HL Deb 30 June 1964 vol 259 cc514-76

3.0 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The Bill has two main objects. One is to adapt the structure of local government to the present-day needs of the library service; the other is to strengthen the library service by imposing a duty on local authorities to provide an efficient service, and on the Secretary of State for Education and Science to superintend its improvement.

The foundations of the Bill were laid by a Committee appointed in 1957 by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he was the then Minister of Education. Its Chairman was Sir Sydney Roberts, to whom the Government are much indebted for the hard work he put into a very difficult task. The Committee was set up because it had become clear from discussions with the local authority associations about local government re-organisation that nothing could be done to the library service without a full inquiry into its working.

The Committee reported in 1959 and its findings were discussed with the local authority associations and other bodies concerned. It was agreed that two questions needed further examination: first, the standards of an efficient service; and, secondly, arrangements for co-operation between libraries. Two Working Parties were set up, chaired by officials of my Department and composed of experienced librarians and local authority administrators, and their Reports were published at the end of 1962. The provisions of this Bill have been framed in the light of those three Reports.

My Lords, museums and art galleries have been the subject of a recent Survey by the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries under the Chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Rosse, and I should like, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, to say how indebted we arc to the members of the Commission for that Report. When this Bill was introduced in another place in February it was the Government's intention to make no changes of substance until the Survey of the Standing Commission had received further study. It has, however, been represented to us that certain changes would command a wide measure of support and that they ought to be made without waiting for the chance of further legislation on museums. It has also been found that the existing law in regard to charges for admission to museums and art galleries is full of anomalies and cannot simply be re-enacted. For these two reasons the clauses dealing with museums and art galleries—that is to say, Clauses 12 to 15—have been extensively revised.

I should like first to consider the local government structure of the public library service. Appendix III of the Roberts Report sets out clearly the position as it was in 1959. At the present time library powers are exercised by all county councils, county boroughs and metropolitan boroughs, 191 out of 318 non-county boroughs, and 99 out of 563 urban districts. In those urban districts and non-county boroughs which are not exercising library powers, the service is provided by the county councils. In addition, 13 parish councils are still library authorities. The only substantial change since the Roberts Committee reported is in Greater London. The London Government Act, 1963, provided that library powers should be exercised by the new London boroughs; and these boroughs will take up their powers on April 1 next, the date when this Bill will come into force if passed by your Lordships.

The Bill abolishes the library functions of parishes. Their powers will be transferred on April 1 next to the county councils for the areas in which they are situated. The main change made by the Bill is, however, in Clause 6(1). This gives the Secretary of State power to inquire into the efficiency of county districts exercising library powers if they have a population of less than 40,000 on a review date—April 1 next year and afterwards at ten-yearly intervals. The Secretary of State may, under the Bill, transfer their functions by order to the county council if he is of the opinion that to do so would lead to an improvement in the library service of that district. There are 181 boroughs and urban districts now exercising library functions with populations of less than 40,000, that is to say, my Lords, about 60 per cent. of those boroughs and urban districts which are now exercising library functions. The efficiency of the service in those areas will be subject to examination.

There has been a natural anxiety among those authorities about the way in which the Secretary of State may exercise his powers under the Bill. Clause 6 contains three substantial safeguards. First, the Secretary of State's decision has to be given by an order exercisable by a statutory instrument, which will be subject to annulment in pursuance of a Resolution by either House of Parliament. Secondly, the Secretary of State must have regard to the alternative service which the county council would provide if library powers were transferred to it; and he will make an order only if he is of the opinion that to do so would lead to an improvement in the library service in the area of the borough or urban district concerned. Thirdly, the Secretary of State is required by subsection (1) of Clause 6 to take account of any likely change or changes in the area and population of the borough or urban district, for example, by an alteration in boundaries or growth of population. The Government have no intention of depriving these authorities of their powers; only to transfer them back to the borough or urban district within a few years as a result of their growth.

Subsection (3) of Clause 6 empowers the Secretary of State to confer library powers on a borough or urban district which was not a library authority immediately before a review date if its population is not less than 40,000. Before doing so, he must consult the county council which would be affected, and he would take into account the effect of any such change on the services provided by the county council.

Local authorities are naturally anxious to know the standard against which they should measure the efficiency of the service they are providing. These are set out in some detail in the Report of the Working Party on Standards; and its would be the intention of the Secretary of State to refer to the relevant passages of this Report by a circular to local authorities when the Bill becomes law. On the question of standards, there are three points to which I should like to draw the attention of the House. First, the Working Party indicated the annual additions they would expect to a library's stock of books, given that its existing stock was adequate. Secondly, they drew attention to the importance of co-operation between neighbouring public library authorities below the level of the regional and national arrangements to which I shall return in a minute. There is room for experiment here, and we hope that the Bill will encourage a big development in such arrangements for local co-operation between authorities of all types. Thirdly, the Working Party drew attention to the importance of employing staff adequate both in number and qualification. The Secretary of State will need to take all these factors into account when he considers whether he should make orders under Clause 6.

I now turn to the provisions of Clause 7. This requires all public library authorities to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. This is an entirely new provision in public library legislation. In the past, library authorities have had a power but not a duty. Henceforth they will have a duty. Clause 7(2) indicates under three headings what is implied by the words, "a comprehensive and efficient library service". First, the authority must secure adequate stocks both by buying ahem itself and by arrangement with other library authorities. Secondly, it should encourage the public to use these stocks and provide them with the necessary advice and help. Thirdly, it should secure full co-operation with other authorities concerned.

The Report of the Roberts Committee revealed great unevenness in the standard of library services provided by different authorities. This unevenness does not spring only from disparities in the size and type of authority. Even some of the large authorities are not exempt from criticism. There has hitherto been insufficient appreciation of what constitutes an efficient library service. But uniform standards of service all over the country cannot be expected. Clearly, some small towns and villages cannot provide the same facilities as large cities. But differences in standards at present go far beyond those which these geographical considerations would justify. It is important that these disparities should be reduced and the general level raised, if the growing demands on the public library service are to be satisfied.

Clause 1 of the Bill lays on the Secretary of State a duty to superintend and promote the improvement of the public library service. In carrying out this duty he will be assisted by the two Advisory Councils, one for England and one for Wales, which he is required to set up under Clause 2. The aim is to make available to local authorities the collective wisdom of people with experience of libraries, both public and other. Hitherto, there has been no national focus for ideas and no forum for their discussion. By providing such a forum and by authorising the Secretary of State to issue guidance to local authorities, the Bill should promote a general improvement in the standards of the service. In addition, the Secretary of State has power under Clause 10 to intervene in the last resort if an authority defaults on its duties.

At the regional level voluntary arrangements for co-operation between library authorities and other libraries already exist. Clause 3 provides a statutory framework for these arrangements. It empowers the Secretary of State to designate regional areas and, after consultation with the library authorities within the region, to make a scheme for each region. These schemes will provide for the observance by each member authority of requirements made by its regional council, and each council will be able to precept on its members to cover its necessary expenses.

An improvement in the standard of the public library service will inevitably lead to an increase in its cost. There has been some criticism of the Bill on the ground that it raises the cost of the library service without providing local authorities with any additional sources of income. Some people would like the Government to give aid from the Exchequer, and others would like to see local authorities given power to augment their resources by charging those who borrow books from public libraries. The public library service is not a grant-aided service and the whole cost is borne by the ratepayers. The Roberts Committee recommended no change in this respect. Everybody recognises that an improvement in the standards of the service will increase its cost—now about £23 million—possibly by as much as 50 per cent.; but this increase will inevitably be spread over several years. In the meantime, as your Lordships know, the Government are reviewing the balance between local and central Government expenditure, and that is the proper context, I would suggest, in which to consider the effect of the public library service on the rates.

The other idea which I have mentioned is that local authorities should be allowed to charge for lending books. Clause 8 of the Bill allows charges for certain purposes where it has, in fact, been common practice to make them; that is to say, for notifying somebody that a book reserved by him has become available; as a fine for those who fail to return things by a specified date; and for lending articles other than books, such as gramophone records. Clause 8 does not, however, allow authorities to charge for lending books. In prohibiting charges for lending books, the Government are following the recommendations of the Roberts Committee, and in this they have the support of the local authority associations and of the Library Association. Books have been loaned free for over a hundred years. We are in the midst of substantial programmes to raise the standard of education, which are bound to lead to an increased demand for books, and it would be inconsistent with these policies to place any obstacles in the way of getting books. There is also a risk that if libraries were allowed to charge for every book lent they would concentrate on those works for which there was most popular demand, and the quality and range of their service would go down.

Some of those who have advocated a change have done so in the belief that the proceeds of any charge could be used to help authors and publishers. We will consider very carefully any suggestions that may be made in the course of the debate, but to implement them would, I am sure, be outside the scope of this Bill.

I now come to the clauses on museums and art galleries. This part of the Bill was not originally intended, as I have already said, to make any change of substance in the law on museums and art galleries, but during its passage the Bill has been revised so as to meet representations made for improving the law. Power to maintain a museum has been extended in the Bill to all local authorities. As the law stands at present, that power is confined to library authorities, to any authorities that may still be exercising powers under the Museums and Gymnasiums Act, 1891, and to a few authorities who have taken power under Private Acts. The Roberts Committee recommended that museums should be considered separately from libraries, and the Standing Commission on Museums and Art Galleries endorsed this recommendation. As Clause 12 now stands, all library authorities continue to have power to provide and maintain museums, and any other authority which now maintains a museum will be able to do so. In addition, any local authority will be able to provide a museum or art gallery if it obtains the consent of the Secretary of State.

The existing law as to charges for admission presents many anomalies. Local authorities may charge for admission to art galleries, but not to museums. Nobody knows what view the courts might take of any particular institution. If art covers applied art, as well as the fine arts, and includes the productions of ancient man as well as modern, and of primitive cultures as well as highly developed ones, probably the majority of our institutions would have legal power to charge for admission. This would leave natural history museums, and those with industrial and geological collections without power to charge, unless indeed collections of objects classified as art shared the same roof. There does not seem to be much sense in this distinction.

There are other anomalies as well. An authority which maintains a museum under the Museums and Gymnasiums Act has power to charge in certain circumstances. So have authorities which have taken power to do so under Private Acts. Besides these, there is no restriction on charges for admission to museums which were provided from voluntary funds but may now be supported by contributions from local authorities. Faced with these anomalies, the Government concluded that it would be wrong simply to reproduce the existing law in this Bill. The Bill as originally presented prohibited charges for admission to both museums and art galleries. As amended in another place, it allows them, but requires local authorities to take into account the need to secure that the museum or gallery plays its full part in the promotion of education in the area and to have particular regard to the interests of children and students. Neither solution has contented everybody, and it seems to me unlikely that any other suggestion would do so. I undertake, however, to consider carefully any suggestion made by your Lordships for further amendment; and I would add that it is certainly not the Government's intention to encourage local authorities to impose charges.

Clause 15 was added on Report in another place to give effect to a recommendation in the Survey made by the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries. A number of authorities have taken power under Private Acts to set up a fund for the purchase of exhibits. The Standing Commission recommended that this power should be made general, and this has been done in Clause 15. The detailed provisions in Schedule 2 for regulating the fund are based on the provisions in Private Acts. Clause 14 provides that library authorities or authorities which maintain a museum or art gallery may contribute towards the expenses incurred by any person, either in providing and maintaining a museum or art gallery, or in providing advisory or other services or financial assistance for the benefit of any such museum or gallery. The second power is a new prevision in the law relating to libraries and museums, and has been inserted with the needs of regional museum organisations particularly in mind. At present grants of this kind can be given only under Section 136 of the Local Government Act, 1948, with the specific approval of the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

It was originally believed, when this Bill was introduced in another place, that it would not be controversial. This belief was disproved in Standing Committee in another place, where about 140 Amendments were put down. The Government have accepted the substance of several of these Amendments, and I do not think it could be said either that the Bill has not been subjected to thorough scrutiny or that the Government have been unwilling to meet reasonable criticism. It has not been possible to reach agreement on every issue. Nevertheless, I hope that the Bill, as amended, will command the support of your Lordships this afternoon.

