HL Deb 11 May 1976 vol 370 cc878-98

4.4 p.m.

Report stage resumed on Amendment No. 8.


My Lords, if we are now returning to the question of public lending right, I should like to ask one question of my noble friend Lord Donaldson. I must, I suppose, at the same time declare an interest as the author of a number of books in British public libraries. In his speech opposing Lord Willis's Amendment, Lord Donaldson mentioned a maximum which would prevent any author resident overseas from going away with all the "scoop", so to speak. Could my noble friend perhaps be a little more precise about that? I must apologise for not having followed the details earlier.

I should like to know just how far the money could be absorbed by residents overseas.


My Lords, I wish to support the Amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Willis. I do so without in the least approving of the Bill, which I think is perfectly nonsensical. But surely what is at issue here is that we are proposing to levy taxes upon the people of this country for the purpose of paying a bonus to authors. Why should we tax the people of this country in order to pay a bonus to foreign authors? Surely, if anything of that kind ought to be done, it should be the responsibility of the country of which they are nationals. I know that we levy taxes upon ourselves in order to aid the development of poor and primitive countries, but that is an exercise in philanthropy and not an exercise of any other kind. Surely this Bill is in a totally different category, and I cannot see for a moment why the British people should be taxed for the benefit of Americans or Germans or Japanese or anybody else.


My Lords, could I ask my noble friend whether he could give me one simple piece of information. We are not the only country that has libraries and, curiously enough, we are not the only country that has public lending right. Sweden has the most elaborate library system in the world and also a very well established public lending right. In what way do they act in this matter? That would certainly determine my view in a rather difficult dilemma.


My Lords, I do not think I am entirely convinced by what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, had to say in support of the Government's arguments. I feel some sympathy for the arguments which have been advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Willis. His Amendment would probably not have quite the effect that he thinks it would have, because, so far as I can see, this would lock out foreign authors by name only. If this Amendment was made to the Bill and the Bill became an Act and came into force, it would be very easy for them to assign their rights to a British agent, and they would collect that way. I shall be very interested to know whether the noble Lord has considered this point and I should like to hear his view.


My Lords, I should like to speak briefly to three points that have arisen in this brief and intermittent debate. The first is a point of taste. I should like to defend my noble friend Lord Eccles from the imputation laid against him by the noble Lord, Lord McNair. In referring to American pulp fiction, I am quite certain the noble Viscount did not intend to refer to anything which the noble Lord, Lord McNair, could possibly imagine was American literature. There is indeed a large volume of American publications sold in this country which do not aspire to such a status and whose authors would not expect them to be so described. I think the noble Lord would concede that it was to these only that my noble friend was referring. They are important, of course, not because of their quality or lack of it but the volume in which they are sold.

That brings me to the second point; that is, the point of fairness. I have great sympathy with what has been said on both sides of the House in support of this Amendment. It does not seem to me that a nation in straitened circumstances should offer to share its provender in this way with others more fortunate than itself. I must remind your Lordships that we are, after all, talking about a Bill which does not throw open the door of the larder but merely makes easier access to the bird table; there are no great fat meals to be had out of this Bill; the crumbs will be almost invisible if they are to be divided among so many eager beaks as is at present proposed. I do not think that it is xenophobic, I do not think it is unfair, I do not think it is hostile, I do not think it would attract much foreign notice if we were to take steps designed to achieve what the noble Lord, Lord Willis, has in mind. If a large and wealthy nation says, "We will publish your books and pay you for publishing them, and we will also incidentally lend them and pay you nothing", I do not think it is unfair if that large and wealthy nation is told by a smaller and less wealthy nation, "We will treat you the same way as you are treating us". I do not think that that can be said to be unfair. Nor do I think it is hostile to the arts. That is the second point.

