HC Deb 15 June 1981 vol 6 cc724-5
17. Mr. Moate

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if the latest proposals for public lending right include reference books and those purchased by educational bodies.

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Paul Channon)

There has been no change in these aspects of the proposals. The Public Lending Right Act 1979 extends only to the United Kingdom local authority lending libraries. Libraries in educational establishments will not be included in the scheme.

Mr. Moate

Is it not extraordinary that a scheme that pretends to give justice to authors excludes a large proportion of them? Is it not time that my right hon. Friend was frank and told the House that he knows that the scheme that he inherited is absurd, unjustifiably expensive to taxpayers and should be decently buried?

Mr. Channon

My hon. Friend has been an opponent of public lending right for many years. I strongly respect his views, but I do not share them. I supported the Bill when it went through the House, although I am sure that it could have been improved. I hope that shortly I shall be able to publish a consultative document to give the House an opportunity to consider the scheme, including all the points that my hon. Friend has raised.

Mr. Faulds

Does the Minister agree that in principle, and at some convenient date, reference works and those purchased by educational bodies should be included in the coverage of public lending right, whatever amendment that may need when that happy eventuality comes about?

Mr. Channon

I do not think that the House would expect me to amend an Act that has not yet come into force. I am not sure that I shall get parliamentary time even were I to try to do so. It would be wise if the House would wait for not much longer, when hon. Members will receive the consultative document.

Mr. Greenway

Is it not true that authors have had to wait for far too long for the establishment of a public lending right? May I have my right hon. Friend's assurance that something will be done before the end of the year?

Mr. Channon

Something will certainly be done before the end of the year. I share my hon. Friend's view and hope to make an announcement soon; for example, about the appointment of a registrar.

Mr. English

Now that we have statutory protection for authors, will the Government, who purport to believe in a free market, abolish resale price maintenance for books?

Mr. Channon

That is a different question, and not one for me. It relates to the controversy of many years ago, when the matter was discussed by the House.

Mr. English

It is the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman's Department.

Mr. Channon

It is not the responsibility of my Department. I note the hon. Gentleman's view, but I have nothing further to say on that topic.