I should like to conclude with a quotation from the Roberts Report, where it describes what has been happening in the public library service during the last thirty years. It is this: Not only has the number both of public libraries and of readers vastly increased … but the whole concept of a library's responsibilities has been enlarged and intensified. Furthermore, the expansion will continue. The greatly increased provision of secondary and university education and the greatly increased number of persons receiving scientific and technological training will lead students and other persons engaged in industry and research to make more demands on the resources of public libraries and the general public to make more and better use of them. That was in 1958. Great developments have taken place in education even since the Roberts Committee reported. There has been the Crowther Report on the fifteens to eighteens, the Robbins Report on Higher Education, and the Newsom Report with its recommendations for improving secondary education for children outside the ambit of the Crowther and Robbins Reports. This will all lead eventually to further demands on the public library service. The purpose of this Bill is to fit the library service to meet them.

I think that I owe the House an explanation of—perhaps even an apology for—the aridity of this Second Reading speech, I have deliberately concentrated upon exposition and spared your Lordships any observations of a morally uplifting nature: not because the theme is unworthy of them—far from it—but simply out of a concern for reasonable brevity. My Lords, I therefore beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Lord Newton.)

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, we are obliged to the noble Lord opposite for his clear exposition of this Bill, and I think we are all indebted to the Roberts Committee for the work they did. I cannot pose as a library authority. I have had a little experience. Some 45 years ago I worked on the library committee in the Borough of Stepney. Fortunately for me, that coincided with the relaxation of the restriction on the amount of rate that could be raised. The result was amazing and in the next two years our borough put to shame many other boroughs of greater opulence but less intellectual ability than the Borough of Stepney.

I welcome this Bill because, as has been said in the past, the library service has been most uneven in the country. It has not always been a matter of money, but one of intelligence. This Bill rightly emphasises the need for co-operation and co-ordination of the service. More and more of this is needed to-day. I was a little afraid, when the radio and television and the rest came in, that people would cease to read; but librarians tell me that they read more, and that the things which appear on the television and are heard on the radio stimulate their interest and make the public ask for the book. One can tell the effect by the type of books that are required after particular items occur on a programme. There is no doubt that with increasing leisure there should be, and I think will be, a still greater demand for books. Of course, increased education makes the same demand. If we are to keep our place in the world it is necessary to provide reading facilities for all and sundry.

There are one or two points to which I should like to call attention. It so happens that for the last few years I have been President of the Library Association, which does valuable work, and they have suggested certain improvements to this Bill. The first one is really a matter of finance. I myself always regret the passing of the system of grants in aid. When I was in local government, I always found that local government councillors were enormously stimulated by the fact that they were going to get something out of the central Government. I do not suggest that to-day there is a case for any general subsidy from central Government, but there are certain special cases that might be looked into. Some of our larger towns, such as Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, and so on, while they serve their own particular area, are as a matter of fact regarded as central libraries for a whole region. They have to provide far more services than perhaps are actually required by their city, because they are used by so many people in the surrounding areas. There is a case under Clause 9 for some kind of Government grant to these great centres, which serve a much larger purpose than that of merely providing for the local people.

The second thing that makes a great demand on many of our libraries is the demand of students. Where one has educational establishments in an area, there is a heavy demand on the space of the library for books and everything else. I think that there is a case for something to be done there. A further point is that the library should be regarded as one of the main services of local government. In my time I have seen many of the duties of local governing authorities taken away and nationalised. There is all the more need to emphasise the interesting and exciting services that are called upon from our local authorities. That is why, in my view, there should be proper regard for the status of a library service. Every library should have a chief librarian who should be regarded as one of the principal local government officers, like the borough treasurer or borough engineer, and there should be a statutory obligation to set up a library committee. In these respects I feel that the Bill might be improved.

I should be entirely against charging for what has for long been the free library service. I am sure the Government are quite right in rejecting that idea. I am aware there is some controversy on the part of authors and publishers as to whether they do not suffer through the borrowing of books instead of the buying of books. Well, I am a very minor author and I should not like to range myself with them on that. Many writers of more (shall we say?) intellectual works are really indebted to the library service because they are given a kind of basic demand, and I think we shall have to leave the "best sellers" to look after themselves. I should certainly be against any idea of making the libraries entirely subservient to the commercial interests of publishers or even, if I may say so, of authors.

I hope that we shall have some Amendments on this Bill (not perhaps 140) in Committee, but, broadly speaking, this Bill is a great advance. It gives far greater recognition than has ever before been given to the need for libraries, which in my young days used to be regarded as rather a luxury for a few people, a fad of the intellectual. But nowadays no reasonably-sized town should be without a library, and I believe that a great deal can be done in the villages by the good work of county libraries, travelling libraries, and the like. On the whole, I welcome this Bill as a step in the right direction.

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, I am very glad to follow the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, whose distilled wisdom and beautifully economical exposition were, as always, a great example to the House. Like the noble Earl, I welcome this Bill. It has taken an unconscionable time to reach Parliament, and I confess that I am in part responsible for that. When we received the Report of the Roberts Committee, to whom my noble friend paid a well-deserved tribute, in which I should like to join, we found that their analysis was excellent and their broad conclusions were acceptable.

We agreed with them that the administration of the library service should be left with the local authorities, knowing that some libraries were large, some small, some outstandingly efficient and some very much the reverse. In those circumstances the Government could not bring forward a Bill until it was possible to tell all library authorities in clear terms what were the standards which the Minister would expect them to live up to. But, alas!, the Roberts Report did not go into anything like sufficient detail about how to define, to prescribe and to secure these standards. So there was absolutely nothing for it but to start another round of consultations and, in particular, to take further account of the views of professional librarians. In the interval since the Roberts Report was published, the local authorities have carried out many improvements in library practice, and they are much beater prepared to-day than they would have been five years ago to implement this measure.

Of the three partners in this service— that is to say, the local authorities, the librarians, and the general public—I am inclined to think that the local authorities come off best, and if I may say a word or two in favour of the other two partners I wish to assure my noble friend that I intend, if I can, to be thoroughly agreeable to the Government. There is first the question of how many and how small library authorities we ought to have. Local loyalties devoted to existing institutions are not always a guarantee of efficiency. When doubts arise about the quality of the service in a particular area these doubts ought not to be brushed under the carpet in order to please the local authority concerned. Libraries are a vital service to the general public and one which is going to be more and more in demand. In all our thinking about this service the reader and borrower of books must come first.

The plain fact is that to provide a small population with a well-stocked library administered by adequate staff is a much more difficult operation than for a large population, and very much more expensive per head of the rate payers or per book borrowed. Therefore, Clause 4 has to be a compromise between local loyalties and efficient administration. It offers a working basis from which to make advances as time and experience point the way. We shall never be able, once and for all, to lay down what the minimum population for a library authority should be. The demand for books and the supply of books are always changing. As education improves, more people will want to read more books, and they will want a wider range of books; and every year the number of book titles increases by something like 20,000. However, provided that Parliament has an opportunity thoroughly to review the pattern of libraries at reasonable intervals—and, of course, the machinations of the Local Government Boundary Commission are very important here—I suggest to your Lordships that we should accept Clause 4 as it stands.

I am very glad to follow the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, in asking the House for a moment or two to consider the finance of the library service. My noble friend Lord Newton told us that to reach the standards at which the Government are aiming would cost something like an extra 50 per cent. at to-day's prices. That is a very heavy burden, but it must be accepted. However, no change is proposed in the present arrangements which place the whole of the expenditure on the rates. With the modest exception of the Central Lending Library, which is dealt with in Clause 9 (2), not a single penny of the additional costs for running all the local libraries will count as "relevant expenditure" for general grant. The financial question, therefore, is whether this arrangement is right.

We can look at the finance of this service from more than one point of view. Many people approach it thinking only of the rates. They hold that the burden of the rates is growing so heavy that any opportunity should be taken to shift a further part of that burden from the rates to the taxes. This is a general consideration about local taxation; and if it were the only argument I would not ask for a change in the finance of the library service. It would be better to wait for the current review of the respective shares of central and local finance to be concluded. On the other hand, I find strong reasons, arising out of the library service itself, why central funds should now bear part of the cost; and I would go further than the noble Earl, Lord Attlee.

This Bill is welcome, because we believe it to be of the greatest national importance to improve the standards of the public library service. We know that this cannot be done either quickly or easily, and therefore we are bound to be concerned to see that the Secretary of State is in a position effectively to use his powers given under Clause 1, "to superintend, and promote" the service. These are the words in the Bill, but in practice will the Secretary of State have the power—indeed, will he even have the inclination—to weigh in and do what we know wants doing, so long as he is making no financial contribution?

My Lords, the parallel may not be exact, but I recall the efforts required to secure a better provision of books for schools. If current expenditure on school books had not ranked for grant, the situation which we found in 1951—then shocking—would, I am sure, have been much worse, and very much harder to put right. But even sharing the cost with central funds was not enough to persuade many local authorities to purchase an adequate foundation stock of books for the libraries in their newly built schools. I had to do something about that, and I allowed them to charge the cost of the foundation stock to loan account. As a result, a great many shelves were filled which would otherwise have remained empty to this day, because they could not bring themselves to debit to one annual budget the lump sums required to equip the libraries.

Other examples can easily be given to prove the advantage of sharing between central and local funds the cost of a service which the Minister has a duty to superintend and to promote. Personally, I believe this to be good policy at any time, but when Parliament is expressly legislating to secure an exceptional and rapid improvement in a vital service, then the persuasive power of the Minister to make financial contributions becomes essential.

Without any power to make any grants, how will the Secretary of State fulfil his duty to secure adequate standards in all public libraries? We are told that he will have at his elbow an adviser on library matters. This important officer ought to be engaged on terms which command respect from professional librarians. He will have to be supported by quite a considerable staff. But what are they going to do? I am not at all clear how these officials are going to carry out their duties. Will they, for example, keep central statistics? Will they make regular inspections of libraries? In what way will their work differ from that of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools? There is one other point. Will they be able to advise on the building and equipment of libraries? Your Lordships will know that the Architects and Buildings Branch of the Ministry of Education does good work in connection with the schools and with youth clubs. It will be a very great pity if this experience is not going to be available to libraries, and I hope that perhaps my noble friend can say a word about that, too.

Clause 2 of the Bill provides the Secretary of State with two Advisory Councils. In my old age I have become sceptical about the effectiveness of Advisory Councils which have no power to get anything done. I had hoped that the Ministry of Education would follow up the success of the Youth Service Development Council, of which a Minister was Chairman and which took decisions that led to action. Could it be that that model was not used precisely because the Minister is not sharing the cost of the library service, and therefore no financial help can come through the Council, or for that matter from the Minister acting without the Council?

I think your Lordships would agree that one important question which should occupy the Advisory Councils is whether the inter-library arrangements are satisfactory. The more small libraries we have, the greater the need for them to draw on one another's resources. I expect my noble friend will tell me that it is all there in Clause 3 and that the power to insist upon adequate inter-library arrangements is laid down in subsection (5) of that clause, but I beg leave to doubt if this power will be effective unless it is backed up with money.

I live in Wiltshire, on the border of Hampshire, and everyone in our village of Chute does his shopping in Andover, which is in Hampshire and where there is also a public library. No doubt the relations between the Wiltshire and the Hampshire authorities are, and always will be, excellent, but this might not be the case between all neighbouring authorities. There was quite often trouble when a student living in one area wanted to go to a technical college in another area. Sometimes it was a question of the distance from the college to the place where he lived or worked. Sometimes it was a question of the course of study he wished to take not being available in the technical college in his own area. Pressure had to be brought to secure that the doctrine of free trade in students was accepted by all authorities, and behind that pressure the Minister's grants were not always out of sight.