The third point is the point of law. Here many of your Lordships will share the hesitations which I feel. I once heard a picture attributed by 7 different art critics to 7 original brushes. In one case a number of original brushes. I feel that we are at the edge of a position like that. I did not feel that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, rebutted the quite closely reasoned —if reasoned, as it were, secondhand—arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, with the closeness and quotation of authority for which one might hope at this stage. I was sorry to see the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor leaving the Woolsack before he had an opportunity to give an authoritative and final verdict on the subject.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, in the light of what has been said—and he is quite clear that he is in a very small minority on this matter—would feel that he could perhaps come back at Third Reading with heavier legal ammunition if he wishes to rebut this Amendment. This plainly cannot be a Party issue. On a matter like this, unlike the noble Lord who speaks for a Government, I speak from a Dispatch Box which does not have political authority over nonpolitical Bills, and that is rightly so. My inclination would be that if the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, wishes to try conclusions now, since on this Bill, as I said earlier in this debate, we are not a Chamber of revision, there would be no great disaster if he was defeated, because it could be put right with the closest of legal reasoning in another place without exercising the already doubtless overburdened attention of the noble Lord. I sympathise with him in this. There must be a temptation for him to take that path. If, however, he felt that he was able to come back at Third Reading with either a watertight case against this Amendment, or an improved version of it—I think it may be open to the objections lodged against it by my noble friend Lord Ironside, which makes me wonder whether we should try conclusions at this stage; but if he were to try conclusions it would not be a disaster if the Amendment was put into the Bill and altered in another place—the noble Lord may wish to take that honourable and, perhaps for him, slightly easier way out of the matter.

4.13 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words here, because there are other considerations than those which have already been put forward. First of all, may I say to my noble friend Lord Snow, who asked about PLR in Sweden, that this is one of the several non-statutory schemes—there are others in New Zealand, Australia, and so on—which are working to a certain extent, but they bear absolutely no comparison to a statutory scheme, which is contained in this Bill. Indeed, the only statutory scheme at present in operation is that operated by the German Federal Republic, and I am informed that they offer reciprocity, as indeed the Bill intends that we should as well.


But, my Lords, at the moment they have got no one with whom to be reciprocal.


My Lords, I hope that they will be reciprocal with us. This brings me to the point f wanted to put to the House. I would suggest that, quite apart from legal considerations and questions of reciprocity, the thought and the theory behind this Amendment betray to a certain extent a somewhat chauvinistic attitude. I do not mean that in any offensive way to my noble friend because he and I are old friends, but I believe that Art should be international. I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Elton, because, as he also said, this is not a Party matter. I believe that Art should be international, and that foreign authors, whose writings have so enriched our culture and given so much pleasure to so many people, are just as worthy of consideration as authors who are living here.

I believe, and I believe rather passionately, that there are moral considerations why we should not discriminate between authors but treat this matter in a liberal and civilised way, quite apart from the legal arguments. The other view is, of course, that copyright is of great importance to the United Kingdom, and in the long run it cannot be advisable for us to seek to avoid obligations which, if not carried out by a country as influential in this field as the United Kingdom, could only undermine the conventions from which we gain so much. For all these reasons, I submit that the Amendment should not be accepted.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him this question: Supposing this relief to authors who happen to be British citizens were to take the form not of public lending right but an equivalent amount placed at the disposal of the Arts Council, would he regard it as chauvinistic? Would he regard it as contrary to the belief, which I certainly share with him, that Art is international that the candidates regarded as eligible for Arts Council assistance in that case ought to be confined to citizens of this country?


My Lords, may I answer this question, which directly concerns me as I am in charge of the Bill. The authors and their organisations are absolutely solid in their view that they are not asking for charity, they are not asking for artistic handouts, but they are asking for a right. Therefore, as the object of the Bill is to satisfy what we believe to be an absolutely justified demand, as I said at Committee stage to one of my noble friends behind me (in fact it was to the chairman of the Arts Council) this would in no way satisfy the authors, and we agree with them that it would not be the right way to deal with the matter.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, would he be good enough to answer my question about the effect of the maximum?


