in that scheme of mine there seemed to be a very simple way to include reference books. It was that, on the average usage of most books in libraries, which was running at 6.5 loans 1198 per year, it was possible to rate reference books at the same figure, in which case all the talk about technical problems would have been dissolved in a puff of smoke.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
In a puff of white smoke at any rate. I am extremely grateful for that intervention by the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds). The hon. Member for Putney claims to be the father of the Bill and I consider that I am the grandfather. However, I concede that the hon. Member for Warley, East is the great-grandfather. Obviously, we have all played a part in giving birth to this Bill.
I agree with the hon. Member about technical arguments. They are the last refuge of the Civil Service. If the Civil Service wishes to oppose something and does not know how to do it rationally, it will produce a technical argument. That is the position here.
It was my idea to appoint this committee of experts. When I held discussions with various groups of authors, they went on and on about light pens and computers and I felt that I was getting further and further out of my depth. The only way to resolve the situation was to appoint a committee of experts to assess what the Civil Service and the authors' associations were saying.
The hon. Member for Putney carried that principle into practice. I was very grateful to him for doing so and for following my blueprint to the letter. On that occasion he rose above any petty party political arguments, and carried through the plan which I have left behind at the Department. As a result of our joint efforts, these reports were published and they show that it is perfectly feasible to have a scheme for reference books.
This is a comparatively minor amendment and I hope that the Under-Secretary, having found us co-operative over the question of works, will be equally cooperative in this good cause.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I am sure that the Under-Secretary will not make any rash assertion. Although this is a minor amend- 1199 ment, it is vital. I have every trust in her sense of proportion and balance, which she has preserved throughout these long debates. Rarely does one find an opportunity to champion both a cause of justice and one of technical propriety as well. Not only is it rare: it should be valued. Therefore, I hope that this argument will appeal to the Under-Secretary and that she will be amenable to the voice of reason and tell us that she will accept the amendment which commands the support of both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I understand that this amendment has been misprinted, and the words to be inserted should be "or referred to by". Accordingly, I propose the amendment in that form.
§ Miss Margaret Jackson
Perhaps the first thing I should say is that many claims have been made for the parentage of this Bill. My only claim is to be the pressed midwife at a difficult birth. I do not claim any greater parentage.
§ Miss Jackson
Yes. I shall not go into the arguments in detail because we had considerable discussion on this matter in Committee.
The Government cannot accept the amendment to include reference books in the Bill. We are aware that the technical investigation group looked at the question of measuring reference books by considering a purchase-based scheme and a scheme of stock stamping. But it is our intention that the major proposals of the Bill shall be carried out by measuring the use of books on a loan basis from public libraries, and that is not a principle which can be simply transferred to the use of reference books.
Apart from the reference sections in ordinary public libraries, there are a number of large and specific reference libraries. Although the expert group looked at the possibilities for measuring the use of reference books in such libraries, it found that it was impossible to do so without undue disruption of their work.
On the grounds on which we opposed the last amendment, I must ask the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. JohnStevas) to withdraw his amendment. We 1200 do not accept that the Bill can or should be extended to include reference books in this way.
§ Mr. Sproat
That is a very disappointing answer by the Under-Secretary. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) was at his most persuasive when moving this amendment and I am sorry that his oratorical talent was insufficient on this occasion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) raised a very important point when he asked the Under-Secretary whether if the amendment was carried she would believe that it had so chopped up the Bill that it was no longer worth pursuing it. I hope that the Under-Secretary will tell us what will happen, because there will be considerable difference in the voting strength on this amendment from the last occasion, when most of my hon. Friends voted in her Lobby. On this occasion, led by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford, they will go into a different Lobby from the Government and it is possible that we shall see the amendment carried.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford said that this amendment was about a principle. But at Report stage in the House of Commons we are not discussing principle. We are discussing details—the nuts and bolts of the Bill. It is precisely the nuts and bolts of this measure to which we take objection. We will not be swayed by the argument that we are discussing merely the principle of the Bill. That argument could be applied to all 14 amendments with which we shall be dealing tonight. We could be told on all of them that we should not go into the details of the amendments because we are considering only the principle of the Bill.
I take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford when he says that the amendments and the Bill will not add to public expenditure. The Bill says that £1 million will be spent, and I believe that it is wrong to spend that money.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
I agree with my hon. Friend, but he should bear in mind that we secured from the Government in 1201 Committee an undertaking that not a penny would be spent under the Bill until the Government had published a Green Paper, presumably containing a draft scheme, and the Green Paper had received the general approval of both Houses of Parliament. There is no question of the Registrar being appointed until the Green Paper is published.
§ Mr. Sproat
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke) did gallant service in Committee in making the point about the Green Paper. I noticed, however, that the Minister was looking rather dubiously at one or two of the points made by my hon. Friend. Doubtless she will correct my hon. Friend if he was wrong. My hon. Friend is right in saying that the Green Paper must be approved before anything can happen, but that does not mean that the Bill will not cause further public expenditure. It increases public expenditure and it increases public bureaucracy.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford said that the Bill would lead to more public expenditure. The Government will no doubt shortly be forced to make cuts, as will the forthcoming Conservative Government, but there will be areas in which public spending will increase. That may be so. I can think of defence and other areas where public expenditure has been cut perilously low. If we accept that, although the global sum must be cut, certain aspects will increase, surely there are higher priorities for increased spending than public lending right. One thinks of the inadequate social services or the inadequate public library service. Surely that is a better way of spending spare money. Surely we would not be prepared to spend money on the Bill while letting our schools crumble into decrepitude. I cannot see a Conservative Government giving priority to a public lending right.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford said that the amendment and the Bill were concerned with justice for authors. But it is ludicrous to suggest that the Bill carries justice for all authors, because if that were so there would be no cut-off point for a successful author. The average author will get £5. The very successful author, such as Alistair Maclean, will get £1,000. I believe that it is a waste to give the money to authors such as Alistair Maclean who already 1202 have a lot. It is also wrong because the ratio by which he outsells other authors is greater than the proportion of £5 to £1,000. The Bill therefore does not give justice to all authors. It gives effect to a bad principle in a bad way at a bad time. My hon. Friends and I will support the amendment in a belated attempt to improve the Bill.
The amendment seeks to remedy one defect. Writers of fiction will be treated more generously than writers of reference works. What is the value of a great novel compared with a bad dictionary? We could argue that point for a long time. Were the night longer I should be happy to do so, but I fear that we may not have enough time to discuss the amendments already set down for debate, without branching out into other interesting points. Whatever the value placed on "War and Peace" on the one hand and the "Shorter Oxford Dictionary" on the other, the Bill is weighted heavily in favour of the writers of fiction.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford referred to the infamous Putney principle which was set out in a letter of 28th November 1974 by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins), who was then the Minister responsible for the arts. It provided that we should weight the principle in favour of longer books. He said that a life's work of 800—pages must be worth more—
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have debated this topic in Committee. The amendment deals with reference books. The remarks by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) have not the slightest relevance to the amendment. I suggest, with the greatest respect, that the hon. Gentleman has been out of order for some time.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I think that the Chair had better hear how the hon. Gentleman develops his argument before making a decision on that matter.