Surely free trade in the borrowing of books is equally a matter of public concern. I am sorry again to be sceptical, but is it likely that, so long as local authorities bear the whole cost of the library service, all of them will treat borrowers coming from another area as generously as we would wish? So I want to hear from my noble friend, if he can tell me, what the Secretary of State will do if he is advised that the arrangements for inter-library lending and free trade in borrowing are unsatisfactory. Does he really mean to be tough; and, if so, what weapons has he got, short of holding an inquiry as provided for in Clause 10 and in the rather peculiar Clause 16? But that would not be a satisfactory reply. A Minister cannot hold an inquiry into everything that is found to need improvement. Here, I feel, is a real weakness in the Bill.

Another consequence of the large number of library authorities is that research into library techniques will be too expensive for most of them. There cannot be any doubt that research is urgent and that someone will have to pay for it. The best solution that I can see would be for the Advisory Councils to keep all library research under review and, with the Minister's consent and grants from central funds, themselves to commission research projects which otherwise would not get undertaken. But, of course, with the proposed financial arrangements that cannot happen. Perhaps my noble friend could also say a word about this subject of research projects.

I turn for a moment to the much-debated question of making a charge for borrowing books from a public library. I am quite clear in my own mind that the overriding consideration is to encourage the largest number of readers and to give each the widest opportunity to find the book he wants. A charge, whether it was for a reader's ticket or whether it was a fee for each book borrowed, would deter somebody, and I do not want to deter anybody. Books are the tools of civilisation. It would be as foolish and retrograde to ration them by the purse as it would be to make parents pay for their children's primary education.

Now some people, alarmed, as I mentioned earlier, at the rising total of the rates, want the local authorities to impose this charge for borrowing books and to retain the proceeds as one method of relieving the rates. I am against that: first, because it would take up such a tremendous amount of time and librarians can ill be afforded for that purpose; but secondly, and still more so, because it would reduce the number of readers. A relief of the rates can be arranged in another way. Others say that, even if no charge is made for books which convey information, a charge should be made for fiction. I regard that proposition as absurd. Who can possibly draw the line between what is fiction and what is not fiction? On which side of the line would many scholars (including, I suppose, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Woolwich) place the New Testament? On any consideration such a distinction is wrong and educationally unsound. People learn about themselves and the world through symbols as well as through facts. In the last resort men are governed more by what they feel than by what they know, and fiction is a very good educator of the feelings. It seems to me uncivilised nonsense to charge for a novel by Tolstoy but not for a text book on nuclear physics.

The third argument for a charge is the one to which the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, referred—namely, that book publishing is so unprofitable a trade that authors are perforce very poorly rewarded, and here is a chance to build up a fund out of which authors could receive money additional to that which their publishers can afford to pay them. My Lords, however much one may sympathise with these hard-pressed people, a charge for borrowing books would reduce both the number of readers and the number of books which the libraries wanted, and that would not be a sound way to meet their claims. It might indeed be counter-productive if it is true, as many librarians say, that public libraries are the best of all agents for persuading people who have never owned books to start buying them for themselves. I therefore support the provisions in the Bill on charges, and hope that the power to make a charge on material other than books will not unduly restrict the provision of such material.

Finally, my Lords, just a word on that part of the Bill which deals with museums and galleries. I certainly do not know the difference between a museum and a gallery, and it seems to me that this part of the Bill is a small step forward, based, one would suppose, on a rather hurried look at the Report of the Standing Committee on Museums. The Rosse Committee recommended against any system of central inspection and sanction of provincial museums. They thought that such a system would offend local feelings and alienate the interest of local government, which has been increasing. I expect they are right; but, at the same time, it is very clear that some provincial museums need a great deal of help which they cannot get locally. I should like Her Majesty's Government to make more of the Victoria and Albert Museum as their chosen instrument for offering that help. This splendid museum already does a great deal for the provinces, but its work could be extended, particularly in such fields as the loan of experts for preservation and giving advice on display.

As my noble friend said, when this Bill was first introduced into another place Clause 13 prohibited a local authority from making a charge for entrance to a museum or gallery under its care. That was too sweeping a provision, and I think the Minister was quite right to withdraw it. Provincial museums and galleries cannot all be lumped together. They differ very much in their contents and in the cost of upkeep. They want to put on special exhibitions of loaned material which are very expensive; and it would clearly be most unwise not to give them the power to make a charge. But, to my regret, instead of re-drafting Clause 13 to allow a charge to be made and leaving it to the local authority to determine when and how to charge, the Minister has qualified the permissive power with words in subsection (2) which read as follows: In determining whether, and in what manner, to exercise its powers under this section in relation to a museum or gallery, a local authority shall take into account the need to secure that the museum or gallery plays its full part in the promotion of education in the area …". I recognise in those words the goodness of the Minister's heart, but not the usual clarity of his mind. See in what a predicament he is now placing the local authority who wishes, and quite justifiably, to make a charge! Once the authority has to take into account the "full part in the promotion of education" which the museum can play, it becomes impossible to charge anybody, young or old, for visiting either the museum's own collection or a special exhibition.

What visit could be said not to be educational? Suppose I am asked to pay to go into the Holbourne Menstrie Museum at Bath. I protest to the doorkeeper that I have come to see the work of an eighteenth century French modeller. I tell him that he has in his museum a fine example that this man did while in prison in Bath for assaulting the daughter of a coachman. The doorkeeper is not impressed. He says that I must pay. I pull the Act out of my pocket and show him that it says that if my visit is educational I need not pay. I suggest, my Lords, that it would be very difficult for Bath City Council to charge me unless they make use of this loophole, where it says in this clause: … the promotion of education in the area". But nowhere in Clause 25, which is the Interpretation Clause, does the Bill define what "the area" is. If they say that the area is the area of those local authorities who have made a contribution to the museum, then of course they could catch me if I did not live in the City of Bath. They could say, "You must pay because you are not a resident."

Imagine, then, how invidious the discrimination would be on presenting oneself at the museum, when they would say: "Are you a resident? All right, you can go in free. Are you a visitor or a tourist, or a foreigner? Then that will be half a crown, please". This is simply not good sense and I wish very much that Clause 13(2) were not in the Bill. But it is the 30th of June and I can assure my noble friend that I have no intention of moving the deletion of any subsection, or any other Amendment which might endanger the life of this excellent little Bill at this time in the Parliamentary Session. I hope your Lordships will give it a speedy passage.

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to associate myself with my noble friend Lord Attlee and with the noble Viscount who has just spoken in welcoming this Bill in so far as, for the first time, it establishes a national responsibility for our library service. I should like also to associate myself with the regret expressed by my noble friend Lord Attlee and expounded at greater length by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that the Bill does not lay any financial responsibility on the Government which is now to take responsibility for the efficiency of the service. It is a very well-known principle that he who pays the piper calls the tune; and if he who calls the tune makes no contribution whatever to the piper's expenses it seems rather probable that the tune that will be played will not be the one he would have wished to hear.

I should like also to express my association with the regret that the Bill contains no provision for the statutory appointment of a library committee and a chief librarian. It is obligatory for the appropriate local authority to appoint an education committee; it is obligatory to appoint a children's committee; and if the library service is to have the prestige that this Bill professes to give it it becomes very important that a post of chief librarian and a library committee should also be statutory obligations upon the appropriate local authorities. The service will not achieve that prestige if it is left to be the stepchild of an education committee. It needs to be the full-blooded child of a committee of its own.

The noble Lord, Lord Newton, said that the purpose of the Bill—and this we welcome—is to lay down standards of efficiency. He added that there has been insufficient appreciation of what constitutes an efficient library service. I am not sure that that appreciation is even now sufficient; and I hope when the Minister imposes his standards of efficiency he will take pains to examine yet further the possible criteria which may have been overlooked. The Roberts Committee originally suggested as a standard of efficiency the total expenditure of a library authority upon books in relation to population. This, I think we are glad to see, has been dropped. It is certainly not a standard that would be accepted in any other context. One can imagine the outcry there would be if it were proposed that the standard of efficiency of the National Health Service should be measured by the expenditure of the Service on drugs, to take an obvious parallel.

The Working Party set up by the Department elaborated standards of efficiency very much more, as the noble Lord, Lord Newton, explained, introducing such factors as stock held, additions to be put to the stock in different classes of books and also the efficiency and the number of staff. But both the Roberts Committee and the Working Party, curiously enough, ignored certain elements in efficiency and ignored certain investigations which they might usefully have made and which have been left for private enterprise to undertake. First of all, neither seems to have taken any effective steps to get the views of those who use the libraries. The Roberts Committee took their views almost wholly from the Library Association which speaks for those who run and manage libraries; the Working Party likewise seems to have taken no steps to get into touch with the ordinary library user. It is rather the modern fashion that official investigations should take this line and that they should derive their sources of information from those who operate services rather than from the unfortunate, or often unfortunate, consumers who actually use them.

To take a few parallels from recent history: I do not think that the Wolfenden Committee went out of their way to inquire into the views of homosexuals or prostitutes; I do not think the Morton Commission went out of their way to examine the views of those who were divorced or who wished to be divorced but were not able to be divorced under the present law. Even the Crowther Committee, which took steps to initiate some inquiries into the opinions of boys and girls at school, very curiously omitted, I think, to investigate at all the opinions of their parents. In these days, when sample investigations can be given a high degree of technical accuracy, I think it is most important that before standards of efficiency are determined some attempt should be made to know what is the judgment of those persons who actually use the libraries and to give these at least equal weight with the judgment of those persons who administer the libraries for the benefit of other people.

The second factor omitted by both the Working Party and the Roberts Committee was any reference to the timing of the service in books. The Roberts Committee certainly aimed very high. They put as their goal that the library should aim to supply to any reader or group of readers books or related material for which they may ask. This opens a very wide door indeed, possibly ideally and excessively wide, but it omits the factor of timing. It is true that it is not necessary that everybody should read the latest novel the minute it comes out; but it is also true that there are very many legitimate and important demands for books which are regulated by a timetable: the student with an examination to take; the public official, perhaps, who is going to take part in some conference or important meeting: even, perhaps, one of your Lordships who wishes to inform himself before making a speech in your Lordships' House. It is of no use to them if books are supplied two, three or four months after the occasion which stimulated the demand has gone by.

Actually the timing of the service is extremely variable and depends not only on the library but also on some factors which I think are often overlooked. Some libraries will not attempt to get a book until it has already been catalogued by the British National Bibliography. If a publisher delays to notify the British National Bibliography of the publication of his book, the library does not get it and the unfortunate borrower has to wait, not because of the inefficiency of the library but because of the inefficiency and delay of the publisher.

It is also true that if different criteria of efficiency are applied to various libraries the rank order in which they stand is very different. One can ask: Does the library attract a high percentage of the available population of its area? Or one can ask: What is its book lending stock per head of its population? Or: How much is its expenditure on books? One could apply a number of criteria of this type. For instance, it has been shown by the investigation of the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs that, even in the metropolitan libraries, if these various tests are applied to a small number of libraries they will come out in a quite different order. So the ranking of a library depends tremendously on the test applied, and it is most important that one gets the right test.

I should like to look for a moment at the various investigations that have been made on a modest scale into the views of library users. Investigations have been made by the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs, by the Young Publishers and by the National Book League. They all bring out certain common results. One is that the libraries seem to attract not much more than half the eligible population to become members, and the second—and this stands out particularly in the metropolitan investigation conducted by Mr. Brian Groombridge for the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs—is that there is a great wastage. If about half the eligible population are, or have been, library borrowers, the proportion of the eligible population who are members at any one time is not ordinarily more than about 30 per cent. Clearly there is great wastage.