My Lords, with the permission of the House, for which I was about to ask while I was answering the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, I will do exactly that. There is no figure on this. There is a stated intention that in the scheme it would be desirable to have a maximum. The figure of £100 has been mentioned, as well as the figure of £500, in order to make certain that best-selling authors of all nationalities do not scoop the pools.


My Lords, a maximum on individuals?


My Lords, on individuals. I think that answers the noble Baroness. With the permission of the House, may I refer to one or two other points. We always enjoy the interventions in these debates of my noble friend Lord Shinwell. He spoke a little disparagingly, I thought, of intellectuals in the Government. As somebody who very much enjoys reading books, I claim to be an intellectual; but out of his own mouth my noble friend was also convicted because he not only reads books, which he told us he does, but he writes them, and we must accept the fact that it is not necessarily a bad thing to be an intellectual. I am not ashamed of it, and I do not suppose for a moment that my noble friend is.

He said that I had said something, but I think there has arisen complete confusion about it. He said that I said that the Secretary of State would have to decide who was to be the recipient of any money under this Bill. I never said anything of the kind. What I said was that the Secretary of State would have to decide who would have to be consulted, which is quite a different matter. In the end I said that the word "others" was too wide, and that it was sensible that the Secretary of State should be the person who decided the limitation of consultation required. I hope that my noble friend will accept that.

A word of warning to my noble friend Lord Willis. The Bill has many enemies; the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, is one, and the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, is another, and both have said that they would rather not have it at all. I believe that if we present the other place with a simple and clear Bill, with the limitations clearly laid down, We have every chance of getting it through, but every complication we bring in makes it more difficult. In my view, the ethics of the matter are quite simple. We say that when books are borrowed from libraries something should be paid to the authors of those books. It is a very simple conception. It does not involve excluding people who live abroad or write abroad or who write in foreign languages. It is as simple as it could be. If we have it in this very simple form we are much more likely to get an answer which in the end will build up into the sort of thing we are trying to do for our authors, rather than if we start to complicate it.

The noble Lord, Lord Elton, said that I might be content to let the House decide and that if the Amendment were carried and the Government did not like it in another place, we could think again. That is perfectly true and it is in fact my attitude. We should send the Bill to another place in the simpliest possible form, but I do not wish to fudge the issue in so far as there are one or two wishes of this House which do not accord with the Government's belief of the best thing to do, and I think that it should be clearly expressed. If my noble friend wishes to divide the House, I would once again say to your Lordships that I believe that this is wrong, that it is in breach, not necessarily of the law—although I think it is, but that is arguable—but in breach of our obligations as understood by foreign countries and in my view it would be a great mistake to do so. But the House must decide.


My Lords, we have had what I suppose has been a very moral afternoon. My noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge will not recall this, but about eight years ago in this House I made a speech and afterwards I saw him in the tea room when he said, "That was a very good speech, Ted, but you moralised a bit". Today the shoe is on the other foot. We have had not one Front Bench speaker but two telling the House something about ethics and morality. It is a very strange morality indeed because it is a morality which says, first of all, "I do not want to look at this legal opinion that you have. I have every sympathy with the point you are making, but please do not show me the legal opinion". Lord Donaldson a moment ago said, in effect, "I believe you are wrong legally but I certainly think you are wrong morally so far as the conventions are concerned". I should have thought that at least in good will the noble Lord would have said, "Here are people who know something about the matter. They have gone to a top copyright lawyer who also knows something about the matter. He has come up with an opinion which is not just a backdoor way of sliding round our obligations but is an absolutely clear and straightforward opinion which shows that we would not be in breach of our obligations under these copyright Conventions". What reply do I get? I am told, "I do not want to see it. Do not complicate my mind". That does not seem to be a very good approach when somebody is trying to prepare a simple, straightforward, clear Bill which is moral.

