§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Newton.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Secretary of State to superintend library service]:
LORD SHACKLETON moved to add to the clause:
(3) In pursuance of his said duty the Secretary of State shall cause such inspections to be made of library premises, stocks and records as appear to him to be appropriate, and for the purpose of enabling such inspections to be made on behalf of the Secretary of State inspectors may be appointed by Her Majesty on the recommendation of the Secretary of State, and persons may be authorised by the Secretary of State to assist such inspectors and to act as additional inspectors.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is designed to require that the Secretary of State, in discharging his obligations under the Bill, shall have the necessary staff to ensure that inspections are carried out, that he is able to inspect premises, stocks and records. I think it must be implicit in the Bill that the Government and the Secretary of State will have staff to enable them to discharge 1101 their responsibilities. But there has been a certain coyness on the part of the Government as to how they were in fact going to deal with this.
§ There is general agreement on all sides that this Bill is a desirable Bill, and that it is right that, in order to achieve the standards which we are all agreed should he attained, the Secretary of State should have certain powers, and those powers he takes in this Bill. But it is not clear how he is going to operate in this matter and, in particular, how he is to have the expert knowledge not only in the library field but in regard to local conditions. There is power in the Bill for him to order an inquiry. This is an extraordinarily broad power, and one that I should have thought was almost too sweeping, since there is no limitation on the matters into which he can inquire. I see no reason why both should not exist, but I should have preferred that he should have proper advisers and a proper staff to deal with this.
§ In advocating the appointment of inspectors, one realises that the word "inspector" is on occasion likely to send cold shivers down the spines of some noble Lords. But we are familiar with Her Majesty's inspectors of education; and the essence of the inspector is that he or she should have some real standing, be properly paid and should carry a degree of authority. One has only to think of the work of the education inspectors to see how influential and powerful they are.
§ One difficulty in this particular field of libraries, as we know perfectly well, is that a number of local authorities have, as yet, failed to do what the various expert inquiries have thought to be necessary. There is a particular need to strengthen the powers or influence of those who really a re concerned with the welfare of the library service. If one takes into account the position of a librarian in an authority where there is not quite the interest there should be, clearly an inspector could be of considerable help to him. He is somebody to whom, quite properly, a librarian can turn on technical matters, in the same way that headmasters and heads of schools will consult education inspectors when they visit.1102
§ There is, too, the question of status and prestige. It is a general complaint, which has been repeated in the Roberts Committee and in other Committees, that the status of librarian has not been properly appreciated; and we are afraid that the Government, in making appointments within the Ministry, may try to do this a little "on the cheap". It is not a job which necessarily we want to be done by the ordinary Civil Service. That is not in any way a reflection on the Civil Service. But if we are to elevate the standard of librarian, and to have proper inspectors, quite clearly some of these appointments will have to be of people drawn from the library service, and they should be properly paid. For those reasons we should like to move an Amendment to make this more effective. A good deal will depend on the attitude of the noble Lord and the Government in replying to this matter. We hope that they will show they feel as strongly as we do that they should have adequate staff in order to enable the Secretary of State to do what has to be done under this Bill. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 16, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Shackleton.)
§ LORD MILVERTON
I should like to suggest that this Amendment is quite unnecessary, because the Secretary of State is proposing to appoint library advisers whose functions will consist of inspecting libraries and of administration. Therefore, there seems to be no need for the additional powers proposed by the Amendment to be given to the Secretary of State, or for the appointment of inspectors in addition to the advisers whom he has already agreed to appoint.
§ LORD BURDEN
I think it is only right that one should mention in regard to this Amendment that the Association of Municipal Corporations does not welcome it: in fact, it is opposed to it. Notwithstanding that, I feel that the case submitted by my noble friend Lord Shackleton is worthy of consideration and answer by Her Majesty's Government. After all, this is largely a machinery Bill. Certain duties are imposed on public library authorities to provide a comprehensive and efficient service, and on the Secretary of State to ensure that this is done. How is this work to be carried 1103 out? How is the Minister to be able to say to Parliament, and also to satisfy himself, that a comprehensive and efficient service is being provided by library authorities, unless he has inspectors or people of knowledge and efficiency able to evaluate what is being done by local authorities throughout the country'?
One must remember that, owing to the way in which the library service has developed in this country, there are varying standards adopted by different local authorities; and particularly, as we shall see in a later clause, that the library service and the library committees are often subordinate to education' committees within various authorities. How is the Minister to ensure that the responsibilities placed on him by this Bill when it becomes an Act are being properly discharged? Is he going to trust to peace, persuasion and postage stamps; or is he going to have an effective service in the field advising him what has been done to give effect to the Act?
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ LORD NEWTON
I think there is a good deal in common between those who, like the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, are in favour of the Amendment and those who are against it. Of course the Secretary of State will need staff to advise him in the performance of his duties under the Bill. It is implicit, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, himself said, that the staff must include people with professional experience of libraries. These people will perform a most valuable, and indeed essential, service to public library authorities by visiting them and advising them. Clause 1, as it stands, already covers these requirements and also empowers local authorities to provide facilities for inspection. I can assure the Committee that it is my right honourable friend's intention to provide himself with professional advice; and a new post has already been created, as I told your Lordships during the debate on Second Reading. We shall have to see, in the light of experience of the working of the Bill, if it becomes an Act, exactly what additional staff the Secretary of State will require.
I am bound to say that it is not clear to me what advantage would flow from this actual Amendment which the noble Lord has moved. To call the Depart- 1104 ment's staff "Her Majesty's Government's inspectors" would add nothing to their powers, or to the powers of the Secretary of State. On the other hand, I would submit to your Lordships that it would have serious disadvantages. One is that it would cause confusion with the Department's present inspectorate; that is to say Her Majesty's inspectors of schools. The Library inspectors will have different duties and different professional qualifications from Her Majesty's inspectors of schools. I do not think anyone has suggested at any time that they should be interchangeable with Her Majesty's inspectors of schools. That being so, I should have thought that it is better they should not have the same name.
The duties of Her Majesty's inspectors of schools are different and, in my view, are more appropriately described as inspection. To inspect schools means sitting through classes and seeing the teaching in progress, and there is nothing comparable to that in the library service. The Roberts Committee said that they did not envisage any system of formal inspection. Apart from causing confusion, to call the Department's library staff "Her Majesty's inspectors" might carry with it the suggestion that they were there to police the library service, and this might easily antagonise the public library authorities. After all, the good will of local authorities is going to be essential if the Bill is going to achieve all its objects, and it would not get off to a good start if the atmosphere were wrong.
It would, in any case, be more in accordance with modern aims and methods of administration to look on the library staff as advisers to library authorities and, I hope, as friends, whose duties will include dissemination of the latest information and ideas. This is a side of their work upon which I should like to lay stress. Because of this, I think that the Department's professional staff could best be described as library advisers. On the other hand, they could be called "inspectors" without any specific provision to this effect in the Bill. The Bill makes either title possible.
Some people may feel—and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, feels—that the term "Her Majesty's inspector" carries with it greater prestige, 1105 but there are many important professional grades employed by Government Departments who are not appointed by Royal Warrant or called "Her Majesty's inspectors"—for example, in housing, in planning and in the children's services. I should not have thought that there was anything derogatory to public libraries in placing them in the same category. To my mind, the profession of librarian has prestige of its own, and I should be sorry to see any attempt to merge the name under the general, and I would say misleading, title of "H.M.I." So I hope your Lordships will appreciate that we certainly intend to have a properly qualified and sufficiently large staff to carry out the duties placed upon the Secretary of State under the Bill, but I also hope that at the same time the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and your Lordships will feel that this Amendment would not be very helpful.
§ EARL ATTLEE
I have listened with great care to the Minister, and I am bound to say I have never heard anything less convincing. One of the objections seems to have been on the term "inspector". You can call them anything you like, but the point is that the Minister should have the eyes and ears to inform him on what the service is doing. I have never heard anything less convincing from the Minister.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My noble friend, in his usual concise way, has said exactly what I feel on the subject. The noble Lord who was speaking for the Government said that we might call this staff "advisers". do not mind very much what you call them. There is a certain argument in favour of calling them "inspectors". What I object to is the suggestion that the word "inspector" immediately creates an atmosphere of suspicion. Anybody who has to deal with inspectors in Government departments, whether in business or in other ways, knows that for the most part they are extremely helpful people. We have got past the time when the word "inspector" created the vision of some hostile bureaucrat. Furthermore, I was not really convinced by the noble Lord as to the seriousness of the Government in this matter. They have appointed one adviser; he has not given any indication of the size of the staff he needs. I quite agree he can argue, "We had better wait 1106 until the Bill has passed into law", but it is not unusual to say how such an organisation is intended to operate.
§ LORD NEWTON
I am not quite certain whether the noble Lord took my point. I said that we had the adviser appointed already, and as we go along we should have to see what additional staff were needed in the light of experience when the Act started to operate.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I take the point but, none the less, I should have liked to see a greater awareness that they needed to have an adequate staff. The difference between us on this matter is small and it is really in regard to the method. I only hope that the Government will appoint people of sufficient standing, and above all I hope they will pay them enough. The noble Lord very rightly said that the prestige of the librarian should be maintained, and a lot of librarians have high prestige. The trouble is that in the past they have not had the status they should have. I certainly hope that the Government will make their contribution to achieving that sort of status, from the point of view of giving support to the local librarian and local authorities, and also in establishing a well-paid and properly professional post within the Ministry. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [National Advisory Councils]:
§ 3.57 p.m.
THE EARL OF LONGFORD moved, in subsection (1), after "facilities" to insert:
including facilities for the assistance of students".
The noble Earl said: The Committee will notice that Clause 2, as it reads at present, lays down that there should be two Library Advisory Councils and that it should be
the duty of each Council to advise the Secretary of State upon such matters connected with the provision or use of library facilities".
We would add the words "including facilities for the assistance of students". I hope the noble Lord would agree that this could be accepted without disturbing the Bill. He may argue that it would
not make any difference and that it is unnecessary, but I hope he will feel that it would lend valuable emphasis to the Bill. Some of us in different ways have had a lot of experience of students. Six of my children have graduated in the last few years, and I suppose other noble Lords can improve on that figure, but if you have had six children graduating, so to speak, within your own house, you know how much they rely on the public library. Of course, students who are non-resident at universities rely on them all the year round.
§ In these days we are all, with few exceptions, in favour of a colossal expansion of higher education, and I hope and believe that the noble Lord agrees that this is going to involve the libraries in a large expansion on their side—something which could hardly have been foreseen by anybody making provision for libraries a few years ago. We are all aware that there is now a big strain on the libraries and that it is likely to increase. It affects not only the university students. The needs of teacher-training colleges and the various kinds of technical and technological colleges are quite as pronounced, and perhaps the students there are less well off in many cases, and the need, therefore, is even greater. So I hope the noble Lord will agree that a lot has to be done to expand libraries to help students.
There is a reference in Clause 7 which is an indication that this problem has not been altogether forgotten. In Clause 7(2) the library authority is told to have regard to the desirability
…of securing…that facilities are available…to meet the general requirements and any special requirements both of adults and children".
So the noble Lord may tell me that this point is in mind in the Bill. But I beg him to make explicit provision, because I think that, without that, the libraries are put in an almost impossible position. They have to bring about a great expansion to help students. They are not being given any money by the Government, and without this special instruction I cannot believe that the proper emphasis will be given.
