HL Deb 28 March 1972 vol 329 cc962-1013

3.41 p.m.

Second Reading debate resumed.


My Lords, in turning from that sombre Statement to a consideration of the British Library Bill, may I say that this is a most agreeable occasion, and I am glad that I have the privilege of being the first Member on this side of the House warmly to congratulate the Paymaster General. There have been occasions when we have had to agree to differ, but no one who has worked with the Paymaster General in affairs affecting the British Museum can have any doubt about just how dedicated a servant he is of the libraries in general and of the British Museum Library in particular. Of course, at the end of this debate—I have no right to say, "of course", but I should be astonished if, all the same, there was a single Member in any part of your Lordships' House who would not want to give this Bill a Second Reading.

I want later to raise one or two points that we may have to consider when we come to the Committee stage, but the first thing I want to say is this. I hope that both the enormous building projects and the immediate relief work that has to be done to improve services in the British Museum Library and the other libraries will go ahead with all possible speed. This is a hard job, because Governments have many facets. I had to deal with the Ministry of Public Building and Works, as it then was. I was fortunate that we had a succession of most congenial Ministers—they were all my good friends—and senior officials, and I do not think there was ever one word of criticism made of the co-operation and help that I, as a newly-established minor Minister, received from the Ministry of Public Building and Works. Nevertheless, there are so many claims made on limited resources that I hope we can all cooperate to see that progress with this vast library scheme should have a first place among many.

I had responsibility for the Arts for six years, but it was not until the last year of the last Parliament that responsibility for the libraries was transferred from the Minister for Sport to the Minister for the Arts; and, very able though the Secretary of State for Sport was, I am afraid that in the year 1967 the whole thing became a kind of blood sport. It was Lord Radcliffe, who spoke up so brilliantly and vehemently for the British Museum, who first started the fun and games in 1967. That debate took place in December, but in March of 1967 Sir Frank Francis took me on a tour of the British Museum. I was scandalised beyond words. When we went down into the lower regions, where the wild cats live, I almost broke my leg and I certainly broke my heart. I think the neglect on all sides—the Library side, the ethnological side—of the British Museum for a quarter of a century is utterly disgraceful. I was told at that time that there were more than 100,000 books not catalogued, with more coming in all the time. I said, "But you urgently require more staff", and I was told, "Yes, but we have not got the accommodation for our existing staff". Then we went into the question of waiting time—sometimes as much as two hours for students, very serious students, waiting for their books. I was told that it was sometimes as much as ten weeks' waiting for photography of documents; and I know how embarrassed we all were when the notice went out quite recently that there was "no room at the inn" for guests from abroad in summer time.

When one thinks of the scale of this problem, two miles of books acquired each year—is that an exaggeration?—it seems almost unbelievable, but that is the extent of the problem our librarians have to deal with. So at the present moment, as we all know, the books are housed at the top of Whiteley's Department Store, in Woolwich warehouses and elsewhere. I make that point, not because I think that this is an occasion for going back on past controversies, but because there is such an obvious and urgent amount of work to be done. Perhaps I may say to the Paymaster General that I was beginning to be a little impatient before his Bill appeared. I was impatient to put the position right. In the last year of the last Parliament, when I was able to co-operate with the Paymaster General as Chairman of the Museum Trustees, I discovered that we had at least one thing in common: we were both of an extremely impatient disposition.

We want to progress as fast as possible. The Dainton Report came out in June. 1969, and I may say that if we had had to deal only with the British Museum Library, that Report would have been through Cabinet before the Summer Recess. But we had to keep in mind that we were not dealing with one library: we were dealing with all the problems and the trustees responsible for the British Museum, the National Central Library, the National Lending Library, Science and Technology and the British National Bibliography; and, quite properly, Members of your Lordships' House who had special responsibilities for those other libraries had many points to raise. So I say to your Lordships that if at any time there may be a case against any Government or any Minister for lack of adequate consultation, that was not the case during the period when the Dainton Report was received and published and action was taken. As I said, I should have liked to see this Report through all its stages of Cabinet consent before the Summer Recess. For the reasons I have given—to make absolutely certain that there was adequate consultation—it was only after the Recess that Cabinet consent was finally given; and then we went ahead. What is so pleasant is that the main recommendations of the Dainton Report were accepted on all sides of the House in the other place and were accepted on all sides of your Lordships' House.

What this in fact means is that, although we had a few good rows in the year 1967, at the end of the day we have a better scheme, in my judgment, than the original Sir Leslie Martin scheme. He is a great architect, but it is very comforting when we turn to the White Paper to find that, whereas so much was highly controversial before—that is, that the original Martin scheme seemed to be taking up too much space and was not leaving enough ground for the problems that St. Pancras had to face, that some of our preservationists had to face, for housing and all the rest of it—this White Paper is precisely the White Paper which was in process of preparation at the end of the last Parliament in that we are preserving all the more important listed buildings, in particular St. George's Church and all the buildings along the west side of Bloomsbury Square. In addition it should be possible to make space available for at least as much housing on the site, unconnected with the library, as under the earlier plans … I think we all like this idea. It means that it is going to be in a more lively area that the new Library is going to be more compact in structure.

So I say that at the end of the day we can congratulate ourselves that everyone has done his job. It was right that the last Government, finding how much opposition existed among the trustees of the principal museums, should pause and be willing to consider the problem caused by the rejection of the Sir Leslie Martin plans. I do not think that a Government is diminished in any way if it pays due attention to the views of distinguished men and women who take upon themselves the responsibility of serving our great museums and galleries. I cannot resist the temptation to ask of the noble Viscount the Paymaster General: "Will you not pay a little more attention to the views of some of your great voluntary servants?" I should have liked to have had out of the way this trivial sum that we quarrel about so much, the matter of museum charges. I think that if the overwhelming voices of those in charge of our museums and galleries were considered, we could come to terms and agree on that matter, too.

However, we are dealing with the Library. I think it was a fine thing in the last Parliament that the strength of expression by those like Lord Radcliffe should have led to the appointment of the Dainton Committee. So I congratulate the Trustees and I am not over-perturbed that some of them spoke out strongly. I have found in public life that there are times when one must shout to be heard; there are so many things going on at the same time. I unreservedly congratulate the Trustees. They may have done their job a little roughly, but they did it; and I am glad that they expressed their views as vociferously as they did, for the outcome was the setting up of the Dainton Committee. Now there is a better future for the Library than would otherwise have been the case.

My Lords, may I now turn to the Bill itself? While there are one or two provisions about which I am not quite sure, I am certainly sure about the fact that the British Library is a national library and that it is being constructed to serve not just London but the entire nation. It is extremely important that we should keep that in mind at all times. As the Paymaster General has said, with the future provisions of facsimile transmission facilities, of microfilms, of all kinds of modern magic for reproducing precious documents, there is no reason why we should not give high priority to the needs of some of the branches (as, in a sense, they will be) which exist in the North, South, East and West. A serious student in Rotherham will no longer have to travel to the congestion of the British Museum Library in London in order to get the documents he needs. This is marvellous; it could not have happened before. All the time I hope that we shall keep it in mind that this is a national library and not just a London library, and that we shall avoid giving our student friends and teachers in other parts of the country any feeling that their needs are in any way being ignored.

My Lords, there is one subsection of Clause 2 that I should like to read out. Clause 2(2) reads: In selecting persons for appointment to be members of the Board, the Secretary of State shall give preference to those who appear to him to have knowledge and experience of library or university affairs, finance, business or administration. On the face of it, that seems reasonable; but if one sets down a catalogue of qualifications, one immediately raises questions. Such a catalogue, of its nature, is narrowing rather than widening. Surely it can be left to the common sense of whichever Minister of the day, in whichever Government of the day, has to make those appointments; for, in the nature of things, they will look over the whole field and make the most suitable appointments. This is not a major point and it is not a Party point, but it is something that we might consider on the Committee stage.

I turn now to the Schedule. I am definitely uneasy about some of the recommendations made in regard to remuneration, allowances and pensions. Paragraph 5(2) of the Schedule says: The Secretary of State shall, as soon as possible after the first appointment of a person as a member of the Board, lay before each House of Parliament a statement of the salary and allowances that are or will be payable to that person … Obviously, this is going to be a terrific job. There will be a difficult 10 years' transition stage. I think it is good that there should be flexibility about whether the Chairman should be full-time or part-time; but if there is going to be a Chairman selected who is part-time rather than full-time there must be another member of the Board who will be full-time. Anyone asked to serve full-time will require a salary and not just expenses.

When we come to the question of members serving part-time, should we not give pause? We have a great tradition in this country of voluntary public service. I have had more experience of appointments attaching to the work of the Arts Council than of most other things. I found that many members of the Arts Council work an immensely large number of hours on sub-committees. I found that the Chairman of the Arts Council, the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, was working almost full-time. It may be said that we ought to have a change in methods of remuneration, and that in regard to a great national institution (be it Covent Garden, the Arts Council, a great museum or gallery) there should be salaries paid. But I think that we should lose something thereby.

Furthermore, when dealing with part-time (not full-time) there is a great deal to be said for not introducing the principle of salaries but for keeping to the payment of expenses. We need not be mean about them; but I am fearful about the introduction of this problem of salaries. My reasons may be more fully understood by referring to the wording of the heading to Paragraph 6 of the Schedule. It reads: "Disqualification for membership of House of Commons" Obviously, a Member of the House of Commons is not allowed to accept an office of profit under the Crown; but I should have been very sorry not to have been able to make a number of appointments from Members of the other place. As the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, said, his was the first appointment as a member of the Arts Council that I made—and he was still a Member of the other place. Later, there was Hugh Jenkins. There was nothing political in this. They happened to be the people I thought best for the job; both were Members of another place. If we avoided this question of salaries for part-time members we should not require to disqualify Members of the House of Commons. I think it is useful that a suitable person in the other place should have a voice in these matters, provided he has an intimate, detailed knowledge. Conversely, the other place will be much less valuable if it loses those Members who are doing outside jobs for they are the Members who are able to bring to the debates in the other place outside expertise whether in the field of business or the Arts.

