HL Deb 22 February 1978 vol 389 cc209-28

5.26 p.m.

Lord TEVIOT rose to move, That this House takes note of the Report of the Working Group on the Library and the subsequent changes that have taken place. The noble Lord said: My Lords, two years ago the House of Lords Library celebrated 150 years of its existence. While, since 1826, the Library has had its ups and downs, never in its great history has it undergone such major changes as we are witnessing today. True, there were changes when the new Library came into being in 1854, and when it acquired various collections, such as those presented to us by Lady Truro. I must declare an interest, in that I am a Member of the Library Committee and I must confess that, until very recently, I had been very wary indeed about the need to alter the Library in any way.

When I came to your Lordships' House 10 years ago, I remember being very impressed by the almost halcyon atmosphere of the Library. Here was a place where one could relax in a comfortable armchair and work in a peaceful atmosphere. Whenever one wanted a book or to seek out some special information, one had only to ask the Chief Librarian or his assistant. Either would do his best to answer one's inquiry and produce an answer from whatever source was available, and always did so with great courtesy and, apparently, little trouble. The clerical staff, too, were most helpful and kindly photographed whatever material one wanted. One thought that the quality of the speeches in your Lordships' House was absolutely perfect, and there was no reason at all to change.

In 1975, I was invited, with some other Peers, to serve on the Library Committee and was told not to worry at all, that there was not very much to do, that the Committee would meet only once a year or so and that the meeting would not last for very long. Soon after joining the Committee, one became aware of the fact that changes were in the air. My noble friend who is to reply asked for our approval of the setting up of a working party to review the House of Lords Library. One thought "Oh, dear!", but since then a lot of water has flowed under the bridge, and it is here that I must congratulate my noble friend Lord Eccles on his stealth, zeal and tenacity in introducing the many alterations and improvements that have taken place.

One is delighted to see that other noble Lords will be speaking, including distinguished and hard-working Members like the noble Lord, Lord Darling of Hillsborough, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, a former Chairman of Cornmittees. But, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, who is most welcome, I am very disappointed that other noble Lords have not seen fit to intervene. After all, to all of us who attend regularly, the Library is an extremely important place. It is our laboratory, if you like, while the Chamber is our workshop, so we should very much take an interest in it.

I should like now to run through some of the recommendations that have already been acted upon or are in the process of being acted upon. I shall not go into great detail, as I am sure that my noble friend Lord Eccles will do so when he replies. But let us look at some of the pluses. One of the main attributes has been the service given to the European Committee. The services offered have been greater than those offered by the other place. Another is the increase in the research staff.

I know that some of your Lordships have taken advantage of the services given by the Library Clerk. When the proposal was made to engage more highly qualified staff I felt, quite wrongly, that they would have very little to do, would be bored doing nothing and that it would be a complete waste of manpower. I take that back and say what an excellent job the Library Clerk is doing, and I would support the recommendation that the staff be increased. Only last week I had need of some research which would have been completely beyond me. Not only did she produce some excellent notes but she brought out the definitive work on the subject, published in 1902 which had been in the Victoria Tower and had not seen the light of day for years.

Following this personal service is the advent of a new machine and others are to come. The Queen's Room is beginning to look like a space city. We have all taken full advantage of the photocopying machine. This has been long overdue, but, unless I am mistaken, the other aids that we have, and those which are yet to come, have yet to come into their own. It is at this point that I think your Lordships need a little instruction in order to gain the maximum advantage. I know I do, and I should like to ask my noble friend if it could be arranged for us to have a seminar and if we could be instructed in the virtues of BLAISE—the British Library's Automated Information Service—and so on. This is recommended in paragraph 20 of the report where it suggests that the services of the Library should be much better known.

The only other improvement which I should like to mention is the importance of conservation and of the need for a new site for the bindery. Clearly, when resources are available, steps to deal with the backlog of books to be rebound and refurbished should be speeded up. The only real sadness was the removal of the showcases owing to lack of space. In 1851, the Clerk of the Parliaments' Committee recommended that the death warrant of Charles I be placed in the Library. Now it has been relegated to the Somerset Room. Later came the Act of Union with Scotland and other documents of prime historical importance. I appreciate the argument for placing showcases on the line of route, but they can only be there if maximum security is afforded. I should like my noble friend to comment on the present position regarding them.