§ I realise that what we are doing is to call the attention of the Advisory 1108 Councils to the problem, which does not settle the matter and does not in itself produce money. But if this Amendment were carried, it would mean that where any particular library was failing to meet the needs of students—possibly through being harassed by other claims —the Advisory Council would be under a duty to call attention to it and try to get the matter put right. I beg to move this Amendment in the interests, which we all accept in principle, of the students.
Page 1, line 21. after ("facilities") insert ("including facilities for the assistance of students").—(The Earl of Longford.)
§ LORD BURDEN
On the Second Reading of this Bill I ventured to call attention to this problem. I pointed out how students, particularly nonresidential students, were flooding into our libraries and putting an ever-increasing strain on their resources. This problem arises because in many of the universities and colleges there is not adequate provision for the students, and they have to turn to the public libraries to get what is necessary for their studies. This is creating a very difficult problem for libraries. They have only limited resources at their disposal; often, too limited resources. They have duties and responsibilities to the people of their own particular area, to provide them with books and so on. Are we going to force them into a position of not being able to meet the legitimate demands not only of their own people but of the students who are flocking into their libraries to-day? I put it to the Minister that if the libraries are to provide an efficient service in view of these demands on them, which are quite rightly made by the student population in their areas, then increased financial assistance should be given to those libraries which have these difficulties to meet.
I agree that the Association of Municipal Corporations are not in favour of this Amendment, because they suggest that one class of student or reader ought not to be singled out for special consideration. But there are special needs of these young people in our universities and colleges which can at present be met only by the library service. It is really the responsibility 1109 of the Government to see that librarians are able to do this work and assist these students in preparing for their studies in the universities. I hope that if the Minister cannot accept this Amendment he will tell us that this problem of the libraries is realised, and that the Government will consider whether something can be clone to assist the libraries which are meeting these demands.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
I completely sympathise with the point of view of the two noble Lords who have spoken, that students, if they are to follow their courses well, need really adequate facilities for books and also for places in which to read the books, as well as to do their homework. That is absolutely true. While the expansion of higher education is going on at the pace it is now, it is rather difficult to establish adequate libraries, either in the newer universities or, perhaps still more, in the technical colleges. So it is obviously a good thing that where the public library can make up this deficiency it should do so.
On the other hand, the public library service is a general service to the public at large, and I feel very strongly myself, to give one example, that old people need to be looked after in the public libraries. I do not think that the needs of old people are any less urgent than the needs of students. In addition, there are certain parts of the country where schoolchildren have not got, and cannot have—particularly in rural areas—adequate library stocks in their own schools, and excellent arrangements exist between the local public library and the schools.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
May I interrupt the noble Viscount on one point? I am sure that what he says about old people has a great deal of force, but there is no reason to expect the same exceptional expansion of the supply of books for old people in the next few years as there is in the case of students.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
If the noble Earl allowed me to continue, I think he would see my point. I completely sympathise with the claims of the student, but I do not think it right, as a matter of drafting Bills, to put in one class of this kind when there are others whose needs, if we think about them a little, I am sure we should regard as equally strong. These two 1110 Advisory Councils will naturally interpret it as their duty to consider the use of the facilities of libraries in terms of the different classes of readers, and I feel sure that one could leave it to them. I come back to the old people. I know several public libraries where there really is not room for the old people who like to come in and spend an hour or two. If this phrase is put into the Bill here, almost inevitably the student becomes priority No. 1, and I do not think that is right.
§ LORD NEWTON
As the noble Earl, Lord Longford, envisaged, the main argument which I have to advance against his Amendment is that it is, in fact, not necessary. The clause as it stands is already wide enough to cover "facilities for the assistance of students", which are the words the noble Earl is proposing to insert into the Bill. I should like to follow my noble friend Lord Eccles in suggesting to your Lordships that it is questionable, to put it no higher, whether it would be a good thing to single out students for attention. After all, students have access to the libraries at the institutions which they attend, and I should have thought it would be undesirable to imply that in the public libraries they should be given preferential treatment. As my noble friend said, it is a public library service with which we are concerned this afternoon.
I entirely accept, of course, that the Advisory Councils should consider how best to co-ordinate provision in public libraries and in other libraries—for example, in the university libraries—and the clause as it is already drafted, with its reference to facilities other than those provided under the Bill, enables them to do this. I am aware that the Library Association has recently expressed concern over this question and has given fairly wide circulation to a memorandum about it. They feel a lack of any one central body to look at the provision as a whole. But the Advisory Councils to he set up under Clause 2 will meet that lack and, indeed, it will be one of their most important tasks so to do.
Meanwhile, the question of providing adequate facilities at educational institutions has not been neglected. My Department has already held inquiries into libraries at training colleges, and the Parry Committee are looking into the position 1111 at universities and colleges of advanced technology. As these institutions improve their own libraries—and my noble friend suggested that there was room for improvement—they should relieve the pressure on public libraries in areas where heavy concentrations of students have in the past sometimes caused hardship to the ordinary public. It would be wrong, none the less, to expect that the public libraries will be relieved altogether of the task of providing for the needs of students. It is the normal function of a library authority to assist all its readers—students, old people and the general public.
The Working Party on Standards said in their Report—and I am quoting from paragraph 21:… the public library has for a long time been the resort of the student. We refer particularly to college and university students both in term time and vacation, but we also have in mind senior pupils in secondary schools. part-time and day release students at technical colleges, adult students attending evening classes and students working entirely on their own. The libraries provide all of these, in varying degrees, not only with room to study but with many of the books they need. We hope that the pressure on library accommodation will he relieved as adequate university college buildings are provided, but a need will remain for the public library to help the student with both books and room for study. We consider that all public libraries must be prepared to play their part in meeting this need, not only for students in educational establishments but for students working on their own.I sympathise with the aim of the noble Earl's Amendment—the aim of drawing attention to the problem of student use and the importance of co-ordinating the provision in public and other libraries; hut, to come back to the Amendment itself, since the clause as it stands enables the Advisory Councils to cover these problems, and since the words of the Amendment add nothing to the sense of the clause, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, I hope that the noble Earl will not feel it necessary to press it.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I do not think the noble Lord has understood the purpose of this Amendment. It is precisely because there is a special problem, to which attention has been drawn, as he mentioned, by the Library Association, and to which attention was also very firmly drawn in the quotation he made (I imagine that he was quoting from the 1112 Committee on Standards in Public Library Services), that we want the Library Advisory Councils to consider and advise on this matter. It is because special consideration has not been given to this in the past, as I think is apparent from the Minister's speech, that we want to write it into the Bill.
The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, referred to the needs of old people. This is always a very difficult plea to resist, but I think the problem here is of a different kind. The need of the student is specific. He wants a particular book which is essential to his studies; and, although it is too late for me to emulate the noble Earl, Lord Longford—I cannot hope to have six graduate children—I have one graduate child and another who is in process of going that way; and I have seen the difficulty that they have in getting particular books. The university library is neither here nor there in relation to the public library problem, because what the noble Lord, Lord Newton, fails to realise—and this was implicit in the quotation he gave—is that a large number of students do not do their reading in the university or in the technical college. They do it at home, which may or may not be within easy range of the university library—and, with increasing non-residential further education, this tendency will increase.
I emphasise again that we are not asking for preferential treatment in relation to students; that students should be treated as more needy than old-age pensioners. We are taking into account a very special type of need; and it is this specific need, for a special class, with which we are concerned. This will tend to be a regional problem; and it seems to me to be highly desirable—and more desirable than ever, having heard the Minister's speech—to lay this obligation on the Advisory Councils. I am very disappointed that the Government are not prepared to write this Amendment into the Bill. I do not know whether my noble friend feels like pressing them further, but I hope he will.
§ LORD NEWTON
May I say just one word in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton? Of course, we recognise 1113 that public libraries are not only useful but also, if you like, essential to students; but what I suggested to the Committee was that it would be wrong to single out students as people deserving preferential treatment in a public library. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said just now that he was not asking for preferential treatment, but that seems to me to be precisely what he is doing by moving this Amendment, in that he is inserting words which, as I have explained, are not necessary to achieve his purpose. So, if those words have any effect at all, they seem to me to suggest that students should be given preferential treatment.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
I must say that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in that I was a little disappointed the noble Lord, Lord Newton, could not be a little more forthcoming, although I agree also with the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that when drafting legislation it might be wrong to single out one special category. Further, like him, I feel that the needs of old people should be considered, especially when one considers loneliness, and similar factors; it is nice for them to have these public libraries with their reading facilities. But I should have thought that the needs of the young, the students, were, shall I say, slightly greater. They are starting out in life, and they need education. They need greater facilities to learn. I should have thought it was more important for them to have a higher level of education than for the old people, who are, in effect, reading for leisure and to pass their time, and not so much to increase their knowledge. I should have thought that facilities for the young were more important, as they want to increase their knowledge and to be better citizens; in other words, to be more useful in the life of the country.
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
I have the honour to be a trustee of a public library, the National Library of Scotland. Surely a public library is a free-for-all library: it is a universal library, for the young, the middle-aged and the old. One cannot give special preference to any one group. In fact, I very much doubt whether it would be possible, under the constitution of many of these libraries, for them to do so. We all appreciate, I imagine, that the youth of this country, with their lives before them, need more facilities for learning. But should they not obtain them somewhere else, such as at university libraries, rather than at public libraries? There are all kinds of other facilities than these universal libraries, which are for everybody.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am afraid we shall go on putting these points, and noble Lords opposite (or some of them, at least) will go on misunderstanding them. We certainly are not asking for special preferences: all we are saying is that the needs of students, already great, will become very much greater in the next few years, and we desire that special attention should be called to them. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, has told us that this Amendment is, in fact, covered. The noble Earl, Lord Haddington, has doubted whether it would be constitutional. In that state of confusion I must leave the ranks opposite. I only regret that the Amendment should be resisted by an old student of my own. Perhaps if the library facilities had been more adequate in his time, he would have seen our points more clearly and would not have taken this line. At any rate, I am afraid that we must divide the Committee on this subject.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 32; Not-Contents, 62.1115
|Amulree, L.||Killearn, L.||Samuel, V.|
|Attlee, E.||Latham, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Lindgren, L.||Shepherd, L. [Teller.]|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Longford, E.||Silkin, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Meston, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Crook, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Strang, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Nathan, L.||Williams, L.|
|Francis-Williams, L.||Ogmore, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Peddie, L.||Willis, L.|
|Henley, L.||Sainsbury, L.||Wise, L.|
|Hobson, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Aberdare, L.||Eccles, V.||Long, V.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Elliot of Harwood, B.||Lothian, M.|
|Albemarle, E.||Falkland, V.||Luke, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Ferrers, E.||Mabane, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Ferrier, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Forster of Harraby, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Auckland, L.||Fortescue, E.||Milverton, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Monck, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Furness, V.||Monsell, V.|
|Blackford, L.||Glentanar, L.||Morrison, L.|
|Blakenham, V.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Newton, L.|
|Bossom, L.||Gosford, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Grenfell, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Haddington, E.||Simonds, V.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Hailes, L.||Somers, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Harris, L.||Soulbury, V.|
|Crathorne, L.||Horsbrugh, B.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Iddesleigh, E.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Ilford, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Derwent, L.||Ironside, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Ebbisham, L.||Jessel, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clauses 3 to 6 agreed to.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON moved, after Clause 6, to insert the following new clause:
Appointment of Library Committee and Chief Librarian
If the Secretary of State is satisfied that it would be in the interest of the efficient administration of the library service in a particular area that the library authority should appoint a library committee and a chief librarian, he may by order require the authority to make such appointments. The library authority shall thereupon appoint a library committee and a chief librarian, and all matters relating to the discharge of the functions of the authority under this Act shall stand referred to the library committee.