These points I am raising are not in any sense Party points. They are just a number of considerations which all of us who are concerned with our libraries would like to have looked at. We shall have the opportunity of looking at them between now and the Committee stage. The Paymaster General went on to talk about having power to charge for the various services, and all that I can say is, "Go easy!" It will depend upon the nature of future Ministers and the Government as to how far it will be thought absolutely essential to have charges of any kind. My sentiments on this point are well known, and I think that the noble Viscount has taken the point.

I should like further clarification on a point which is of interest to me. The Board are being given power to dispose. It states in the Schedule: The powers of the Board shall include power to acquire or dispose of any property, whether or not for the purposes of their collections …". I think that is right. If we appoint the right members, the Board, by their combined experience, ought to be better able than a Minister to decide on questions of acquisition or disposal. I mean no reflection on present, past or indeed future Ministers, but I think that functionally a political Minister, in the nature of things, cannot be wiser, or a better informed person. So I think that acquisition and disposal should be left to the Board. The Schedule goes on: … except that where any property in the hands of the Board is subject to any trust or condition, they shall not dispose of or deal with it in any manner inconsistent with the trust or condition. I am sure that some of my friends at the Tate Gallery will look at that with great interest.

Maybe we should look not only at how we are going to set up the Board which will mean so much for the future, but also at the present relationship between trustees and governors of other great institutions; because I believe that much could be done to improve our museums and galleries generally if we did a little more buying and selling. The problem presented by trusts is a tricky one. We might ask how far one generation has the right to break a trust. I was interested to note that there is to be one law for the Tate and another for the proposed British Library. It states quite clearly with regard to trust property that the Board shall not dispose of or deal with it in any manner inconsistent with the trust. … Another point which I wish to mention relates to the question of staff and cost. We are told that when this reorganisation takes place there will be a reduction of 1,200 in the number of staff. There must have been a great deal of wastage and overlapping and we shall be grateful if this means that there will be less overlapping—or am I misunderstanding the situation?


My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness is not misunderstanding. I said that it is not a question of a reduction in the number of people operating the Library but of their transfer from Civil Servive status to be employees of the new institution. The reduction is in the total number of Civil Service employees.


My Lords it is estimated that the stall of the public service will be reduced by some 1,200 as a result of the establishment of the British Library. I think that many members of the public will not make a distinction between "staff" which is technically civil servants, and "staff" which is employed to run our libraries although they are not civil servants. I have taken the point that this is a reduction in the number of civil servants as such, but has no relation to the total number required to man our future libraries properly.

Then, my Lords, we come to the cost. I am told that there will be an extra annual cost of only £100,000; the net annual cost to the Exchequer is expected to be some £100,000. The Paymaster General has my sympathy if, when dealing with his Treasury colleagues, he got this figure as low as possible. I do not care whether the difference is £100,000, £500,000 or a million. This kind of expenditure has to be faced by any civilised Government. I also doubt the estimate given of £36 million spread over 13 years, which means an extra annual cost of between £3 million and £4 million a year. In a period of rising prices none of us can be sure it is impossible.

I am not making a strong point of this, I am just saying that if I were a betting type, which I am not, I would be willing to lay a bet that before the end of the decade—


My Lords, I think it would be as well to clear up the matter. These memoranda give only the estimates for the next financial year. In the next financial year the services will go on as they are now but there will be a distinction because it is really the Board which will cost the additional £100,000. Of course, in the dim future we may well expect the annual cost to rise.


My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount, but I had moved on from the annual cost to the capital cost of building. We are told that over 13 years the cost will be some £36 million. It may be a slight comfort to our hard-pressed colleagues at the Treasury if they are told that they will not have to find more than £3 million of £4 million a year. But these are not divisive matters. It gives us all great happiness that we are to have a truly national library, that in Yorkshire we are to have the lending section and in London we are to have the reference section, the bibliographic section and the research section, and that we can begin to see a wonderful plan emerging which will mean so much to students everywhere in our own country. I think this is one field—and I agree with the Minister—where we may do great service to our students, present and future. and also where we may more than hold our own with progress in other parts of the world.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to echo the well-deserved words of appreciation to the Paymaster General of the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge. I would also, on my own behalf and on behalf of my colleagues on these Benches, tell the noble Viscount how greatly we admire the work which he and his colleagues on the Organising Committee have done in the past year since we last discussed the British Library, and how grateful we are for it. It is almost unnecessary for me to say how wholeheartedly and enthusiastically I support the Bill, but I do so with certain minor reservations. They are minor and I do not think that they will have any serious effect on the outcome of the magnificent objective expressed in the first lines of the White Paper: to creating a national library service without rival in the world. But these reservations are, I think, worth giving a short airing this afternoon.

When the White Paper was discussed on March 2 last year, several noble Lords, including myself, thought that for such a magnificent objective it was a fairly short and sketchy document. It must also be said that the Bill, though it may be sufficient for its purposes, is also surprisingly short and sketchy. I am, on the whole, very happy with what it says, but I am a little concerned about the things that it leaves out. When I first read it—I am speaking here as a Trustee of the National Central Library—I was surprised to see that there was no mention of the National Central Library, or indeed of the National Lending Library of Science and Technology or the British National Bibliography, the constituent contributory libraries which will, with the main British Museum Library, form part of the new British Library. The noble Viscount has explained to us that it was not neccesary that these should be mentioned, and I willingly accept his assurance.

I was more worried, reading Clause 1 of the Bill and, in particular, subsections (1) and (2), to find that these two subsections really gave the only statement existing in the whole of the Bill of the objectives of the British Library. The White Paper, sketchy as it was, gave us a good deal more. That spelt out in paragraph (3) three distinct objectives, and very well it did it: we knew where we were. The first was: (a) preserving and making available for reference at least one copy of every book and periodical of domestic origin and of as many overseas publications as possible. The second was: (b) providing an efficient central lending and photocopying service … And the third was: (c) providing central cataloguing and other bibliographic services related not only to the needs of the central libraries but to those of libraries and information centres throughout the country and"— this seems to me to be particularly important— in close co-operation with central libraries overseas. Those are three splendid objectives and, as I say, we know where we stand.

But when we come to the Bill itself, all we get is three lines in Clause 1(2) saying: … to manage the Library as a national centre for reference, study and bibliographical and other information services in relation both to scientific and technological matters and to the humanities. Once again we get this sort of dichotomy between science, on the one side, and the humanities, on the other, this totally spurious position of the two cultures, which I had hoped we had overcome. The objectives as given in the Bill do not—and this is most surprising—mention what is surely one of the most important aspects of the new British Library; that is, its duty to lend. I know that subsection (4) of Clause 1 speaks about lending, but it suggests to me that by relegating the question of lending to subsection (4) there is a tendency to see it as a separate and possibly slightly less important aspect of the British Library's work—as a sort of Cinderella. It is important that we should not do this.

At the same time—and your Lordships may think that I am a little confused here, as I am; and I only hope that my confusion does not reflect some degree of confusion on the part of the drafters of the Bill—I am not sure exactly where the whole question of lending fits into the British Library as we conceive it to be. On the one side, we read in Clause 1(4) of the Bill that: The Board may, subject to such restrictions and conditions as they think necessary to safeguard their collections, lend any item, and make any part of their collections. … available in connection with events of an educational, literary or cultural nature. It seems to me to be of vital importance—and I remember the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, in his speech last year in the debate on the White Paper attributing great importance to this—that that part of the new British Library which is at present still part of the British Museum Library should be no more ready to lend any of its possessions than it is at the present time. The most vital thing about the British Museum Library, as we know it at present, is, at least so far as books in English are concerned, its completeness. Once it starts lending things out it will no longer be complete and half of its point will be gone.

It seems to me, particularly in these days of easy and relatively cheap photocopying, that it should be quite unnecessary to lend books from this collection. At the same time, now that the new British Library is going to include the National Lending Library and the National Central Library, obviously it is important that the lending aspect of the new Library should be carefully defined and made far more precise than it is in the Bill, so that we all may know, once and for all, what books can be lent and in what circumstances, and what books cannot be lent. I hope that it may be possible for the noble Viscount later on to give us some further indication about this. Less important, but still, I think, worth mentioning, is the fact that the Bill, in spelling out, in so far as it does spell out, its objectives, makes no reference to other points which are spelt out in the White Paper, such as photocopying or cataloguing or—and I repeat that this is of particular importance—close cooperation with foreign libraries overseas.

I come now to the question of the formation of the Board. I was delighted to see that its numbers have been increased from the original numbers suggested in the White Paper, and also that there is no longer the question of statutory consultation with the Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry for Scotland and for Wales. As we know, the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales are not going to form part of the present system, and it never seemed to me to be particularly necessary that they should be represented on what was, anyway, to be a rather restricted Board. However, a year ago I made the point—and I make it again now, because it seems to me important—that it must be wholly inadequate for the Trustees of the British Museum to be represented by one part-time member. We have all sat on cornmittees—most of us have probably sat on far too many for our comfort—and we know how many apologies for absence are read out at the beginning of most meetings. It seems to me most important that the British Museum should he adequately, permanently and invariably represented, since it is the Trustees of the British Museum who know and understand more than anybody else how the new British Library should be run and the problems inherent in its running.

There is one possible exception to this—and again I make no apology for repeating what I said when we discussed this subject last year. I think it is of great importance that there should be one member of the Board, part-time if you like, who represents the readers in the British Museum. I should like there to be perhaps some distinguished historian who has spent the best part of his working life in the Reading Room of the British Museum and knows it backwards and who can give first-hand opinions and advice on what the readers want, what they need and what they think. Surely, if we are now going to have more than a dozen members of the Board, it should be possible to have at least one person who can represent the reader.