Let us look at the morality in another sense. It is immoral, says the noble Lord, for us to exclude American, Danish, Australian and other authors, but we are excluding British authors of reference books, British translators; half a dozen other categories are being limited and shut out by the Bill. Nothing immoral about that, apparently, but it is perfectly immoral, we are told, not to include these overseas authors. That seems to be absolutely wrong. The case is crystal clear. I have a great deal of experience of international writers' organisations and I assure noble Lords that nobody in American or Canadian writers' organisations would scream because we excluded them from the Bill. They will not say that we have dodged through the back door and are not fulfilling our obligations under the international copyright Conventions. On the contrary; they will see the good sense of it and understand it.

Let us look at the morality in another sense. The noble Lord, Lord Snow, asked about the public lending right in other countries. There are six countries of which I know which have it; Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Holland, Australia and West Germany. The only one with a statutory public lending right is West Germany and they in fact include overseas authors. Fine, and as soon as we have a public lending right Bill here we shall be reciprocal and West Germany will get it. But is it moral for Denmark, Australia, Holland, Sweden and New Zealand, all signatories to these Conventions, to have found a so-called way round it, which is what they have done? If one is talking about ethics, that is hardly ethical. But we have not screamed at them, because they have done what they can do for their own native authors within the boundaries of their facilities and the finance available.

My Lords, I want to press this matter because it seems to me to be one of common sense and I wish to thank noble Lords for the general feeling of support that it has received. I should comment on a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ironside. I am not suggesting that the

Amendment is absolutely perfect, but I think that what he said could not apply if the Amendment were adopted. One could transfer one's rights to an agent, but if one was an American author under my Amendment one would not have any rights. The same would apply to the other countries with which we did not have reciprocal agreements. Thus, I think that the Amendment would do what I want it to do, although I would be happy to discuss the subject in the event

of our having to return to it on Third Reading. It is clear that under Article 20 of the Berne Convention we have a legal and honourable right to make this exclusion and I beg the House to accept it and to accept my Amendment.

4.27 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 8) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 118; Not-Contents, 52.

Abinger, L. Elton, L. Milford, L.
Allerton, L. Emmet of Amberley, B. Monck, V.
Alport, L. Erskine of Rerrick, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Amory, V. Evans of Hungershall, L. Monson, L.
Annan, L. Faithfull, B. Mottistone, L.
Arbuthnott, V. Ferrier, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Arwyn, L. Forester, L. Newall, L.
Balerno, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Northchurch, B.
Balfour, E. Gainford, L. Ogmore, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Gaitskell, B. Porritt, L.
Barnby, L. Garner, L. Rankeillour, L.
Birdwood, L. Geddes of Epsom, L. Rathcavan, L.
Boothby, L. Goschen, V. Redesdale, L.
Bridgeman, V. Granville of Eye, L. Reigate, L.
Brockway, L. Gray, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Grenfell, L. Robbins, L.
Caccia, L. Gridley, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Chesham, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Sackville, L.
Chorley, L. Hale, L. St. Just, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Harcourt, V. Sempill, Ly.
Clitheroe, L. Home of the Hirsel, L. Shinwell, L.
Clwyd, L. Ironside, L. Slater, L. [Teller.]
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Jessel, L. Snow, L.
Cottesloe, L. Killearn, L. Stamp, L.
Crawford and Balcarres, E. Kilmany, L. Strang, L.
Cromartie, E. Kinloss, Ly. Strathclyde, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Kinnaird, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Darling of Hillsborough, L. Lauderdale, E. Strathspey, L.
Daventry, V. Long, V. Sudeley, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Lothian, M. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
de Freyne, L. Loudoun, C. Tenby, V.
De La Warr, E. Lyell, L. Trefgarne, L.
Denham, L. Lytton, E. Vickers, B.
Deramore, L. Maelor, L. Vivian, L.
Digby, L. Mansfield, E. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Margadale, L. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Drumalbyn, L. Marley, L. Waverley, V.
Dundee, E. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Willis, L. [Teller.]
Effingham, E. Merrivale, L. Wilson of High Wray, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B.
Airedale, L. Douglass of Cleveland, L. Janner, L.
Arran, E. Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.] Kirkhill, L.
Banks, L. Fisher of Camden, L. Leatherland, L.
Birk, B. Gore-Booth, L. Lee of Newton, L.
Blyton, L. Hankey, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Brock, L. Harris of Greenwich, L. McCarthy, L.
Champion, L. Henderson, L. McNair, L.
Cole, L. Henley, L. Mais, L.
Collison, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Maybray-King, L.
Crowther-Hunt, L. Hoy, L. Melchett, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Morris of Grasmere, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Jacques, L. [Teller.] Oram, L.
Parry, L. Sainsbury, L. Tranmire, L.
Platt, L. Segal, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Popplewell, L. Shackleton, L. Winterbottom, L. [Teller.]
Raglan, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Redcliffe-Maud, L. Strabolgi, L.
Roberthall, L. Swaythling, L.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Resolved in the affimative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

