HC Deb 02 June 1980 vol 985 cc1039-41
23. Mr. Goodlad

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what representations he has received in response to his consultation paper on the public lending right; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I have received comments from over 60 interested representative organisations and individuals. As a result, a number of changes in our original proposals are being considered. I am having further meetings with some of the main organisations, and others are taking place at official level. I hope to be able to lay a scheme before the House early in the next Session.

Mr. Goodlad

My right hon. Friend's statement will be widely welcomed by local authorities, authors and libraries. Will he say a little more about the nature of the changes, and the provisional view formed by the Government in the light of the comments in the consultative document? In particular, will he say whether the danger of authors resident overseas—in countries where there is no reciprocal arrangement—sweeping a large proportion of the pool has been coped with?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

We have received 62 sets of comments from local authorities, local library authorities, authors, publishers, librarians and their representative organisations. We are considering all those submissions carefully. With regard to foreign authors, I am sympathetic to the view that PLR should extend only to the books of those authors who live and work in this country. There are difficulties in defining that legally, and my Department is examining the matter.

Mr. Faulds

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that he will not present a public lending right scheme to the House until he has personally taken into account the detailed and reasoned representations of those who know a great deal more about these matters than he does, or even I do?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I can certainly assure the hon. Gentleman that all representations on this matter are personally considered by me. I claim no monopoly of knowledge is this respect, although I have taken an interest in the matter for many years. If I undertook to take into account the representations of all the people who have more knowledge that the hon. Gentleman, the coming into operation of PLR would be indefinitely delayed.

24. Mr. Viggers

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what administrative expense he anticipates during the current financial year in respect of the operation of public lending right provisions.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

There is provision for £100,000 in the Estimates for the current financial year towards the cost of setting up the PLR scheme, which is planned to come into full operation during 1982–83. In the course of our preparatory work we have succeeded in nearly halving the previous estimates for the administrative running costs of the scheme, and we shall be looking for further savings.

Mr. Viggers

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the latest official estimate was that it would cost £400,000 to set up the scheme, and £600,000 a year to administer it? Does it not, therefore, amount to a job creation scheme for administrators? If it should be necessary to delay the scheme, may I assure my right hon. Friend that he will be forgiven by many people?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Since I have managed to reduce the initial cost of the scheme to £100,000, and since the annual running cost of the scheme will be reduced from approximately £600,000 to half that sum, I feel that I am more deserving of congratulation than forgiveness from my hon. Friend. We hope, under the revised scheme that has been produced by my Office, that annual administrative costs in most years will represent between 13 and 16 per cent. of the sum available in the central fund. That is half the earlier estimate, but I shall try to find further means of reducing the cost. This scheme is intended to benefit authors, not bureaucrats.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister trying to tell the House that one of the difficulties in trying to implement this scheme is that the Government cannot find the necessary definition of authors living and working in this country? In view of all the statements that were made prior to the general election about the wonderful way in which the Tories would encourage such people to flood back to this country as a result of tax cuts, why are they not back here?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

We are making available for the financing of public lending right the same sum of money as did the previous Government, who were intermittently supported by the hon. Gentleman. That sum of money will be revalued to take account of inflation and other matters. We are keeping faith with the pledges that we made at the time of the general election. I am delighted that this scheme is coming into operation with the support of hon. Members on both sides of the House.