§ The noble Lord said: The Amendment which I have to move is one that I realise gives rise to a certain amount of controversy and on which there is complete unity of opinion neither on this side of the Committee, nor, I suspect, on the other side. I think it is a matter for seeing how the discussion goes whether to agree that this should be pressed to a Division. The purpose of this Amendment is to give the Secretary of State reserve power to require that a local authority shall appoint both a library committee and a chief librarian. It has not hitherto been possible for county councils to appoint library committees. Instead, they have appointed library sub-committees of the 1116 education committee. I think it is generally accepted that this is a bad thing.
I quote in particular the opinion of the Roberts Report (paragraph 46):
… we think that the further development of the public library service may, in many areas, be more effectively carried out with a library committee staking its claim for financial resources as an independent service and with a chief librarian having direct access to such a committee, than if the service remains as a small part of a far greater county education service.
The Report goes on to point out that such an arrangement is not possible at present in the counties. We welcome the fact that in this Bill it will now be possible for the county councils to follow the practice, which is general among other library authorities, to appoint library committees.
The Working Party on Standards also said:
We strongly support the Roberts Committee's suggestion that this obligation"—
the earlier one which limited county councils—
should be removed. Thereafter, every library authority not having an independent library committee should give consideration to the establishment of such a committee. We need not repeat what the Roberts Committee has said about the harmful effects of existing arrangements on the status of the public library service.
I hope there is complete unanimity in the Committee that both a library committee and chief librarian are desirable. With the new type of library authority, which will be not less than a certain size, and with the power of the Secretary
of State to enforce the establishment of viable library authorities, I think it is clearly desirable that a library committee should be appointed.
§ I believe this to be the view of the Government. A number of statements were made by the Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Chataway, in another place, which made quite clear that the Government were in favour of this, and the point was pressed on Second Reading in your Lordships' House by my noble friend Lord Attlee, as President of the Library Association, and by my noble friend Lord Burden. The difficulty arises over the question whether it is desirable for Parliament to require by Statute that a local authority appoint a particular committee. This is the point where I begin to tread on dangerous ground and I hope that my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth will let me off as lightly as he can. Under certain Acts of Parliament governing local authorities, all councils have to appoint certain officers, such as a clerk, a treasurer and a medical officer, and all councils have to appoint certain committees. The county councils have to appoint a smallholdings committee, a children's committee, a welfare committee and so on.
§ I accept that the maximum degree of freedom is necessary for local authorities in their actions, but the fact remains that the Government have not shrunk from taking powers or arranging by Statute that local authorities should do certain things. I accept that there is a strong feeling that Westminster should not dictate unnecessarily to local authorities. Therefore, the Amendment which my noble friends and I have put down is not designed to make this a statutory obligation, but only to give a reserve power to the Minister. We hope that the Secretary of State, using the powers that he has to advise local authorities and send out circulars, will press strongly the view that a library committee and a chief librarian are desirable. And I hope that on this there is no disagreement.
§ In the cities and towns there is no difficulty, because the library committee ranks with the other committees of the authority, whereas in the counties a subcommittee of the education committee is one degree further away. The 1118 librarian is only one of three or four heads of divisions of the education department and the status of the library service is relatively lower. In practice, this weakens the position of the librarian when he is fighting for funds, whereas in the towns he and his committee can present their case directly to the council.
§ I hope that counties will immediately proceed to appoint library committees, but if they do not there should be this reserve power. It is precisely because certain local authorities, for good or for bad reasons, have failed so far to provide the service they should provide that this Bill has been introduced and has been universally approved in principle. There is a danger that some counties, with strongly entrenched education authorities and strong education officers, will seek to hang on to their little bits of empire. They will ask, "Why disturb arrangements which, in our opinion, work satisfactorily?" It is at that point that the Secretary of State should have power to intervene. I conclude by saying that a great deal of our attitude will depend on the view the Government take of this issue. I beg to move.
After Clause 6, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Shackleton.)
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My noble friend Lord Shackleton has moved this Amendment in a careful and moderate speech, and for that reason I regret the more having to disagree with him. I should like to refer also to Amendment No. 5, which involves the same principle. I think there is a lot to be said for a county council having a separate library committee. The question is whether the Minister should have power to compel county councils to have a library committee or whether the appointment of committees by a county council or other local authority is a matter for the discretion of the local authority. We have an Offices Committee and there is a sub-committee called the Refreshments sub-committee. I do not remember anybody getting up and enthusing about the Refreshment department and saying that we must have a completely separate committee for refreshments. It is in the discretion of the Offices Committee. 1119 I think that the appointment of committees, with certain exceptions which I will mention, is a matter within the legitimate discretion of the local authority. I concede that it should have a finance committee—that, I think, speaks for itself—and an education committee. As to whether it should be compelled to have a smallholdings committee, I am doubtful. My recollection is that in my youth there was a great movement among the Liberals on smallholdings, and some of the landed interests were intending to obstruct, through local government, the making of smallholdings. That is probably why they were compelled to have a smallholdings committee. But, in principle, I prefer the local authorities to have their own discretion as to what committees and what chief officers they should appoint.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Shackleton that this is a discretionary power and not a compulsory power on the part of the Secretary of State for Education. But he himself is in a peculiar position, for the national responsibility for the library service, the Ministerial responsibility, is in the Ministry of Education. If I were a county councillor and they told me I could not have a subcommittee for libraries and an education committee, I should retort: "What are you doing? You tuck the libraries away in your own Department of Education." So the logic of it is not particularly clear.
There is no great harm in the Amendment, but I do not think there is much good in it. I think that Parliament is developing a tendency (not only one Party, but both of them, including mine) not to trust the local authorities at all, and a tendency to want to determine what local authorities will do, how, when and by whom. It is no good having local self-government if we are going to make a farce of it and tie it up with a lot of State directions. It is a good thing to remember that British democracy started largely with local self-government. I think that Parliament should restrain itself from trying to do the work of local authorities, when they are properly elected, answerable to their people and so on. It would be legitimate for there to be argument locally as to whether there should he a separate library committee or not. The Libraries Association is a 1120 specialist body which is enthusiastic for the libraries, and additionally enthusiastic for the material welfare of librarians.
Then there is the point about the chief librarian. The authorities which I think are contemplated in some cases are authorities with too small a population. There can be a library authority with a population of not less than 40,000. There will not be many librarians in the libraries department of a town with a population of 40,000. The question of what you will call him, a librarian or chief librarian, is a matter for discussion in the circumstances of the case. For what it is worth, there is the analogy of the Liberal Chief Whip in another place. He is called the Chief Whip. But there are only seven of them to Whip, and he is the only one. It might be a designation that might be ridiculous in the circumstances of the case. I think this is a matter that could be left to the discretion of the local authorities, though I have a bias for the counties having a separate libraries committee. On the other hand, a library is an educational function and does educational work, and it is arguable whether it should be a sub-committee of the education committee or not.
I should now like to refer to Amendment No. 5, which is not yet formally before us; nevertheless, the principle is related to the same thing. It is proposed to ensurethat the salary scales of librarians and library officers are adequate and commensurate with their qualifications and responsibilities.What does this mean? It is open to anybody's interpretation. An argument was put forward by the Libraries Association, in a document I saw, that the chief librarian should be regarded as equal with the borough engineer and the medical officer of health. This is nonsense, because, although they are of importance, they are not of that degree of importance. My noble friend Lord Latham has drawn my attention to the fact that there is a National Joint Council for Administrative, Professional and Technical Staff of Local Authorities. This Council collectively determines or recommends the salaries that should be paid to certain officers, including librarians. They are doing the job; and, in my experience, this National Joint Council, and another one, too, are not ungenerous. 1121 It is really awful when we get to the point where Parliament is going to determine how salaries shall be settled in principle. think it is time that somebody made a protest against this tendency of Parliamentary political Parties, who are not all that expert on local government—some of them are, of course; but a number are not. There should be an end to this tendency on the part of Parliament and Government to try to run local government, despite the fact that the councils are elected by the people.
I hope I have not offended anybody by making these observations. I have been wanting to do it for a long time on some suitable occasion, and now I have done it. I hope the Committee will, in principle, have some sympathy with what I have said. I owe your Lordships an apology. I ought to have left here a quarter of an hour ago to catch a train. I will catch a later train, at great inconvenience, because I have a job at a London County Council school to distribute the prizes, which I hope will improve the little ones' libraries. I apologise for having to go early having made this speech; but I am not sure that I am not the greatest sufferer, because I cannot be here to defend myself when the almost inevitable counter-attack comes.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ LORD HOBSON
I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth on everything he has said in regard to both Amendments, and I speak with considerable local government experience. Frankly, I fail to see the necessity for either of these Amendments. The second one I regard as an impertinence, and I shall say something about that later. Is not the thinking behind this Amendment that of interfering with the policy of the local authority? That is really what is behind it. Interfering with policy seems to be the only possible reason for putting down the Amendment.
A good deal of reference has been made to libraries committees being sub-committees. In a few cases this may be so; but not in many. But if it is so, so what? Let us follow this through. What is the position with regard to the education committee of most county councils? I submit to your Lordships that the education committees in county councils are in many 1122 cases the full council. If that is so, what is the difference between that and having a sub-committee of the full council known as the libraries committee?
I fail to see the reason for this proposal. To me, it is a matter which should be left solely to the discretion of the local authority. I suppose one of the reasons which has urged the putting clown of the Amendment is the assumption that library services in certain county council authorities are not adequate. That may well be. But are you going to make them adequate by merely having a libraries committee? Surely, the extension or retrenchment or modernisation of the library depends on the personnel forming the council, as to whether they are progressive or otherwise. It certainly is not going to be influenced by an Amendment of this sort, which seeks to give Whitehall the power to insist that there should be a libraries committee. I think this is just taking power to Whitehall to interfere in a sphere which is primarily one for local government itself to discharge. With regard to the other Amendment, here again, surely, there is adequate negotiating machinery already existing for dealing with librarians.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Would my noble friend allow me to interrupt? I wonder whether, since my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth is going, we might leave the later Amendment which we shall have an opportunity of discussing later. It is difficult enough to talk about one Amendment, without talking about several.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My noble friend is quite right in saying that it is related, but I hope, although we understand that the noble Lord has to go away, we can pursue that as a separate issue.
§ LORD HOBSON
That is a fair statement to make. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is trying to oblige the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth. I do not know that I particularly want to stay here late to-night, but I was merely following the debate. Indeed, if these points were raised, I submit that if the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, was not out of order then neither am I.
§ LORD NEWTON
I think I should support the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and say, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that in my opinion, for what it is worth, both noble Lords, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and Lord Hobson, have been out of order.
§ LORD HOBSON
Even at this late stage, on an intervention of that sort, I am quite prepared, like Lord Morrison of Lambeth, to delay my departure. It will simply mean that my strictures against this Amendment will be far stronger than they are at the moment.
§ LORD BURDEN
I am sure we are all duly enlightened and chastened by the lecture which my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth has given us on the elements of local government. But it was rather curious that he rather stopped short in regard to the position of committees under county councils. He spoke about the finance committee and the education committee, and then he was not quite sure about the smallholdings committee. I wonder whether he will remember that there must be a statutory committee for fire brigades, and there must be one for health and housing. Probably he knows about the statutory committee for children and children's welfare. If rumour is correct, my noble friend was largely responsible for the fact that the care of children, instead of being part of the main stream of educational effort, was placed under the Home Office.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Let me correct my noble friend. I did not introduce that Bill: it was Mr. Chuter Ede.