Clause 3 [The scheme and its administration]:

4.38 p.m.

Lord WILLIS moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 3, line 31, leave out ("books") and insert ("works")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is just a technical Amendment which follows a major Amendment that was carried at Committee stage; it was omitted at the time. I beg to move.


My Lords, I recognise that this Amendment makes good an oversight by my noble friend at Committee stage, and completes the substitution of "works" for "books". I do not intend to take the time of this House by resisting this new Amendment or reopening an issue on which your Lordships have so recently indicated your views. To do so might delay Third Reading and the passing of the Bill to another place, which I do not believe to be your Lordships' wish. However, I must admit I am grateful to my noble friend for his oversight, because this Amendment gives me the opportunity to explain that I am examining the precise implications of the word "works" in terms of the Bill, and it may well be that, after I have consulted my colleagues, the Government will wish to return to the question in another place. For the moment, however, I do not wish to oppose the Amendment.

4.40 p.m.

Lord DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 4, line 8, leave out subsection (6) and insert— (" (6) The Registrar shall, by means of payments out of the Central Fund, reimburse to local library authorities any expenditure incurred by them in giving effect to the scheme, the amount of that expenditure being ascertained in accordance with such calculations as the scheme may prescribe.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that I made very clear at the Committee stage, as did my noble friend Lord Strabolgi in the Second Reading debate, that the intention of the Government is quite firm, that the proposals in the Bill shall involve no loss to the local library authorities. I was not entirely happy with the wording of the Amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, which would have prescribed exact matching payments year by year. My reason was that, as the Technical Investigation Group suggested, it may well be possible to negotiate more economical methods of reimbursement on a system of unit charging, to the mutual satisfaction of the local authorities and the Government. The Amendment now proposed by the Government, which I hope will be acceptable to your Lordships, allows for that, and I beg to move.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for meeting us in this matter and for making the intention of Her Majesty's Government abundantly clear. Since we will also have an opportunity, in effect, to debate the scheme—the fact that the method of payment shall be specified in the scheme means that we shall be able to keep an eye on the arrangements to be made, and to satisfy ourselves that they are mutually acceptable—I do not think there is any point in delaying the House further on this matter, other than to say that we welcome the Amendment.

Clause 4 [The register]:

Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 4, line 36, after ("who") insert ("(if any one)")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a technical Amendment. I beg to move.

4.43 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 12:

After Clause 4 insert the following new clause:

"Public Lending Right Advisory Committee.