§ Mr. Sproat
My point is precisely relevant to the amendment. Reference works tend to be longer than fiction. The Putney principle specifically provided that a work of 800 pages should be worth more than a mere essay. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman, having first denied that he said those words in Committee, 1203 has now admitted that he said them but that he had forgotten them.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What the hon. Gentleman is saying is totally untrue. He should not be allowed to pursue this fallacious argument in a speech which has nothing to do with the amendment.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I do not understand the word "untrue". It may be fallacious. It is for the hon. Member in what he has to say to justify his remarks.
§ Mr. Sproat
I refer the hon. Member for Putney, if he needs any reference from me, to columns 25 and 26 of the Committee Hansard for 26th October 1976 when I first made this point. I do not know why the hon. Gentleman should he so keen to deny it, for he wrote the letter when he was a Minister.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins rose—
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
It is a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am anxious to make progress on the Bill. I respectfully suggest that this issue has no relevance whatsoever to reference books, the subject of this amendment.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Interruptions of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) only tend to encourage him. Perhaps we might get on better if he were not interrupted.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I was about to say that that is a point of argument rather than a point of order.
§ Mr. Sproat
I suggest that, rather than seek to cover up the errors that the hon. Member for Putney attempted to perpetrate as a Minister, he ought to listen to the wisdom coming from these Benches and learn the error of his ways.
I was about to quote the letter that he wrote on 28th November 1974. However, I shall leave the Putney principle for the moment. I was about to be charitable to the hon. Gentleman in thinking that when he spoke of 800 pages 1204 he was attempting to right the balance in favour of works of reference. If he had said that to me, I should have said that I thought it was the wrong way to do that. A mathematical calculation of the number of pages is not the way to assess value.
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Walder) is present. Reference was made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford to a novel being written in a morning. I should be interested to know whether it was fluent and facile in the best sense of the word.
§ Mr. David Walder
If that was said, my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) revealed his ignorance.
§ Mr. Sproat
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford then said a week. Even a week is ludicrously fast for any novel of any worth. I believe that I am right in saying that "War and Peace" took five years to write. While it is true that Shakespeare never blotted a line and dashed off "Hamlet" in a very short time, the fact is that it is not possible to consider the value of a work in relation to the time that it takes, its length, or whether it is a reference work or a work of fiction.
We all have our opinion on whether "War and Peace" is more valuable than a railway timetable. One is a work of reference and the other is a work of fiction. But for the purposes of this Bill, it is only fair that they should be considered alike.
The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), who has temporarily left the Chamber, made a valid point. The hon. Gentleman got round those technicalities which the Minister sought to advance by pointing out that the average number of times that a book was out on loan during a year was six and a half. I am sure that if it were found too difficult for various technical reasons to use another method of estimating the amount of money that authors should get under the Bill, we should say that, as the average 1205 loan is six and a half times a year, we should calculate reference books on the same basis. I think that, rather than have nothing, such authors would be satisfied with that half-loaf.
We have heard from the Minister—we shall hear this many times as the long night draws on—the argument about bureaucratic complexities. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford, in a fine phrase, said that bureaucratic complexities were the last recourse of civil servants who did not know what else to say. I presume that the civil servants keep writing it into the hon. Lady's brief because they cannot think of anything else to say.
The hon. Member for Warley, East indicated how this problem could be surmounted. Quite apart from the Warley solution, technology is advancing and it may soon be possible to find a method by which the number of times a reference work is used can be scientifically calculated. If the will were there, the way could be found.
This amendment seeks to make it obligatory upon the Government to find a way to make reference books fall within the Bill. Certainly bureaucratic complexities will not be accepted by me on this or any other amendment as a prime reason for throwing out that amendment. That is why I shall not accept what the hon. Lady said.
The main reason why I accept what my hon. Friend said is that we are dealing with justice. On a previous amendment we sought to argue that the authors of all works—I use "authors" in the widest sense; pictures, records and sculptures—should come within the scope of the Bill. If it is fair for authors of books, it is fair for writers of music.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) made reference to cheap detective novels. I am sorry that he is not in the Chamber. I thought perhaps that he would like to clarify this point. I do not think that we ought to enter into a debate on the value of literature. If an author gives pleasure and that pleasure is justified by the number of times that his book is taken out of the library, he ought to get a reward for giving that pleasure. If that is the argument, I support it.
1206 If we are to deal generously with authors of detective novels, we must also, with even-handed justice, deal with the authors of reference books. That is the principle of justice for which we fought on the previous amendment and for which we fought here.
I believe that this is a bad Bill. I hope that it will be thrown out by this House or, if not, by another place. Nevertheless, as it is here, I shall do my best to improve it. Therefore, I hope that the House will support the amendment. If nothing else, it will improve a bad Bill by introducing at least some element of justice into it.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
I hope that the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke), who is now in charge of matters for the Opposition, will stay in charge for some little while. Some of us think that he should have been in charge some time ago. Unfortunately that was not to be.
Some reference was made earlier to his adventitious presence on the Opposition Front Bench. Perhaps, after all, the division of arts and books would be a good thing. It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman is not permanently on the Front Bench in this respect. If he were, his interventions in this debate would have been somewhat less self-regarded and less self-advertising than those of his hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). There are those of us who would regard the hon. Member for Bristol, West as a vigorous and dangerous opponent. None the less, we would regard him as a less slack wristed opponent and, for that reason, more to be respected than his hon. Friend.
I shall address myself to the question of references. I understand the view that might be taken that, if it were possible to include reference books in the Bill, it would be a good thing to do. The fact is that the technical investigation group which studied this matter with great care did not find an accurate means of doing so. The best method that could be used was guesswork.
We have tried to avoid guesswork in the Bill and in the Green Paper we shall be introducing a scheme under the Bill. This was one of the problems of the purchase writing business. This scheme 1207 is based on an accurate survey. If we are conceding a right to authors, we cannot reward them on guesswork. There is no cut-off and no figure of £5 or £1,000 in the Bill.
I hope that my hon. Friend will seek to persuade hon. Members opposite not that what they have been saying is wrong in principle, because everybody would like to include reference books in the ultimate rewards, but, in the light of her arguments to withdraw the amendments and allow the House to proceed with the Bill.
§ Mr. David Walder
This is the only one of the block of amendments that I can definitely support. I suspect that one will never achieve accuracy for loans of reference books. The only thing one knows about reference books is that they are present in a library. Perhaps one can track the loan habits of a work of fiction, but who can tell whether a book of reference is consulted by someone who enters a library to borrow a book?
The authors of reference books should be rewarded by the presence of that book in libraries. Presumably their presence indicates that they are in demand and presumably if a book of reference is never used it will be removed from the library or not recorded.
The other difficulty is that of how one defines a reference book. Usually the definition is made by the library. A reference section in one library may not be so labelled in another. If hon. Members look in the House of Commons Library they might find books classified as reference books which would not be so classified in other libraries but lent out. If a reference book is present in a library and presumably therefore used, the writer should receive the same benefit as the writer of a work of fiction or non-fiction.
§ Mr. Moate
My hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Walder) made an effective point. I wish that he had been a member of the technical investigation group, because he managed from his own experience and wisdom to reach the same conclusion as that group, although no doubt it took longer and more public expenditure was involved.