Finally in what may be an extremely short speech in introducing this Motion, I should like to say that I hope your Lordships will make your views on these changes much better known so that those of us on the Committee and my noble friend have a much clearer idea of what should happen. I should also like the suggestion book to be more used. It is a book which is hardly ever used, and I am guilty together with others. I should like regard to be paid to the new Library Bulletin. Here, I should also like to congratulate the Librarian on the very hard work he has undertaken—always with a smile, may I say—in the short time since he has taken over, and to thank the staff for the very hard work they are doing. This Library has a very much greater future than ever before. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the Report of the Working. Group on the Library and the subsequent changes that have taken place. (Lord Teviot.)

5.34 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, for bringing forward the Report of the Working Party on the Lords Library. I think it is something that we ought to discuss and I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the chairman of the Working Party and the chairman of the Library Committee. I do not think your Lordships quite appreciate what a job was given to him. I will not go through the terms of reference, but what they really meant was to ask the chairman of the Library Committee and such other members of the Working Party as were appointed to take a good look at the Library and decide what to do with it. As we went on examining the job it became more and more difficult; we were faced with an immense number of problems.

I do not think we could have produced these 33 recommendations—I would question whether some of them will achieve what we want to achieve, but I shall come to that in a moment—if we had not been guided by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. We were fortunate in having as chairman of the Working Party the chairman of the British Library. This is a fact which your Lordships should take into consideration. As I said, I should like to criticise some of the recommendations. At one point I was stimulated by the chairman of the Working Party to put in a minority report. I refused to do so because I would have split the recommendation.

I think the recommendations are not sufficient. They are all right for the time being, they deal with immediate problems, and this is the important thing the Working Party had to do. The development of the Library and Library services still poses immense problems for the future. The most important problem of all is that of space. Again I pay tribute to the chairman of the Working Party for the way in which he tramped up and down the corridors trying to find walls on which to pin more bookcases, and the fact that the books are being spread around is good. At least we are beginning to know where they are.

I think your Lordships will be surprised when I explain that, as pointed out in paragraph 12, the Library possesses about 74,000 volumes, of which 22,000 are in the four rooms of the main suite that we think of as making up the Library; 24,000 in corridors, 13,000 in the basement and 15,000 elsewhere—in the Victoria Tower among other places—and difficult to get at. There was also the further difficulty about which books were in which place because the catalogue had not been kept up to date. It is still not up to date. As I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, will explain, the new arrangements for cataloguing with the help of computer intakes will help us to get over that problem but we are still faced with the appalling problem of where to put the books.

Within these Parliamentary buildings there is a limit to corridors on which to hang bookshelves, a limit to the space you can take, and unless both Houses of Parliament face up to the problem of space I do not think we can make much progress with either the reorganisation of the Library or anything else. This Palace of Westminster was not built to accommodate the kind of services that we must put into it. The Commons are desperately short of Committee Rooms. I do not want to develop this point at any great length, but I think that the Commons, in trying to solve their problem, have given us a bit of a solution to the problems we face in this House.

A large part of the Commons services are on the other side of Westminster Bridge Road in what I gather (because they do not want to call it New Scotland Yard) they call the Norman Shaw Building—we know what the building is. They have Committee Rooms there. Also, part of the Commons Library information service, which is important to both Houses, is now located over there. They have the problem of double indexing.

I know very well that again I am going to be controversial, but I am afraid that I cannot help it. In the discussions about how to make best use of Parliamentary space I do not believe your Lordships can say that the Lords have got what they want, that they are going to stick to it and adopt a dog in the manger attitude, that there is nothing that they are going to give up to the Commons and that there is nothing they are going to move out of the Palace of Westminster. I do not believe that we can solve the problems of the Library by taking that kind of attitude. I think it is wrong.

There are very guarded recommendations, but at least they are there. For instance, there is the recommendation that a joint staff working party should be set up by the two Libraries to make sure that they provide a proper information service to both Houses. The time has come when we must have joint working of both Houses in order that both Houses make the best use of the available accommodation. Because the action taken by the Commons in moving over so much work to the other side of Westminster Bridge Road has made the Palace of Westminster elastic, the precincts of the Palace of Westminster now stretch to the other side of Westminster Bridge Road and there is no reason why they should not stretch further, perhaps to the other side of Parliament Square.

I do not wish to develop this point except to say this. We are not dealing with one Library. There are four libraries here which have to be organised in some way. There is a reference in the report to one or two members of the Committee who suggested that we should amalgamate the Lords' Library with the Commons Library, so may I make clear what I meant by that.