  1. .—(1) There shall be established an Advisory Committee to be called the Public Lending Right Advisory Committee (in this Act referred to as "the Advisory Committee").
  2. (2) Subject to the provisions of subsection (5) of this section, the Advisory Committee shall consist of not less than ten and not more than fifteen members, who shall be appointed by the Secretary of State.
  3. (3) Of the members of the Advisory Committee, the Secretary of State shall appoint one to be chairman and one to be deputy chairman of the Advisory Committee.
  4. (4) In appointing persons to be members of the Advisory Committee, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the need for securing that a majority of members are qualified to represent the views of public librarians and that there are members who are able to represent the views of authors, local authorities, public librarians and publishers.
  5. (5) The Secretary of State may by order increase the maximum number of members of the Advisory Committee to such number as he may think fit.
  6. (6) It shall be the duty of the Advisory Committee to keep under review the operation of any scheme made under this Act and to make recommendations to the Secretary of State as to any action which in the opinion of the Advisory Committee it would be expedient for the Secretary of State to take under the powers conferred on him by this Act.
  7. (7) It shall be the duty of the Registrar to provide the Advisory Committee, if it should so request, with information about the administration of any scheme made under this Act.
  8. (8) The provisions of Schedule (Public Lending Right Advisory Committee) to this Act shall have effect with respect to the Advisory Committee.
  9. (9) The Secretary of State shall consult with the Advisory Committee,—
    1. (a) before drafting the scheme for the purposes of this Act;
    2. (b) annually from the coming into effect of the first such scheme or any subsequent scheme amending or replacing that Scheme; and
    3. (c) before drafting any amended scheme where such drafting is not undertaken as a result of any consultations held under paragraph (b) of this subsection."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 together. I wish to draw the attention of your Lordships to a misprint in subsection (4) of Amendment No. 12. The last word of the penultimate line, "public", and the first word of the last line, "librarians", are tautological: they appear twice and may he deleted. I shall not detain your Lordships for as long possibly as the bulk of this Amendment may have led your Lordships to expect. Those of your Lordships who have been following the progress of the Bill will recall that a pair of Amendments remarkably similar to this were put down by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, at the Committee stage. Prior to our reaching them we had a debate, as a result of which the Government agreed that we should be able to debate a Green Paper specifying the nature of the scheme, thus giving us some say in how the scheme was to be run. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Willis, felt that this would be the opportunity he required to ensure that the technical advice which this Amendment seeks to make available to the Government should be brought into play.

In my view this technical advice should be available not only at the instigation of the first scheme, but also to supervise its running, and for the purpose of advising the Government, should amending or substitute schemes be required later. There is one significant difference between these two pairs of Amendments. The Amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, stated in subsection (4) that there should be a preponderance of authors on the Advisory Committee. The reason that I am taking up this Amendment, and acknowledging its origin, is that I feel the whole Bill is a gesture—possibly a well-deserved, if not very generous gesture—in the direction of authors. It exists to give more money to deserving authors, but it will work only if it has the wholehearted support of librarians who have to run it. I feel that there is a great danger that the librarians up and down the country, and the local authorities in which they serve, will feel that they are being put upon to run a tedious and complicated exercise, with little thanks from those who benefit from it, and with some wear and tear upon themselves. It is absolutely essential to engage their good will and their expertise if the scheme is to work, whatever the scheme is to be.

These Amendments are a sort of ballon de'essai, which is, after all, what the noble Lord, Lord Willis, filled, ready to take off, but left tethered at the Committee stage, and I have simply substituted a different crew in the basket before cutting the tethering rope. T hope that what I am proposing will give the Government an opportunity to make clear how they propose to engage the willing co-operation, rather than the grudging co-operation—and there is a world of difference between the two—of those who will, in the end, have to do the work. This may not be the way to do it; I do not claim that necessarily it is. But this is something which should be looked at. It may be gone into in detail in another place, but I fear that if we do not make a fairly positive gesture in this direction at this stage, in this place, there is a danger that the case of the librarians—who may, I hope misjudgedly, feel themselves to be put upon by this Bill—might go by default. I hope that the noble Lord will see this as a useful opportunity, rather than as yet another occasion for contention. T beg to move.


My Lords, at the Committee stage I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge for the very firm assurances about consultations with various authors' and librarians' organisations, and for his very valuable suggestion that he will publish a Green Paper. For that reason I withdrew my Amendment. However, I wish to support this proposal again on this occasion, although there is one point that I shall make in a moment. I should like to support the general principle of the advisory committee because, on consideration, it seems to me that the most valid point made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is that one wants continuing consultation. On the Government's own admission, the scheme will take some time to develop. Once the scheme is developed, again on the Government's own admission, it has to be widened and extended as practice dictates, and amended as it begins to operate, so that it overcomes the snags and problems. Therefore, in this continuing process—not just consultation before the scheme is developed, but consultation continuously while the scheme is in operation, especially at the initial stages—there would be particular value to the Government, and a considerable advantage from the Government point of view, in the sense that the sting would be taken out of criticisms which may be levelled at the Registrar, the Government, or the Minister himself. One tends to take criticism out of administration of the Arts by having the Arts Council, and putting the blame, or praise, on that council, and I believe that much the same could apply to the advisory committee.