§ LORD BURDEN
I am quite aware of that, but there are negotiations which go on behind the scenes, and some of us are aware of the negotiations which went on as to where the care of children should ultimately rest. I am asking my noble friend not to be so modest, because everyone who was in the Party in another place during the time when the Children Act went through knows that he was the principal protagonist of placing the children under the Home Office. I am sorry that he should have compelled me to mention those matters.
With regard to the Amendment which we have before us, surely this is the 1124 first attempt to put the library service in the place where it ought to be; that is, in the local government structure. It was argued for as far back as the time of the Kenyon Committee, in 1927, and was reinforced by the Roberts Committee seven years ago. There are still people so conservative in their outlook that they cannot see that this service, which both Committees argued should be—as it is—a great developing service, should have its rightful place. I will keep my argument with regard to chief librarians until we deal with that Amendment.
The Minister has taken power under this Bill to have a public inquiry in regard to any aspect of local library administration. If the library committee is responsible direct to the council, the issue is a clear and plain one if the Minister wishes to deal with a particular council. But supposing it is only a subcommittee of the education committee? Is he going to put the whole of the education committee on trial at a public inquiry? The library committee may be acting merely under the instructions of the education committee. Are they to be blamed, in carrying out those instructions, for not making adequate provision for students? Or are the education committee as a whole to take responsibility for all shortcomings because they have not given the library committee an adequate budget? There is still this effort to keep the library service as a Cinderella in the set-up of local government, and I am surprised that my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who has such a wide knowledge of local government, should be hidebound by his previous experience and express the view that the education committee should be responsible for the library committee.
§ LORD LATHAM
I am sufficiently "hidebound" to rise to support my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth. I am sorry to disagree with other colleagues of mine on this matter. It is not a matter of the libraries; it is a question of whether we shall preserve the self-government of local authorities. That is the real issue of this Amendment: whether we should prevent this continuous erosion of the powers of local government by the central Government. We take the view that local government should retain its powers of independence and autonomy. We all 1125 wish to see adequate, comprehensive and progressive library services. We deplore that some local authorities have been remiss in many directions in the past. But we submit that the improvement of the library service to meet the requirements of this modern age can be achieved without impinging further upon the independence and autonomy of local authorities. The Amendments seek to place the administration of local authorities under the tutelage of the central Government. My noble friend Lord Burden has referred to certain statutory committees. There are a number of statutory committees—local government is littered with them. But why should be add to them, as is proposed in this Amendment?
§ LORD BURDEN
May I point out to my noble friend that this Amendment does not require the appointment of a statutory committee. It only gives authority to the Minister if the circumstances warrant it.
§ LORD LATHAM
I was just about to differentiate between the statutory committes which already exist and the proposal contained in this Amendment. It is not a statutory committee, although the power to appoint it will arise from this Statute. It will be the appointment of a library committee, with or without a chief librarian, by Ministerial edict. That is what this Amendment proposes. It is all very well for my noble friend Lord Shackleton to stress, as I suppose he is entitled to do, that this is a reserve power. The trouble is that it is a power, and it is won at the expense of the self-government and independence of local government. For these reasons, as well as those powerfully advanced by my noble friend Lord Morrisoon of Lambeth, I hope your Lordships will reject this Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am afraid that I missed some of the opening speeches, and therefore I am replying to points I did not hear. But I must deprecate the suggestion that a proposal of this kind is in some way whittling down the power of local government. Anyone who has been associated with local government in the past, as I was in Oxford before the war, and visits one's old authority now must be conscious that any local authority has far 1126 more scope and far heavier burdens than they used to have. The whole idea that local government is rapidly vanishing is, in my opinion, a complete figment of the imagination.
We all salute the great services to local government of my noble friends Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who has gone, and Lord Latham, who stayed. But they were associated with, and helped to create, the greatest local authority in the world, which some of our Tory friends opposite have since set out to destroy. At any rate, they did create this wonderful local authority, and theirs is an experience of very good local government. I had experience in Oxford of fairly good local government. Other noble Lords have possibly had experience of bad local government, of which there is quite a lot in this country: thoroughly reactionary, slack and backward local government. In the last resort this Amendment is simply a step to make sure that the bad authorities are induced to come up to the standards of the good or fairly good local authorities.
§ LORD HOBSON
If my noble friend will allow me to interrupt, is he assuming from his argument—and I have been following it fairly carefully—that merely by having a library committee an authority will automatically get a progressive policy? Surely you could have a reactionary policy even if you had a library committee. It depends on the personnel.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
If that argument had come from a Tory I should have known how to reply to it; but coming from one of my own noble friends I will let it pass. But when it comes to be studied it will be seen to be a little on the thin side. Nobody supposes that this Amendment in itself will create a good library service, but even a small change is better than no change at all. Therefore, I support my noble friend Lord Shackleton who, as so often, has chosen the path of wisdom.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ LORD NEWTON
I think that those of us who sit on this side of the Committee have thoroughly enjoyed the diverting spectacle of marked disagreement among members of the Labour Party, but I feel that I ought to step in and stop it; for it is no part of my purpose to widen the 1127 split by driving a wedge between noble lords opposite. I find myself occupying a position in between that taken up by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and his camp and that taken up by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and his camp; although I think I am rather nearer to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, than to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton.
When I was replying to the debate on Second Reading I said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 259 (No. 91),col.566]:It is the Government's hope that, if and when this Bill is passed into law, the authorities which do not now have separate libraries committees would consider seriously whether they would appoint them. In particular, the county councils will need to consider whether their present arrangements set the right pattern for the future.I am very glad this afternoon to start off my reply by repeating those words in response to the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton.
The effect of his new clause would be to empower the Secretary of State to require an individual library authority to appoint a library committee and a chief librarian if he were satisfied that it would be in the interests of efficient administration of the service in the particular area. There is no precedent that I am aware of for such a provision in local government, and I personally do not think that it would be right for the Secretary of State to tell local authorities, even by means of a reserve power, how they should manage their own affairs. The duty of local authorities is to provide an efficient service. The precise means by which they achieve it are surely for them to decide. Of course there are precedents for Parliament prescribing that all local authorities should have committees for certain purposes; notably, as the noble Lord, Lord Burden, said, for finance and education.
There was a tendency in years immediately after the war for these requirements to multiply, and I referred during the Second Reading debate to this trend. This development was reviewed by a Joint Working Party of representatives of local authority associations and government departments in 1958, and they recommended that the requirements of statutory committees 1128 should be removed in all cases except for education and the children's services. The Second Report of the Local Government Manpower Committee issued in December, 1951, to which all the local authority associations subscribed said this:We think it important that the chief principle should be that where legislation is introduced for the purpose of entrusting new services to local authorities or extending or rearranging existing responsibilities, the bias should be both in favour of leaving it to the local authority to determine whether a separate committee is required and of not prescribing the functions of the committee in legislation.
§ LORD BURDEN
I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but has any legislation been passed or has it not, since that date, giving a statutory committee?
§ LORD NEWTON
If the noble Lord will allow me to continue, I will try to reply to this debate. I have just told your Lordships what was the recommendation of the Local Government Manpower Committee in December. 1951. The Government have accepted that as their policy, and I can see no good reason not to apply that policy in this Bill, which is what we are concerned with this afternoon.
As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, recognised, the Bill makes one change in the law relating to public libraries which affects committees. Under Section 3 of the Public Libraries Act, 1919, public library matters in counties must be referred to the education committee. The Bill does not re-enact that restriction and is thus in line with the general policy of leaving such matters to the discretion of the local authorities. It will still be open for them, of course, to arrange for the same committee to deal with education and libraries, but they need not do so if they do not wish. The Roberts Committee thought that in many areas the development of a public library service might be more effectively carried out by a separate library committee, with its own chief librarian, and they therefore recommended the repeal of Section 3 of the Public Libraries Act, 1919. They did not, however, recommend that all authorities should be required to have separate library committees and chief officers. Nor did they recommend that the Secretary of State should be empowered to intervene in this matter with individual authorities in the 1129 manner urged by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton; and the provisions of this Bill are in accordance with the Roberts Committee recommendation.
As I have said, the Government hope that when the Bill is passed those authorities which have not set up library committees will consider the question seriously; and, in particular, the county councils will need to consider whether their present arrangements set a right pattern for the future. Any circular to library authorities after the passage of the Bill is most likely to draw attention to the change in the law and to the freedom of authorities to set up separate committees. The objections to prescribing that a local authority should designate particular staff as chief officers are the same as those to prescribing what committees they should set up, and it is contrary to the Government's policy to increase the number of designated officers whom authorities are required to appoint. This is a matter, obviously, for the local authorities' discretion, and they would strongly resent any move to restrict their freedom. Those of your Lordships who have championed them this afternoon have made that abundantly clear.
I would add that it would be open to a library authority, if it wished, to make the same committee responsible for both the education service and the public library service, and to appoint a chief librarian who would be responsible to the committee for all matters connected with the public library service, just as the chief education officer is responsible for the education service, These are the views of Her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, indicated that there would be differences of opinion on his new clause, and there certainly have been; and I hope, if only for that reason and the lack of wholehearted support of the noble Lords on his side, he will not think fit to press this new clause.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
As I indicated at the beginning, I thought this Amendment might give rise to some controversy. I must admit I had not expected it to engender quite the heat it did. I ought to have known that any discussion on local government arouses emotions far deeper than the religious wars of an earlier age. But this particular Amendment is in fact supported on the whole officially by the Labour Party. I do not 1130 mind in the least my noble friend disagreeing, and I think it is a worthwhile debate. I, too, should have liked to give the reply to my noble friend Lord Hobson that my noble friend Lord Longford would have liked to give—and he can probably guess what it would have been —in regard to a committee and a council not doing its job.
There is one serious point I would make in reply to my noble friend Lord Hobson. Clearly, the beliefs and qualities of individual committees and councils, and, indeed, their special leanings, are of importance, but the institutions themselves are also of importance. It is clear from the recommendations of the Roberts Committee and of the Inter-Departmental Committee that they think there should be separate library committees, and that the county councils should follow the more enlightened policy that practically every borough and county borough has followed. What I find difficult to understand is why the Government, and for that matter some of my noble friends, object to this. They are straining at this particular gnat when they have swallowed the camel of the Bill, which, of course, gives enormously greater powers. It gives power to the Secretary of State to close a complete library authority down, and he can do it by Order. This is a much milder measure, and it was intended to be permissive.
I do not want to continue the debate further. I must apologise to my noble friend Lord Hobson for suggesting that we should debate the later Amendment when we came to it, rather than at this point. I thought it inappropriate for me to attempt to curb my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth when he had such an important local duty. But it would have made this debate interminable if we had gone on to the other subject. I assure my noble friend I had no intention of silencing him, and doubt whether anyone would succeed in silencing him. I hope he will show the same moderation on that Amendment as on the previous occasion. I hope the Government will do everything they can to ensure that there are library committees and chief librarians. I think their heart is in the right place. I accept that it will be impossible to introduce even this reserve statutory power. None the less, I hope it will 1131 come about, and I think it has had a useful airing. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 7 [General duty of library authorities]:
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT FURNESS moved, in subsection 2(a), after "records" to insert "tape recordings ". The noble Viscount said: Coming between two controversial Amendments with a very minor one is something I am delighted to be able to do in this debate. The purpose of my Amendment is to correct a possible misapprehension which I created in my Second Reading speech. My noble friend Lord Newton in fact answered an entirely different question from the one I put. For this reason I have put down this small Amendment.
Clause 7(2)(a) lays down that a library authority shall have regard to the desirability
of securing, by the keeping of adequate stocks, by arrangements with other library authorities, and by any other appropriate means, that facilities are available for the borrowing of, or reference to, books and other printed matter, and pictures, gramophone records, films and other materials …
And it goes on in that way, "to meet the general requirements", and so on.
