§ 27. Mrs. Golding
To ask the Minister for the Arts what information he has on the level of expenditure on public library services proposed for 1990–91.
§ The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce)
This information is not held centrally. The level of proposed expenditure on public library services is a matter for individual local authorities.
§ Mrs. Golding
Is the Minister aware of the increasing demand placed on the library service in areas such as north Staffordshire, where there are more and more elderly people and more elderly persons' homes opening? Is he further aware that the talking book service in north Staffordshire is severely ovestretched? When will he make a special allocation for the talking book service to help the blind and the partially sighted?
§ Mr. Luce
I have no doubt of the importance of the talking book service and the range of services that are provided for those who are disabled in one way or another. Broadly speaking, my duty under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 is to ensure a comprehensive and efficient service. All the evidence over the past few years shows that we have such a service in our public library system.
§ Mr. Conway
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the important role that mobile libraries play in large rural areas such as Shropshire, which is a quarter of the land mass of the west midlands? Does he agree that the development and maintenance of such services is more important than diversification into the triendier areas of library provision such as compact discs for expensive compact disc players?
§ Mr. Luce
I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of mobile libraries. That is a decision for each local authority to make according to the needs of the area. Clearly it is important for the library service to provide a good service for those who want to use it and to make it as accessible as possible. I am glad that the number of service points has gone up in the past 10 years by 6,000, which helps to serve a wider range of people.