In responding to my hon. Friend's argument I quote from the technical 1208 investigation group which on page 11 of its interim report states:First, we are of the opinion that any system which provided for the counting of consultations of books in reference libraries would disrupt the work of the libraries to an unacceptable degree. Secondly, we consider therefore that the inclusion of reference books in a loan based scheme would need to he based on either:That is the point which was made by my hon. Friend.
- (i) an annual census of books in the reference sections of the sample libraries …
- (ii) recording purchases of books for use in all reference libraries, or a sample of them".
I do not understand why the Government are so determined to maintain as inviolable a scheme which has not yet seen the light of day. They are determined to declare that it is a loan-based scheme which must be unsullied by any other scheme. Why is it so impossible to accept what the technical investigation group said? My reading of its analysis of the subject is that it suggested that there should be the original loan-based scheme for works lent by the library in addition to a purchase or stock scheme for reference works. The Government have suggested that that is unworkable, unacceptable and administratively difficult. But the group's report does not bear that out.
The Minister owes a better explanation to the House, the country and authors about why she is not prepared to accept the introduction of a greater element of justice into the scheme. The whole Government case is based on the technical investigation group report and yet now they ignore or refute its findings and refuse to accept them.
Paragraph 48 of the final report states:Bearing in mind what we said earlier in this report, that an initial PLR scheme would not be immutable and could be refined in the light of experience, we recommend that consideration of the problem of eligible authors whose books are to be found only in the 19 very large reference libraries in the United Kingdom should be deferred until further data are available, possible after a PLR scheme has been in operation for some time, and that pending such reconsideration the deeming' procedure suggested in paragraph 47(a)(i) should be adopted. In the meantime we do not consider that a decision on whether a PLR scheme should be purchase based or loan based need be delayed.1209 Paragraph 47(a)(i) suggests that one method of dealing with reference books in reference libraries would be to carry out an annual census of stock in sample libraries. I could give other quotes from the reports of the group to demonstrate ways of getting round the difficulties that we all acknowledge to exist. They are difficulties that can be overcome and the technical investigation group produced solutions to the problems. It thought that ultimately there would be a way of making public lending right payments to the authors of reference works. The interim report even gave a method of dealing with the 19 large reference libraries, which the hon. Lady implied presented an insuperable problem.
§ Miss Margaret Jackson
I repeat what I have said over and over again. We do not argue that it is impossible to include reference books. We argue that the scheme should be based on use, on loans, because that is the fairest way.
The Bill says that the scheme is for books which are lent. Proposals for putting reference books into the scheme have been advanced, but we do not consider them satisfactory. We consider that they would mean expense and difficulty out of all proportion to any benefit they might confer on anybody.
We have heard these quotations innumerable times and they have been refuted innumerable times in the same terms. It wastes the time of the House to go over the same ground repeatedly.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Moate
It is the hon. Lady and the Government who are wasting the time of the House and those who have an interest in the Bill. There are obviously very few hon. Members interested in the Bill, to judge by the vast expanse of empty Benches on the Government side of the House. There is a slightly bigger representation on this side of the House. If the Bill is making heavy weather, that is largely because of the total lack of interest in it by Labour Members.
The hon. Lady and her Government are wasting the time of Parliament by categorically refusing to listen to any of the arguments. They have refused to accept any amendments. The hon. Lady 1210 is right to say that we have quoted before extracts from the report of the technical investigation group, but she is wrong to say that she has refuted them. I shall continue to quote from page 11 of the interim report, because it refutes what the hon. Lady says about the cost. The group states:these large libraries"—the 19 major reference librariesmight be sub-sampled, providing certain practical difficulties of access in some cases could be overcome. The operation might involve an annual count of about 100,000 books at an additional annual cost estimated to be of the order of £20,000.Is the hon. Lady telling us that £20,000 is an excessive sum to introduce the 19 major reference libraries into the scheme? The Government propose to spend £400,000 of taxpayers' money on administering a scheme that will give £600,000 on top to the authors. The Bill will increase public spending and involve an extension of the bureaucracy, but the Government refuse to give the benefits to writers of reference books because, according to the interim report, it would cost an extra £20,000 to introduce the major reference libraries. The Minister has not answered that point.
The hon. Lady should say why the Government have been so adamant in refusing to listen to any arguments and to accept any amendments. The only other Bill that I can remember to be fought so hard, with the Government resisting any amendment hour after hour, day after day, week after week and month after month was the European Communities Bill.
Why should that happen on this Bill? The hon. Lady obviously thinks that it is very important, but I do not think that even she will equate it with a matter such as the European Communities Bill. Yet the Government have adamantly refused to accept any argument about the question of works, not books, and about the inclusion of reference works. Was the Bill perfect when it arrived here, so beautifully drafted that the hon. Lady will not accept even a minor amendment?
These remarks are particularly relevant to this amendment. We play around with the word "justice". The case for giving justice to the writers of more scholarly 1211 works should be accepted. The Government have adopted an extraordinary attitude. I do not accept that, broadly speaking, the Bill is about recompensing authors for something they have lost, but if we are to provide £1 million to pay them, the money should go to all authors. It has been made painfully clear that the Bill is only for some authors. I do not think that authors and authors' groups throughout the country, which have been campaigning for the Bill, have understood how bad a Bill it is.
Seventy per cent. of the books lent by the local library authorities are works of fiction. I have no intention of disparaging works of fiction, whether they are fine or poor. I am not saying that they are less important or less good literature than more scholarly works. They do not represent the balance of literature in this country. Seventy per cent. of the books lent by the public libraries are novels, and all the other authors of more serious and more scholarly works, who have a much greater claim to compensation—if that is the way in which we are talking—are to be excluded.
Many of those who write complaining about the low level of their income and saying what a struggle it is to produce books requiring much research and years of study and work, are people whose books will end up on the reference shelves. But the hon. Lady excludes them from the Bill. What sort of justice is that? It really is a most extraordinary proposition.
I emphasise once again that the technical investigation group did not say that it was impossible. It said that there were difficulties, but made it clear that they could be overcome. Perhaps that would take time. It may be that it would take one, two or three years to produce a workable scheme. But those practical difficulties could be overcome in that time.
The hon. Lady and the Government have said that we are not to have a scheme for some years to come. It has been said that there will be several years of consultation and discussion and waiting for the money before the Green Paper—
§ Mr. Moate
—is introduced, and then the draft scheme. At any rate, there will be a consultation document at some time, followed by a debate on it, and then ultimately perhaps a scheme will be introduced. But that is several years hence. Why, if that is the case, is the hon. Lady so determined to exclude reference works?
It is important for all authors to note that we are not simply saying that for the moment or for the time being only we arc excluding reference works. The Bill is likely to contain the principle of any scheme that is in existence for many years to come. It is the Bill that limits the scheme, and I hope that authors will understand that the Bill will prevent authors of works of reference from being allowed into the scheme.
The hon. Lady acknowledged in Committee that the principle was inequitable. I think that she said that in equity it would be right to include reference works. But they are excluded and cannot be introduced into the scheme, and no one has told us the reason for this.