§ The purpose of my Amendment is to insert the words "tape recordings" in the list of materials of which it is desirable that libraries should at least have the power to keep a stock. I should have thought that more and more tape recordings were coming on to the market, commercially and otherwise, not only, as my noble friend Lord Newton described on Second Reading, recordings of books—and I take his point completely there—but also of Shakespeare's plays or plays of any kind, music, symphonies and so on. I am sure I have the drafting wrong, but my purpose is really to ask whether it would not be possible to include tape recordings specifically in the list, or whether tape recordings in law are included in "gramophone records," which normally one thinks of as being records as we know them, or in "other materials"—probably they are. In any case, even if they are included, I submit that they are important enough to be put in by themselves. I beg to move.1132
Page 7, line 2, after ("record") insert ("tape recordings").—(Viscount Furness.)
§ LORD NEWTON
I apologise to my noble friend for giving him the wrong answer when I replied to him at the end of the Second Reading debate—wrong in the sense that it was the right answer to the wrong question, but I am sorry all the same. I hope I can make amends by being able to assure him this afternoon that his Amendment is unnecessary. because tape recordings are covered by the words "other materials" in the clause. I am advised that where, as here, there is a list of particular items followed by general words or expressions such as "other materials" the legal interpretation of the general expression embraces things which are of the same kind or sort as those included in the list. In the present instance the list of items is of such a nature as to constitute a class to which tape recordings also belong, so they are included without being actually mentioned. I hope, with that reply, that legalistic interpretation, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT FURNESS
In view of my noble friend's explanation, of course I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.20 p.m.
LORD SHACKLETON moved to add to subsection (2):
(d) of ensuring that the salary scales of librarians and library officers are adequate and commensurate with their qualifications and responsibilities".
The noble Lord said: Once again I move into a controversial field. But I hope that the object of the Amendment which I am proposing will again, at least in principle, even if the method by which we seek it is considered to be wrong, be a matter of agreement. The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure
that the salary scales of librarians and library officers are adequate and commensurate with their qualifications and responsibilites.
Of course, we are not putting on the Secretary of State a power to intervene, but propose to lay a duty on local authorities along with all the other duties that have been laid upon them.
I think we are at least in agreement that certain of these obligations should be laid upon local authorities: that they should have the duty to keep adequate stocks of books; that they should, for instance, be able to encourage both adults and children to make full use of the library service and secure other matters as well.
§ We are anxious to ensure that something is done to deal with a serious situation in regard to the salaries of librarians. Here, again, there were some interesting discussions in another place on this; and again a greater degree of uniformity was reached, at least on my side of the Committee in another place, than perhaps we shall show here to-day. I should like to say to my noble friends that the purpose of this Amendment is much more to probe the question than actually to bring this provision into the Bill. I hope that my noble friend Lord Hobson will accept that that is the purpose of this Amendment. I hope he will also agree with me that the situation is a serious one; that there is a great shortage of librarians in the public service.
§ Figures have been given at various stages, and we know that the machinery that is supposed to be operating in this field either is not operating at all or does not exist. Indeed, there is no machinery at the moment for fixing the salaries of chief librarians. When we look at the actual rates we see the most extraordinary variations. It may well be that this is a matter on which the local authorities will now get together and do what is necessary. All I can say is that they have not done so hitherto, and the result has been, I would seriously suggest, to lower the standards which we could otherwise expect in the library services. Therefore, this Amendment seeks to put upon the local authority the obligation to see that the salary scales are adequate and commensurate with qualifications and responsibilities. I can only say, quite definitely, that in this repect some local authorities have so far failed in their duty. I beg to move.
Page 7, line 15, at end insert the said paragraph.—(Lord Shackleton.)
§ LORD BURDEN
May I say just a word or two in support of this Amendment? I am sure that my noble friend 1134 Lord Latham spoke as he did through inadvertence. There is of course the A.P.T. Whitley Council which would deal with the salaries of two classes of librarian; but that Council does not lay down salaries for chief librarians. I am sure that my noble friend, with his long experience of local government, will be aware of why they cannot do it. They lay down broad scales into which certain categories can more or less be easily fitted; whereas to lay clown scales for chief librarians, in view of the varying circumstances of library authorities would, I think, be almost beyond their capacity. But it is true to say that the salaries of the chief librarians are broadly based on the scales which are built up for the lower grades. As a matter of fact, the lowest grade of library assistants are at the moment on the A.P.T. scale. Already a move is afoot to have this matter discussed by the appropriate Whitley Council, and I am sure that in dealing with a Bill like this, whatever views we may have on salaries generally, we ought to realise the great work which the assistants and chief libararians are rendering in the social work in which they are engaged.
The Amendment before your Lordships at the moment merely repeats a recommendation of the Roberts Committee. In a previous paragraph the Roberts Committee said:We are informed that library departments in industry pay considerably higher salaries to qualified librarians than are paid by local authorities; and that the public libraries are losing large numbers of qualified staff whom they have trained to these other employers.That is in a Report dated February, 1959, and I have reason to know that the Libraries Association has, unfortunately, to report that the conditions are now almost the same, that salaries are lower in the local government service as compared with outside industry and Government Departments; and, what is more, the position is still that the trained staff are going out from the library service and finding more remunerative positions.
We want that drain to cease; and I, at any rate, am quite prepared that the appropriate machinery which has been set up for the local government service should be used so far as the two grades are concerned; and so far as the chief librarians are concerned, the Minister should carry out the recommendation of 1135 the Roberts Committee which, in plain words, asked the Minister to call the attention of the employing library authorities to the need for the status and salaries, and so on, of their chief librarians to be commensurate with the responsibilities that they shoulder. I have been trying to be non-controversial, to state the case quite dispassionately. I know that the question of salary conditions often brings forth controversy, but here I feel that the issue is too important for the future of the library service for us to say any words which in any way reflect adversely on the men and women in the service.
§ LORD LATHAM
I am sure we all appreciate the spirit in which my noble friend Lord Shackleton moved this Amendment, but it is an unfortunate Amendment. It is clearly misconceived and most unwise, because it is at once—no doubt it was not so meant—a reproach and an intrusion into the field of negotiations on settlements of remuneration for librarians and library officers. It implies from its wording that those responsible for determining salaries and conditions have failed to treat their staff properly. The Amendment is a kind of directive to the National Joint Council for Administrative, Professional, Technical and Clerical Services. It is most invidious also in relation to the local library authorities. Surely the Amendment amounts to an interference with the established machinery for settling salaries and conditions of employment of librarians and library officers.
With regard to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Burden about chief librarians, there has been agitation for a long time for them to be treated as chief officers within the national joint council. But it should be borne in mind —we cannot go into the merits because we are unaware of them, and furthermore it is not our business—that the national joint council which deals with the salaries of librarians and library officers deals also with the salaries and conditions of welfare officers, children's officers, county valuers, housing managers and supplies officers. On those broad facts it would appear that the librarians are not ill-treated.
If the Amendment were carried—and happily it will not be—it would mean 1136 an admonition going forth not only to library authorities but also, primarily, to the joint negotiating council. Surely this would be unexampled—an interference by Statute with the joint council concerned with the negotiation of salaries and conditions of employment. Library authorities would be in a most invidious position vis-àvis their library staff and, indeed, other staffs which are dealt with by the same council. A year or so ago we were complaining that the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was interfering with the machinery for negotiating salaries and wage conditions when he had his little fun and games with the wage squeeze. Surely, this Amendment, if carried, would amount almost to the same thing. For those reasons, as well as for reasons of preserving the self-government of local authorities, I hope this Amendment will be withdrawn.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ LORD HOBSON
I rise to oppose the Amendment. Its terms would be more appropriate for a resolution for submission to a meeting of the Librarians' Association. It will be a sorry day when we have to discuss in either House of Parliament wages, salaries and conditions of employment. This has never been my experience over many years, but this is what the logic of an Amendment of this kind implies. After all, these people are very well protected. I have always thought that members of the National and Local Government Officers' Association have been able to negotiate with local authorities with a view to getting increases in salaries and improving their conditions. I believe that an Amendment such as this is entirely redundant, and that we must leave the discussion of wages and conditions to the appropriate machinery. For Parliament to attempt to do it is almost an impertinence, and it should not be done.
It is no good saying that there is a shortage of librarians and that the shortage of librarians is because of the salary that is offered. There are many phases of industrial life in which there are shortages, but I have never known employers say, "You are going to get an increase of wages or salaries because of that fact". This is something that should be arranged through the normal negotiating channels. There has been similar legislation to this Bill in Parliament. Take, 1137 for example, the Bill under which the Electricity Council was set up. Officers were designated, but there was no attempt to put in words of this character. It was left entirely to the appropriate negotiating machinery. We must not get into this sort of practice. This assumes that people who are negotiating with librarians or their assistants are unaware of their duties. Of course they are aware of them. In the light of their duties and competence they fix the salary for the job. We do not need words such as these to be inserted in an Act of Parliament. Therefore I believe that this Amendment is entirely unnecessary. The only redeeming feature was that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, with grace, that this was purely an exploratory Amendment.
§ LORD LINDGREN
I do not want to make this an internal war on this side of the Committee, but I feel that my noble friends Lord Latham and Lord Hobson have really missed the point. One would always agree that there is established machinery within local government for the negotiation of salaries, and officers of local authorities have been fairly successful in securing reasonable salaries, if not good salaries. It is well that this Amendment should be put on the Order Paper, because if there is a criticism it is not of local authorities or of the machinery, but of the National and Local Government Officers' Association. It is a vast organisation of which librarians and their assistants are a comparatively small part. When it comes to general negotiations, I think they have been slipped on the side and have not, perhaps, received all the increases or the standing and status they should have done. I hope that the Amendment is not going to be pressed. But let us be honest about it: there is a case for the Amendment. not on the basis of the local authorities or the Whitley machinery, but in relation to the negotiators who are responsible to members who pay their subscriptions.
§ LORD ILFORD
I hope that the Committee will not accept this Amendment. The case against it has been fully and accurately stated by the noble Lord, Lord Latham. It is not the usual practice for legislation to deal with the salaries of local government officers. I was astonished to hear the noble Lord, 1138 Lord Shackleton, say (I think he said it; he will correct me if I am wrong) that no machinery existed to fix—
§ LORD ILFORD
I hoped that the noble Lord did not say it; because, of course, the salaries of the local government officials, including the library staffs, are fixed by the National Whitley Council in the normal way. Your Lordships, I think, would not desire to interfere with the normal machinery for fixing wages and conditions. It may be true that the chief librarians are not included in the scales. We cannot, of course, fix the scale for a chief officer; but they have those means of negotiation, and those means have hitherto proved, I think, reasonably accurate. I endeavoured to follow the argument advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren. It seemed to my mind to be a criticism of the Whitley Council, though I am sure the noble Lord did not intend that. But the Whitley Council machinery is working well in local government, and I take it that your Lordships will not desire to interfere with it in any way, as this Amendment would do.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hobson, will feel that my tone is sufficiently grateful and exploratory, because I should like to answer a line of thought which he presented, and which I felt would be very dangerous if it were literally pressed. He argued, if I understood him correctly, that we had no business in this House to discuss the salary scales of local government officers; in other words, that we could not here discuss salary scales, I suppose, of teachers. In all education debates we have been inclined to discuss the remuneration of teachers. When we have discussed the police, we have discussed the whole question of attracting more police officers by paying them better. And moving outside the local government sphere, when we have discussed probation officers we have certainly discussed their scales. In other words, the remuneration of what might be broadly called the social servants—the people who are occupied in this absolutely key position in the whole progress of our civilisation—is a tremendous responsibility for all of us who embark on public life.