Another point about which we should think a little more carefully, though I do not necessarily say that it should be written into the Bill, is the question of inter-lending. I do not want to say too much about this matter because I believe that the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, will be talking about it with much more knowledge and expertise than I can command. Once again I should declare an interest, because I am also a member of the Committee of the London Library, which is, as your Lordships know, technically speaking, although a recognised charity still a private library, in that it demands membership. I am speaking now not as a member of the Committee, but in a personal capacity. It seems to me that the moment has now come when there has to be a far greater degree of interchange and inter-lending between the private libraries such as the London Library, the libraries of a great many learned societies in this country and the new British Library.

At present the London Library does not lend its books except to those libraries which are corporate members of the London Library: it does not lend, for example, through the National Central Library. This is despite the fact that it possesses a very large number of volumes indeed, particularly foreign ones, which have probably been inherited over the past hundred years from bequests of various scholars, both British and foreign, and which are unobtainable anywhere else in the country and certainly in the British Museum. It seems to me that as the London Library is now a charity and rightly insists on the importance of its place in our national life it should from now on take part in a complete inter-lending scheme; but in view of its present disastrous financial position, it should be paid for doing so. I should like to think that the London Library and the libraries of the learned societies will do far more in this way, in return for proper remuneration, than they have been able, or in some cases permitted, to do in the past.

A word about newspapers. As we are now building this magnificent new building will it still be necessary to trek all the way out to Colindale every time we want to read a newspaper from the past?

I hope very much that this will not be so. I understand the problems of storage and I know how bulky and heavy newspapers can be, but I should still like to think that in these days of photocopying it will be possible to have in Central London copies on microfilm of all the important newspapers going back for at least fifty years. I am sure that we need all the space we can get everywhere, and of course in Colindale, but perhaps the time has come for us to consider whether the national archives of the Press could not be brought from Colindale to Central London so that Colindale might be used for some other parts of the British Museum collection which are less constantly in demand.

On films, I was gratified to read in Clause 1(1) the word "films". The subsection reads as follows: This Act shall have effect with a view to the establishment for the United Kingdom of a national library, to be known as 'the British Library consisting of a comprehensive collection of books, manuscripts, periodicals, films and other recorded matter, whether printed or otherwise. This seems admirable. But reading through the Bill I can find no further reference to films at all. I should like to ask the noble Viscount for an explanation, if I may, of what exactly is meant. Are these commercial or B.B.C. television films, features and documentaries, and are they films in the strictest sense of the word, or video tape recordings? What will these films be, and how will they fit in with the splendid work at present being done by the British Film Archive?

Putting on once again my hat as a Trustee of the National Central Library, I should like to touch on the question of staff. Until now the Organising Committee, the Government and indeed the noble Viscount himself have been extremely considerate of the major staff problems which have been inevitable and inescapable in this great reorganisation. Of these problems, none are more intractable than those arising from the move of the National Central Library, together with most of its staff, to Boston Spa. The National Central Library have themselves seen the necessity for this move. With reticence, may I say that I am far from seeing the wisdom of it myself, but that is not the point. Assuming that it has to be done, it seems to me that the staff have been extremely understanding, and in return the Government have been extremely considerate of their interests and of the disruptions which will occur in their private lives, et cetera. I hope that the noble Viscount will be able to reassure us that as the moment for the move becomes nearer and the Organising Committee continues its work, it will continue to be no less considerate of the problems which arise in the future than it has been in the past.

Finally, may I just repeat the wish that I originally expressed last year, that Sir Colin St. John Wilson, the architect of the Organising Committee, and all those who are now responsible and who will be responsible in the future, certainly throughout this decade, for the design and building of the new British Library, will continue to bear in mind the three vital aspects of this work of which we must all be conscious if it is to do the job that it sets out to do. What readers need above all is completeness, with all that that means where lending is concerned. The second necessity is efficiency—which means not waiting more than two hours for books when one orders them. I must tell the noble Baroness that I once waited for five hours. Lastly as regards space, please do not let us be niggardly in the allocation of space for readers. I know that the situation is much better than it was but it is nowhere near as good as it will be; and I have a horrible feeling that it will still not be good enough unless this point is borne continually in mind. If bearing this in mind means restricting the amount of private housing unrelated and unconnected with the Library which we are still talking about providing on this site, then please, before it is too late, let us see that it is the houses that go and not the facilities for the National Library which will be, we trust, without rival in the world, a showpiece of this country and an example to everyone.

4.27 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, should like to welcome this Bill as marking a new stage in the realisation of a great project. I congratulate the members of the Organising Committee on the progress they have made. We all know how, for a time, the project was sadly delayed by an acute divergence of opinion as to the site; but that should now be forgotten and we should remember only that the scheme as it now stands has been brought to realisation by Ministers of both Parties that have formed the Government in recent years, and in particular by two Members of your Lordships' House who have been successively responsible for the Arts, the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, and the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. The Trustees and staff of the British Museum are grappling, as we all know, with ever-mounting difficulties in the administration of their libraries. The noble Baroness has described with characteristic picturesqueness how inadequate the British Museum Library building now is to serve efficiently the ever-increasing number of students coming from all over the world and wishing to take advantage of its unrivalled collections. We are doing all that is humanly possible to overcome these difficulties, and in this we are being helped by the noble Viscount and the Prime Minister, to both of whom I express our gratitude.

The Science Library is, as the noble Viscount has said, divided among four separate buildings in different parts of London. It provides as good a service as these conditions permit for the increasingly complex requirements of modern science and technology. In spite of the admitted deficiencies arising from the inadequacies of the buildings, and in particular from the inflexibility of the British Museum building, many users of both libraries, and of the Departments of Manuscripts and of Oriental Printed Books and Manuscripts of the British Museum, testify to the good service which they receive, and realise the difficulties which are caused by the changes in modern life and, in particular, by great improvements in our standards of education. I wish to pay my tribute here to the staffs of the British Museum departments concerned for their devoted work for the public in the face of so many handicaps and difficulties. But we all know that the standards of efficiency necessary to the intellectual life of our country can be attained only by the creation of the new Library and the new unified library system.

The British Museum Trustees have already welcomed the White Paper following the Dainton Report, and I have spoken to this effect in your Lordships' House. The Paymaster General did not accede to their wish that one of their members should be on the Organising Committee. They were, however, represented on the Committee by the Director of the Museum and the Keepers of the British Museum and Science Libraries and the Department of Manuscripts, who have given the noble Viscount and his Department the benefit of their expert advice on the Bill. Since they have not had an opportunity to discuss the Bill, I cannot commit my fellow Trustees; but I give your Lordships my personal opinion that it represents the general principles of the White Paper which they have approved. For reasons of law, the Bill reads as if there is to be an expropriation of the property of the musuem, but this has been implicit throughout in this scheme, though it is still believed by many people that the British Museum is creating the new Library. The Library will no longer be theirs; the responsibility is now squarely with the Government who have established the organising committee and introduced this Bill. After vesting date the existing libraries will be transferred, as the Bill provides, from the Museum Trustees to the new Board.

The Trustees are however vitally interested in the Library and have an inherited responsibility for its future management, which is to some extent recognised in the Bill by the provision for their nominating a member of the new Library Board. But, particularly now that the size of the Board has been in creased, I should like strongly to support the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, in his proposal that the representation of the Trustees should be by more than one member, at least during the interim period before the books are moved from the Museum. There will be this intermediate period, of perhaps ten years, until the new libraries are built when most of the books and all of the manuscripts must remain in the Museum buildings, the administration being inevitably still to some extent a part of the general administration of the Museum. This dual responsibility will have its difficulties, but I can assure your Lordships that the Trustees and the staff of the British Museum will approach this task with good will and a desire to co-operate in every way with the new Library Board. The essential basis of this co-operation, as the Trustees have already pointed out, must be not a division of responsibility but a joint responsibility, through the medium of a joint executive committee which will be responsible for such matters as security, hours of opening and for co-ordination of negotiations with the unions and staff associations on pay and conditions of service.

Since the Bill, rightly, has not spelled out the administrative arrangements in too great a detail, I should like to be assured that there will be no legal impediment to matters relating to the administration and staff which concern both the Museum and the Library Board being decided, in effect, during the interim period by the joint executive committee to which I have referred. I should be grateful to have this assurance from the Government. I do not propose to attempt to dissect the Bill; there are only one or two points that I want to raise on the Bill and the Explanatory Memorandum preceding it. If the noble Baroness had not mentioned it, I should have referred to the curious sentence in the Explanatory Memorandum which suggests that there will be a reduction of 1,200 in the number of people running the new Library as compared with the old Library. I understand that this is a piece of esoteric Civil Service theology, and I suggest that for the general good, this particular sentence might be explained a little more clearly.


Hear, hear!


My Lords, there is one point about which I have a reservation in principle: it occurs in the financial section and relates to the administrative arrangements in subsection (2) of Clause 5. I do not want to trespass on the privileges of the other place, but it is a matter of importance to the museums in general. It seems likely that if there is to be any devolution of Government control the method of administration of the new British Library will eventually be applied generally to national museums and galleries. If this is to mean anything, then all such bodies should be entitled to apply the revenues which they earn for the purposes of the institutions which they administer as trustees.

The noble Viscount and the noble Baroness have both spoken about the power of disposal, which is very much wider than the very restrictive powers now possessed by the British Museum Trustees under the British Museum Act. I, too, think that this is right, although I would not go so far as wishing to amend the existing section in the British Museum Act in relation to the Antiquities Departments which will remain in the British Museum.