Perhaps an even more striking wastage was pointed out by the Crowther Committee. About half of the secondary modern school leavers join a public library when they leave school, but two years later the proportion has dropped to about 16 per cent. There are many reasons for this wastage, and among them are some which concern more the library user than the libraries. People get married and become preoccupied not so much with books but with the bringing up of families, or move out of the district. Both these factors were shown in the investigations I am quoting to play a considerable part. But there are some complaints which I think ought to command attention. There are a number of complaints on timing, which stress the view that timing should at least be a fatter in estimating the efficiency of the library service—not only the volume of books available this year, next year, sometime, not perhaps never, but also the moment at which the books will be available.

There are complaints, too, and I think justified complaints, that the free service which we so greatly value is being whittled away by increases in the permitted charges, particularly the charges for fines. Therefore, I am glad to see that Clause 8 of the Bill gives the Minister power to set a limit to the charges that can be made by way of fines. I have had quite serious complaints addressed to me by elderly people with very small incomes that fines have crept up in many areas. And though it may seem that 6d., perhaps even for a day or two's over-keeping of a book, is a very small sum, we must remember that people with small incomes are often the least mobile and the most cut off from any other active recreations and are not always able to get out on the exact day on which a book has to be returned; and 6d. can be a sum of considerable importance to them.

I should also like to suggest that there is evidence that the function of libraries as sources of information, as distinct from lenders of books, tends to be greatly under-estimated by the population. Libraries not only exist to hand out books for readers to read at home; they also comprise large sources of information and assist the searcher who looks for his own information. These services are not nearly sufficiently advertised or recognised among the public at large.

I should like to say a word about the vexed question of authors. Here I, too, must declare an interest, though I say, with more foundation in fact than my noble friend Lord Attlee had, that my interest is a minor and modest one. I have published several books and hope yet to publish one or two more. I think that authors have had a poor deal. Authors are not paid like the sellers of machinery and the sellers of butter; they are paid in a rather peculiar way, by royalties. If they turn their talents to writing plays and the play continues to be performed they get a royalty on every occasion the play is performed; but if they write fiction or serious works on any topic and the book is lent by a library, they will get a royalty only on the single copy or on the small number of copies that the library buys.

I think it is essential to combine two things—fairness to authors and the maintenance of a free library service—and this is by no means impossible. Let us first decide what is right to do and then look at the ways of doing it. One way of doing it would be to require that every library should stamp every book that it buys and the excise stamp (so to speak) should be assigned to a fund which goes to pay the author, by either a single payment on each copy of the book or a payment related to all the times the book is issued. This money would be paid over to the Exchequer, which would give the Exchequer an opportunity to contribute to this important part of the service, which is, paying the people who make the books which stock the library shelves. Therefore, even if it is not within the scope of this Bill, I hope the Government will look carefully into the possibilities of a scheme of this kind, and I should be very glad to elaborate this further, if an appropriate occasion should offer. Incidentally, authors have been particularly hardly done by since the coming of paper-backs. When paperbacks first began, the royalties which authors received were much lower in expectation of much larger sales, but then the libraries bought paper-backs and bound them in hard covers, so the author was defrauded again of the large sales which he had anticipated the paper-back would enjoy.

It has been said that our public libraries were invented for the redemption of the Victorian poor. There is a certain amount of truth in this. Like our hospitals, and like, to some extent, our schools, the public libraries still carry in the public image some association with Victorian charity: the Victorian desire, as the Victorians would have put it, to improve the working classes. It is significant that, even to-day, when the public were asked why they did not belong to a library, a good proportion replied that they were afraid that the books would be dirty or would carry infectious diseases. Surely, this is a hangover from the Victorian view that the working classes would not only contaminate persons with whom they associated, but contaminate any objects, such as books, which they might handle.

The libraries have a good deal to do to build up their image in the public mind. When the British Museum Library was founded, just over two centuries ago, it was said that this library was to be for public use through all posterity and for the benefit of all studious and curious persons. It was also said that the Government were bound to give liberal and unlimited assistance, so as to ensure that all should have access to sources of information. To-day, in what we may call the intellectual Welfare State, I think the same formula might be used to express the aim and purpose of the public library. If the assistance which this Bill gives to the development of the service is not unlimited, nor even perhaps very liberal, for what it is worth it will be welcome.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, this Bill does not seem to be one that is likely to provoke much serious controversy in your Lordships' House, whatever may have happened in another place. The main proposal of the Bill, that the Minister should assume a measure of responsibility for the efficiency of local library services, appears to have met with general acceptance both in your Lordships' House, so far as this debate has proceeded, and in another place. It is, of course, in line with the contemporary approach to local government. I would not dissent from its soundness for that reason alone, but I am bound to remind your Lordships that the progressive withdrawal from local authorities of the responsibility for the services which they administer must eventually lead to a deterioration in the standards of persons who desire to be local councillors, and a deterioration in the standard of the staffs which local authorities are able to command.

But, quite apart from this general aspect of the Bill, there are some matters of general importance which we ought not to pass by without a few moments' notice. The Bill may result in large numbers of small local authorities losing the powers which they at present exercise to maintain a public library service. The policy of the Bill is clearly that authorities with a population of less than 40,000 should cease to be public library authorities. I should not disagree with that proposal, as a general rule, nor with the idea that 40,000 is about the right size for an authority to exercise an efficient service. But the difficulty is that there are something like 200 local authorities with populations of less than 40,000 who may lose their powers under this Bill. Of these authorities, 93 have populations between 20,000 and 40,000. I should have thought that an authority having a population of between 20,000 to 40,000 might well be expected to maintain an adequate library service. The Bill certainly provides a number of safeguards, to which the Minister has already referred. There must be, I think, a public inquiry, and an order under which an authority ceases to be a library authority must be made by a statutory instrument, which can, of course, be debated in this House. I would say to the Minister that I hope he will not apply too rigidly to these smaller authorities the test to which the Roberts Committee referred, of an expenditure on books of 2s. per head of the population. It is true that some of them are at present maintaining an expenditure of that nature, but in the case of a small authority the expenditure on books per head of the population is not a determining factor of efficiency. In a smaller authority a much smaller number of books has to be purchased. That fact alone makes this overall test of 2s. per head of the population one which is not a fair measure of the efficiency of the smaller authority.

I pass to questions of finance. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee (I am sure everyone in your Lordships' House welcomes his contributions, which are always inspired by a recollection of the time that he spent in local government), said that he regretted the passing of the grant-aided service; and the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, urged that the Government should accept some measure of responsibility for the cost of the local library services. I am not at all sure that I agree with this view. The cost of the local library services is, I assume—no doubt the Minister will be able to tell us—a factor which is taken into account in estimating the general Exchequer grant. I see the noble Lord, Lord Burden, shaking his head, and I hesitate to pursue a point if I see him doing that. I should have thought that it was; and, if not, I think it ought to be, because I believe that that is the proper way in which the Government share of the expense of these local services should be borne. The grant-aided service always tended, I think, to induce local authorities to undertake expenditure which they might not have undertaken, and which perhaps they ought not to have undertaken, because they knew the Government were going to bear a certain proportion of the cost. I should prefer to leave the responsibility with the local authorities, and if some assistance is needed for them, to see it go through the general Exchequer grant.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, spoke of the research which is being done by a number of different bodies into the use which is made of public library services; and the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, also referred to the need for research into the library services. I hope that it will be possible for the Minister to assure us that research will be undertaken into these matters. I should have thought that the Advisory Committee was the right body to determine what research should be undertaken. A great deal of research into social subjects is being undertaken by many different bodies. In the new universities, and outside the universities, extensive research is being undertaken into the social services of all kinds. Public authorities will have to undertake research themselves, too. They cannot leave the function of research to be undertaken entirely by the universities and by private bodies. For that reason, I hope it will be possible for the Government to make some direct contribution to the public library service and that that contribution may be made through the agency of research. In that way the research which is needed for the efficient direction of this service will be forthcoming.

May I say a word about the provisions for the payment of charges for museums and art galleries? I am glad to see that that provision has been put into the Bill, and I hope that as it passes through your Lordships' House that provision will be maintained. I do not think that any great harm is done in the educational service, or even to visitors from outside, like the noble Viscount, if an authority makes a charge for entry to its museum or art gallery. After all, it is the practice, I think, in every European country that every day is not a free day in the art gallery. Certain days are selected when a charge is made. There are certain days when the cost of opening the museum is greater than on other days—for example, on Sundays and Saturdays. I would not say that a charge should be made on Sunday or on Saturday, but I do say that it might be made on some other day in order to meet the additional costs of opening the gallery on a Sunday or a Saturday. I understand that the Ministry of Public Building and Works make a charge to most of their exhibitions, and certainly the National Trust make a charge for the exhibitions for which they are responsible.

May I say something about the rather controversial question of charges in the nature of royalties to remunerate the authors whose books are loaned by the public library? As I understand it, the real case for this charge rests upon the assumption that the library service must reduce the private sales of books on which the author receives a royalty. Is that really the case? It may well be the case that, because the public libraries purchase a large number of books, the actual sales of books are increased by the fact that copies are purchased by the public library. Before one assented to the proposition which the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, put to your Lordships, in a most attractive fashion, I think one should be satisfied that the author's interests really are injured by the fact that his books are purchased for lending purposes by the library service.

One could recover this charge only by some form of charge to the borrower of the book. The Roberts Committee were at pains to stress in their Report that the tradition of a free library service was a very strong and well-established tradition in this country, and they recommended very strongly that it should not be departed from. Your Lordships may well have sympathy with the author who considers that his royalties have been reduced by the purchase of his book by the public library, although, as I say, I am by no means satisfied that a case has been made out. But I hope that your Lordships will not be tempted to depart from the principle of a free service which has always been maintained by the library authorities in this country.

4.36 p.m.


My Lords, like all others who have spoken in this debate, I welcome this Bill, although I must confess to your Lordships at the beginning that it is with a somewhat modified rapture. It seems to me a good little Bill, of excellent intentions but with very inadequate powers to put those intentions into effect. It recognises, but, in a sense, only just recognises, the immense change that has taken place in the library system and in the status of libraries in this country in recent years.

Even in my own boyhood I remember that to use a public library was regarded by many people who liked to think themselves as in the middle classes as rather socially "infra dig". Indeed, I remember that my mother, who was a charming but, in some ways, slightly eccentric lady, had a deep belief that to go to a free lending library was both socially immoral and highly dangerous—to such an extent that whenever I managed to get to one and bring back some books, she would immediately seize them and put them in the oven believing (I do not know whether medical science would support her on this) that they must be covered by germs, and that the best way to treat germs was to roast them. She was also forgetful, with the result that they often came out of the oven in a brown, charred mass, and we had to pay so much for replacing books which suffered from this treatment that it soon became clear that to use the free library was a very expensive luxury indeed.

But the whole status, scope and climate of the public libraries has changed; they have now become one of the great institutions and one of the great middle-class institutions in this country. It seems to me that although this Bill goes some way towards recognising the change —the universal provider which the libraries have become—it does not go far enough. The Minister has the hope that library services will improve, but if they do not he has to employ what seems to me the very clumsy instrument of threatening to take away from the authorities concerned the right to run a library service. Surely there ought to be some intermediate, and certainly some more positive, way of inducing an improvement in the continued maintenance of library services other than that.

Who is to tell the Minister whether or not these library services are measuring up to their obligations under the Act? Is there to be a service of inspectors—an inspectorate like the educational inspectorate? If so, employed by whom, and with what sort of status? And, if there are to be such inspectors (and I hope that we may have some clarification on this) are they to be regarded simply as critical and negative bodies, telling library authorities when they are not doing their job, or will they be, as happens in the educational service, people who are able to bring a great deal of creative talent to teachers and schools by carrying from one to another new ideas, and so on?