The hon. Lady has all the time in the world in which to work out administrative techniques. But even if reference works were to be included now, there would be no obligation for the eventual scheme to include reference works. But accepting the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and his hon. Friends would mean that any future Government could amend the scheme in such a way as to include reference works when the practical difficulties have been overcome in a satisfactory way.
I think that the hon. Lady owes the House a much better explanation for introducing a Bill that discriminates against many authors and is in favour of some authors. No doubt the writers of novels would be glad of extra payment, but so would be writers of more serious works.
We now have a situation under the Bill in which not only British but overseas novelists will benefit. Instead of its being a Bill which makes a payment to British authors who actually need the cash, it is more like a Harold Robbins benefit Bill.
§ Mr. Moate
I borrowed the hon. Gentleman's words and willingly give them back to him so that he can use them. But a substantial proportion of the money will go to overseas authors. The Bill gives most of the benefit to novelists and, as I have said, not only to British novelists but to overseas novelists.
There will be great resentment on the part of serious authors who suddenly discover that most of their works are being held on the reference shelves and are not being lent out. Whether such books go on the reference or lending shelves is a matter for the librarian. In times of financial stringency when libraries are unable to buy large numbers of a publication they may say "We shall put that work on the reference shelves since it is the one we can afford because the library will want it for reference purposes." Therefore, by a whim of the librarian an author could be deprived of his public lending right.
I hope that the Minister will say why she has refused point blank to consider any minor adaptation of the loan-based scheme. I see nothing impracticable about such a scheme embracing the sampling of reference books. The fact that she has decided to proceed with a loan-based scheme is unfair.
Why are all those who apparently support the principle of the Bill so totally disinterested in whether justice is done to writers of serious works? Where are those supporters tonight? Admittedly, one or two of them voted with us in Committee on this matter, and indeed on one occasion there was a tie. One or two Labour Members joined us in supporting that proposition but, apart from that incident, there has been total disinterest on the part of all those who are supposed to be so interested in justice for authors. They support a Bill that is unfair to thousands of authors and excludes many serious writers.
The Bill is also unfair to those who put many years of scholarship into their works. Those Labour Members do not appear to care. They arc prepared to see this very bad Bill go on the statute book.
Our amendment, which seeks to extend the public lending right to reference works and not just books lent through public 1214 libraries, does not in any way increase public expenditure. One of my main objections to the Bill is that, despite the assurances received by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke), it proposes to increase public expenditure. I regard the issuing of a post-dated cheque for a period of two or three years as an act of irresponsibility. To go on handing out post-dated cheques must be regarded as a grossly irresponsible action. But in proposing to extend this Bill to reference works I emphasise that we are not proposing any increase in public expenditure. The limit is £1 million.
§ Mr. English
The hon. Gentleman will agree that there is provision in the Bill for that figure to be increased.
§ Mr. Moate
The hon. Gentleman may be right in saying that it would not be done by another Bill, but, instead, we would have a one-and-a-half hour debate on the proposal to increase the figure from £1 million to perhaps many more millions.
At present it is a £1 million scheme and it is a nonsensical scheme because half of that figure will go on administration. The rest will produce, on average, a miserable £5 per author. That figure might be reduced since it has been decided to include foreign authors. Certainly if we include reference works no doubt that £5 figure will diminish, and I accept that. But it is such a small figure on average that it cannot have much relationship to authors, particularly to those who are struggling to make a living. If one were to ask authors "Should reference works be included?", they would almost unanimously say "Yes, because the present Bill is unfair''.
We have been talking about the establishment of a principle. If we asked 1215 authors whether they wanted an unfair principle—bearing in mind that this is the only Bill they are likely to get for donkeys' years hence—or a fair principle involving a minor financial sacrifice for authors. I am sure that the overwhelming response would be that we ought to extend the Bill to reference works because that is a fair principle.
I hope that it is understood that in supporting the amendment I am not suggesting that public expenditure should be increased. I should prefer that the Bill did not proceed at all, because that would mean very considerable savings in public expenditure, if not this year, then certainly in years ahead.
On the sheer merit of whether money should go to novelists or to scholarly, more serious authors, it is difficult to describe different categories of author without appearing to imply some preference for one or other or suggesting that one type is better. No hon. Member would wish to do that. Although it is true that many novelists are struggling hard for survival and it is extremely difficult for them to obtain sufficient income to live, it is nevertheless also true that there is a greater chance of making a lot of money from a successful novel than there is from writing scholarly works of reference.
§ Mr. Moate
If it is true that "Erskine May" is making a great deal of money, I am delighted. It is a very worthy cause, but it is not directly relevant.
The really successful novelist will benefit most from the Bill. Assuming that there is a cut-off level of £1,000, that amount will go to those authors who might also get film rights for their books and make a great deal of money. I know of an instance when several hundred thousand pounds were paid for the film rights of a British novel.
The Bill suggests that the people who stand a chance of making a lot of money should get an extra reward, but that the person who writes a reference book—and knows he has no chance of making a great deal of money—will get no payment. It astounds me that a Government who profess such egalitarian motives 1216 should introduce a Bill which gives £1,000 a year to rich, successful authors who already stand a chance of making hundreds of thousands of pounds from film rights, while the struggling scholar will get nothing.
This proposal is grossly unfair, incorporates real injustice, and involves increased public expenditure at the expense of the electors, taxpayers and ratepayers in the constituencies of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Yet they are blindly going to vote for one of the most unfair measures ever put on the statute book. This is a very sad state of affairs and I hope that hon. Members opposite will surprise us. There are only four or five here who may be persuaded by argument and there are another 100 outside on the payroll vote who will troop through and do their duty, but I hope that this very worthy amendment will be carried by the House.
§ Mr. English
Will my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary tell me where my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is? Is she ill? We all understand why in Committee the Under-Secretary was unable to give us any assurances on any amendments. She is a junior Minister. Only a Cabinet Minister can give such assurances. We assumed that on Report the Secretary of State, the sponsor of the Bill, would have the grace to turn up. Is she ill? Is there some good reason for her not turning up? I take it that there is not. The Secretary of State has a great reputation, and she preserves it by keeping out of trouble when there is trouble. [Interruption.] Government Whips are supposed to be seen and not heard, but my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) says that what I have said is not very nice. I do not think that it is very nice. It is a discourtesy to the House for a Cabinet Minister in charge of the Bill not to appear.
§ Mr. English
I am grateful for your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, this matter has been mentioned by the Opposition, who have been attacking the 1217 Under-Secretary—I think unjustly—and
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Now that the matter has been brought to the attention of the House, perhaps we can deal with the amendment.
§ Mr. English
The point concerned is an example of hypocrisy, just as the absence of the Cabinet Minister responsible is also an example of hypocrisy.
Here we have a Bill designed to convey a great principle. What principle does it convey? It says that if one takes a book 10 yards from a book stack, for example, in a reference room in a public library, there is no public lending right. However, if one takes the same book 20 yards outside the door or from another book stack—it may be the same book; there are plenty of books that are in reference rooms and in the lending-out part of libraries—there is a public lending right. That is the great issue of principle, the great public lending right.
As I have said, the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins) have been arguing in the public prints as to who is responsible for the Bill as between each other. As far as I am concerned, let them both be responsible. They both claim that they are responsible for a principle. What a strange principle it is. The basis of the principle is that if one borrows a book in one way there is a public lending right, but that if one borrows it in another way there is not such a right.