There is one other point which has just been brought to my notice by a member of the committee of the Science Reference Library who is concerned with patent agents' work. I refer to the statement in Clause 2(2) about the qualifications of persons selected for appointment to be members of the Board. They are to be persons who have knowledge and experience of library or university affairs, finance, business or administration. The gentleman I refer to quarrels with the word "business", which does not seem to be a very common word in an Act of Parliament. I do not know what it means. Does it mean commerce? I think what it should mean is "industry" which is the nearest to the requirements of the Board of the new Science Library. My Lords, may I conclude by again expressing my satisfaction? By this Bill we are advancing one step further towards the realisation of this great project which will enrich the cultural life of this country.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, in general, like those who have spoken already, I welcome this Bill as I and others welcomed the White Paper. I do not want to repeat this afternoon what I said on that occasion beyond saying how I welcome in particular Clause 1(3)(b) which will enable the Board to co-operate fully with some of the special libraries. I want to deal with only one point about which I am very exercised. It is fundamentally important, when we are now for the first time bringing together the whole of our library service, the reference and lending libraries, the libraries for the humanities and for the sciences, the national bibliography and the like, that it should get off cm the right foot with the complete trust of all the interests concerned that the project will be properly dealt with, and, in particular, that the Board should be so constituted as to secure the trust of all those various interests. I am bound to say that I fear that the Board, as set out in the Bill, will not secure that trust and confidence of the whole scientific world which I should like to see it secure.

I find it quite extraordinary that in view of the emphasis in Clause 1(2) on the sciences and technology there is no reference to them in Clause 2(2), although I fully appreciate the point which the noble Baroness made that you cannot give a list of every man, woman and child in the country, which is what you might have to do if you were trying to cover everything. I find it quite extraordinary that there is no representative qua science—and there would have to be two, one for the natural sciences and one for the physical sciences—on the Board. The only outside representatives are two representatives of the Board of the British Museum. With the greatest respect, the member representing the King's Library is virtually indistinguishable from all the others. I do not think that either those trustees, or the noble Viscount, realises the disastrous effect which their conduct had when they were responsible for the British Museum of Natural History when it was sadly neglected over a long period. What was even worse, its library, which is particularly important to-day, was sadly neglected.

I do not think those responsible realise what a traumatic effect that had on those like myself as well as professionals who are interested in the natural sciences. That of course can easily happen when you have people who are fundamentally interested in the humanities trying to administer a large research institution, and a large research institution's library, which is not something they are normally brought into contact with. But 80 per cent. of the income of that large institution, the British Museum of Natural History, is spent on research—research of which when we discussed that Green Paper the other day neither Rothschild nor Dainton had any criticism to make—pure and applied research dealing with animal and plant life all over the world, whether recent or fossil. For centuries that research has been supported and carried out on material collected from all over the world: something which still continues to-day, and doubtless some of your Lordships, like the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, opposite, have contributed to it, and others in Central Asia and the like.

An essential part of any biological collection is its documentation: the field notes made by the collector—by Darwin on the Beagle", by Banks on the "Endeavour", or by anyone of us here who has been on less important and less famous expeditions. The notes on how and where the specimens were found, the behaviour or the ecological niche into which they fitted—all those manuscript notes, and drawings related to those specimens, not one of us to-day in his senses would deposit in any other place than the research institute in which they were going to be kept and in which they were going to be studied. The whole of them would together form a single entity: the collections strengthened by the documentation; the notes and the pictures are an essential part of the specimen. That is probably only necessary in the biological sciences where things of that nature never become out of date; where the examination of specimens and their related documentation is not of course a continual process but is a recurrent process recurring at relatively frequent intervals. Anybody doing to-day a revision of the birds of Central Asia would have to have the specimens and the notes collected together by the late Lord Tweedsdale, by the noble Lord opposite, Lord Hunt, on one of his expeditions, and (perhaps I should declare my interest) my collections which I made myself some forty years ago. Those are of continuous impor- tance; they are quite unlike the notes and manuscripts produced by, let us say, Priestly in the 18th century or even Marconi in this century, which rapidly become part of the history of science and are not used at all by a modern research worker. Our predecessors knew that as well as we do. Banks, who went round the world with Cook in the "Endeavour", wrote when he made his will in 1820: I leave … my library, herbarium, manuscripts, drawings and everything that is contained in my collections as an undivided whole—exactly as any one of us doing the same sort of work would do to-day. None of us, as I said, would leave the documentation apart from the specimens; nor indeed did Banks.

When the collections made by Banks, those made by Sloane and the whole of the natural collections were moved from Bloomsbury to South Kensington their associated documentation was kept in Bloomsbury. The Trustees then split them apart, kept them apart, continue to keep them apart; and not only the Banksian papers but many others; and that even though at that time both were under their control in national collections, and are still in national collections governed by exactly the same Act of 1863.

Only this morning I learnt of a foreign scientist who came into this country to work on American plants, because we have here one of the best collections in the world. He was dismayed and surprised—I put stronger words into his mouth but he would not put them stronger than that because he is not so intemperate as I am myself—to find that all the relative documentation, the notes of a Frenchman called Plumier which form part of the Sloane collection, are not where they should be, next door to all the specimens which have to be consulted with them, but still hidden away up at Bloomsbury unknown and unstudied because they are miles away from the collections. That was difficult for the people who were showing him what we had at South Kensington to explain. I have found myself in exactly the same position of finding it difficult to excuse and to explain to foreigners in the same way.

I realise of course that in the libraries and collections to which I am referring there are many exceedingly valuable books, a few incunables and the like, which are of greater interest to the student of printed books—I would say of more importance probably, being unique, to the student of printed books than they are to the biologist—and which can either be sent or he can with difficulty go and visit them because, by and large, not very frequently do they have to be consulted. But basically we cannot get away from the fact that the prime necessity of every collection of this nature is to have the documentation and the specimens in the same place, under the same control, so that the scientist can consult them when he likes together. This is the fundamental difference between a library run by people who are interested in the humanities and a library run by people who are interested in the sciences. I suspect myself (I know only of the biological sciences) that it is a purely biological problem, and the noble Lord, Lord Ironside, who is to speak after me, will say whether the same sort of thing applies to the physical sciences; but I do not think it does.

The scientific world, the biological world, is not going to trust this new library set-up unless there can be some assurance that these sort of mistakes which were made, obviously by people who think that they are doing right from the point of view of humanities although wrong from the point of view of sciences, are going to be put right; otherwise this Library will start off on the wrong foot. We shall none of us trust it; we shall none of us believe that it is going to do what we all want: to bring the sciences and the humanities together with a complete understanding of each other's problems. I have talked to the Royal Society about this and I am authorised to say that they feel as worried as I do. I have talked to a number of other people who are interested in the natural sciences, and one of them produced a phrase which I think is a little stronger than I would have put it myself, but it is such a nice one I cannot refrain from throwing it at the noble Viscount's head: that unless some alteration is made into the hoard as now constituted, unless a representative of the scientist is brought in—speaking and declaring my own interest, I should have liked to see somebody nominated by the Trustees of the British Museum in Natural History; I think certainly there ought to be a nominee by the Royal Society—


My Lords, may I say that I do not think I could admit necessarily that mistakes had been made, either by my colleagues, many of whom are distinguished scientists, or their predecessors. This is a complex matter. It is under discussion by the British Museum Trustees, although I have some doubt whether it would be advisable to make any changes in the last few months before the Trustees give up control of their library.


My Lords, I am glad to hear that there has been such full discussion, but unless Section 9 of the British Museum Act 1963 is carried forward, under which the Trustees could hand over the documentation with the material, I do not think it would be possible, other than by a general giving away, which one would hardly think was the right way of doing it in this case. This is of fundamental importance, although it may seem to be a small point. It is to get the trust of the scientists working together with those who study the humanities, and unless we can be quite certain that both sides are represented on the new Board I believe it will get off on the wrong foot.

4.52 p.m.


My Lords, this Bill is one which generally, from what we have heard, meets with the approval of all noble Lords who have spoken so far in the debate, and I do not wish in any way to spoil its welcome. My sole reason for intervening has already been very largely and very ably made by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, and was also to a certain extent mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan. What interests me most particularly is the small change which has occurred between the actual wording of the Bill now before the House and the White Paper which was issued by the Government in January. In view of what we have just heard from the Minister, the noble Viscount the Paymaster General, in opening this debate, the assurance that all classes of user had been considered by the Committee, I hope that he and the House will forgive me for mentioning this small point. I refer, of course, to the specifications for the composition of the Board of the British Library. Here I may enter into a slight disagreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Lee; I do not think it is a serious one. I believe she is suggesting that we should not define the specifications or the capabilities of the members. I would agree with that; but if we are going to define them at all I think we should define them completely and not partially.

The noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, has already mentioned that in the White Paper provision was made for four part-time members to be appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science after consultation with the Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry, for Scotland and for Wales, and the Trustees of the British Museum. Quite a party! I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, that perhaps some of them were a bit unnecessary, but one I think was very necessary. In the Bill, however, the obligation to consult has been entirely dropped, although in his speech the Minister referred to it again. The only trace now left in the wording of the Bill is the upgrading only of the Trustees of the British Museum to the position not just of being consulted but of having the right to nominate one, and possibly as a result of this debate this afternoon two, part-time members. A statutory obligation to consult, especially with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, would be especially valuable, in that it would ensure that consideration would be given to the needs of industrial users, for whom the Science Reference Library is a library of first resort, unlike the British Museum Library, which, as the White Paper admits, is a library of last resort to scholars.