§ LORD HOBSON
Surely, so far as teachers are concerned, the Government are part and parcel of the negotiations, and they are in a somewhat different category from local government officers.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Nevertheless, I think that in all these matters it is our duty to see, so far as we can, that these officials are adequately remunerated. I am not afraid of criticising, if necessary, the Whitley machinery. That is not a sacred cow in my mind. I think we must be allowed to express criticism. We criticise the Government; we criticise the administrative arrangements of this country in every shape and form, and we sometimes even criticise ourselves—or, at any rate, we differ between ourselves. We really must have complete freedom of speech to offer our opinion as to whether these people are adequately remunerated. We must be allowed to say that they have not been adequately remunerated, or to offer the opinion that they have not been adequately remunerated; and, frankly, as long as freedom of speech exists, many of us will go on doing that. That is our view. These people have not received sufficient remuneration in the past. If that is criticism of somebody, the individual or the machinery concerned must put on the cap. But we shall go on saying that. I do not know what the noble Lord will do about the Amendment. Perhaps, in the interests of peace and quiet, the best thing to do would be to withdraw it. But, certainly, I think it is a very good Amendment.
§ LORD NEWTON
The pay of library staff, like that of other local government employees, falls under Seections 105 to 107 of the London Government Act, 1933. These sections empower local authorities to pay "such reasonable remuneration as they may determine". I suggest that it would hardly be appropriate for your Lordships to legislate separately for one class of local government employees, when there is already general legislation on the Statute Book. In any case, I am advised that the effect of the word "reasonable" is similar to that of the words in the Amendment, "commensurate with their qualifications and responsibilities". So there sems to me to be no gain in substituting one expression for the other. It also seems 1140 to me that the internal controversy, in which once again noble Lords opposite have been indulging among themselves, is, in fact, so far as the terms of this Amendment are concerned, a storm in a teacup.
However, let us get down to the principles which underlie this matter. The Roberts Committee said:We feel bound to emphasise the importance of having library staff who are sufficient in number and suitable in quality to discharge their responsibilities effectively. To achieve this, adequate salary scales are necessary, and employing authorities should operate these in a manner calculated to provide attractive careers for librarians.The Working Party on Standards said:We fully endorse what the Roberts Committee said about the need for adequate salary scales operated in a manner to provide attractive careers for librarians if deficiencies are to be rectified and the library service made capable of maintaining the standards which will be demanded of it in future. In particular, we believe that there is an urgent need for the introduction of national gradings for senior posts in addition to the minimum gradings already applicable to posts occupied by qualified library staff. We have noted that the application of the recognised salary scales to senior library staff is at present very uneven.Those are pretty strong recommendations. I have no doubt that local authorities will take note of what the Roberts Committee said, of what the Working Party said, and of what has been said on this subject both in your Lordships' House and in another place, during the passage of the Bill. Indeed, the Bill itself, it seems to me, may well create a more favourable climate of opinion for librarians by focusing attention on the importance of their work and of the library service.
Salaries may, of course, react on recruitment. The Roberts Committee and the Working Party on Standards drew attention to the shortage of qualified staff in the Library service. This is a problem, as your Lordships know, which the libraries share with schools, with many forms of social work and with other professions; and the noble Lord, Lord Hobson, has already made that point. The Advisory Councils to be set up under Clause 2 will probably wish to study recruitment and training, and they may point to the connection between these and salaries and gradings of posts, as the Roberts Committee did. The Roberts Committee realised, however, that salary scales could be dealt with only by the 1141 normal negotiating machinery. They said that it would not be appropriate for them to recommend particular salary scales for qualified librarians, since negotiating machinery already existed for this purpose.
I agree with those who take the view that it is to the bodies which exist to represent the interests of local government employees, that librarians must look to argue their case with the local authorities who employ them. The Secretary of State has no claim, in my view, to intervene in these negotiations. He has not even, as he has with teachers, a financial interest. I think it would also be a mistake to believe that the position of library staff would be strengthened by making it a duty for local authorities to pay reasonable salaries. The change would be apparent rather than real, because what is "reasonable" —or "commensurate with their qualifications and responsibilities", if that expression is preferred—is a matter of interpretation, and must be worked out in negotiation between the two parties, employers and employees. I think that there would be a danger, if this Amendment were incorporated in the Bill, quite apart from the fact that it is not necessary, of misleading librarians into thinking that their bargaining position had been strengthened, when in fact it had not. So I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will be sufficiently convinced by those who have opposed his Amendment not to feel it necessary to press it.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I must admit that I needed neither the logic of my noble friend, nor that of the Government to convince me that this Amendment should not find its way into the Bill. But it has provided the opportunity which we wanted, to air this very serious aspect. I am very grateful to the Minister, because in his speech he made it very clear that this is a serious problem, and he was able to fill in some of the further aspects of the Reports of the Roberts Committee and of the others who studied this subject. I agree with my noble friend Lord Longford: we cannot look with equanimity on a situation which is as unsatisfactory as this. I entirely accept that, although this Amendment does not seek to impose any responsibility on the Secretary of State. It does not, in fact, add anything to the 1142 Bill. The power is already there; the obligation is implicit; we are already putting this on to local authorities.
What putting down the Amendment has done is to enable us once again to spell out the degree of inequality and inequity—indeed, I would say failure—which has existed in this particular field, as my noble friend Lord Burden has made clear. It is regrettable that this should have existed, but attention has been drawn to it in these debates, and we hope, as the noble Lord said, that this Bill will go a long way, in its broad purposes, to improve the position of librarians. I am grateful to those of my noble friends who supported this Amendment, and I am sorry that some of my noble friends misunderstood the intention of it. At any rate, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 7 agreed to.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
§ Clause 9:
§ Contributions and grants
§ (2) The Secretary of State may make grants to any body which maintains book catalogues or indexes to which all library authorities are permitted to refer, or otherwise makes available to all library authorities facilities likely to assist them in the discharge of their duty under section 7(1) above.
§ 5.53 p.m.
LORD SHACKLETON moved to add to subsection (2):
or which provides other specialised services".
The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to enable the Secretary of State—indeed, to encourage the Secretary of State—to make grants to bodies in the library service which provide specialised services. It has been a criticism of this Bill, eloquently stated by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that the Government have weakened their position, or have failed to give themselves the strength that they need, because they have taken only the most limited grant-making powers. Indeed, this also, of course, weakens the position of those who were urging the previous Amendment, as my noble friend Lord Hobson made clear, and shows that the Secretary of State is
trying to call the tune but is certainly not paying the piper in any way at all.
There is power under Clause 9 for the Secretary of State to
make grants to any body which maintains book catalogues or indexes",
et cetera. I have nut this Amendment down to widen a little the purpose of the clause; to enable the Secretary of State, if he wishes and if he thinks it is suitable, to provide grants for any body which provides any specialised service in the library field. The actual wording of the Amendment may not be satisfactory, and if the Minister tells me so I will, of course, accept that; but I hope he will be inclined to sympathise with the purpose.
§ There are a number of libraries—references have been made to regional libraries, and other bodies—which provide more than an ordinary public library service. There are increasing demands on public libraries to provide certain specialised services to industry, to science and to technology. There are already a number of special institutions which the State finances, such as the National Scientific Lending Library, and other bodies, which are wholly paid for by the Exchequer. I would urge that it might be very helpful if the Secretary of State were able to use his grant-making powers to encourage a useful initiative, or the development of a specialised service, within the public library service. That is the purpose of the Amendment. It is a fairly simple one, but it might be of considerable importance. It might also aid the purpose, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, referred, to make it easier to carry out research into library matters. I hope the Government will at least look kindly on the principle of the Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 8, line 5, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Shackleton.)
§ LORD NEWTON
The effect of accepting this Amendment would be to empower the Secretary of State to make a grant to any body which provides "other specialised services". This wording is extremely vague, and the noble Lord is quite right in thinking that the Amendment is unacceptable for that 1144 reason. The words of this Amendment need not refer to a body connected in any way with the library service; nor need the specialised services be in any way connected with the library service—and obviously one could not accept an Amendment quite so wide as that. Furthermore, the Amendment does not give any clue as to the nature of the services to be given. It does not specify whether they should be local services, regional services or national services, from the point of view of the operation of the Bill.
The noble Lord expressly hoped that I would look kindly on the principle, and I will do my best to show kindness towards it by trying to explain the kinds of grants which, under the Bill, it would be permissible for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to make. One is grants to libraries for the purchase of rare and expensive books or manuscripts. Grants can already be made for this purpose, and are made, under the Appropriation Act, through the Victoria and Albert Museum. Incidentally, the total amount of grant which the Victoria and Albert Museum has been able to allocate has recently been doubled, up to £50,000 a year, and has been extended to cover the purchase of books; and it is the practice of the Victoria and Albert Museum to give a grant equal to half the cost to the local authority. Again, it would be possible, under the Bill, for a Government grant to be made towards the maintenance costs of the larger public libraries, such as the one in Manchester. Manchester Library has a collection of musical scores to which people from all over the country may refer.
Clause 9(2) is already sufficiently wide to cover grants to libraries which perform a national service; and it is wide enough to enable the Secretary of State, if he thought fit, to make grants to individual libraries for some special service, such as facilities for central binding or microcopying. I hope the noble Lord will feel that my approach to what he would like to see is a kindly one, to use his own word, although, for the reasons that I gave earlier, it is not possible for me to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I must admit that I had some difficulty in judging how narrow the clause was. The noble Lord mentioned certain special services that 1145 could be rendered, which were very much of the kind I had in mind, but I thought the clause was worded in such a restricted way. It refers to any body which does certain things orotherwise makes available to all library authorities …".This seems to me to be rather restrictive. They may not be services for more than one other library authority; they may not even be for another library authority at all. I understand that the Secretary of State is going to make grants which, I should have thought, from the description the noble Lord gave, would not necessarily be directed to helping other libraries at all. It may be but is not necessarily so. If this can be done under the clause, then I am happy, because this covers the other specialised services I had in mind. I agree that, as drafted, it is much too wide. My purpose was to draw attention to this particular point rather than to discuss it on the Motion. Whether the clause shall stand part? I take it that the Minister would care to look again at these words to satisfy himself that they are not as restrictive as I feared they were.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
May I ask my noble friend just one question? I am very interested in the width of the clause which he now describes and which I find satisfactory. I could give an example. For instance, if an outside body—let us say the National Book League — undertook to compile indexes of books relating to a certain subject, which would be of great assistance to all libraries wishing to have a section on that subject, then I assume that under this subsection a grant could be made to them. What I was not sure about was how the grant for a particular collection of material, relating perhaps to local records, could be of use to all libraries. Therefore, I take it that the clause can be interpreted so that a special grant can be made to help some library to carry out its research, not necessarily for a purpose in which all libraries can share.
§ LORD NEWTON
My noble friend is probably right; but it is rather complicated and I should like to consider it and to let him know.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
This is precisely the point I was on. We will not 1146 press the Minister now on this, but I must say I look much more kindly on this clause if it has the meaning which the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, ascribes to it and which, in the light of what the Minister said, I now believe it has; but I found some difficulty in reading that meaning into it.
§ LORD NEWTON
I apologise for not being able to answer directly, but I should say that I tried very hard indeed to discover exactly what the noble Lord was getting at in this Amendment and I had great difficulty in answering that question. Now he has made his point.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I might have raised the point on the Motion. Whether the clause shall stand part? I had attempted to give the noble Lord some clue; but obviously my clue was nearly as obscure as I now believe this clause to be. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.5 p.m.