I therefore wish to come back to this matter and to support the noble Lord, Lord Elton. The only qualification I have is that I do not like the change in subsection (4). I do not like the suggestion that there should be a majority of librarians. I think that there should be a generous representation of librarians, with authors, publishers and so on, but to have a majority would be to set a had precedent for a public committee of this kind. It would therefore be wrong, and would not necessarily produce the right result. With that proviso, speaking for the spirit of the Amendment, I should like my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge again to give this matter serious consideration.


My Lords, I rise to get myself into the good books of the noble Lord, Lord Willis. For once I am in agreement with him, and I do not like disagreeing with him on this matter, on which he has worked so very hard. When I first read subsection (4) I was astonished, and then I realised that it must be a misprint—" a majority of…librarians." Then, when the noble Lord, Lord Elton, started to introduce the Amendment and said there was a misprint my spirits rose, but it was the wrong misprint. Really, it is extraordinary to suggest that librarians should be in a majority. They must be well represented, yes; hut, for example (if this is not an absurd analogy), if we were legislating to ensure a proper return to the primary producers of fruit and vegetables, would we have an advisory committee with a majority of greengrocers on it? We would not. In all the preliminary studies before this Bill I think it was agreed that on the advisory committee there would be a majority of people representing authors, and I hope we shall not depart from that.


My Lords, as a farmer I must agree with the noble Lord, Lord McNair, that a majority of greengrocers on such a committee would not be acceptable to the farming community. I am sorry we have had to bring this question up again. My noble friend Lord Willis behaved generously in response to my reactions to the Committee, and I was very pleased not to be saddled with something which I believed to be both unnecessary and cumbersome. But the noble Lord, Lord Elton, with my noble friend's support, has now raised it again, so we must discuss it.

First of all, I have not promised a Green Paper. I have promised a consultative paper, which, technically, is not exactly the same thing. What the difference is remains to be seen. But I have promised that the proposals for the scheme will be published and available for discussion by the public or anybody else interested in good time before the scheme is put into operation. This, I think, deals with the problems up to the establishment of the scheme. I do not think the noble Lord would have pressed for this advisory body if the whole thing had stopped when the scheme was established. I think we have offered enough advice, and placed enough statutory obligations on the Secretary of State to ask advice, in forming the scheme. The question which remains is whether something statutory is required after the scheme operates.

It is important that when senior Ministers are appointed they should be treated as such, and it seems to me perfectly ridiculous to suggest that the Secretary of State, once a scheme of this kind is in operation, will not watch it most closely; will not, if it seems to be putting burdens on the libraries, consult with the library associations; will not, if it seems to be working badly from the authors' point of view, consult with the authors' associations; and will not do so currently and regularly. The only advantage in having a statutory body would be if that body were doing more than give advice. The Arts Council, which was quoted, actually distributes very large sums of money. The total is given to them and they break it up; so different sides have to be represented and there have to be majority decisions. But if we have a majority of authors, on the one hand, or of librarians, on the other, we are going to get totally one-sided advice; and in my opinion you can get better advice by consulting each body separately.

In addition, I think that the setting up of a body of this kind, although it would not be immediately frightfully expensive, would inevitably run into the expenditure of some money. It has to meet somewhere; people have to be drawn from various parts of the country and rail fares are very high. It has to have a secretariat and be looked after. And I believe it would contribute absolutely nothing to the situation if we have a Secretary of State who is doing his job. I do not think Parliament should assume that Secretaries of State will not do their job. I will undertake, in so far as I am still in my present position, that the job is done, and I should have thought that I could perfectly happily undertake that my successors, of either Party, would do the same. I hope that, with an undertaking of this kind, of regular consultation with the parties concerned, the noble Lord will not feel it necessary to press this Amendment. A good deal more could be said, but I do not think this is the moment to say it because I hope I have persuaded the noble Lord already.