There are other aspects of the Bill to which we shall come on later amendments. One has to borrow the book from a local authority library and not from a private library. One has to borrow in the ways specified—basically by whom? It is by the Under-Secretary, by the Treasury or by the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke). However, there is no principle involved.
The basic morality behind the Bill is undiscernible. Such morality as there is says that all that exists is a public lending right whereby those who cannot read or those who can read pay their taxpayers' money in order that those who can read and who borrow only from public libraries may enable some taxpayers' money to be paid towards this.
1218 It has been said that probably more of the books that are loaned out—to use the phrase of the Bill—are fiction than books loaned in, if one may coin that phrase, for reference purposes. Presumably, books borrowed for reference purposes are more normally non-fiction. Therefore, what the Government and the Opposition Front Bench are in effect saying is that authors of non-fiction are worth less in terms of the public, in terms of the opinion of the country at large, than authors mainly of fiction.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
No. The hon. Gentleman completely misrepresents us. The whole point of what we are trying to do now is to bring justice to the generality of authors.
§ Mr. English
The hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I accept that this amendment was moved by the Opposition. He will also accept that the Opposition Front Bench voted in favour of the Bill on several occasions, not only in Committee but on Second Reading. Generally speaking, the Opposition Front Bench is in favour of the Bill, and I would imagine that even if the amendment were defeated the Opposition Front Bench would be voting for the Third Reading.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke indicated assent.
§ Mr. English
The hon. Gentleman nods his head. I take it that I have made my point. This is a perfect example of the Back Benches against the two Front Benches. People sometimes talk about the great national coalition. Good heavens above, the only two things that the great national coalition has done recently is to pass the Public Lending Right Bill and—
§ Mr. English
Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps it is something that you will allow me to return to on. Third Reading.
In this particular case I would accept that the amendment is moved by both factions of the Opposition—the Front Bench and its Back Bench. It is a justifiable amendment. In Committee there was a tie on this very issue.
What possible justification can there be for saying that there is such a thing as a 1219 public lending right and that authors deserve some extra money and then saying that only some should get it? Like the rest of us they want more money, and they may deserve to be paid extra money for their books being borrowed. Everyone asks for more money. People do so in factories, in the British Medical Association and elsewhere. I have no objection to authors being as greedy as the rest of us and wanting more money, but in this authors' benefit Bill, if we may describe it as such, they are being given more money at a time when everyone else is subject to an incomes policy. They will be given that money only if their books are borrowed across the doorstep of the library. If their book is only taken from the shelf and looked at in the library, they will not be given the money unless this amendment is carried.
That is the great issue of principle. It is absolutely remarkable. It is the great issue where only Germany has passed the law and no one in the world has applied it. We are saying that that principle does not apply if people only read books.
Karl Marx, it is said, wrote his books in the British Museum Library and borrowed an enormous number of books from the shelves of the British Museum in order to do so. One is told that the references alone in the works of Marx number thousands. Had a public lending right existed at that time, no author of those books would have been paid under the Bill as it now stands. If Marx had taken one book home, which one cannot do from the British Museum Library, that would have instituted a public lending right in respect of that book. I might add that if Marx had taken the book home, because it had come from the British Museum, which is a Crown library set up by statute with a set of trustees, public lending right would not have existed. However, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you would rule me out of order if I continued with that point.
Here we have this great principle that authors are entitled to extra money while other people are restricted to an increase of £4 per week. That is what the Bill says. It is no good the Minister saying that the Bill is not coming into force yet. There is nothing in the Bill which 1220 says that it shall not come into force this year. The Bill merely says that it must not come into force until a scheme has been approved by the House of Commons, but that could be the week after Royal Assent.
According to the wording of the Bill, all authors are entitled to more money because their book is lent. That is the great principle. But the principle does not apply if books are only read. It applies only if they are taken across the doorstep of the library. Some people spend a lifetime consulting works of reference and writing books which may influence the world, but if they read them sitting in a library no public lending right will be created.
§ Mr. Lawson
Would the hon. Gentleman perhaps like to enlighten the House about the unfairness which is meted out to the authors of reference books who have spent their lifetime compiling and writing these reference books and who, because reference books will not be taken over the portals of the library, will get nothing out of PLR? Many works which fall into this category and many others will spring readily to the hon. Gentleman's mind.
§ Mr. English
I think that several hundred people spent a large part of their lifetimes constructing the Oxford English Dictionary. I believe that its first edition was in 24 volumes, and it has grown in terms of supplements since then. No one would dream of carrying 24 volumes home, but is there any reason why the trustees—I think that they are trustees—of the Oxford English Dictionary should not get some additional income? Of course there is, because the idea of the Bill is only to deal with a few individual vested interests.
The moment that people co-operate, they will not be covered by the Bill anyway—theirs will be multi-author works. The idea is not to deal with co-operative works, which would include most reference books, but to pay off a few greedy little individuals who, when other people's incomes are restricted, want extra money.
If two people jointly write a book, they will not get any money. If 200 people write a great work of reference, an encyclopaedia or a dictionary, because it is a work of reference they will get no 1221 money. The real point of the Bill is a simple public relations sop to a few vocal and greedy individuals. It is intended not to implement a principle but only to pay off people who might otherwise write nasty articles saying how nasty are the two Front Benches for not supporting this proposal.
§ Mr. Lawson
I shall not intervene in the hon. Gentleman's speech a third time, but has it occurred to him that this proposal is contrary to Government policy, and particularly contrary to the policy so ably enunciated by the Secretary of State for Energy, who is very much in favour of workers' co-operatives? If a workers' co-operative were to write a work, they would be discriminated against because it was a co-operative work. Surely that is a strange thing for this present Government to be introducing at this time.
§ Mr. English
I am sure that I should be ruled out of order if I ventured into those waters. I would only offer the hon. Gentleman the thought that if the Institute for Policy Studies of a well-known right hon. Gentleman on his Front Bench also wrote a co-operative work, it would not get any money either. I do not think we need go into that further to suggest that a great many textbooks and works of reference are purchased and borrowed out least and that, therefore, their authors, although they may have spent their lifetime producing them, get a very small amount in copyright and will get little under this Bill.
One of the reasons adduced by A. P. Herbert for a public lending right was precisely this point, that it is easy to write a work of fiction and sell millions of copies. The man who has the copyright can become a millionaire, as Harold Robbins has done. He may emigrate to a tax haven and collect his money. The man who spends his lifetime creating a work of reference might in the ultimate have done more for humanity but will get less in copyright because perhaps his book will survive for centuries after he is dead.
There are still people who look up works like the "Acta Sanctorum". The hon. Member for Chelmsford probably knows that the "Acta Sanctorum" was begun in the seventeenth century. It started with 1st January and has slowly 1222 worked its way through the calendar. Its most recently published volume was for November, I think. It is not yet finished. It is a co-operative venture, not only among people who are now living but among people who have been dead for three centuries. No one will get any money out of that under the Bill. It consists of dozens of volumes, but that, under the Bill, is irrelevant because the Bill is not designed to deal with any work of that character. It is designed to discourage co-operative effort and to discourage works of great length or even of sheer physical weight—works that cannot be carried out of the library. Whatever their quality or virtue in the eyes of humanity, there is no public lending right for them.