THE EARL OF LONGFORD moved to add to subsection (2):
and such grants may include a grant making adequate provision for the maintenance of the National Central Library".
§ The noble Earl said: I am sure the Minister will agree that this Amendment is simple and more easily grasped than the last one. Perhaps he can improve the wording, but the purpose is plain enough. May I ask the Minister to tell us what assistance is now given to the National Central Library, and how it works out at present? Sometimes one is not absolutely right about that without help from the Government calculators. But, at any rate, be the present position as it may, the Minister will no doubt tell us what help they get now and what help they will be getting under the Bill. We see the National Central Library as a central element in the scheme for inter-library co-operation, but also it acts as a national library in the true sense. We believe strongly, therefore, that it should be paid for wholly from Government funds. That is the clear purpose of the Amendment, and if the noble Lord has other wording then let him suggest it. We think it should be paid for wholly from Government funds in the same way as the British Museum, the National Library 1147 of Wales, the National Lending Library for Science and Technology, and the Patent Office Library.
§ In our view it is wrong in principle that an institution of this importance should have to rely heavily upon the collection of local contributions. Under the plan that I understand the Minister is putting before us in the Bill, the Treasury will pay 50 per cent. of the cost of the National Central Library and the rest will be collected from public libraries and other libraries; for example, the universities and colleges. We object to this on principle and we are advised that there will be considerable administrative difficulty in collecting these contributions on a voluntary basis. Whether that turns out to be so or not, we consider this wrong in principle. I would ask the Minister first to tell us what help is given now; how that will compare with what the Bill offers; and then to answer the argument that a national institution of this kind should be paid for by the nation. I beg to move.
Page 8, line 5, at end insert the said words. —(The Earl of Longford.)
§ LORD LINDGREN
This gives me an opportunity to pay some tribute to the work of the National Central Library. Earlier, we had a discussion on the relationship of the library authority to students. However efficient the library authority, however good its methods of circulation and lines of communication—particularly the county authorities—it can never keep sufficient stock, particularly of technical books, to meet a demand within an area. I am thinking of my own county of Hertfordshire. The National Central Library has been very valuable to county libraries and to county borough libraries, where a demand is made on behalf of local residents and students for books which they have not immediately available. That, I think, is an economic use of both books and money. I hope we are going to strengthen our National Central Library in order that the good work it does now, which is very much appreciated by the library authorities, may be extended much more.
§ LORD NEWTON
So far as this particular Amendment is concerned, it is 1148 not necessary because it does not add anything to the meaning of the clause. Clause 9(2) already empowers the Secretary of State to grant-aid the National Central Library, and it sets no limit to the amount of this grant. What is adequate is a matter of interpretation. In practice it must be decided in the light of the circumstances at the time and of Government policy. The noble Earl asked what is the present position. The present position is that the Exchequer finds about £105,000 for the National Central Library which represents 85 per cent. of its costs. The Roberts Committee recommended, as the noble Earl knows, that the Government's share of the cost should not exceed 50 per cent. The Government have expressed their intention of moving towards that position. The other half of the National Central Library's running costs will thus have to be found by those who use it—that is to say, by local authority and independent libraries, and libraries of Government Departments.
The views of the Roberts Committee were set out in paragraph 89 of their Report. They said:Despite … the recommendation of the Royal Commission on National Museums and Art Galleries that more money should be contributed by local authorities, the Library derives very little income from them at present. In consequence, eighty-five per cent. of its total running costs are now met by the Exchequer, and its activities are largely governed by the annual amount of Exchequer grant. We believe that it will be in the interests of the library service as a whole if financial responsibility for the National Central Library can be more widely shared. and if local authorities will take a more active part in administering it. If it is to play its proper role in future co-operation between libraries, it will need additional funds, and these ought to come from those who make the greatest use of its services. We suggest that the Exchequer's contribution might be limited to one-half of the cost of maintaining the National Central Library, the other half being met by local authorities and by non-public libraries.I think that I should emphasise that the Roberts Committee considered that it was in the interests of the National Central Library that this change which they recommended should be made, and were not concerned with saving Exchequer grant. They wanted the work of the Library to be expanded and thought that this was more likely to be achieved if those who used it had a greater share in forming its policy. Of course, if the running costs of the 1149 Library are increased, the amount of Exchequer grant, though limited to half the Library's costs, may actually increase.
The Working Party on Inter-library Co-operation tried to apportion the costs on the basis of use, and drew attention to certain difficulties in applying this principle. Some independent libraries have only slender resources and might not be able to find their full share. That has to be recognised. But, in the Government's view, it is reasonable that the trustees should work out new rates of subscription and apply them so far as they possibly can. Then the Government propose to take the principle recommended by the Roberts Committee: that the Government should find half the cost and the balance should be shared as fairly as possible among various users.
Contributions by local authorities can be made through the regional councils to be set up under Clause 3. It will be necessary, of course, to allow a reasonable period for the regional councils to be set up and to start work, after the Bill has been enacted, and also for the trustees of the National Central Library to work out appropriate rates of subscription. All this assumes, of course, that the present distribution of work between the National Central Library and the regions remains as it is at present. It is possible that the work of the National Central Library may be extended to take over part of the work now done and paid for by the library authorities. We are at present examining the possibility of a greater centralisation of the union catalogues (as they are called) in the regions, either by a computer or by other means. If this were done, we should have to look again at the Exchequer share of the cost.
I ought to make clear that the policy of the Government does not imply any reflection on the importance of the National Central Library. We recognise the great value of its work in acting as a clearing house for applications for loans of books by the libraries and in providing a central reserve of older and more specialist books. I am sure that its importance will grow in future rather than diminish. That is one reason why we regard it as all the more essential 1150 that its finances should be placed on a proper basis and it should not be dependent entirely, or almost entirely, as it is at present, on the Exchequer to meet any deficit in its running. Coming back to the actual Amendment, which the noble Earl has moved—
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I gather that, so far as the Bill is concerned, 100 per cent. grant could be given at any time, if the Government were so minded, but it is an act of Government policy, as distinct from the Bill, to put up 50 per cent., as against 85 or 100 per cent.
§ LORD NEWTON
I was going to say that this Amendment does not add anything to the meaning of the clause and therefore I would suggest that there is not much point in the noble Earl's pursuing it further.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
I agree with my noble friend Lord Newton in saying that it is a good thing that local authorities should share the cost of the National Central Library, because that will induce them to take a close and effective interest in its operations and, I hope, in the expansion of its work. If that is so, how is it that the Government do not want the Exchequer to take a share in the cost of running the ordinary public libraries? It is precisely because I believe that having a financial stake in an institution is a very good thing, if you wish to push that institution towards more rapid progress than it would otherwise make, that I argued in that way on Second Reading. It seems to me that this is an inconsistency in the Government's thinking.
§ LORD NEWTON
I am always amazed at the great ingenuity of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, but I do not think the point really arises on this Amendment. On the wider question of whether or not, and to what extent, there should be an Exchequer contribution towards the cost of local authority public libraries, there is nothing more that I can add to what I said, at considerable length, in our debate of Second Reading.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
This is precisely the point at which the Minister is at his most elusive. We tried to pin him down on Second Reading and I think we have got him now. The fact is that the Government are altering the 1151 arrangements which have existed for the National Central Library. When the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, urged the Minister on Second Reading that Government grants should go to the public libraries the noble Lord said that they were not interfering with the status quo. Grants had never been given to public libraries. That is an argument which suits them in that field, but it has not stopped them from directly interfering, by requiring local authority libraries to contribute to the National Central Library. This is quite inconsistent, in view of the Minister's arguments.
A major change of policy has been announced by the Government on which grave doubts have been expressed. It will lead to a degree of administrative untidiness. The noble Lord has not told us how these payments are to be made. There is the problem of collecting payments from non-local authority libraries which use the National Central Library, the problem of establishing definite scales, and the problem of taking account of those counter-services which are rendered and from which the National
§ Clause 9 agreed to.
§ Clause 10 [Default powers of Secretary of State]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 10 shall stand part of the Bill?1152
§ Central Library also benefits, and all for very little gain. Indeed, there has been some disagreement as to whether 50 per cent. is the right proportion to come from local authorities; whether it should be only 30 per cent., the rest coming from non-public libraries.
§ I think that the Government have been "too clever by half" in this matter. While one may accept that there is some justification for saying that this will enable libraries to exercise some influence over the National Central Library, because they have a financial stake, this is precisely what the Government are refusing to do. They are refusing to pay the piper, although they are hoping to exercise him over local authorities. This is, I feel, a rather unsatisfactory state of affairs. I do not know what my noble friend wants to do on this Amendment, but I feel that it is an occasion for quite a major protest.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ On Question: Whether the said Amendment (No. 7) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided:
§ Contents, 16; Not-contents, 46.1151
|Attlee, E.||Lindgren, L. [Teller.]||Shepherd, L. [Teller.]|
|Chorley, L.||Listowel, E.||Sinha, L.|
|Francis Williams, L.||Longford, E.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Peddie, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Devonshire, D.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Albemarle, E.||Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Merrivale, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Drumalbyn, L.||Monsell, V.|
|Auckland, L.||Eccles, V.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Blakenham, V.||Falkland, V.||Newall, L.|
|Bossom, L.||Ferrers, E.||Newton, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Forster of Harraby, L.||Perth, E.|
|Carrington, L.||Fortescue, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Selkirk, E.|
|Conesford, L.||Grenfell, L.||Somers, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Hastings, L.||Strang, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Hawke, L.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Daventry, V.||Ilford, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Margesson, V.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I just want to ask the Minister what sort of inquiry he is going to hold. If any of the proponents of local authority rights are here, I expect them to be a little concerned at the powers that are being taken by the Secretary of State in this clause to carry out local inquiries without defining in any way the circum- 1153 stances in which they should be carried out. He just has to say to an authority, "I think you have failed in your duty", and can order an inquiry without any restraint on the matters to be inquired into. This seems to be an enormously wide power. Would the noble Lord care to enlarge on it?
§ LORD NEWTON
This clause provides the Secretary of State with the power to hold a local inquiry if he is satisfied that there has been a failure by the library authority. He must make an order declaring the authority to be in default, and directing it co carry out such of its duties et cetera as specified. I should have thought that the constitution of any particular local inquiry would depend upon the circumstances in which the Secretary of State thought it necessary to hold one. Therefore, he should not be expected to spell it out in detail in the Bill.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am really astonished at this. I also can read the Bill, and the noble Lord has read it back to me very fluently. I should have thought that there should have been some restriction on the width of the inquiry. As I understand it, this is rather like my clause on specialised services—the Secretary of State can order an inquiry into anything. I am not even sure whether it has to be restricted to the library service. I do not Propose to Press this, but Perhaps the noble Lord would consider it before the Report stage.
§ Clause 10 agreed to.
§ Clauses 11 and 12 agreed to.
§ Clause 13:
§ Charges for admission to museums and galleries
§ 13.—(1) A local authority may make a charge for admission to a museum or art gallery maintained by it under section 12 of this Act.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON moved, in subsection (1), after "may" to insert: "with the consent of the Secretary of State." The noble Lord said: Clause 13 is a new clause that was put into the Bill on Report stage in another place. Its purpose, presumably, is to tidy up the position with regard to charges. Some local authorities have been making charges in 1154 the past, and it may or may not have been clear how legal their action was. Objection has been taken to this clause on two grounds. One is that it is drafted in a form which encourages local authorities to make charges, though the general view, I should have thought, of most people interested in this subject, would be to oppose charges. However, we accept that it may be necessary to enable local authorities to make charges for particular circumstances on particular days. But this is a much flatter clause, and exception has been taken by people who are interested in preserving the idea of free access to the way it is drafted—though this is not to suggest that local authorities should not have the power to do so. We accept that.