Clearly, to have the sort of library service that is envisaged in this Bill we want the most expert and able librarians. Every week I read that excellent paper, The Times Literary Supplement. After going through all the riches of literature, new and old, which is examined in that periodical, I frequently turn to the back pages, where usually there are set out pages of advertisements for librarians: the librarians who have to select from this stock of books; who have to decide what it is desirable to have available, and who must have the skill—and I might almost say the genius—to stimulate reading, particularly among the younger members of their communities. I must say that I am frequently absolutely appalled at the rates of pay which are regarded as adequate for that kind of service, and at the differentiation that exists between one authority and another. I should like very much to know whether the Minister is aware of this and whether he conceives that this Bill will enable anything to be done to improve the situation.

My Lords, I agree with other speakers, with my noble friends Lord Attlee and Lady Wootton of Abinger, and with the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that the kind of expenditure which seems to be envisaged, and which was envisaged in the Roberts Committee Report, is, on the whole, still too low for an adequate library service. Not only is it too low, but it varies enormously between authority and authority. It will be part of the purpose of this Bill when it becomes law, or should be, surely at least to get a great common denominator of efficiency and of expenditure. Like many other speakers, I doubt very much whether that can be done without some grant from the central Exchequer. I believe that such grants would be fully justified and are required if the library service is to be adequate to the need which I believe a modern community has for books.

I come next to a more contentious matter on which, I am sorry to say, I find myself in some disagreement, not only, I think, with every other speaker in this debate so far, but with noble friends of mine, particularly the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, with whom I very rarely disagree—and when I do I always find it necessary to look deep into my soul and wonder what has gone wrong. I cannot share their appalled horror at the idea that some charge for library services should in any circumstances be considered. The library service has developed enormously. It is now being used by a great many people who in the past happily paid fees to commercial libraries in order to be able to borrow the books they wanted, and particularly so that they could be members of a guaranteed service which would ensure that they could receive the book they wanted at a very early date after its publication. Most of those big commercial libraries, such as Mudie's and so on, have now gone. The old system of being able to pay a guaranteed subscription whereby subscribers could ensure that they obtained the book they wanted at the time they wanted it has gone with them.

It may well be that often it does not make much difference whether a particular popular novel is read now or a fortnight or a month later. But in the field of books dealing with current affairs, politics, economics, social affairs, and also in the field of creative literature, there is very often a climate of the times, a period when the ideas expressed in these books have, or seem to have, a particular application to the issues which confront us, when people want to read that book at that time and be able to discuss it with their friends. I would say—and I am sure many would agree with me—that there is not a more civilised occupation than a discussion about books with one's friends.

It seems to me that while it is perfectly right and proper that students' tickets for libraries, and tickets for old people, should be absolutely free, at least the door should be left open for considering whether some way of meeting the needs of the new library population by a small charge for a lending ticket ought not to be instituted. I do not say that the case for such a charge is beyond argument; clearly, from the arguments that have been stated against it, it is not. But I do say that it is worthy of examination, and I very much regret that this Bill should close the door so firmly and finally upon it, because the libraries have become not only what they were intended they should be when they were founded, great institutions for education and information, but a great leisure service, a means of enabling people to get entertainment, and so on, at varying levels. They are, in fact, if I may say so, comparable to the public service of an institution like the B.B.C., which puts out entertainment, information and education, for which it was accepted from the beginning there should be a charge, in this case a licence fee, in order to enable it to fulfil those obligations satisfactorily.

My Lords, I come now to the position of the person who in these matters is sometimes the forgotten man, the author; though he has been referred to in this debate. I was glad to hear my noble friend Baroness Wootton of Abinger's references to the author, as an author herself, though I felt that many of the other references when authors were mentioned had a rather derogatory tinge—I am sorry to say by my noble friend Lord Attlee, with whom I rarely disagree, and with whom I am sorry to disagree on this occasion because, indeed, we were joint authors of a book —as if the commercial interests of authors must not be considered. I think it is really desirable to look on this problem from a somewhat different plane from that. In the whole of the Roberts Committee Report the author, the ultimate producer of the books that are going into the libraries, was not mentioned at all. So far as one could judge from the Roberts Committee Report, the books going into the libraries were the result of immaculate conception in the mayor's parlour, or something of that sort; there was never an idea that somebody actually wrote those books and that it ought possibly to be considered what reward he should have for them.

Here I must declare an interest as an author myself, as a member of the Council of the Society of Authors and Chairman of its Management Committee, an interest which I think is, in such a matter, a perfectly proper one. I believe, too, that, as a member of the Management Committee of the Society of Authors, I have as much right and obligation to put forward the author's real rights as I see them as any member of a trade union has to defend the rights of his fellow trade unionists or any member has of his professional body. The position of the author is that more and more people are reading his books and he is being put economically in a position where it becomes more and more difficult for him to spend the requisite time writing those books. This is because of the disappearance, for example, of the great commercial libraries which, when a new book came out, ordered immediately large numbers to meet the demand, because they were obligated so to do under their contracts with borrowers. They have gone.

The great paper-back revolution has come in, and more and more people are only prepared, it would sometimes seem, to read what they can borrow or throw away. This is in part due to the fact that in smaller houses there is less room to store the hard-back book. And so one can, as an author, with the normal vanity authors have, look in a library to see how a book is going on and find that the book which one wrote has been borrowed hundreds of times, all for the price of 1s. 6d., or 2s. at the most, the royalty on one copy.

I am not complaining so far as I myself am concerned. I am, so to speak, an all-purposes beast; I write books and do journalism and television, and although my accountant tells me that every time I write a book I should calculate that I shall probably lose at least £1,000 of income from other sources, bearing in mind the time taken up and the revenue from the book, I am not complaining. I can get along. But I think of many young authors who are writers of books which will add to the great storehouse of English literature, which is one of the glories of Western civilisation, whose books are reviewed, are never likely to become great, popular best sellers, are bought in small numbers by libraries, and go on being read by the clients of the free public libraries for months and months, and sometimes for years and years; while the authors, with a very tiny return from that novel or whatever it may be, find it almost impossible, particularly if they are married and have children— and authors, like other human beings, have a right to be married and have children —find it almost impossible to devote the time to write other books.

I think also of those older writers who, having served their generation well in writing books which have often been of great entertainment value, and sometimes much more than that, find, as they grow older, that the creative impulse dies down; whose life has always been precarious; whose income has now gone in their old age, because now the former habit of producing cheap, hard-back editions, which used to be a great resource to the older authors, has gone completely; and who make their rather shuffling way into the library to find books they wrote twenty or thirty years ago are still in constant demand, still being read, while they are getting no income from them at all. I suggest to your Lordships that society as a whole has a right, has a need, to consider its obligations to those who write the books as well as those who read them, and that if a charge for a lending library, which would help in some way to meet those obligations by being related to the number of times a book was borrowed, is ruled out for other good reasons, then it ought very seriously to be considered whether there should not be grants from the central Exchequer to libraries which could go into an author's fund related to the number of times the books he wrote are borrowed. It is sometimes said that that is difficult; but it is already being done in Sweden, in Norway and in Denmark, which nobody could call reactionary countries, which are countries that have a tradition of culture and civilisation, and which believe that it is worth while dosing what they can to maintain it.

As I said at the beginning, I welcome this Bill, as we all do, as a step in the right direction, but a rather small and faltering step. I hope very much that we shall get further news to-day of how the expansion in borrowing which is envisaged by this Bill is, in fact, to be financed. I hope the Government do not rule out altogether the possibility, indeed maybe the absolute necessity, of central grants; that they do not shrug off altogether the problems and needs of the author who is the prime supplier of the books, and that they are prepared to look at the borrower of books as an intelligent, civilised person who wants an amenity service which will answer his needs. I hope they will do this by enabling the libraries both to buy more books and to buy them more frequently than they do at present.

4.56 p.m.


My Lords, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, will acquit me of any discourtesy if I do not follow him in his excursions into fields of potentially verminous books and the theology of authorship.

I speak simply as a user of public libraries of two of the present Metropolitan boroughs, Chelsea and the City of Westminster. The Roberts Committee reported in December, 1958. My noble friend Lord Eccles has given some explanation to your Lordships as to why it has taken so long to bring this Bill before Parliament.

My Lords, a lot of books have been written and read, and indeed lent, since William Ewart's Bill 114 years ago from which the public library system of this country sprang. I think we should all be grateful to Her Majesty's Government for bringing forward such a practical Bill based on the Report of the Committee under Sir Sidney Roberts, whose views on, among other eminent literary characters, Sherlock Holmes must endear him to many of your Lordships. Anything, I think, is to be commended which will promote a comprehensive and efficient library service. I should like to associate myself for a moment with the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, in their appeal for statutory insistence on a library committee to each library authority. This seems to me to be a very sensible idea.

The Minister in introducing this Second Reading debate referred to Clause 7, which imposes a duty for the first time to provide a public library service. There is, however, a proviso to that clause, and I think it is worth while quoting: Provided that although a library authority shall have power to make facilities for the borrowing of books and other materials available to any persons it shall not by virtue of this subsection be under a duty to make such facilities available to persons other than those whose residence or place of work is within the library area of the authority or who are undergoing full-time education within that area. I agree completely with this proviso: there should not be a duty to provide a library service for other than residents, workers and students. But I wonder whether it would not be possible to be a little more positive and to encourage public library authorities to do so, and not merely give them permission.

I should not like to follow many of the speakers into the controversy over charges, and I do not want to go the whole way with the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, but I wonder whether it would not be possible for some small charge to be made to users of public libraries other than those which they are entitled to use as residents, workers or students. I am delighted also to see later on, in Clause 7(2)(a), reference to the lending of other materials than books, including pictures, gramophone records and films. I realise that this is probably a Committee point, but I wonder whether this would include power to lend tape recordings. Tape recordings are becoming increasingly more important, I think, and commercial tape recordings available increase year by year. Perhaps my noble friend could give me some encouragement on that point when he comes to reply.

The only other point that I should like to bring to your Lordships' attention is the recommendation of the Roberts Committee in paragraph 92(4), relating to a capital grant for the completion of the National Central Library catalogue and an adequate series of regional catalogues. I realise that there is power under Clause 9(2)—indeed, my noble friend Lord Eccles referred to this in passing. The Minister made no reference to it in his opening remarks, and I wonder whether he could say if there is any possibility of such a grant being made, as the Roberts Committee suggest, as a matter of urgency. With those few words I should like to commend the Second Reading of this Bill to your Lordships.

5.2 p.m.


My Lords, the Second Reading of this Bill was moved by the noble Lord. Lord Newton, in a most informative speech, to which tribute has been paid by almost every noble Lord who has spoken. It is clear that the growing demand for higher education, the training of young workers, the Newsom Report with its insistence on better library facilities for schools, and the lengthening of school life, are only some of the factors which make this Bill most opportune. Five years ago the Roberts Committee described libraries as a great and developing national asset. It may be interesting to glance for a moment or two at the development of public libraries in this country.

The first Public Libraries Act was that of 1850. It applied to boroughs of more than 10,000 population and required the support of a majority of two-thirds of the ratepayers at a special meeting convened for that purpose. The library rate was limited to ½d. and, incidentally, could not be used for the purchase of books. When that Act was discussed in another place, one honourable Member said that he supposed they would soon be thinking of supplying the working classes with quoits, peg-tops and footballs. The ½d. rate was raised to ld. in 1855 and remained at that figure, unless a local authority secured a Private Act of Parliament, until 1919, when this 1d. rate limitation was finally abolished; and at the same time county councils were made library authorities. Arnold Bennett, writing in 1917, said: The chief result of the 1d. in the £ rate is to supply women, old and young, with outmoded, viciously respectable and viciously sentimental fiction. No municipal library can hope to be nearer than 25 years up to date. That was probably an exaggeration; probably he was looking at libraries from the point of view of the circulation and purchase of his own works of fiction. That is by the way. But it seems to me that the devoted services of grossly underpaid librarians, the work of the Library Association, the generosity of Andrew Carnegie and his trustees who gave more than £1¼ million to build free libraries. also of Passmore Edwards who endowed free libraries, together with the growing importance of municipal free libraries proved beyond doubt that public free libraries were meeting a genuine demand.

