§ House in Committee (according to order).
§ Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3:—
This clause proposes to give the library authority power to make bye-laws. The Local Government Board think it inadvisable to make new offences which can be dealt with under bye-laws, and that as regards the opening and closing of museums it is quite enough for the authority to have the power which they now possess for making regulations rather than bye-laws for this purpose. With regard to the conduct of persons frequenting public libraries, the Local Government Board point out that the Libraries Offences Act, 1898, already makes misbehaviour in a public library an offence punishable on summary conviction. In their opinion, therefore, it is 151 superfluous now to provide for bye-laws for regulating the conduct of persons frequenting public libraries and museums. They suggest that it is already provided for in a Statute.
In page 1, line 24, to leave out from ('the') in line 24 to the second 'and') in line 25."—(Lord Harris.)
My object was to obtain something more definite than regulations. The difficulty was that regulations might be made, but that there was no power to enforce them. However, if the Local Government Board think it is objectionable to make bye-laws for this purpose, I accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Consequential Amendment agreed to.
Sub-clause (b) enables the officers and servants of the library authority and constables to exclude or remove from the library idle or disorderly persons, and persons not using the same for the purposes for which it is intended, or having been guilty therein of a breach of any bye-law relating thereto. The Home Office have asked the Local Government Board to specially watch this sub-clause, and, if possible, to get it excluded from the Bill. They think it inadvisable and also superfluous, having regard to the fact that under the Libraries Offences Act, 1898, power has been given for the punishment of persons on summary conviction for misbehaviour in public libraries, to insert this sub clause. I have been in communication with my noble friend, and I believe that he agrees to my Amendment, and proposes to substitute another sub-clause which he has read to me, and to which I have no objection.
To leave out sub-section (b)"—(Lord Harris.)
The new sub-section which I shall propose in lieu of the one the noble Lord has moved to omit will run as follows—(b) For enabling the officers and servants of the library authority to exclude or remove therefrom persons committing any offence against the Libraries Offences Act. 1898, or against the bye-laws.
§ Amendment agreed to.
May I move the new sub-section (b) to-day, and communicate with my noble friend between now and the next stage of the Bill as to the best place in which to insert it?
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (The Earl of MORLEY)
I think it would be better to have the new sub-section printed.
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
I should like to give notice that it is my intention to move the insertion of a fresh clause, to which, I believe, my noble friend has no objection. It will be a clause of considerable importance, and will have the effect of making the Libraries Offences Act, 1898, apply not only, as it does now, to libraries, but to museums, art galleries, and schools provided under the Public Libraries Acts.
§ Clauses 4 and 5, agreed to.
§ Clause 6, agreed to, with drafting Amendment.
§ Clauses 7, 8, and 9, agreed to.
§ Clause 10.
LORD MONTEAGLE OF BRANDON
I am sorry to intrude on the House the inevitable Irish grievance, but in regard to public libraries we stand in Ireland in a very much worse position than the same classes do in England. The last legislation on the subject was passed in 1894, previous to the Irish Local Government Act. The Irish Act of 1894 was based on a Report of a Committee of the House of Commons, who considered the matter. The desire of the promoters was that the lines of the English Act of 1892 should be followed in Ireland, but unfortunately that was found to be impossible in consequence of complications as regards areas, local authorities, rating powers, and so forth, and also as regards the suffrage for local government purposes in Ireland. These unfavourable conditions have now 153 been swept away by the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898, and I therefore submit that we in Ireland should not remain under this disadvantage any longer, and that something should be done to enable public libraries to be started in the country districts. This is the object of my Amendment, and I hope it will meet with favourable consideration from the noble Lord opposite, and also from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor of Ireland.
In page 3, line 40, at the beginning of the Clause, to insert as a separate sub-section:—'(1). The provisions of the Public Libraries Act, 1892, shall extend to Ireland, with the substitution of the rural district as library district in place of the parish, and of the rural district council as library authority in place of the overseers for the parish.'"—(Lord Monteagle of Brandon.)