§ The second objection is that there has not been adequate consultation on this clause. I have heard it suggested that neither the local authorities nor the Museums Association were properly consulted; and perhaps the noble Lord could tell me whether this is the case. If so, I think it is a pity, and I should still like to urge that some consideration be given to drafting this clause in a different way. It is for this reason that I put down an Amendment to insert the words "with the consent of the Secretary of State." In the absence of a satisfactory wording of this clause, I should prefer this matter to be controlled by the Secretary of State. In other directions we are insisting that access should be free, and therefore I think it would be perfectly logical that the Secretary of State should be required to give permission before anybody could make a charge. However, I can see the difficulties here, and the purpose of this Amendment is merely to raise this issue. I believe that other noble Lords may also have views on this matter. I beg to move.
Page 11, line 4, after ("may") insert ("with the consent of the Secretary of State").(Lord Shackleton.)
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
I ventured to tell the House on Second Reading that I did not like Clause 13, but this Amendment, in my view, makes it much worse. I am quite convinced that a local authority must be allowed to make a charge. I believe that many provincial museums would close if they could not make charges. I also think that where a 1155 special exhibition, or something of that kind, is organised, and there are special expenses—such as transport, insurance of objects, and so on—it is perfectly reasonable to make a charge; and people do. But why on earth one cannot leave that to the local authority to decide, I cannot conceive. Is it really right that the Secretary of State should say, "Well, you may charge ls. 6d. but not 2s."? This is not a matter for central Government. If we have local government at all, surely we can entrust them to determine what the charge should be in respect to museums, art galleries, and particularly special exhibitions, which we know very well will differ enormously from one part of the country to another, and inside one museum for one purpose and another. I hope very much that we shall not bring the Secretary of State into this matter, which I consider a proper one for local people to decide.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
As my noble friend Lord Shackleton said, the purpose of this Amendment is largely to clarify the situation. It seems slightly absurd that when the whole intention and purpose of the Bill is to ensure that there shall be free libraries, that the treasures of literature shall be available to all those who wish to use them, at the same time it is possible for charges to be made if it is the treasures of art or the treasures of antiquity which are to be imbibed from, and from which wisdom and pleasure is to be obtained. Although we must accept that there may be special and exceptional cases where, because of the particular cost of mounting an exhibition, a charge may have to be made, we want to ensure that those are exceptions and, on the whole, very rare exceptions.
I suggest that it is quite illogical that we should regard it as essential that everybody should be able to go to a free library and read a book—perhaps a highly expensive book with beautiful illustrations of art—but that if there is an exhibition of the actual pictures themselves, people should be required to pay to see it. Surely the reasons which have lain behind all the discussions on the need for free libraries apply with equal force in the case of art galleries and museums. One really cannot divide up the civilising influences of all the 1156 instruments of cultural development in this way. One cannot say that people ought to have free access to literature, but that they shall not have free access to paintings and to the treasures of antiquity. Therefore the purpose of this Amendment is to try to get some assurance and, if possible, some form of words which will make it quite clear that, although charges may have to be made in very exceptional cases, they shall be exceptional indeed.
§ LORD NEWTON
I would repeat at once that it is not the Government's wish that Clause 13 should be interpreted as an encouragement to local authorities to charge. I did my best to make that clear when I was speaking in the Second Reading debate, and I am glad to have another attempt to make it clear again this afternoon. During the Second Reading debate I explained at some length the rather complicated reasons for the existence of Clause 13. The question at issue in this Amendment is, who should decide what charge, if any, shall be made: the local authority or the Secretary of State?
There is an important practical objection to assigning this duty to the Secretary of State: in my Department, capable though all the officers are, we are not in fact equipped to investigate this question. The Department has no inspectorate of museums and, since the Secretary of State has no control over the way museums are run, there would not he any case for establishing an inspectorate of museums. It may be that there are some people—and I dare say the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is one —who would like my right honourable friend to assume control of museums to the same extent as with libraries, but I argued during the Second Reading debate that this is not what the Standing Commission's recent survey recommended. If there were any question of the Department's assuming such powers, they would need very careful investigation and it would also need a separate Bill; and unless and until this has happened surely it would be unjustifiable to employ a special staff simply for the purpose of investigating charges for admission to museums. Indeed, it would involve decisions from each of the four to five hundred museums maintained by local authorities. 1157 There is, however, a much graver objection to the Amendment, which was spoken to with great emphasis and great conviction by my noble friend Lord Eccles, in that the Amendment does not take into account the proper division of responsibility between local and central government. If local authorities are required to get consent from the Secretary of State for their most trivial decisions—for example, whether they should charge 3d., 6d. or a 1s. for admission to an art gallery—it will, at any rate in my view, undermine the sense of responsibility among local authorities.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord when he is in such fervid flow, but the fact is that this Amendment says nothing of the kind.
§ LORD NEWTON
I do not agree with the noble Lord. It is precisely what this Amendment is designed to do. But what I was going on to say is that it seems to me that, unless authorities have real responsibility, they will not attract people of ability and standing. On the other side of the coin, the machinery of central Government would be choked with detail.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said that there had not been adequate consultation. When an Amendment to Clause 13 was moved in another place, my fellow Minister of State undertook to hold further discussions with the parties concerned, including, of course, the Museums' Association. That has been done and the local authority associations have left us in no doubt whatever as to their views. They feel, and feel strongly, that if a local authority cannot be trusted to settle matters of this kind it cannot be trusted to do anything. They also point to existing practice as evidence that they would not use Clause 13 unreasonably. Where charges are made they are mostly nominal. I do not think there would be in fact any temptation to impose unreasonable charges. After all, local authorities are under no duty at all to provide museums and art galleries, and if they chose to maintain them there would surely be no point in fixing a charge at a figure which would deter the public from using them. It would be perfectly obvious to an 1158 authority if it fixed too high a charge, because the number of visitors would fall off.
I would suggest to the Committee that it is reasonable to trust local authorities in a matter of this kind, and that there is in any case no satisfactory alternative. I will say once again that, while I sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his wish not to encourage the unreasonable imposition of museum charges, I am advising your Lordships that you would do well to reject this Amendment.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Not for the first time have I moved an unsatisfactory Amendment, and not for the first time has the Minister failed to understand the purpose of the Amendment, even though I have attempted to explain it. I should like to revert now, since the noble Lord has been good enough to go fairly wide, to the report of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries, in which it is made clear in paragraph 164—and I hope this is correct —that museums run by local authorities under the Public Libraries Act are not permitted to charge admission fees. They then go on to say that a few whose powers derive from the Museums and Gymnasiums Act, 1891, may charge for admission on three days a week, but that this has no advantage and the power is not used.
It is clear that some charging is done, but my objection to this clause was that it was very broad and appeared to encourage the making of charges, whereas the noble Lord has said that he is satisfied from the conversations that have been had with the local authority associations that they do not intend and do not want to make charges. But the fact is that the power is pretty flatly given. There is some vague suggestion that the local authorities have to have regard to the part the museums play in education in the area, particularly with regard to the interests of children and students.
What we had hoped was that, by and large, where local authority museums were free—and the majority are, as I understand it—they would continue to be free; and I think it is absurd to suggest that an Amendment which says that a charge may be made with the consent of the Secretary of State means that he has to approve every penny and item 1159 of that particular charge. It would be perfectly open to him to say to any museum that applied to him, "You can charge as much as you like, but please have three free days a week." This is a matter for further investigation. The Government are very likely changing a previous practice, and it has been my information that certainly the Museums' Association were not consulted. I am glad to have the assurance of the noble Lord that my facts are wrong, and he has given that assurance categorically.
I think there is a certain illogicality in this situation vis-àvis libraries, as my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams made clear. I do accept, and I think we all accept, the necessity for charges. I would agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that the particular Amendment is not satisfactory, but I think that the noble Lord, like some of us on this side, is not too happy about this clause. It is for that reason that I moved the Amendment to raise the issue. But I do not think there is any point in pursuing the matter further, and I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 13 agreed to.
§ Clauses 14 to 19 agreed to.
§ Clause 20 [Use of premises for exhibitions etc.]:
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ LORD AIREDALE moved after "exhibition" to insert "concert". The noble Lord said: I think this Amendment is self-explanatory. Its object is to enable local museums and art galleries —and even libraries, where they have a suitable room; particularly, I should have thought, the Library of Manchester, which the Minister mentioned earlier and which has the magnificent collection of musical scores—to follow the excellent example set in war time by the National Gallery, and in peace time by the Victoria and Albert Museum, of holding concerts. I cannot help feeling that the more special events of this kind, whether concerts, exhibitions, or whatever they may be, which are held in art galleries and museums the better, because I feel that, while many people form some vague intention of visiting their local art gallery or museums, it needs a special event of some kind 1160 actually to get them there. Having once been induced to go, they cannot help taking an interest in the treasures with which they are surrounded while they are listening to the concert; and thus you have the Arts joining hands, to the benefit of all concerned.
§ I am not thinking of large symphony concerts. I am thinking of small concerts: solo instrument recitals, song recitals, instrumental recitals, quartets, madrigals, concerts of that kind. Supposing that a famous string quartet were on tour through the country, and were willing to give a concert in some small town which had no concert hall as such, it would be a great tragedy, in my submission, if they could not give their concert in the local art gallery or museum simply because this Bill had not provided for an eventuality of that kind. I beg to move.
Page 12, line 28, after ("exhibition,") insert ("concert,").—(Lord Airedale.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD DILHORNE)
I think it may save time if I intervene at this moment to tell the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, that we are in entire agreement with his introductory observations. But he has assumed that the word "concert" is not covered by this clause. As he will see, it refers to "any exhibitions, meeting, lecture or similar event". If you say that a concert is not a "similar event" to those mentioned, then a concert would indeed be outside the clause.
The noble Lord has not, as I expected him to, argued the question of interpretation of the language, or expressed a view as to whether or not that would apply in relation to a concert: he has simply assumed that concerts are not covered by this wording. I hope it will give him some satisfaction when I say that if he will withdraw this Amendment I will consider the point myself, with a view to making sure, if there is any doubt, that it is removed. I know that it is held by some that the words "similar event" are wide enough in that context to include concert. But since the object of the noble Lord is shared by the Government, and since the intention throughout was to cover concert, I hope that he will withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD AIREDALE
I should be curmudgeonly indeed if I did not accept the assurance given by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. Before I withdraw the Amendment may I say this? Presumably councillors—and, for that matter, other members of the public—thinking, perhaps, of holding a concert in a museum or art gallery, might look up Section 20 of the Act (as it soon will be) in order to discover whether or not they can do that. When they read the words "for any exhibition, meeting, lecture or similar event", they may well suppose, not being lawyers, that a concert is not included among those words, and if they are not rather persistent persons, like I am, they may let the matter rest there, with the result that a concert which otherwise could have taken place might not take place. I would suggest there is a great deal to be said, even if it is unnecessary from a strictly legal point of view, for the benefit of ordinary members of the public who take the trouble to read Acts of Parliament, for inserting the word "concert", so that the matter may be clear beyond peradventure, as the late Lord Birkett used to say. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 20 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses and Schedules agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported without amendment. Report received.
§ House adjourned during pleasure and resumed by the Lord Chancellor.