The decision in respect of the concentration of the fragmented Science Reference Library is one to be welcomed wholeheartedly. The Library itself is, as the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, said, of great use to those working in industrial fields and in patent work, and I suspect that it will be found that the readers using that Library—the industrial users and the patent users—will be by far the largest group of users of the British Library. I wonder whether the noble Viscount the Paymaster General would consider the statutory re-inclusion of some representation on the Board from trade and from industry, to redress a balance which I feel is far too much librarian and scholar-orientated. I appreciate that in the wording of the Bill the Secretary of State for Education and Science is required to give preference to those who appear to have knowledge and experience of, inter alia, finance and business. Again, the word "business" has been mentioned. It is somewhat vague; it does not in fact define industry and it would seem that some more definite provision should be included for industrial users. I do not think there is any point of difference between the Minister and myself in this regard. He mentioned in his speech, I believe twice, that this consultation would take place. These assurances are valuable, but it would be more helpful if they could be written into the Bill, provided that there was no other reason to debar that from being done.

I know that there is also a provision for advisory councils for each directorate. This is helpful, but is not in any way comparable to having a member of the Board appointed after consultation with the Secretary of State most concerned with the needs of one particular type of user. I appreciate that this is only a small point, but I believe it is an important one, and I should welcome the further observations of the noble Viscount as to how the change occurred between the White Paper and the Bill, although not in his speech this afternoon. I should be glad to know whether he would consider restoring the position at Committee stage, as the arrangements at present written into the Bill seem too orientated towards library administration and scholars. I hope that this little request of mine will meet with favourable consideration and that the noble Viscount the Minister will indicate his preparedness to consider the matter at the Committee stage.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I rise only because I am the Chairman of the Committee on Printed Books and Manuscripts, and therefore as a Trustee of the British Museum particularly concerned with this Bill, since the items which come under the Committee are to be transferred from the British Museum. I should like to say at once how greatly I welcome the fact that all three Parties have welcomed the Bill, so that it is in the strictest sense non-controversial. I thought that the warmth with which the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, spoke to-day was characteristic of her natural good will towards the British Museum and its troubles. We owe a great deal to her in that during that difficult period when the site of the Library was in question she used her good offices. We also owe something to the then Secretary of State for Education and Science, Mr. Short, who, having heard all the arguments, agreed that the site on which the proposed new Library should be built should be preserved and in that way, and brought about the Bill. Indeed, I believe that, had business been otherwise arranged, it is even possible that the Bill might have been introduced by the Labour Government whose term of office came to an end in 1970.

But, my Lords, that said, let me at once say that the person to whom this Bill owes most is, of course, the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. Before he assumed office as Paymaster General, he was a tremendous driving force, as Chairman of the British Museum Trustees, first of all in mending the bridges (which were in danger of being broken) between the Trustees and the Government of that day; and, secondly, in organising the management of the Museum in a way that enabled it to put its case adequately to the Dainton Committee and thereby convince that Committee of the need for the provisions which now appear in this Bill, having had their first airing in the White Paper. I congratulate the noble Viscount very warmly and thank him for all his good offices in this respect.

I have only two points to make—because I do not want to go over points already made by other speakers. First, I am a little puzzled, as I think was the noble Baroness, Lady Lee, by the fact that in Clause 5(2) the Secretary of State is at that point brought in. I wonder whether the Board itself might be trusted. There is a slight difficulty here when it comes to accumulated balances which have come from public funds. It is one which we are finding challenged in the universities. Under the University Grants Committee a special fund was set up in all universities for the provision of scien- tific equipment, and this fund has been wisely and prudently accumulated by universities against the day when they may have a new building to equip or some particular crisis requiring the installation of very expensive scientific equipment. We are now finding this challenged by the Comptroller and Auditor General's Department, who ask, "Why do you need these balances? You have not spent them. They should go back to the Government." Upon my soul! prudence is sometimes penalised. I would ask whether there is any intention that balances accumulated by the British Library Board shall suddenly be snatched away by the intervention of a Secretary of State who might be less wise than the noble Viscount.

The second point I would make is this, Clause 3(5) refers to the transfer of property from the British Museum to the new Board. I should like to ask whether there is to be transfer of trust funds which would be appropriate to the Library. There are some small trust funds connected with the Department of Manuscripts, and there is one, in particular, in which I, in my position as Chairman of the Committee on Printed Books, am particularly interested. I refer to the Shaw Fund, which came to the British Museum by tortuous means, the courts having ruled on Bernard Shaw's will. As a result of the court's wise judgment, the British Museum became one of the residuary legatees under that will. That would not have been of very great moment but for the happy chance that Pygmalion was turned into a musical, and subsequently into a film, called My Fair Lady. As a result, the British Museum now has a very subtantial sum at its command. What is so splendid is that it is completely unallocated money; we can do what we wish with it to help the purposes of the Museum as a whole. The money is not tied up, as are other funds, to the purchase of, for instance, Oriental objects or books or manuscripts. I think there should be some idea in the mind of the Government about what they intend to do on the trust fund issue.

I would certainly not take the view that the whole of the Shaw Fund should be transferred to the British Library. I think it is perfectly true that Bernard Shaw was much more interested in what went on in the Reading Room of the British Museum than what went on in the Collections; I would say that his interest in the Mummy Room was minimal. The money was left to the British Museum, and it would be wrong to suggest that the whole fund should be transferred to the British Library. Nevertheless, I should be very pained if, when break-up takes place, the whole of that money were to remain purely under the control of the British Museum. I feel that it would be more equitable if it was divided. There is no mention in the Bill of what happens to trust funds.

If I may turn, very briefly, to the Board itself, I would make a plea to those noble Lords who have criticised the composition of this Board. Every special interest, of course, makes out its own case for representation on this Board, but I think (I may say that here I am speaking entirely personally) the noble Viscount is placed in an almost impossible position if the British Museum claims two members instead of one; or if, for example, every other library or interest claims that it should nominate a member. I am very much with the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, in thinking that way. Certainly, if we are to have a categorisation of the kind of interests which should be represented we should have the word, "industry" inserted after "business"; and certainly there should be some mention of "science": on that I am absolutely with Lord Cranbrook. I hope that there will not be, as it were, an attempt to swamp the membership of the Board with special interests. I do not believe that good management is obtained in that way; good management comes through consultation rather than through representation.

Again, if I may refer back to one point which Lord Cranbrook raised on the Banks Collection, I think that was answered by Lord Trevelyan. I might again say a word of warning. If the principle enunciated by the noble Earl were carried to its logical conclusion, and all books went where their comparable material in other fields was, we should soon have the break-up of the British Museum Library and the Reference Library, as it will now be.


My Lords, I did intend—and I hope that I made it clear—to exclude most books. I was referring to documentation, and I think I went far beyond Banks, to the manuscripts of the Sloane Collection which are associated with a great number of collections which came to South Kensington.


My Lords, I am delighted to hear that from the noble Earl; I am sorry if I misunderstood him. I think the point should be decided, after consultation, on an issue coming before the Board of the Library. I do not want to make any other point. I give the Bill a very warm welcome, and express thanks to all those who have joined with me in hoping for its speedy passage through Parliament.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first to apologise for the fact that my name is not on the list of speakers. This is unintentional; indeed, I was surprised to find that I was not supposed to be speaking to-day.

My Lords, I think that the introduction of this Bill marks the emancipation of the National Library Services: 1972 is the year of British "Lib", as one might say, and I should like to congratulate my noble friend on introducing the Bill promptly so as to maintain the momentum that has been built up by those who are now working on the transformation, the housing of the collections, and keeping the services running. My noble friend the Paymaster General has paid a warm tribute to the work of the Organising Committee, and as a member of the Organising Committee I should like to thank him for it and to say that the whole Committee will appreciate very much what he has said. My noble friend mentioned skill and efficiency. He himself, of course, has shown some skill in working us all very hard, but I would go further and pay tribute to the planning staff, who have had to carry the whole burden of interpreting the Committee's requirements and of formulating detailed plans, some of which have already led to decisions. This is being done as rapidly and as effectively as possible within the limits of the Committee's powers and resources, and with the co-operation of all the existing Library organisations. It is, I think, imperative that the directors and keepers, and through them their respective staffs, should be able to see that they have Parliamentary endorsement of the new Library behind them as early as possible and that they not be left in suspense about the principal issues.

There are, of course, many decisions that can be taken by the Organising Committee, but there comes a time when one must have the Board to exercise the managerial and directing functions. The Organising Committee cannot do any more than manage at arm's length, as they have not the executive or financial authority—or even the time—to do more. But with the pace that things are moving now, sooner or later (and in my opinion sooner rather than later) it will become impossible to follow up many of the initiatives which are now being taken or are about to be taken. Therefore I welcome the Bill wholeheartedly as timely and essential to the process of smooth changeover. I think that there is very little to criticise in the Bill itself, as it clearly sets out the pattern of operation. Clause 1 sets out the basis of the new Library organisation, and it is important to realise that the duties of the Board are defined in terms that show how it will reach out to many as an institute and that it will not set itself up in grand isolation from the rest of the library system in the country.

As to the selection of the Board itself, which is dealt with in Clause 2(2), it will be seen that the success of operations will depend upon the abilities of those who are chosen. Herein lies the difficulty, particularly in the initial phase, the formative years. Naturally one wishes to be able to recruit people who are conversant with, or who have been trained in, the disciplines which the Library serves, as well as the professional librarians themselves. There are many disciplines to consider and they cannot all be mentioned, but it is important, to my mind, that when this clause is looked at in future years the Secretary of State will be able to exercise his discretion in respect of selection without prejudicing the needs of the major users as services develop and technology changes. It is industry that matters, and it is industry's needs that must be looked after more than scholarship and the humanities, which are not subject to the same patterns of change. I think that the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, mentioned this when he relegated to the past Marconi's development.

The White Paper goes so far as to say that four of the part-time members of the Board will be appointed after special consultations with the Trustees of the British Museum, and with the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales and Trade and Industry—the latter representing a very large slice indeed of the user interests. This seems to me to be pretty specific, and I think that, whatever the method of selection, the Department of Trade and Industry are vitally concerned with the development of the Library, particularly the Science Reference Library with its role in serving the patents community. I should like to ask the Minister whether, in spite of what he has said in his opening speech, he is satisfied that the industrial needs are fully catered for. I realise the difficulties of cataloguing or arranging patronage, as it were—and this point has been mentioned by a number of speakers this afternoon. I do not want to labour it, but I should like some assurance that in fact the industrial needs are fully catered for.

