HC Deb 04 July 1988 vol 136 c724
35. Mr. Andrew Mitchell

To ask the Minister for the Arts how much Government funding has so far been given to the British Library project.

Mr. Luce

Total expenditure, excluding site purchase, is £59 million up to the end of May 1988.

Mr. Mitchell

I thank my right hon. Friend for that encouraging answer. Is he aware that this exciting new project is welcomed not only by scholars and academics but by the general public, who will be able to use the magnificent new facilities?

Mr. Luce

My hon. Friend is right. When the new British Library is open in the 1990s there will be vastly improved facilities for readers, improved storage facilities—at present books are stored in no fewer than 20 building; in and around London—and much improved conservation and environmental conditions, which are important to conserve books. In addition, there will be improved facilities, not only for scholars, but for the public as a whole, especially with the exhibition areas and the vast auditorium of 2,600 seats.

Mr. Buchan

How does the Minister square this welcome for developing library facilities with the horrendous Green Paper? Has he come to any conclusions about the Green Paper? The suggestions for privatisation, charging for research, new books and biographies run counter to the aims of the British Library and, I should have thought, his own.

Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman will know that the consultation period for the Green Paper on British public libraries was completed at the end of last week. I am therefore now embarking on a study of all the representations that have been made, the majority of which are extremely constructive and show an understanding of the objectives of the Green Paper, which are to help libraries improve services and enable them to get better value for money. That surely is in the public interest.

Mr. Bowis

Has my right hon. Friend been able to make an assessment of what the cost would be to the British Library and other libraries if VAT were to be imposed on books, resulting in additional costs to the taxpayer and ratepayer through further subsidies? If he has assessed the figure, will he draw it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Cockfield?

Mr. Luce

I note what my hon. Friend says. I shall certainly draw that point to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.