HC Deb 07 July 1986 vol 101 cc15-6
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. Luce

I have no such plans. The Government intend to maintain the present arrangements for freel ending of books and other basic library services for individuals, but I encourage library authorities to develop other sources of revenue.

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. Freud

I thank the Minister for his reply and welcome what he said. Will he steadily remember the importance of free access to books, whether fiction or nonfiction, for those studying.

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I have already made it plain that I intend to maintain that service. At the same time, I reinforce the view that I think there is scope for libraries to raise revenue in other ways, and they should be encouraged to do just that.

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.

Mr. Luce

It would be good news if the hon. Gentleman would listen to my answers sometimes. I have made it plain that we have no intention of changing any of the existing plans to maintain a free basic library service.

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