Now I come to Clause 3, which deals with the transfer to the Library Board of British Museum Trust property. In the main it is the contents of two departments which come under the hammer, so to speak, and we have to consider how to deal with the various classes of material which might come our way from the ancient to the modern and from the bound to the unbound. There are items such as postage stamps, which my noble friend mentioned, political ephemera, tracts, manifestos and other such oddities to consider, and all I will say is that I hope that maximum consultation will take place between those concerned and that it will be possible to reach fair agreement about the various items that are involved.

Finally, I want to say one word about the Advisory Councils. I have served on one of these, and it is my experience that they are a most valuable forum for users to communicate their needs to the Library Executive and for the Library to keep users informed of developments. It is thus essential that the Executive should be adequately represented at council meetings, possibly in the chair, and it should be possible for Board members to attend if they wish to do so. It is not precisely clear to me in this Bill whether or not this is what the Minister has in mind, but I hope that he will be able to enlarge on the way in which he sees the Advisory Councils working in principle.

My Lords, I think that this Bill is to be commended and that it has been introduced in your Lordships' House at an appropriate time to cater for developments which are already under way. As your Lordships know, the most important part of the plan will involve the new building complex in Bloomsbury, part of which will be the Science Reference Library. As this is due to open by the autumn of 1979, much will depend upon the architect's having the final brief in his hands and being able to present his designs by the end of this year. If the timetable is to succeed, it is most important to avoid any delays at this present stage. The passing of this Bill now will, I think, secure the future to a greater extent, and I heartily support the second reading.

5.18 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise for detaining your Lordships for another minute or so, particularly as I have not notified my intention of taking part in the debate. However, I want to raise one point which has been drawn to my attention only this morning, and another one on which I had some discussion with interested parties yesterday. As regards Clause 2(2) the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, asked whether it was wise to enter into a catalogue of names. From the speeches that have been made so far this afternoon it appears that a serious exclusion exists; that is to say, whether the needs of manufacturing industry are properly taken into account. I know that the noble Viscount, in his opening speech, said that they will be taken into account, but if that is not written into the Bill how is it to be done? Are the interests of manufacturing industry to be included under those of "business or administration", or do the words "business or administration" in subsection (2) really refer to the qualifications of a person who is to be appointed to run the British Library rather than the affiliation that he may have with the users who will be taking books out and referring to documents?

In the case of those interested in patents I agree entirely with the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, and it appears from the advice that I have been given that the number of users of the British Library coming from industry will be larger than all the scholars put together. Without in any way denigrating the interests of scholars, I think that from the nation's point of view we ought explicitly to take into account in the wording of the Bill the needs of manufacturing industry, and not only of business and administration. So I hope that as the noble Lord, Lord Ironside—whose knowledge of this subject is unrivalled—has said, some further attention will be given to the subject before Committee stage. I also hope that the noble Viscount in winding-up will at least be able to assure the House that his mind is not entirely closed about the wording of this subsection.

The second point I want to make follows on what my noble friend said about the objectives of the British Library. He referred to paragraph 3 of the White Paper, and I want to remind your Lordships that sub-paragraph (c) of that paragraph states that among the objectives of the British Library is the provision of: … central cataloguing and other bibliographic services related not only to the needs of the central libraries but to those of libraries and information services throughout the country". One of the functions of the British National Bibliography is to provide a catalogue on tape for county libraries serving users up and down the country. I was very recently discussing the use of this tape with some county librarians, and they told me that it was not really as useful as it might be, because books that are the subject of the Copyright Act have to be deposited on demand with the libraries only within one month of publication. Publishers are very slow to respond to this demand, with the result that the tapes which go out to the county libraries are not by any means complete. They contain only about 40 per cent. of the new titles. As a result of that, an immense amount of labour, which would be quite unnecessary if publishers were compelled to deposit books at the time of publication instead of within a month thereafter, goes into cataloguing in county libraries up and down the country.

I really cannot see any difficulty in rectifying this. After all, publishers send out review copies to the newspapers and I should have thought that, at the same time, they could make available to the British Library a copy of every new publication when it comes into existence. A central catalogue could then be provided on tape for the county libraries up and down the country and an immense amount of labour could thereby be saved to local authorities, as well as providing a much better service to the ordinary readers who make use of these services which are provided by the local authorities. It seems to me that we have an opportunity of rectifying the matter under Clause 4 of this Bill. Perhaps the noble Viscount will say that this is a matter which should be raised when we come to the Committee stage, but I thought it would be as well if I gave notice of it now.

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a moment, but I should like to make two points. I agree in general with what the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, has said but, as a Trustee under the old régime, I do not think it is really correct to say that there was any humanist bias among the Trustees against the interests of South Kensington. In my time, the Trustees were A. V. Hill and Henry Dale, to name no others, and they were intensely interested in South Kensington. They would have been very quick to take any point necessary in its interests. If there was any oversight or failure to deal with the real needs of that Museum, then I think the fault lay with the people in the actual practical management of the Museum who did not have the knack of asking, or did not think it appropriate to ask, the Trustees to take action in any particular direction or put them in a position to do so.

Though I agree with the noble Earl in his main argument, I hope that no kind of rivalry will develop in the new governing body between the humanities and science. How that can be avoided can, I think, safely be left to the Minister. In a much more general way, I have served on bodies constituted under this kind of procedure, and have had to advise over a great many years on what the Minister should do when Parliament gives him this kind of direction. I am convinced that the wisest course is that Parliament should not attempt to direct or fetter the Minister in his choice, but should give him the very widest field over which to roam in making his choice and should trust him to act sensibly, as Ministers of the Crown of all Parties almost invariably have done.

I would merely raise again the question whether the use of the word "business" is altogether happy. I do not know whether it has ever been judicially construed in this connection. I cannot charge my memory with seeing it in any of the Acts which I ever had to administer. But I am sure that the Minister will not allow himself to be pushed into being told that he must appoint so-and-so and such-and-such an interest. On the other hand, if is going to accept a general direction of Parliament he should be sure that he is using appropriate language and, from what I recall of the past, I am not sure that "business" is a word which was very much in favour 20, 30 or 40 years ago. If the Minister will consider that, I am sure the House can be very content to leave matters in his hands.

I should like to say how much I, like everyone else who has ever been concerned with museums, owe to him for having at any rate settled and reversed the absurd decision to move the Library away from where it is now and to divorce it from the whole of the other collections. The point of the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, about not divorcing documentation on birds or insects of which specimens have been preserved, applies with equal force to not moving the books which the scholar requires away from the artistic and other objects which he wants to study. The noble Viscount made short work of that very wrong step and we owe him great gratitude on that account. I am sure that if he were to look a little more closely at the wording of the direction which he is getting Parliament to impose on himself in his choice of the Board, he will ensure that he retains freedom to act as wisely in that respect.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, like other noble Lords, I should like to give a warm welcome to this Bill and to congratulate the Paymaster General on it. My only regret is that it has taken so long to introduce. It was a year ago, in March, 1971, that your Lordships debated the White Paper, and the Bill has just been introduced in March, 1972. Of course I can well understand that no doubt the noble Viscount has been engaged in other much more controversial, and possibly less pleasing, matters connected with the Arts. I welcome his assurance that the new Library will he built on the Bloomsbury site. I was rather puzzled by the reply of the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack to a Question by the noble Lord. Lord Teviot, on the Public Record Office, that no decision had been made. I am very glad to know that this site is now assured.

As my noble friend Lady Lee of Asheridge said, there have of course been great advantages in the delay over this decision, and also in the appointment of the Dainton Committee. As the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said, this might well have been the Labour Government's White Paper and in fact, from her speech, I thought my noble friend Lady Lee was looking forward to piloting it through herself. There have been many advantages in the delay. We have managed to preserve several listed buildings and the whole of the West side of Bloomsbury Square. We have also managed to preserve St. George's Church and as much housing as before. Most important of all, of course, the Science Reference Library will now be on the site. I never agreed with the view, held by some people, that it should be divorced from the main humanities library and set up under a separate body of trustees. At one time it was even planned—it was a crazy idea—to put it on the South Bank. Therefore, my Lords, there have been great advantages in these delays.

I was also very glad to hear from the noble Viscount that the Science Reference Library will be complete and open in 1979. In the debate on the White Paper he said that it would be 1978, but perhaps there have been slight delays since then. I should also like to welcome the appointment of Mr. Colin St. John Wilson, as the noble Viscount told us; and I am sure the whole design and structure could not be in better hands. I must say that I agreed very much with the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, when he regretted that the list of the libraries concerned was not to be included in the Bill. I know from the Paymaster General's speech that there are good legal reasons why they should not be: on the other hand, I think it would be a great advantage, because the Bill really tells only a small part of the story. The White Paper, of course, describes the whole scheme, and I think it would be very convenient to have this set out, with other details, in the Bill. The same was the case with the Museums and Galleries (Admission Charges) Bill. I am not trying to be controversial here at all, but in that case the whole scheme was set out in the White Paper and the Bill itself was a short enabling Bill, dealing with only 4 out of 18 galleries. It seems to me that we are arriving at a stage of government by White Paper instead of by Acts of Parliament.