The ideal public lending right under the Bill applies to a little paper-back book put into a hard-back cover for library purposes. That book is written by the man who does not need a public lending right because he is a millionaire living in a tax haven. The man who needs a public lending right, the person who produces a work that is not often borrowed from a public library, will not get it because the Bill so dictates. If the Government accept the principle that they claim to accept under the Bill, they should in all conscience accept the amendment.
§ Mr. Body
I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English). He should have gone a little further. He spoke of just a few greedy people getting more, but they will not get more until 1980. We are legislating now for something that will take place in 1980 although we have ample opportunity to consider a more detailed and more carefully drafted Bill between now and 1980 which would clear up some of the many anomalies that have been brought to light.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, West could have been more explicit. Essentially, it is novelists who will gain from the Bill—not the good novelists. The hon. Gentleman spoke about Harold Robbins, who lives in California. He will get the equivalent of a bottle or two of gin, but the second-rate novelist will gain.
I gather that the Under-Secretary of State spoke only for two minutes when 1223 she moved the amendment. Perhaps when she replies she will enlarge on her earlier comments and tell me whether I am right in saying that 70 per cent. of the books that are purchased by public libraries are novels. Therefore, the great majority of the authors who will benefit from the scheme will be novel writers, not those who have written more serious books, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson).
I appreciate that he is only the hind legs or the fore-legs of the donkey with Mr. Bruce-Gardyne. My hon. Friend is one of the more serious contributors but he will not benefit. We hope that his book will appear in public libraries, but we know as a fact—not doubt the hon. Lady will contradict me if I am wrong—that 70 per cent. of the books in public libraries are novels.
Authors fall into three classes, two professional and one amateur. There is the one class of professional authors who make it their full-time occupation to write books and who earn a good livelihood by so doing. There is Harold Robbins, but there are many others. They do not need the support of the Exchequer as proposed by the Bill. They do not need any further supplements to their income.
The second class is represented by the second-rate professional authors who are trying to earn a living full time but who are failing to do so.
Thirdly, there are the amateurs, and no one can be more of an amateur in this respect—I use that work in its truest sense—than my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke), who in his spare time has produced a book that adorns my bookshelves and I hope always will, a book that I dip into regularly. The amateurs produce a book and they are not concerned, as I am sure my hon. Friend is not, with the rewards of authorship. My hon. Friend is an amateur like thousands of others who have produced a book. They believe they have a book inside them worth producing and they get on and do it without any thought of financial reward.
The Bill is concerned with the middle group, the second-class professional author. He is someone who owes an 1224 enormous debt to the present public library system. Let it be realised that 40 per cent. of the books that are sold go into the public library system. It must be within the knowledge of every publisher that the norm is to produce a print of about 2,000 books. If such a print is produced, one may be assured that at least 1,500 copies will go into public libraries and that the remaining 500 will be distributed to reviewers and outlets such as Smiths.
That means—any publisher will confirm this—that hundreds of books have seen the light of day that would not otherwise have appeared. There can be no serious doubt about that. I suggest that there are a large number of novelists who are producing second-rate books. I use the description "second-rate" carefully, because they are second rate in the judgment of the public, who are not buying their books and who read them only through the public library system. Those books are seeing the light of day because of the enormous patronage that the public library system provides for the second-class author. It is that sort of author and that sort alone who will stand to gain some further benefit from the Bill. That is completely wrong.
I go along with the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Nottingham, West. If we are to have some justice in the Bill, works of reference should be included. We should embrace serious books which have taken many hours and sometimes years to produce. Few copies of such books may be printed, yet they are to be found in the public libraries and they are made use of by students, research workers and serious readers. The people who will use them will not contribute directly or indirectly towards any public lending right.
There is a world of difference between the writing of a work of reference and the writing of one of these second-class novels, which we hear from the novelists themselves can be produced in a fortnight and sometimes in a month. Why should they and their works be included in this scheme but not those who have set out to undertake perhaps months or years of research and who have spent many hours producing a valuable work of reference which will be appreciated by many people—a work which will be 1225 one of love, because anyone who produces such a book does not earn a livelihood by writing it? The injustice will be with them.
Very few of these works give anyone a livelihood, yet these are the very authors who should be brought into the scheme. They are the very authors who are excluded. They can be included only if this amendment is accepted.
On this occasion, I stand shoulder to shoulder with my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) in hoping that the Government will accept this amendment. We heard from my hon. Friend how the technical investigation group had considered how books of reference could be included. Those of us who have read the report of the proceedings in Committee must feel disappointed at the Minister's failure to reply to my hon. Friend.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford quoted the report of the group in which it showed how there were two schemes which could be used to enable works of reference to be included. He quoted at length and explained cogently how the Minister was at least mistaken in her assertion that the technical investigation group was reluctant to recommend the inclusion of works of reference.
I hope that the Minister will enlarge upon her reasons for rejecting the views of the technical investigation group. It has suggested two schemes whereby works of reference could be included. I submit that one of those schemes should be considered by the Government. If that is not possible, the hon. Lady should explain why it is not.
§ Ms Maureen Colquhoun (Northampton, North)
I must apologise to the House for not being present earlier in the debate. During the day I have been in my constituency dealing with an important matter.
It had been my hope to stand aside from the debates on the Bill. However, having listened to the claptrap that has been spoken on this amendment, I feel that I must make a contribution to the debate.
I hope that the amendment will not be accepted. I cannot see that a work of reference is a work of creativity, as a 1226 novel is. It has been said that novelists—and not very good ones at that- will gain from the Bill. However, authors have always suffered. They suffer from publishers. They suffer from librarians. In the House of Commons they suffer from Members of Parliament. Never have novelists been more maligned than when hon. Members decide what is first-rate and what is second-rate without laying down some kind of criteria.
I suggest that in the case of novels it is a question of creativity and of whether people wish to read them.
§ Mr. Body
That is exactly the criterion I gave. The first-class novelist has such a popular following and has such sales assured that the kind of help offered by the Bill is no help at all. On the other hand the public library system, by buying 70 per cent. novels, provides a quite good livelihood for those who are not assured of a popular following elsewhere.
§ Ms Colquhoun
I do not think that is a criterion of creativity. It is disgraceful that novelists who do not earn a living from writing should be called second-rate. It shows a complete lack of understanding of what writers face in this country.
As the wife for 28 years of an author and writer, I know that my family would not have eaten at all if it had been left to the money earned from books and novel-writing. Yet it is this kind of writing which should be encouraged. I felt I had to come here today to say to Opposition Members "You poor darling dodos, you do not know what you are talking about when you stand up and label novelists as first or second-rate according to this criterion of yours."
§ Mr. Lawson
I have much sympathy with the points that the hon. Lady makes. I agree that one can learn far more about the state of society from a novel than from any Government blue book. But many important and worthwhile books are not novels. We are concerned here with the discrimination involved. For example, there is a copy of "Erskine May" at Mr. Speaker's elbow. That is hardly a novel, but it is a work of some importance.