*THE LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND (Lord ASHBOURNE)
My Lords, I quite appreciate the sympathy my noble friend takes in this question, and the desire he evidences to extend the benefits of the Libraries Acts as widely as possible in Ireland, where the love of literature is cherished, but I think the disadvantages of Ireland are rather more apparent than real. It is quite true that there have been separate Acts of Parliament in relation to this matter as regards England and Ireland. In Ireland we have the Act of 1855, and another Act, passed as recently as 1894, bringing it up to date. A Committee sat with reference to the latter Act, when similar proposals to those which are embodied in the Amendment of my noble friend were brought before the House of Commons. But although an effort was made to carry the benefits of the Libraries Acts into the small rural districts, the Committee of the House of Commons, on which Irish Members were largely represented, did not see their way to recommend the proposals then submitted. It was indicated that regard must be had to the question of rating for the purposes of libraries, and to the fact that the rate could not exceed a penny in the £, and that it might happen, if the Act was extended to all rural communities, as now sought by my noble friend, that it would be adopted by communities who would not be able to show a rateable valuation adequate to the sup- 154 port of a library. If it were deemed desirable to adopt the principle of extension, it would, therefore, be necessary to discriminate how far that extension could with advantage be carried, and also to consider the experience of the use of powers under existing legislation. If my noble friend could show that existing legislation had been availed of in Ireland and the powers under it exercised, then he would have an argument to show why a procedure should be adopted to widen the area and take in communities now excluded. But what are the facts? There are something like 129 towns in Ireland to which the Libraries Acts might be applied if the local governing authorities thought proper to apply them, but of those 129 towns not more than about twenty have availed themselves of the advantages of the Act. It would, therefore, seem that the advantages of the Act of 1894 are not at present sufficiently realised. I venture to think my noble friend might be satisfied with this discussion, and wait for further experience of the effect of existing legislation.
LORD MONTEAGLE OF BRANDON
I am sorry the noble and learned Lord cannot give me more encouragement. I think his argument, that because towns have not availed themselves of existing facilities country districts should not have those facilities, rather curious. The demand for the advantages of public libraries is more general in country districts than in towns, and I cannot conceive why they should not be allowed to avail themselves of the Libraries Act.
So far as this Bill is concerned, I should have no objection whatever to accepting the Amendment of my noble friend opposite, but after what has been said by the noble and learned Lord below me I do not suppose the noble Lord will press it.
§ Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.
§ Clause 10 agreed to.
§ Clause 11—
In moving the Amendment next on the Paper, I hope, if these words are struck out, that the noble and learned Lord will not object to the rest of the sub-section.
In Sub-Section 2, line 22, to leave out 'without the order of a judge in chambers being first obtained.'"—(Lord Windsor.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (The Earl of HALSBURY)
I am happy to believe that legal procedure in this country is much more advanced and rapid than it used to be; but I doubt whether it is advisable to say that, in the event of an action not coming to an end in the time suggested, the right to institute proceedings against the library authority should be entirely destroyed. I am told that there is considerable objection to the clause elsewhere, and the noble Lord may imperil his Bill if he insists upon it. Personally, I should not be indisposed to accept a statutory limitation if definitely stated. Such limitations are not unusual. Under a Statute of James I., no person can bring an action for libellous or slanderous words more than twelve months after the speaking of the words, and I think it is not unreasonable that in such matters there should be a statutory limitation entirely different from that which applies to debts, etc. But I do not approve of the limitation of six months proposed in this clause. Though I shall not move the omission of the clause altogether, yet I think its scope must be enlarged and a longer period allowed between the giving of the notice and the time beyond which proceedings cannot be instituted. If the clause is not amended in the meantime, I shall move an Amendment when it gets to the Standing Committee.
I shall be very glad, in substitution for the term of six months, to put in any period which may be considered reasonable. I am glad that the noble and learned Lord does not move to strike out the clause, and if by any such Amendment in the Standing Committee his objections can be removed, I shall certainly endeavour to remove them.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.
The effect of repealing so much of Section 2 of the Public 156 Libraries (Amendment) Act, 1893, as relates to the consent of the urban authority would be to deprive the local authority of any word, for instance, on the matter of rating. Under the Act of 1892 the local voter had that power, but by the Public Libraries (Amendment) Act of 1893 the power was taken away from the voter and given to the urban authority, land unless my Amendment is adopted the local authority will be deprived of any voice in the matter.
In page 5, to leave out lines 29 and 30."—(Lord Harris.)
§ Agreed to.
§ Bill recommitted to the Standing Committee; and to be printed as amended. (No. 38.)