A great impetus was given by the freeing of local authorities from the ld. in the £1 limitation. This was clearly shown in the admirable report of the Kenyon Committee of 1927. Of course, no action was taken on the Committee's recommendations, which required legislation. Most of these recommendations were repeated in the Roberts Committee Report of 1959. The Bill now before your Lordships seeks to give legislative sanction to the most important of these recommendations. Local authority expenditure on libraries has grown apace. May I trouble your Lordships with a few figures? In the year ending March, 1963, 82 county boroughs spent £6,900,000; 28 Metropolitan boroughs, £2,900,000; 61 counties in England and Wales, £7 million: 179 non-county boroughs, £4,500,000; 74 urban districts, £854,000—I see that the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, has left—and, with the exception of any approved expenditure ranking for inclusion in a rate deficiency grant, the whole of this sum was raised entirely from local rates.

In the nature of things, owing to the different types of local authorities and the manner in which libraries have developed in this country, which presents a problem, it is urged that some library authorities are not in a position adequately to meet the cost of maintaining their libraries at a minimum standard. As far back as 1927 the Kenyon Committee reported: It would be idle to pretend that the present unusual pattern produced a consistently satisfactory result, and it has been emphasised in evidence and discussion that some library authorities, large as well as small, are falling behind comparable authorities in their standards of service, and that some small authorities are failing to provide an adequate service because financial and other circumstances are too strong for them. At the same time "— all the witnesses agree— that the library service is essentially one to be administered by local authorities and that. whatever changes may be made in its structure, its character in that respect should be preserved. In the Bill before your Lordships the Minister takes power to superintend the development of a public library service throughout the country and to secure the proper discharge by local authorities of their library functions. The Bill takes a figure of 40,000 population as a minimum, but in another place this figure was vigorously contested, and it was argued that some local library authorities with less than 40,000 population were efficient and discharged their duties quite satisfactorily. Concern was also expressed that these small authorities would lose their library functions, but I understand that adequate safeguards were written into the Bill and have been accepted.

I pass now to another point. Students at our universities and colleges are making increasing use of our public libraries. It is said that in some towns they are coming in droves to the public 'library. One reason for this is the shortage of books in some college and university libraries. To mention one point which comes to my mind, the University of California spends in one year on books for its students more than three-quarters of the sum which is spent by all the university authorities in this country. The Library Association mention the fact that the responsibility of public libraries to all kinds of readers forbids their devoting a disproportionate amount of their income to meeting the needs of students. The Association state: This problem is bound to increase in magnitude during the years ahead when universities and colleges are expanding rapidly. Unless there is authority for the Government to give financial help the library authorities who find themselves in difficulties in meeting this need, students will inevitably find themselves more and more frustrated in their search for the books and journals which are the indispensable basis of their studies. May I now turn for a moment to Clause 3, which requires the Minister to divide the whole of England and Wales into library regions, and to supervise arrangements for co-operation by library authorities? I am sure the Minister must be aware of the admirable system of co-operation which has been built up by libraries in the Metropolitan area of London. The system of cooperation which is known as the London Union Catalogue will certainly be affected by this clause. Much depends on the actual regions into which England and Wales may be divided under the new legislation, but a future region is certainly one which should coincide with the new Greater London area. I submit that the London Union Catalogue, which is the name given to the present Metropolitan co-operative scheme, may in the future be enlarged so as to include the public libraries in Greater London, and this should strengthen the bibliographical resources and eventually result in a better scheme.

I pass now to the second subject with which the Library Association are concerned. Here I support. my noble friend Lord Attlee in what he has urged in relation to the position of a chief librarian. All county councils must appoint committees for finance, education, smallholdings, diseases of animals, fire brigade, health and housing, children and welfare. Why is it that libraries, which, as we are repeatedly told, will play such an important part of the work of education, and in meeting the needs of students, and so on, are still to be placed in a subordinate position in the councils and must stand as a sub-committee, instead of having a chief officer and being able to make their case direct to the finance committee and to the council itself?

Just let us consider, arising out of practical experience, the work of a council over a number of years. The chairman of the education committee has his estimates prepared; they go to the finance committee; the chiefs of the finance committee meet the representatives of the education and other departments. If there has to be a cut in the education rate, unless one has a strong library chairman a good deal of that cut will be passed on to the unfortunate library sub-committee. As your Lordships know, all councils must appoint a clerk, treasurer, medical officer and other officers in accordance with Statute. Why, then, is a chief librarian excluded from this list?

Finally, I come to the question of salaries. The Roberts Committee say: We are informed that Government Departments and 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. It would not be appropriate for us to recommend particular salary scales for qualified librarians since negotiating machinery already exists for fl is purpose."— that, incidentally, is not quite accurate. We feel bound, however, 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. We hope that our views on this subject will be brought to the notice of the appropriate joint negotiating bodies. I know that the Library Association are aware that, five years after the Roberts Committee reported, nothing has been done in regard to this matter, and qualified men and women are still leaving the library service—and quite rightly, when they see no recognition of their service—to go into more remunerative positions.

I know that there exists the Whitley machinery for two of the grades who are employed in the library service, but for chief librarians there are, so far as I know, no scales; nor is there any negotiating machinery for them. Obviously, their salaries are in some measure related to the lower grades, but each local authority has it within its power—subject, of course, to negotiations with the appropriate trade union—to fix the salary of the chief librarian. I know that the Library Association has drawn up a scale, but I am afraid that scale is not operative so far as many library authorities are concerned. I am hoping that the time will come when we will insist that in this service adequate salaries are paid, so that the responsibilities and devotion to duty of the men and women who give such devoted service to the students, and who are always ready and able to assist those who come to them for their help in the great work of education, will be recognised. I hope that the community will readily recognise the great work they are doing, not only for today but for the future.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, it is a long time since a debate on such a weighty subject has ended at such a reasonable hour. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, who introduced the Second Reading of this Bill, apologised to the House for not enough moral uplift—I think that is what he said. None the less, I thought he gave us a very clear account of the Bill, and we have not lacked weighty speeches. Indeed, the eloquence of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and also of my noble friends Lady Wootton of Abinger and Lord Francis-Williams, was of the highest kind. I nearly said, "heaviest kind", but by "heaviest" I mean the weight of the armaments which they brought to bear on a particular subject with which I am, in fact, in disagreement with them, and with which at a later stage I hope to deal.

We started with a very clear and, indeed, endearing speech from my noble friend Lord Attlee. He covered the Bill with that very special quality of experience and wisdom. He pointed to those defects that there are in it, and he gave it the welcome which, on the whole, I think most of us believe it deserves. But the fact that the Bill was fully debated in another place—and those of your Lordships who may have waded through the Proceedings of the Standing Committee will know that there was a great deal of discussion on a number of points—does not mean that we cannot improve the Bill here. I hope that on this occasion the noble Lord, Lord Newton, will not be lulled into a false sense of security by the closing remarks of his noble friend Lord Eccles who, having thrown some pretty heavy broadsides at the Bill, said that none the less it was a good little Bill and he would do nothing to stop its passing into law. We will not stop it from passing into law, but we hope it will he rather better when it appears there.

Much of what I had to say—and this is always the advantage or the disadvantage of being the winder-up—I can really dispense with. I think there is little general disagreement on the broad approach to the recommendations of the Roberts Committee. There is a necessity for the Government, through the Secretary of State, to have powers to intervene. I thought the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, produced some very unconvincing arguments in favour of the continuation of the smaller library authority. His argument seemed to be that the smaller they were the fewer books they had to buy, and this seems to me to be an effective statement of the argument against the smaller authority. I hope that whoever is Secretary of State will exercise his powers, where necessary, to close down the authorities which fail to reach the relevant standards.

I am sorry, although I think it is probably right, that under the Parliamentary procedure to which the Bill is exposed the Negative Prayer is to be applied. If there is one subject which is calculated to arouse any Member of another place, it is the defence of his local library. This is one matter on which there are certain issues and on which we know that we are, perhaps, rather freer from pressure. This is not to impugn the sincerity of Members of another place, but I can foresee a series of the most passionate speeches in defence of Penge or Derby—places, admittedly, with admirable libraries, but which in the modern situation may, or may not, be able to match up to the standards which are required. But what is still rather unsatisfactory is what those standards are to be. I agree with my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger who contrived very satisfactorily to introduce, as is right, support and encouragement for more sociological research.

I had already made a note that the investigations which had taken place into the library service were largely quantitative, with a straight collection of figures related to the numbers of books bought and the number of staff engaged, and that they did not directly relate, as my noble friend suggested, to the actual needs of the consumer. Clearly, this is only one aspect of the matter, but one would have liked to see rather more investigation of that kind. One hopes that if my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger is able to speak whenever there is a debate on any Royal Commission or public inquiry and makes a plea that these techniques should be made available, we shall get rather more convincing Reports. This I found one of the weaker sides, both to the Inter-Departmental Committee and to the Roberts Committee itself. Of course, we appreciate that they are always operating within a fairly short space of time, but I have my suspicions about whether there is any reason for supposing that the figure which is likely to be adopted—the 40,000 figure—is the right one. It seems to me that the size of the particular authority, whatever figure is adopted, is at the moment a pretty arbitrary matter, and that in the absence of any more precise information the Government, inevitably, had to take the most obvious figure in front of them—and I do not blame them for that.

The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, drew attention to the rather surprising amount of power or influence which the Government are seeking to exercise, without, as it would appear, having any means other than the threat of taking over a library authority, or of making public complaints about it, or by giving general encouragement, of pressing local authorities to bring up their standards. The Government are not able to give the authorities any money; they are not able to offer them a grant. Certainly, they will be able to issue circulars; certainly they will be able to lay down standards. But it would be much easier if, in fact, they had certain funds which could be used for specific purposes.

Here I think the Government have not, perhaps, taken their thinking far enough—any more than the Roberts Committee did—in relation to the special services which certain libraries render. My noble friend Lord Attlee gave examples of some of the great regional libraries. But there are a number of specialist services and reference services provided by libraries which, in the field of science and technology, may be wholly paid for by the Government. The contrast between the reduction in Government expenditure on the National Central Library and the fact that they are wholly financing the National Lending Library for Science and Technology, as well as the National Reference Library for Science and Technology, is rather striking. This is a matter on which I know my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger, who was my predecessor's President of the Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux, would be inclined to support me.

Some further consideration and support ought to be given, even if not in this particular Bill—and I think it is probably too late to do it in this particular Bill—to the possibility of special kinds of Government subvention. I would ask the Minister to tell us, when he comes to reply, whether there are any other forms of legislation by which funds can be made available, or whether it will be necessary to come back to Parliament with more legislation, if it seems to the Secretary of State particularly desirable to establish or support particular services—and here again I would refer to a point which the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, made—such as research in library techniques, in so far as these may be of particular importance in the public library service as opposed to the scientific and technological libraries. If no such legislation is in existence, then I think there is a serious gap in the Bill, and I should like to urge that, even at this late stage, some provision should be made, although it may be difficult for us to do it in this House.

This, of course, also leads on to the question of the needs of students. It is striking how much students depend on the public library service. Until one has had a son or daughter who is a student living in one's house I do not think one has any idea how much they depend on this service. When I was a student, I did not. My noble friend Lord Francis-Williams has given some of the reasons why people did not go to the public library service. Perhaps I was fortunate in that I lived for much of my time in the house of an uncle who had the largest private library in Britain, with over 100,000 foreign books. Unfortunately, they were all piled on the floor—he was a somewhat eccentric character—but I was enabled at least to see this great pile of books. Being able to find the book one wanted was another matter. This aspect brings into this question of research the need to retrieve the books and the information you want. In view of modern techniques of retrieval, I sometimes hope that St. Peter is adequately equipped to retrieve the necessary information from whatever library service may be at his disposal. However, the needs of the library service are clearly growing, and we hope that this Bill will provide enough flexibility and enough opportunity to the Government of the day to do what is necessary.