My Lords, I should like to ask just a few questions about the Bill itself. I agreed very much with the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, when he put in a plea for the newspaper library at Colindale. I see from the Bill that almost all aspects are going to be included, even periodicals, films and other recorded matter. I know that there are difficulties with the bulk of a newspaper library, but with microfilming coming in I should have thought that in the future a great deal of our newspaper archives might be held in this way. I hope that the Government will have another look to see whether in some way the newspaper library might be brought rather nearer the rest. It would also be an advantage. I think, to have it referred to in the Bill. If the word "magazines" is in the Bill, it seems a great pity that the word "newspapers" is not also there. Furthermore, the newspaper library will be out of date in 25 years, and not really very long after this whole scheme is finished, when a decision must be made.

I am also, with the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, rather concerned about the question of lending. Here again. I think the section on lending which is Section 4 of the British Museum Act. 1963, is much better, and I think we ought to have a look at that in Committee. Of course, there are different kinds of lending. There is the whole lending part of this scheme, which will be up at Boston Spa; but then there is a quite different type of lending, too, which is the lending of rare books and manuscripts by the reference library. I am very much opposed to reference libraries lending in any way at all. In fact, the Dainton Committee, after much thought, rather reluctantly I think, came to this conclusion, too, although they thought that there were advantages in lending what they described as "lightly used foreign material", whatever that might be. But there are these very rare books which are national treasures, many of which are held in the British Museum, and no doubt the Trustees, in whom we have every confidence, will wish to lend them for exhibitions in this country and abroad. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said that reasonable safeguards will be required for the more valuable books, and I would submit to your Lordships that this clause needs redrafting to take account of the two types of lending which will take place under this structure.

I agree also with what other noble Lords— the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, and the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb—have said about the word "business". I agree fully that the word "industry" might be better. On the other hand, I am very sympathetic to what my noble friend Lady Lee said. It is probably better not to attempt to describe the various functions which will be represented, but to leave that to the good wisdom of time. I am grateful to the noble Viscount for explaining the intention of Clause 3(3); and I hope, too, with him, that some place will be found for the stamp collection.

My Lords, I should like to raise briefly the question of the Science Museum Library and the Lyon Playfair Library, which I touched on during the debate on the White Paper. I understand that since then there have been discussions between the Department of Education and Science, the Science Museum and the Imperial College about which books are to be transferred. I should like to ask how these discussions have been progressing, and what the position is. Perhaps the Minister will also confirm that, after some of the Science Museum books have been transferred, the Lyon Playfair Library will become and remain an open library, which it is not at present.

I should also like to ask about automatic data processing. In reply to a Question by the noble Lord, Lord Bird-wood, last February, the Paymaster General said: The Report on Automatic Data Processing is now being studied by the Committee, which is due to give the architect the final schedule of requirements in April."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9/2/72, col. 1133.] I wonder whether he can let the House have any further information.

I should also like to ask about the effects on manpower. In the Preamble, the Bill envisages a large staff reduction of about 1,200. The White Paper, though, makes no mention of staff reductions, although paragraph 17 says that the concentration of lending services at Boston Spa will allow economies. But is it wise to reduce staff until we can be sure that a first-class service will be maintained? I agree very much with the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, about the delays. In fact, he has been rather lucky if he has had to wait for only two hours or five hours. I have had to wait much longer; and one often finds that the books arrive just at the time the library is due to close. Also, it is open until 9 o'clock only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. On the rest of the days it closes at 5 o'clock. I hope that this new library will be open every night except Sunday, as the great Lenin Library is in the Soviet Union. I endorse everything the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, said about the staff. I think they do a splendid job under very great difficulties. But I wonder whether this is the time to reduce them, until we are quite certain that a much better service can be given with a reduced staff.

My Lords, there is no mention of staff in the Bill, and no mention of transfers. There is no reference to the conditions under which the civil servants will serve after their transfer to the new organisation. Paragraph 15 of the White Paper says that the intention is that these will be no less favourable; but here again, my Lords, the White Paper is not legislation. I think that perhaps there is a case for having an Amendment at the Committee stage to give this intention some statutory authority. This is an important matter. There are about 1,200 people involved. The great majority of them are either civil servants or, like the British Museum staff, enjoy conditions similar to those in the Civil Service. I know that the Institution of Professional Civil Servants consider that the last sentence of paragraph 15 of the White Paper is completely inadequate. But, as I said, we shall have to consider this in detail at a later stage. These are details, but in general, as I said, I think that this is a most exciting project—one of the most exciting projects that I think we have had in our lifetime—and if this Bill sets it in motion, I should not be one for a moment to delay it. I commend it warmly to your Lordships.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, with permission, I should like to reply. First, may I thank all noble Lords who have spoken for the warmth of their welcome. I appreciate that very much, as will the members of the Organising Committee without whose work we could not have brought forward this Bill. The reason why it has been delayed is that we have had four quite different institutions to consult. It would not have been satisfactory to bring legislation before your Lordships until we were quite satisfied that the four constituent parties had had a really good look at it and were satisfied with the lines on which we were going to ask for Parliamentary approval. The noble Baroness was extremely kind in her speech. I hope that she will not mind my reminding her that the noble Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, is very much alive. I am only sorry that we do not see him frequently in this House. I think your Lordships know the reason why.

Running through the debate were two main themes, both of which are extremely important. I anticipated that the Bill would look small and sketchy. I foresaw that, as the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, said, there would be questions as to why we had not defined in greater detail the objectives of the British Library. But the more we looked at this proposition, working on it with all these experts, the more we felt that this is really a growth "institution. We do not really know in what direction it may need to expand or what kind of relationship it may have with all the libraries in this country—with the county libraries system, the other national libraries, the specialist libraries and with libraries overseas. Nor do we know what are going to be the methods of retrieval, or what will he the advances in all the photographic services and so on, in computers and A.D.P., all of which are coming over the horizon. I felt—perhaps it is due to my experience in business—that it would be unfortunate to draw the "articles of association" too tightly; because, although we are all agreed on the great objectives we have in mind, we cannot really know exactly how they are going to develop and how in any detail they should be described. I may or may not be right in that; but it was a view that was taken not light-heartedly in order to make the Bill short but deliberately when we saw what an interesting and complicated future was in front of this Board. The objectives that were spelled out in the White Paper will remain; but as the years go by, and they will go quickly, I am sure that we shall find all sorts of new problems and new adventures in the library world. I do not want to hamper the Board by trying to give too tight a description to begin with. That is the reason for the rather terse way in which it is described.

The other question is really of the nature of the Board. Do we want a representational Board or a Board in which the members are chosen with a keen eye on the various great types of user, but not representing this or that society or industry, whatever it may be? I think that this is an organisation which will require the highest skill in management as well as immense attention to the various types of user. Therefore I am against the proposition (at any rate, against writing it into the Bill) that certain members of the Board should represent, as it were, certain interests outside. More particularly I feel that we have reached a point where the scientists and the industrialists need not really feel inferior and demand that their particular interests should always be written into a Bill. After all, literature is a very great interest in this country, scholarship is a great interest in this country; but nobody expects that we should write into the Bill that those interests should have representatives. Looking at the Board of Trustees of the British Museum, I feel that the balance between the humanities and the sciences is pretty well kept—and it works well. Of course, I give an assurance, as I said in my speech, that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will be consulted and no doubt will put forward the name of some part-time member of the Board.


My Lords, may I ask whether Mr. Vic Feather, representing the unions, will also be consulted?


There we are, my Lords! We are on the slippery slope. Before I know it I shall have to consult the Patent Society, the trade union community or, say, the architects—and we have already heard about the Royal Society. All ought to be consulted. What we do not want is to put it into the Bill that they have a right to a particular representative.

I accept the point that the word "business" is not a good word. I shall be delighted to move an Amendment myself on the Committee stage to substitute "industry" for "business". That was an error. I am grateful that it has been pointed out to me. The noble Baroness spoke about the salaries for part-time members of the Board. I believe that I am right in saying that this is becoming a much more common practice; that if one wants someone to give up, say, one whole day a week, and in certain circumstances two whole days, it is not unreasonable to offer a small salary. Therefore to take power to do that in the Bill seems to be wise. It might be that there was someone with a great contribution to make who really could hardly afford to make it if there were no remuneration of any kind.


My Lords, would the Minister not agree that by giving adequate allowances and expenses instead of a salary, certain Members of the other place could, without disqualification, be included on the Board? I am dubious about this expansion of paid salaries to part-time members in public boards.


My Lords, I should have thought that the Treasury would be even more dubious about big, untaxed allowances. I think myself there is no question of a very large salary being offered to part-time members. I think that the noble Baroness will know from her own experience that it would not be likely to be agreed to. But there should be powers in the Bill for the Secretary of State to offer, say, £1,500 a year or something of that order for a useful member of the Board who felt that unless there were a small remuneration he could not serve even part-time. I hope that that will not appear unreasonable to the House. I think that I explained to the noble Baroness that the cost of estimating refers only to next year's Budget. It will, of course, rise. We have put our estimate from £6 million to £7 million over five years. It may or may not turn out to be enough. I cannot say.

The noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, thought that we had not put in enough about lending, and that subject was also raised by other noble Lords. I am not sure whether you can define the two categories of lending. If you say that there are certain books in the collection of the British Library which they can lend, you must also give a definition of those which they cannot lend. I think that would be extremely difficult to do. When I was at the British Museum I took a very purist view and said that it was wrong for the Library to lend anything at all. It was the staff of the British Museum who argued against that, and I feel pretty sure it was the evidence of the British Museum staff that led Sir Frederick Dainton to put in the passage in his Report that in some cases even the British Museum Library should lend books. My Lords, we look forward to a time when the copying of extracts from books will be much easier and when it will be possible to borrow in that way. Perhaps I ought to interject here that there are some difficulties with the copyright law; but, so far as I know, many great national libraries in all pants of the world are now concerned with this problem, so I think that we must give the Board broad powers to lend if they think that is right.