§ Ms. Colquhoun
I take the hon. Member's point but I do not entirely agree with him. I do not want to go into the 1227 games played with " Erskine May " in this House.
I do not think that the criterion of capitalism—making a lot of money out of a novel—means that it is either good or bad. It is entirely a question of creativity and a matter of individual judgment.
The public library system in this country has not helped authors. It has helped publishers. One can talk about second-rate publishers in cases where certain publishers have stifled the creative talent, but that is another debate. It is about time this House did something for authors and novelists. Many authors who are struggling to write have to earn a living in Fleet Street and journalism with some of the trashy papers. No doubt they would prefer to have peace of mind and sit at home writing a novel. Anything that will help these authors deserves support, and it ill becomes the House of Commons to set up barriers between first and second-class authors, judged on the criterion of capitalism and whether they earn enough money for their publishers.
One of the reservations I have about the Bill concerns the libraries. Although the Bill is better than nothing, I presume that in future it can be amended. One of the things about libraries is that they have librarians who select books. This mitigates against authors, and against first-time novelists in particular. There should be a careful examination of the power of some of these officials to decide which books to buy. I hope that the Government will not accept the amendment. It has nothing to do with the public lending right or creativity.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
I think that I can detect a closure when one is in the offing, and I hope that the Minister will ask leave of the House to reply to a number of the questions which have been asked and which deserve an answer.
My purpose in speaking is to get the whole of my party into the Lobby with me. I include the critics of public expenditure, of which I am certainly one, and those who take a slightly different view on this matter. The Bill does not provide for public expenditure now, and nor is it the post-dated cheque that one of my hon. Friends described it as. In some people's eyes it may be a cheque, but there is no date upon it.
1228 Let me quote what the Minister said in Standing Committee. She said that the Green Paper would come first.It is our intention to publish the Green Paper at some stage when … there is a prospect of sorting out the details."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 4th November 1976; c. 379.]That should go far enough into the future to satisfy any of my hon. Friends who are doubtful about incurring public expenditure.
I asked the Minister shortly afterwards whether what she said was a categorical statement that there would be no expenditure under this matter until the Green Paper had been published and discussed. The Minister's reply was a plain, straight-forward "Yes", also to be found at column 379.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Walder) made a very good point in asking just what was a reference book. A book might be a reference book in one library but not in another. In one library such books might be put in the reference department while in others they could be lent out quite freely.
I shall not repeat all that my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) said earlier—[Interruption.]—in spite of an invitation from my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) who, I gather, missed the earlier speech. I am sorry that he missed it, and I am sure that when he reads it in Hansard he, too, will be sorry that he missed it. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby will be able to make a contribution on one of the other amendments, and that he will be able to work in them the speech he was unable to make on this amendment.
There is a real injustice in the Bill if the life's work of those who produce reference books is not to be rewarded by its provisions. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford went through the whole question in great detail in Committee as reported in columns 197–200 of Hansard for 2nd November. It was clear from what he said that there were a number of ways in which the writers of reference books could be fairly rewarded. It could be possible for £7,800 for all purchasing points of library authorities to send clerical records of book purchases to the Registrar. On that basis it would 1229 be possible to reward the writers of reference books.
One of my hon. Friends said that every book was lent out from a public library on average about six-and-a-half times a year. That figure was generally accepted by the House. If we want to reward the writers of reference books who have worked so hard and long, why not give them double by assuming that their books are nominally or notionally lent out twice six-and-a-half times? There are plenty of ways of rewarding these excellent people who toil away without any reward of public lending right.
Why is there no definition in the Bill of the phrase "lent out"? I am not at all sure that the Bill, even without this amendment, would allow a scheme to be produced which could reward the writers of reference books. If the hon. Lady cannot give us the answer here, perhaps she would ponder on this matter and give us the answer between now and Third Reading. Perhaps she could get her experts to look into this matter. I believe that the phrase "lent out", not being defined, leaves us a loophole to produce a scheme by which we could reward writers of reference books. If a book is taken off the shelf by an assistant and handed
§ to a customer, that could easily be construed in law as being "lent out".
§ Having made a number of suggestions and encapsulated the ideas of some of my hon. Friends, I hope that the Minister will address herself to this problem and give us some hope that the Government will at last see the light of day and accept this reasonable proposal.
§ Mr. Speaker
The question is, That the amendment be made. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] As many as are of that opinion say "Aye".
§ Mr. Lawson
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not at least a courtesy to the House that the Minister should reply to the debate? If she is not prepared to reply, is it possible for you to allow me to catch your eye to take the time which you, in your mind, had allocated to the Minister and which she does not wish to use?
§ Mr. Speaker
I must be honest. I had it allocated any time in my mind. I as in the process of putting the not was in Question.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 33, Noes 125.1231
|Division No. 408.]||AYES||[9.32 p.m.|
|Beith, A. J.||James, David||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Biggs-Davison, John||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Body, Richard||Lamont, Norman||Silvester, Fred|
|Bottomley, Peter||Mather, Carol||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Brotherton, Michael||Mayhew, Patrick||Spence, John|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Sproat, Iain|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Moate, Roger||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|English, Michael||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Faulds, Andrew||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Page, John (Harrow West)||Mr. David Walder and|
|Grist, Ian||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Mr. Nigel Lawson.|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Archer, Peter||Coleman, Donald||Flannery, Martin|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Ashton, Joe||Concannon, J. D.||George, Bruce|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Corbett, Robin||Golding, John|
|Atkinson, Norman||Cowans, Harry||Gould, Bryan|
|Bagler, Gordon A. T.||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hardy, Peter|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Crawford, Douglas||Harper, Joseph|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Crawshaw, Richard||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Bean, R. E.||Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Hooley, Frank|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Dempsey, James||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Doig, Peter||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Dormand, J. D.||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Buchan, Norman||Edge, Geoff||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)|
|Carmichael, Nell||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Lamble, David|
|Cohen, Stanley||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Lamond, James|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Perry, Ernest||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Stoddart, David|
|Litterick, Tom||Richardson, Miss Joe||Strang, Gavin|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Robinson, Geoffrey||Thompson, George|
|McCartney, Hugh||Roderick, Caerwyn||Tierney, Sydney|
|McElhone, Frank||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Tinn, James|
|McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Rooker, J. W.||Urwin, T. W.|
|Madden, Max||Roper, John||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Magee, Bryan||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)|
|Marks, Kenneth||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Marquand, David||Ryman, John||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Sandelson, Neville||Weetch, Ken|
|Mendelson, John||Shore, Rt Hon Peter||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv ME)||Whilehead, Phillip|
|MiIIan, Rt Hon Bruce||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Whillock, William|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Skinner, Dennis||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Newens, Stanley||Small, William||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Noble, Mike||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Woodall, Alec|
|Ogden, Eric||Snape, Peter||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Pardoe, John||Spearing, Nigel||Mr. Alf Bates and|
|Park, George||Spriggs, Leslie||Mr. James Hamilton.|
|Parker, John||Stallard, A. W.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 1, line 10, at end insert:and by such other libraries as may from time to time be stipulated by the Secretary of State'.
§ Mr. Speaker
With this we may take the following amendments:
No. 47, in Clause 3, page 3, line 41, leave out from ' from' to end of line 2 and insert' libraries '.
