§ 46. Mr. Murphy
asked the Minister for the Arts if he has any plans to introduce legislation to require local authorities to introduce charges for the loan of books from public libraries; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Murphy
I appreciate my right hon. Friend's support for the library service. Does he agree that the opportunity might be given to libraries to charge for fiction loans so that the extra resources can be used within the library service in the same way as charging for records already takes place?
§ Mr. Luce
My hon. Friend's point is perfectly legitimate. I know that other countries, including New Zealand, have a distinction between fiction and nonfiction. I have come to the view that, on educational grounds, it is difficult to draw a distinction between fiction and non-fiction. Therefore, it is best to retain the great traditions of a free lending service. It is possible for libraries to make charges in other areas, and a number of libraries do so with a great deal of enterprise.
§ Mr. Buchan
The Minister has taken something of the sabre away from his answer. We want a firm response that in no circumstances will libraries be permitted to charge for the loan of books. The Government are trying to do that with museums. I believe that they are also trying to do it in other aspects of libraries. We want a clear and unequivocal statement that in no circumstances will that happen.