The noble Viscount rightly mentioned the London Library. May I wish him and his colleagues every success in their appeal, I agree, too, that it would be a great mistake if the Board of the British Library did not make every possible arrangement with other libraries for inter-lending, in order that to make the most economic use of the various stocks of books which there are in different parts of the country. He asked whether Colindale—that is, the newspaper library—could not be brought on to the site. Well, my Lords, not the physical body of the newspapers, because there really is not room. This is an enormous store, as the noble Viscount very well knows; but now that it is possible to put newspapers on microfilm they take up a very small amount of room. Last night, in The Times building I saw quite a small room which contained on microfilm the whole of the issues of The Times from 1785 to the present day. No doubt there will be some arrangement of that kind, but I do not think we can do without Colindale.

The noble Viscount mentioned that the word "films" is included. I said on a previous occasion that one looks forward to having in one place all the material which the modern historian needs. Photographs and films and sound records are all part of the quarry which nowadays the historian wishes to dig out. It may be that in time the Board of the British Library, who certainly have the powers, will make some offer about the British Film Archive and suggest that it is passed over to them. I think it would be a rational move.


My Lords, I am glad that the Minister has brought up this matter. Those of us who have been in contact with the subject are amazed at the advances made in school lessons on films. Some of that film is well worth preserving. While that subject does not come directly under this heading, I hope that it will be remembered in the future.


My Lords, I very much agree with the noble Lord. To me it seems a great pity that some television film is immediately scrubbed after use. It would be better if we could make arrangements for a complete library of all these things, and perhaps in time, if we have enough resources, we may be able to do this. I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Trevelyan for the welcome which he gave to the Bill. I would thank him and his colleagues for their co-operation. There would be no legal impediment in the interim to a joint committee of the representatives of the Trustees and the representatives of the Board, deciding to do this or that about their affairs. Indeed, my Lords, so long as the books and a great many of the staff are in the building of the British Museum it is obvious that we shall have to have a joint approach to these problems. But I think, with men of such eminence and good will, that will be possible.


My Lords, would the noble Viscount care to elaborate on one point? The essential for the joint interim committee is the preparation of the architect's brief of the interior of the building. It is extremely difficult if more than one institution or committee is trying to give the architect a brief.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Annan, is absolutely right, but the British Museum representatives on the Organising Committee have been fully associated with its work. In fact, without them we should not have been able to do it. We are now very near to the architect's brief. The noble Lord, Lord Ironside, said that he hoped it would be ready by the end of April. In all those things there has not been the slightest difference between the Department and the Museum in our approach to the problems.

The noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, mentioned Clause 5(2), and the problem which arises if surplus revenue is accumulated; and the subsection gives the Secretary of State power to say how it shall be disposed of. This is common practice; these words occur elsewhere, and I think one could imagine a situation rather different with the British Library than, say, the museums; they are hardly comparable. A large part of the British Library will be in the nature of a commercial undertaking. As I said in my previous speech, we already lend a million books a year. On all those books postage has to be paid, and there is the packaging, and it amounts to a very large sum of money. I suppose it is possible that these operations, the supply of photographs, extracts and that kind of thing, might yield a very large revenue; and, of course, since that is the basic operation at Boston Spa, it is not unreasonable that the Treasury should say that they want to see how the moneys are disposed of. It is rather different if money is earned by the sale of postcards or something in a museum: that is not their basic operation. But at Boston Spa the business they are carrying on really is supplying books on loan, so I think that Clause 5(2) is not unreasonable.

My noble friend Lord Cranbrook is always very anxious that we should secure the good will of the scientists. I can assure him that we are, too, and when we come to decide on the members of the Board we shall naturally see that the scientists are properly represented. I have not the slightest doubt that we are moving into a time when the sharp division between science and the humanities is being blurred, particularly in respect of the social sciences, and therefore I do not anticipate that we shall be unfair, as it were, to any one section. The Library will be a failure unless we do pay equal attention to the various great disciplines. The noble Earl will not expect me to go into the long history of the Banksian Papers and where they ought to be. I can only say to my noble friend that this matter has been looked at by the Trustees of the British Museum over and over again, and in every case there were very distinguished scientists on the body of Trustees, and there are strong arguments on both sides.

The noble Earl, Lord Shannon, made the same point about science in industry. I can assure him that the British Museum Library now has very considerable experience with the National Reference Library of Science and Invention which renders a service that in my experience is greatly appreciated by the industrial, engineering and patent communities. I should like to pay a tribute to them. I think the way in which they manage that open library in four different places is admirable.

The noble Lord, Lord Annan, raised the same problem about Clause 5(2), which is in regular language. He also raised the problem of a transfer of trust funds. This is not something that I particularly wish to discuss without looking at it with the greatest care. But I can tell the noble Lord that I have read Mr. Bernard Shaw's will at least six times, and every time I have come to the conclusion that the money that Mr. Shaw left he left to the complete discretion of the Trustees of the Museum to use in any way in the interests of the Museum.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked me about the B.N.B. catalogues on tape. I agree with him that the coverage is not as good as it ought to be; but this is one of the very things that we are going to get right when the B.N.B. come into the British Library. We are well aware of it, and it certainly is a service which we cannot allow to be second rate: in other words, when a book is published it is really important that all libraries and all booksellers shall have notice of what is published at the earliest possible moment. We are going to improve that service. That fact that it is not complete is no fault of the B.N.B. They are very efficient people, and will, I am sure, show that very much when they come in.


My Lords, if the noble Viscount will allow me to interrupt, this seems to me to be a question of some change in the rules for depositors' books, so that they become available to the persons in the B.N.B. compiling these catalogues on tape at the earliest possible moment and not a month after they have been published.


My Lords, the simplest thing to say to the noble Lord is that when the B.N.B. and the British Museum Library become part of one organisation, and to that organisation we have transferred the rights of legal deposit, thereafter the difficulties that we have encountered will disappear.

I was glad that my noble friend Lord Hurcomb, with his unrivalled experience, intervened. I was particularly glad to hear him say that he thought we ought not to be fettered in the choice of Board members. As in all such operations as we are carrying out now, the crucial question is: who do you choose to run this institution? I can assure your Lordships that we shall have to give all the serious thought that we can to that question.

I come now to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. I thank him for his welcome of the Bill. He again raised the question of why we did not include some reference to the three libraries for which no legislation is required: in other words, that they already possess the powers to wind themselves up and transfer their assets. I think the simple answer there is that if there is no need for legislation one does not legislate. It would be difficult to legislate for something for which there is no need to legislate, and therefore they are not in the Bill. But I hope that I referred to them sufficiently in my earlier speech, and I am grateful for the way in which they have co-operated in carrying out the ground work of the new institution. I can tell the noble Lord that "periodicals" in Clause 1 includes newspapers. That is a term of art and therefore we are not leaving Colindale out at all; it is part of the new institution.

I think the noble Lord has a point in regard to lending, in that the section describing lending in the British Museum Act 1963 is based on a different principle from Clause 1(4) of this Bill. Clause 1(4) is designed to safeguard the collections so that there is no risk of their being dispersed in a way in which they might come to harm. But the section in the British Museum Act, if I remember rightly, is designed to protect the reader. It is designed to see that a reader shall not turn up at the British Museum Library and discover that a lot of books he expected to find there were out on loan somewhere. This is a somewhat different objective. I will look at it and see whether we ought to bring back the particular facet of lending that is contained in the British Museum Act. I am not sure about this.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount, but I should like to point out that the British Museum Act also includes the words, "the degree of rarity of the object in question". It is not only a question of the convenience of the reader, but of the value of the book itself.


I know. But it is difficult to see how one defines in a Statute the degree of rarity. I believe that we should do better to come to agreement with the members of the Board, and I do not think there will be any difficulty about this. I do not like putting into an Act of Parliament a phrase like "the degree of rarity", when nobody really knows what it means. However, I will look at the lending clauses. The noble Lord asked me about the Science Museum Library. That remains outside the new British Library, as does the Lyon Playfair Library. I am afraid that I have not at the moment an up-to-date report on how the conversations are going, but I will ask for it and let the noble Lord know. Mr. Lines' expert report on automatic data processing will be published shortly. I tried hard to understand it, but it is very difficult reading. I am assured, however, by the experts on the Organising Com- mittee that it is extremely valuable and that they will make full use of it.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, referred again to the question of the reduction in staff. There is not going to be any reduction in the total number of people employed: it is simply that their status will be changed. Furthermore, the prospect is that, even while the British Museum Library remains where it is, they will need an increase in staff because the demands upon libraries are increasing at such an enormous rate. I have had a letter from the I.P.C.S. Among other things they asked me to give a pledge that the conditions of service under the Board would be in no case less favourable than the conditions of service that exist now: and I gave that assurance in my speech. I am not clear that it is necessary to put it in the Bill. I have given a clear pledge, and possibly that is all that is required.

I again thank your Lordships for welcoming the Bill, and if there are any other points no doubt we can discuss them in Committee.


My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, will he say something about the intentions concerning the Advisory Council? I ask this because it occurs to me that there is here a statement to this effect: The Board shall pay to the chairman and other members of an Advisory Council … remuneration et cetera. This rather implies, if they have to pay a fee, that they are not already employees of the Board or Board members themselves. Therefore, I was wondering what in principle my noble friend's intentions are concerning the Advisory Councils.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for raising that point, which I am afraid I had forgotten. I have attended Advisory Councils of which my noble friend Lord Ironside was a member, and I agree with him that they voice the wishes of the interests of the users in a most useful manner. Certainly we need these Advisory Councils, simply because the range of interests of those who are going to use both the reference and lending sections of the Library cover the whole nation. The problem of communication between a management structure of the kind we are going to create and this vast number of people, all with their different interests, will be difficult. Therefore it would be my intention to ask the Board, when they come to set up these Advisory Councils, to make them as useful as they possibly can. From my own experience as a Board member, going to sit in the chair of the Advisory Council is a very good way of operating. I thank the noble Lord for having raised the point.

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