My Lords, the noble Lord has said a great deal in the defence of the dignity of senior Ministers, with which of course I agree; they should be treated as such. Whether treating them as such includes denying them the services of a statutory advisory body, I am not quite so sure. I may revert to that point in a moment. But may I recall to the noble Lord what he said at col. 89 of the Official Report in the debate at Committee stage on 27th April, in reply to my intervention asking him whether the Consultative Document would be available for debate in both Houses? He replied: No, that is not the normal drill, is it? The Consultative Document will be available to anybody who wishes to make comments; and if political Parties wished to make comments, of course they could. It would be in the form of a Green Paper, or"— and I give the noble Lord this— something of that kind". Perhaps I was wrong to assume that a Green Paper was what was in question. I am not worried about the colour of the paper; I am worried about the opportunity to debate it. Because if we are not going to have an opportunity to debate the Consultative Document, then of course there is no concession and we have been led astray. I see the noble Lord wishes to intervene.


My Lords, I wonder if I might reply to that straight away. The Consultative Document will be published in plenty of time for the public, and of course the interested parties, to discuss it, to put suggestions and to look at it. It is the right of any political Party, through the usual channels, to discuss documents of this kind in Parliament. I do not think I need say more. If the time is available and the document is there, then political Parties will behave in the normal way.


My Lords, that is a big "if"—if Parliamentary time is available. We are always under pressure. Even now, before Whitsun, we are under pressure. We cannot have more than 14 days, during which some of us have to spend a good deal of time elsewhere working on other things than these Bills. I hope I am right in assuming that the noble Lord will use his good offices, should he be in a position so to do and in an office so to do, to ensure that time is available for debate, preferably in both Houses but certainly in this; because it really was on that understanding that I agreed not to press my Amendment, which I think we would have carried, at an earlier stage of this Bill. That is what I regard as the important point in this very long Amendment, and I take it that we now have it on the record that it is the intention of the Government that we should have an opportunity to debate, should we so wish, a Consultative Document embodying the recommendations for the scheme.


My Lords, I think it is very important to get this right. Obviously, as a very junior Minister, I cannot commit the Government to giving time to anything in two years' time or whatever it may be. What I am saying is that the document will be available, and the normal channels can be used to produce a debate. If the Government are willing to have a debate, it will be in their time; if they are not and the Opposition wish to have one, it will be in their time; or it might be a Private Member's debate. I do not think I can go further than this; nor should I.


My Lords, can my noble friend not satisfy the House by saying that he, as a junior Minister, is not in a position to make this concession, if it is a concession? Would it not be advisable, so far as he is concerned, and bearing in mind the position which he holds, to say that he will take this thing back and talk it over with the Minister responsible, and will put forward the recommendation that has come from Lord Elton in view of the statement that he himself has made about having a debate on the document which is issued as a Consultative Document?


My Lords, I do not think it would be fair to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to saddle him with this undertaking at this stage. I think I have gone as far as I need. The document will be made available in good time before the scheme comes into operation, and political Parties or individuals, if they wish to raise it in Parliament, will be free to do so.


My Lords, I am sure that if the time is good it will also be opportune and it will be up to us to see that the usual channels are engaged. On the other matter which has dwindled into less importance, I see the Government are opposed to the idea of an advisory committee. I am not sure that they are not even a little intransigeant in their position. As they knew I was not going to press the Amendment, they need not have made their objection so abundantly clear. I hope that your Lordships will share my anxiety that Parliament itself should be open to keeping an eye on the way in which this Bill works although they will not do it with the expertise of the formal bodies which I suggested should be set up. We have touched on one or two important principles; but I should think that we should now conclude the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, Amendment No. 13 was consequential upon No. 12 and I do not move it.