There were a number of other specific criticisms made. There was reference by a number of my noble friends to the need to enforce on local authorities the requirement to set up independent library committees; and this applies particularly in the range of county councils. There was also a strong recommendation, from my noble friend Lord Burden and others, that there should be, by Statute, a means of appointing chief librarians. I very much agree with this view. There is, of course, some conflict here with those who feel that this would be an interference with the responsibilities and rights of local authorities. We much sympathise with this view, but the painful fact is, as noble Lords have shown, that library committees are at the moment inadequate in certain areas; certain local authorities are not doing what they could do, and there is a particular difficulty in regard to the recruitment of librarians. As the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, pointed out, it is customary to establish by Statute certain other requirements, as is already the case in regard to other officers he mentioned who have to be appointed by Statute. I should like to think that the chief librarian enjoyed a rather higher prestige; and the fact that there are those who say you cannot possibly put him en the same level as some of the officer; who are appointed by Statute rather suggests that there is a need for an upgrading in status in which the Government may have to play their part. I would suggest that we might at least consider giving the Government power, by order, to require this, without actually putting this requirement in the Bill.

We have taken a very quick look also at the question of the museums. I think the noble Lord, Lord Newton, explained fairly satisfactorily why we have these three clauses in a Bill which is primarily concerned with libraries, and in absolute defiance of the proposals of the Standing Commission, which suggested that action should be taken on the recommendation of the Roberts Report that in future legislative powers governing libraries should be dealt with separately from those relating to museums and art galleries. This is practically the first recommendation in a part dealing with staff-holding and finance, and the Government have promptly gone against it. I think they had some justification for doing so, because there were certain rather pressing changes which they were able to slip into this Bill and, as noble Lords have pointed out, this Bill has already taken an exceedingly long time to see the light of day. But what I think would alarm us all would be if there were no indication from the Government that further legislation was contemplated in regard to museums.

When the Chief Secretary to the Treasury answered a Question in another place, he said that Her Majesty's Govern- ment had now completed their consideration of the major recommendations in the Rosse Report; but one has seen very little action. If they have completed their consideration, it would rather suggest that they have done all they are going to do. Certainly they have not yet anywhere near met the financial proposals contained in the Rosse Commission Report, and I should hope that we shall receive some sort of assurance from the Minister that there is already a Museum Bill on the stocks. We know it has to wait its place in the queue, and that it may be some while before it appears, but I should not like to think that we are in fact going to forget all about it. It may be we have been somewhat remiss in not debating it—I do not think there has been a debate on it—and it may be that it is a subject which should be debated on another occasion.

There is one very controversial aspect of the clauses that we have before us, and that is the question of admission charges. I do not particularly like the form in which the clause has been drafted. I think it is necessary for certain powers to exist and for it to be possible to make charges, but I should like to see it drafted in a different way, and to see such a provision subject to the control of the Secretary of State. I think this is a point that we might look at on the Committee stage. There has also been some talk here—and a good deal of talk in another place—on the necessity for the Secretary of State to appoint inspectors, and I hope that, even at this late stage (it is an early stage in this House), we shall have some clearer indication of how the Secretary of State is to know what is going on. We do not want to see inspectors appointed just to harass the life of the ordinary citizen, but we know perfectly well that for operating a service of this kind some sort of support will he necessary from the Ministry of Education and Science; and the Government have been, I would say, almost deliberately vague on this question of how they are to keep in touch and how they are to make up their minds. Are they always going to proceed by formal inquiry? Obviously not. I still consider that we might well do better to appoint inspectors rather similar to those who inspect our schools. My Lords, there is one final matter to which I would refer—though I had not thought that I should be involved in a debate on the subject of the remuneration of authors. Let me make it clear straight away to my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams that his right to speak on behalf of, or as the chairman of, the Authors' Society is certainly unchallenged, and I think we can all congratulate the Society on the eloquence of their trade union representative. As a humble and, I must admit, lapsed member of the Authors' Society (I found it a bit too expensive to go on paying the annual subscriptions) let me say that I regard that body very highly. I believe that it does valuable work and provides a quite exceptionally efficient service in support of authors in their many problems. There is no doubt that in the technical field of help and advice to authors they are unbeaten by any other similar professional body. But whether individual authors should benefit by some additional payment every time a book is taken out from a library is an issue which is a great deal more complicated than it would appear.

Here I must complain that the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, who made such a powerful plea for effective social investigation and research into subjects of this kind, gave us little of the fruits of her own research in this matter; although the rest of her speech was very well informed. I was also rather doubtful about some of the figures we were given by my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams. He talked about books being taken out hundreds of times. I am told that the average number of issues in the life of a book is something nearer twenty, though, certainly, there will be a few best-sellers that will be taken out by a hundred or even hundreds of borrowers.

I agree that it can be very upsetting when an author who has fallen on hard times finds that his books are still being taken out of the libraries. But I believe that one must set this against the general pattern of society. There are a number of people who, as they get older, fall on hard times. This is particularly true of ex-Service men, pensioners and many others; and society seriously fails to cater adequately for them. I do not think that by making a charge we are going to gain very much for these few older and impoverished authors without suffering grave loss both to the community and also, possibly, to other authors. I am told that something like 1,800 copies is the average figure of sales of a new book and that about three-quarters, or possibly four-fifths, of those are taken by the libraries.


My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend for a moment? There is no suggestion whatever that authors, in raising this issue, are asking that there should be a contribution as a sort of charity by reason of their old age. They are suggesting merely that when books are read by a number of people—just as when plays are seen by a number of people, and when records are heard over and over again—there should be some payment related to the demand. I would also say that I think my noble friend is mistaken when he suggests that, on average, a book is borrowed only twenty times. An investigation made by the Society found that very often a book was issued 200 times or so. Sir Alan Herbert found, I think, that two of his books in popular demand, of which seven copies were held by his local library, were borrowed 3,600 times in twenty years. This yielded him, in royalties, about 3s. for giving pleasure to 3,600 readers.


My Lords, I am delighted to have given my noble friend the opportunity to make a further speech, and I will now try to reply to some of these additional points, though I am much less adequately briefed than he is on this subject. I am sorry if I have done an injustice to older authors; but I thought he had indicated that there was just a touch of the compassionate case with regard to certain such authors. But I certainly agree that his case is not based entirely on that.

I do not think the figures he has given have controverted the figure I gave, which was that the average number of issues for all books stocked by public libraries is nearer twenty for the life of the book. This is not to deny the fact that Sir Alan Herbert may have been very hardly done by. But authors like Sir Alan Herbert, my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams, and many other authors of note, have a great deal of diversity in their particular industry, and they can operate and make incomes, as he has said, in other fields. I think it is the most successful author who suffers most gravely from this particular problem and who has the mortification of seeing his book taken out day after day without any extra money accruing to him. I am not saying this pejoratively—I should feel badly if I suffered in the same way, or if my books were taken out so often — but I think the very successful author, broadly speaking, is able to look after himself; certainly with the aid of the Authors' Society, who ensure that he is not "diddled" by the publisher.

This is not to suggest that authors ought not to be paid more. Many people ought to be paid more. It is difficult to establish what the right figure is. I personally should be more concerned about the fate of certain other types of artists, including painters, sculptors and musicians, and about the need to support them. Generally speaking, there are wider opportunities for authors than there are for any other exponents of the fine arts. But I am getting on dangerous ground and it may well be that my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams would like to come back at me on that. It is a very interesting topic, but I do not want to detain your Lordships too long on it. But I say, with all seriousness, that such figures as I have seen from the Authors' Society on the economics of this particular subject are not, to my mind, convincing.

My Lords, I think there is a grave danger that if some form of additional payment were introduced for the use of books, a charge every time a book was issued, it might lead to a reduction in the number of authors—though perhaps this would be a good thing. Either the money must come from public funds—and in this case I think there is a grave danger that the public authority will not much increase the amount of money it is prepared to spend—or it may come from the reading public. And in this event we may not see the greater expansion in reading to which the libraries have made such a signal contribution.

What I have had to say is probably not wholly convincing, but I hope it does suggest that there is another side to this case. It might be regretful that the leaderships of the Conservative and the Labour Parties in another place, I am told, are united on this matter. Perhaps that is ground for the gravest suspicion. But I reckon that in this matter those who are arguing for this special interest have not succeeded so far in making out the case that what they seek for authors will be in the best interests of authors—and I am certain that it would not be in the best interests of the country.

Perhaps we have departed a little from the Bill, but nothing that I had to say in reply to my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams should detract from the criticisms that noble Lords, including myself, have made of the Bill. There are still difficulties which could be put right, and it will be possible to put down Amendments on Committee. But I assure the Government that the Opposition certainly wish to see this Bill passed into law.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that we have had some weighty speeches in our debate this afternoon. It has been an agreeable experience for me to learn the depth of support for the main principles underlying this Bill which has emerged. Only the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, qualified his support. He said that he was inspired only by modified rapture—at any rate, there was some rapture which he could modify. On the whole, I am fortified by the belief that this Bill will obtain a Second Reading. I have been asked a number of detailed questions, which in itself is an indication that the Bill is widely supported, because if it had not been I do not think your Lordships would have questioned it in detail. I will try to answer as many of the questions as I am able, and those I am not able to answer now I will try to answer later. As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, we shall have an opportunity of going into details at a later, stage of the Bill.

The noble Lords, Lord Attlee, Lord Furness, Lord Burden and Lord Shackleton, and the noble Baroness. Lady Wootton of Abinger, all raised the question of the position of libraries committees. The Government have accepted the view of the Roberts Committee that it is no longer right for the county library to be managed by the education committee of an authority. Of course, there will be close connection between the public libraries and education, for obvious reasons, but we think that it is for the local authorities themselves to decide how best to secure this The Roberts Committee took the view that the county library service has reached the stage where it should stand on its own feet and fight its own battles for priorities within the county council

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 should appoint them. in particular, the county councils will need to consider whether their present arrangements set the right pattern for the future. But we believe that it would be wrong to impose on local authorities a statutory requirement to appoint a libraries committee. In the past, there has been a tendency to multiply requirements of this kind, but I think it has come to be recognised that this trend, if it is not to be reversed. has at any rate to be halted, if local authorities are to have the freedom to manage their own affairs to which they are entitled. This is something to which local authorities and the Government attach importance.

I was particularly pleased to listen to the general blessing which the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, gave to the Bill—not only to the Bill, but also to many of the arguments in my own speech, which was personally even more gratifying. I have taken careful note of the suggestions he made about the possible uses of Clause 9. I was particularly glad that the noble Earl came down so firmly in favour of those who say that there should be no charges for borrowing hooks, which I was glad to remember when I listened to the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, later in the debate.

I thought that my noble friend Lord Eccles, when he said, on the question of the minimum size of a library authority (in so far as one can fix a general minimum), that the borrower must come first before considerations of local pride, and that Clause 4 should be regarded in that light, put the matter in the right perspective. I would respectfully agree with him about that. Much of my noble friend's speech was devoted to a carefully reasoned and persuasive plea for a change in the method of financing library services. His plea was that the service should be regarded as relevant expenditure for the purpose of general grant. Several other noble Lords —my noble friend Lord Ilford, the noble Lord, Lord Francis—Williams and the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger—spoke on the same lines. I think that, as the result of his long experience at a high level in Her Majesty's Government, my noble friend Lord Eccles would agree with me that it would not really be possible for the Government now to anticipate the outcome of the current review of the balance between local and central expenditure. This is not something which could be done, however pressing the reasons for singling out a particular form of local expenditure. My noble friend suggested that my right honourable friend might not be able to carry out his duties under Clause 1, unless he was in a position to make a grant.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point—


I have not left the point. I am trying to reply to the speech of my noble friend Lord Eccles. My noble friend was arguing that he doubted whether the Minister could carry out his duties under Clause 1, if it remained impossible for him to make grants to local authorities. I can see that there might be a strong argument for a change in the method of financing the library service, but I am not so certain that I would agree with my noble friend that, unless the Minister were in a position to make grants, he would not be able to carry out his duties under Clause 1. I think that possibly my noble friend was not giving enough weight to the power which Clause 10 of the Bill gives to the Secretary of State—and I feel that other noble Lords, too, did not realise this. This power relates not only to deciding that, in certain circumstances, a library authority shall no longer be a library authority, but also to giving them a direction as to what they ought to do. I will come back to this point later. My noble friend also stressed the importance of co-operation between neighbouring library authorities.