No. 48, in Clause 3, page 3, line 44, leave out from 'any' to 'and' in line 46 and insert:library lending works to members of the general public including such as may form themselves into a group or body wholly or in part for the purpose of borrowing books from libraries '.No. 50, in Clause 3, page 3, line 46, leave out 'and' and insert:(b) any collection of works held by any other library which the Secretary of State may stipulate under section 1 of this Act; and'.No. 58, in Clause 3, page 4, line 15, after 'authorites', insert:'or to any other libraries which the Secretary of State may from time to time stipulate under section 1 of this Act'.No. 77, in Clause 3, page 5, line 40, at end insert 'or set up any other statute'.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
The amendment is pan passu with the other two that we have been discussing this evening. None of them involves any increase in public expenditure. None of them involves any immediate extension in the scope of the Bill. The amendment seeks to increase
§ the powers of the Minister so that when the scheme is formulated it will be possible to include libraries other than the libraries defined in the Bill.
No one is saying that when the first scheme comes out every library should be included. But there is a very close definition of "library" in the Bill. It is contained in Clause 3(4). It reads:
For this purpose, 'library'—(a) means any one of a local library authority's collections of works held by them for the purpose of being borrowed by the public; and (b) includes any such collection which is taken about from place to place.
In other words, it confines the Bill to local libraries, and there may well be a place in future days for extension to other libraries. There may be a case for including university libraries, for including certain reference libraries, and for including school libraries.
§ It would be possible to include reference libraries providing that the books were lent out. The very prescient point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke) is that reference books, despite the defeat of the amendment—which was so nobly supported from both sides of the House although not in sufficient number—may well be covered by the Bill. We shall have to let the High Court decide that in due course.
§ I hope for the Under-Secretary's sake that she does not find herself in the same position as her former boss, the present Secretary of State for Defence, found himself over Tameside. This does not oblige the Secretary of State in any way to increase the number of libraries covered by the Bill. It is an enabling 1233 clause. I am sure that the point is not lost on the hon. Lady and that she realises what is involved.
§ I dare say that we shall have the same arguments trotted out with no regard to logic or relevance, but we get used to that in this House and it is part of the penalty of being a Member. Nevertheless I still hope, without any great expectation, that the hon. Lady may have changed her mind. My hopes are always greater than my expectation, but it may come about that one's expectations are greater than one's hopes. That would indeed be a revolutionary situation.
§ However, I resign myself to hearing those same arguments again delivered by the hon. Lady in those mellifluous tones which have, if not persuaded us, occasionally soothed the irritation we feel at hearing arguments which have already been demolished by the Opposition put forward once again by the Minister in a departmentalise, with which we have become all too familiar. I hope that, as the night wears on, the hon. Lady will become more co-operative. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear Hear."] Perhaps I could have phrased that a little more felicitously. I look forward to hearing her say that she is prepared to accept this amendment.
§ Miss Margaret Jackson
I wish to assure the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) that I am deeply resigned to hearing him and his hon. Friends repeat their argument. It is a resignation which has been singularly well fulfilled this evening.
We debated this amendment in Committee at great length. On this occasion the proposers of the amendment are happy to leave the discretion to the Secretary of State. I thank them for their confidence in my right hon. Friend. But, as they are aware, we have already explained our reasons for confining the Bill to books lent out from public libraries. I shall reiterate those reasons briefly, even though hon. Members have heard them before.
§ Miss Jackson
The hon. Gentleman was not a member of the Committee, but I gather that he read what went on there.
§ Miss Jackson
No, I will not. The hon. Gentleman has developed a habit of popping in and out of the Chamber in an effort to speak when he thinks that the Opposition are running out of speakers. If he is prepared to stay here the whole time and to be as bored as the rest of us, I might be prepared to give way to him.
§ Miss Jackson
In the meantime there are a great many other types of library, but most of them fall into one of two main categories—the private and commercial libraries and those in educational and academic institutions. Even among those libraries it is possible to argue that there is no coherent group other than public libraries. Each has a somewhat different aim and approach. To bring them within the scope of the Bill would probably necessitate a different approach to each of the institutions involved. It would certainly necessitate an approach to the general groups, and that would be a different approach from that adopted in the Bill.
Indeed, the technical investigation group did not examine either of the two main categories, and a great deal of research would have to be done to obtain sufficient information about each of them. It is possible that it would have to be handled on an individual basis. In any case, since most organisations are restricted to limited membership or to particular institutions, they fall outside the scope of what is designated as a public lending right.
However, the major point, as was said at length in Committee, is that the Bill deals with a sample of public libraries and with books loaned by them. To extend the scheme in any of the ways so ingeniously proposed by some hon. Members opposite would complicate it, make it more difficult to operate and much more costly.
Some hon. Members argued in Committee—though they have been more reticent on this point on the Floor of the 1235 House—that the cost of administering the scheme was a major factor in their discontent. There is no question that extending the scheme in the way proposed in this amendment and others would incur substantial extra costs for little if any extra gain.
On those grounds, I ask the House to reject this amendment as it has rejected the others.
§ Mr. Body
Could the hon. Lady enlarge on the extra costs involved? She said in Committee that it would be extremely costly and she has repeated that argument tonight. We accept that, but we are not in a position to judge what the extra costs will be. There must have been some calculations made by her Department or the technical investigation group. Can she give us some information so that we may form a judgment about the costs?
§ Miss Jackson
One of the reasons which led us to conclude that there would be substantially increased costs is that there is little information available from the group or the archives of the Department about these libraries, the job they do, the scope of their operations and how they would be affected. All that research work would have to be done before we could even consider bringing them into the scheme, and such investigations are costly.
Most hon. Members have avoided dealing with this point so far tonight, but it is accepted that the cost of administering even the limited scheme which we propose will be 40 per cent. of the money which is likely to be available. The hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) will see the unwisdom of extending it further.
§ Mr. Lawson
I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye. It proved a little harder on a previous debate and I am glad that it was easier this time.
Until the speech we have just heard from the Under-Secretary, I thought of her as one of the abler members of the present Administration, but I have seldom heard a more pathetic and inept speech
§ than that which she has just produced in an attempt to answer the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas).
§ I do not blame her personally; it was clear to all hon. Members in the Chamber that she was devotedly reading the brief given to her by officials. I counsel her, however, to remember that there are occasions when perhaps it is better to speak from the heart—this is something which you well understand, Mr. Speaker and which the hon. Lady may come to learn—instead of going through the arid, jargon-filled briefs which mean little, ii anything, and which sound appalling.
§ The hon. Lady appealed to us at one point by saying that if the amendment were approved—and she had no other argument—it would increase the administrative expenses of the scheme. It is right that we who support the amendment should address ourselves to this point. In a sense, the hon. Lady understated her case. She said that the administrative expenses would be 40 per cent. of the money which came from the central fund.
§ Mr. Lawson
I shall certainly give way to the hon. Member who is Chairman of the General Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee. I am happy to sit as a member of that Sub-Committee under his chairmanship.
§ Mr. English
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He will realise, of course, that his point is even stronger than he has made it, in that in Committee the Under-Secretary refused an amendment designed to restrict administrative expenses to a mere 40 per cent.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.