My Lords, may I again try to interrupt the noble Lord? It is difficult to know when is the appropriate point. I should like to revert to a point he was making when I interrupted him previously. He said that the Government were reluctant, pending a review of the relationship between local authorities and Her Majesty's Government, to alter the present practice. May I ask him why, in that case, they have altered it?—because they are expecting their contributions from local authorities to the National Central Library. It seems to me that what is fair for one ought to be fair for the other. They really are proposing to alter the basis. Hitherto it has been 80 to 90 per cent. central finance, but in future it is to be 50 per cent.


I do not think that is relevant to the question of whether or not the library services should be relevant expenditure for general grant purposes. It seems to me that the question of the Central Lending Library is a thing apart.

To return to the subject of co-operation between neighbouring library authorities, I was delighted to hear my noble friend Lord Eccles speak favourably about the co-operation between his own county of Wiltshire and my county of Hampshire. There is a great deal of co-operation already, and I do not see why it should not continue. But it will be one of the duties of the regional councils to ensure that there is co-operation. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships of what the Working Party on Inter-Library Co-operation envisaged as a model scheme for regional co-operation which the Secretary of State might make under the Act. Paragraph 8 of the model scheme says: The principal duty of the Council shall be to promote the maximum co-operation between libraries regionally and nationally. For that purpose it shall make or participate in arrangements for: the inter-lending of books and other material held by the libraries of constituent members; the purchase of books and other material under regional and national co-operative schemes organised in association with the National Central Library; the pro- vision of adequate facilities for conservation and storage of books and other material; and the provision of adequate reference, information and bibliographical services. The Report goes on: 9. For the discharge of this duty the Council shall have power to make or participate in arrangements for: recording the holdings of books and other material by the libraries of constituent members; microfilming or otherwise preserving or making available copies of printed material in such libraries; contributing towards the cost of any libraries or other agencies providing books or other material of a specialised nature; and assisting any action designed to improve library facilities and resources by co-operation between libraries. 10. It shall be obligatory upon each public library authority to discharge any responsibilities laid upon it by the Council. My Lords, I should think that there is adequate provision in the Bill for ensuring that there will be proper co-operation.

My noble friend Lord Eccles and other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred to research. Under Clause 1 of the Bill it will undoubtedly be open to the Secretary of State, to commission research. He will certainly be able to draw on the services of the Architects and Buildings Branch of his Department, both for research and for development work on public library buildings. Architects from the branch have already visited some public libraries, by invitation, to acquaint themselves with the problem. When sufficient data have been collected it may easily be helpful to everybody concerned if the Department draws up a bulletin of guidance on the planning of libraries and sends it round. At any rate, I can assure noble Lords that this question will certainly be considered when the Act comes into operation.

My noble friend delivered a trenchant attack on Clause 13 (2), which deals with charges for admission into museums and galleries. Subsection (2) was introduced into the Bill, as your Lordships know, as a result of the combined deliberations and wisdom of the Members of another place. it may not do any good, but I do not feel that it will do any harm. However, I recognise that my noble friend thinks it may do harm and may, in fact, prevent any authority from charging at all. I should like to think carefully about the criticism he made on this ground.


Can the noble Lord give us no other argument and view of the clause than that it may not do any good, but it will not do any harm?


Well, it is not too bad, so far as it goes.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, complained that the Roberts Committee did not consult the ordinary library users. I do not think it falls to me to make any comment on what the Roberts Committee did or did not do in the course of their deliberations, but in view of what the noble Baroness said, I looked at Appendix I of the Roberts Report, which lists the bodies that submitted evidence. Among them were the National Council of Social Service, the National Federation of Community Associations, the National Federation of Women's Institutes, the National Union of Teachers and the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds. I should have thought that they might be regarded as users. But I also find that there is mentioned the Finchley Constituency Labour Party who, I should have thought, could well be regarded as users of the library services.


Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to explain what my point was. It was not that the Committee did not consult various bodies who might profess to speak for users, but that they did not avail themselves of the technique of sample investigations into actual users, such as those which had been made by the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs, the Young Publishers and the National Book League, who took a sample of the actual users and not associations that might assume to speak for them. My point was not to criticise the Roberts Committee's remedy, but to ask the noble Lord, if the Report fixes standards of efficiency, whether he will make investigations of this kind.


I am afraid I did not understand what was the noble Lady's point when she spoke earlier, but I am obliged to her for correcting me. I think I can say that it will certainly be the concern of the Secretary of State to consider the views of users when he is consulting the National Advisory Councils set up under Clause 2. I was interested to hear the noble Lady's views on the standards of efficiency which should be demanded, and on the importance of timing. I think everyone else who was concerned with the Bill will be interested in that, too. On the subject of fines, knowing the experiences of my wife and her views on the subject, I have some sympathy with the views of the noble Baroness.

I suppose I must say something about the thorny topic of authors, because the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams—who said he was entitled to roll his log as a good trade unionist, and I do not think anyone will dispute that—raised this point. I think I should confine myself to considering this question in so far as it is relevant to the Bill. I am quite certain that it would not be right to deal with the matter in a Bill concerning public libraries, quite apart from the enormous administrative difficulties I think there would be and which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, envisaged.

Public libraries are the libraries which lend the most books, and the Bill is concerned only with public libraries. But it would be illogical to impose an extra charge only on local authorities providing libraries, and thus on the ratepayers. If one had any sort of scheme at all, it would be necessary to make arrangements to collect charges, whatever they were, from the authorities responsible for all other libraries, like professional bodies, research institutions, universities and schools, or commercial subscription libraries. I do not think libraries could be excluded on the grounds that they were educational. Public libraries are to a large extent educational, as some of your Lordships have argued this afternoon. What I was foxed by in listening to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, was how a system would work equitably, and how it would help the authors in the greatest need. The most popular authors who sell the most copies are presumably the people whose books are most frequently borrowed from the libraries. Are they to receive the most money? Are those, like the noble Lord himself, and Enid Blyton, to receive the most money? Would that be desirable? If not, it would be very difficult, would it not, to devise some other system.


My Lords, may I intervene? I feel it is quite wrong to discuss this as if it were being discussed on a basis of need. What is being discussed, whether one agrees with it or not, is that there should be an adequate return for services rendered, and not that there should be a sort of means test on the ground that one author is poor and he should be paid, and one is rich and he should not. If services are rendered by an author they should be paid for, as they are paid for if they are from other members of the community.


All I can say is that that is the opinion of the noble Lord. Whatever scheme was devised in order to make payments, there would have to be a very elaborate system of keeping records of the number of times every book in every library was lent to somebody. Undoubtedly this would be very expensive, in money and manpower, and it might well be that the cost of administering this scheme would exceed the amount distributed to authors.


A record is kept of the number of books issued by the libraries.


The noble Lord has made several speeches about this subject, and I am trying to make my own modest contribution. I do not believe there is any evidence that the sale of books is affected adversely by the development of libraries. I should have thought that there was plenty of evidence available that people who borrow books are also people who buy books. Also, a well established fact to which the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, referred, is that many excellent books would not be published at all without the guaranteed market provided by public and other libraries. So I should not have thought that it was all bad luck for the author, on one side of the scale, and good luck for the public, on the other, as a result of the existence of the public library service.

My noble friend Lord Ilford discussed the future of the smaller library authori- ties and said that he hoped the Government would not take too seriously the argument of the Roberts Committee that the expenditure of 2s. per head on books would not be unreasonable for a population substantially greater than 40,000. The test of cost per head will not be the only test which will be applied when the Secretary of State has to decide whether or not a particular library service is efficient or not. I think I ought to say that when my noble friend Lord Eccles, as Minister, had discussions with the local authority associations and the Library Association on the Report's recommendation that borough and urban districts with populations of over 40,000 had the necessary resources to provide an efficient service, which was accepted, the problem then arose of what would be the correct policy to pursue in relation to the others. I should think that if any lower figure were set for automatic retention there would be a danger that some authorities would continue to exercise library functions when they had not the resources, or possibly even the desire, to provide a satisfactory service.

The noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, said he thought that the Secretary of State had not got adequate powers under the Bill for the implementation of its provisions. I do not altogether share what seemed to be a lack of confidence shown by him in local authorities, but that is a matter about which we can differ. Again, I think he had not considered fully the implication of Clause 10, which provides that the Secretary of State may make an order declaring it"— that is, the library authority— to be in default and directing it for the purpose of removing the default to carry out such of its duties, in such manner and within such time, as may be specified in the order. That is the first sanction, and it is a very powerful one. It is only if that sanction fails and the authority refuses to carry out the order that he may then, under that clause, take steps to declare by further order that the library authority shall cease to be a library authority. I perhaps should also tell the noble Lord that the Secretary of State will have staff to advise him and the local authorities, and that a library adviser has already been appointed by my right honourable friend. The pay of local authority staff must be settled through the normal machinery for negotiating local government officers' salaries, but I have no doubt that local authorities will take note of what the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, and the noble Lord, Lord Burden, said on this subject.

In reply to my noble friend Lord Furness, I should explain that recordings of books, by film, tape or similar methods, may not be charged for when borrowed by residents, students or people working in the area. In other words, they are in the same class as books themselves so far as charging is concerned.

Although I largely agree with the view of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that whether or not an authority should cease to be an authority is a matter likely to raise great passions in some quarters, I could not help wondering whether he had forgotten how he felt when he was a Member of another place about issues arising out of local pride. I recall how I used to feel on those occasions about such matters. Possibly one feels less strongly about them now.


My former constituency has the largest expenditure on books of any county borough.


I am glad that at least I gave the noble Lord the opportunity to get that in.

The noble Lord raised questions on research, with which I have dealt, and he also asked about the future policy for museums. Museums have been treated differently in this Bill from libraries, because their services are so different and because they require different considerations. That is the view both of the Roberts Committee and the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries. Collections in museums obviously vary from area to area, according to historical accident, taste and the enterprise of the people who originally created them. It would not be reasonable, because one authority may have a fine collection of china, of toys or stuffed animals, to require all authorities to make similar collections; and it would probably be impossible to do so. On the other hand, it would not be unreasonable in any circumstance to require every library to carry stocks of certain reference books. It seems to me that libraries and museums cannot be put on all fours.

My Lords, I am not aware that there is any evidence of any general desire for the Government to take the initiative in superintending local museums. The Standing Commission said that they would not recommend that any central body, Government or otherwise, should make recommendations about the closure or reorganisation of individual museums. They went on to say: A system of Government inspection and sanctions would, we feel, conflict with the progress that has been made and would alienate the local interest that has been aroused. In particular, it would alienate the interest of local government, which, over the last century, has been more and more effectively assuming responsibility for the museums, as we believe it should. I am not going to rule out the possibility of another Bill at some future date dealing specifically with museums; but I hope that I have explained sufficiently why museums have been treated in this Bill differently from libraries.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, hinted that he might give us the opportunity at a later stage of discussing possible Amendments to the charging arrangements of the Bill. That being so, perhaps your Lordships will not expect me to add anything to what I said in my opening speech this afternoon. I hope your Lordships will think that I have dealt sufficiently with most of the points which have been raised and that you will now give the Bill a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Forward to