First, there is a club library consisting of current books which your Lordships want to read in the comfort of their comfortable chairs in the Library—and perhaps to be slightly somnolent over them. Nobody wants to interfere with that club library. I hope that the arrangements we are proposing will increase the number of current books and periodicals which your Lordships may wish to read in that kind of atmosphere. I am all in favour of that; I believe it should be developed.

There is also an information service for our use in this Chamber and in Committees. As we tried to point out in the report that was produced on the computerisation of the information services, we can have only one, not two information services in Parliament, in particular if we go over to computerisation, as quite obviously we must. We cannot have two possibly conflicting services; they have to be complementary. There can be only one service which must be developed jointly. The proposals contained in this report recommend the joint development of a Parliamentary information service to serve both Houses.

The second library consists of books which we found in the Library but which doubt very much whether any of your Lordships would ever want to read. They are valuable books. I remember that during the course of our discussions in the Working Group we received a comment from a member of staff—not the Library staff—that he wanted to refer to one of John Ruskin's books and that he knew very well there was a set of Ruskin's works in the Library. Those works were found. They have been here for about 75 years with the pages uncut. Also in the Library are the French classics which were collected and placed there by Sir Edmund Gosse. Nobody ever gets hold of them, and because they are in French I doubt whether any noble Lord really wants to read them. Also upstairs are books in Latin about the history of Canterbury. I do not believe that any noble Lord will make a claim to be an avid reader of those books.

Noble Lords should not forget that we are up against the problem of space. There are a great many books here that noble Lords do not want to read but which other libraries could possibly make use of. I believe that we should give them away to the appropriate libraries on the advice of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles—who I am sure, as chairman of the British Library, can find libraries which will make use of them—but on one condition: that they must go not to lending libraries but to reference libraries. A further condition would be that if any noble Lord wished to borrow any of these books—and I think there are hundreds of books of this kind which would be of value to other libraries—it must be provided quickly and brought here for him. If this does not happen, these books w ill go on mouldering away, some of them in the basement. There are references in the report to the fact that the bindings of many of these books are in a terrible state, and we shall have to spend a great deal of money upon trying to deal with that problem.

Finally, there is the law library. I know very well that what I am going to say will get me into a great deal of trouble. I do not know whether your Lordships appreciate that the library of the final Appeal Court of the United Kingdom is lodged on shelves that go along a little corridor that runs at right angles to the Upper Committee corridor. So far as I can discover and I shall be corrected about this if I am wrong—there is no arrangement for the books to be consulted there; they have to be taken away for consultation. I do not know whether this is efficient, but it is certainly undignified.

I come back to the point I made at the beginning: that although the precincts could be made elastic by transferring some of the work from here to other buildings which were then placed within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster, this building itself is not elastic. Therefore it is questionable whether the space which is now taken up by the law library and by the Committee Rooms which are used for Appeal Court purposes should be located within this legislative building.

I shall not develop that point further. I know very well that I shall bring upon myself considerable criticism and opposition. However, I do not believe that the Law Lords can be excused and exempted from the problems that we face in trying to use the accommodation in the Palace of Westminster for the best legislative purposes. Given the shortage of space, I question whether the Appeal Court should be located within this part of the Palace of Westminster. I do not want it to be located far away. I shall not suggest, as I suggested during the Working Party proceedings, where I think the Appeal Court could be beautifully located, only a stone's throw away, with far more space than it has now, with a library in a proper condition and housed in rooms big enough to accommodate it; but these are matters which I believe must be considered

I must apologise to your Lordships for speaking for so long. However, as I am sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, will appreciate, it was far better that I should voice my criticisms of the report that we are considering in, I hope, a constructive way, rather than that I should have taken the advice he gave to me when we were having some of these arguments; namely, that I should put in a minority report. My Lords, I finish as I started by saying that this is a very good report. It is largely due to Lord Eccles that it is a good report, and I support the recommendations contained in it.

5.50 p.m.

The Earl of LISTOWEL

My Lords, I should like to add my voice to those of the two noble Lords who have just spoken in commendation of this report of the Working Group. The noble Lord, Lord Darling, was perhaps not wholehearted, but he did at the end say that he thought it was a very good report. The future of the Library services is obviously a matter for the House as a whole to decide: it is not a matter for the Government, although I am delighted, as I am sure other noble Lords are, to see two Ministers on the Front Bench to take note of what we say. But, because it is a matter for the House, I hope the proposals in the report will receive the support of noble Lords on the Back Benches in all quarters of the House, and I am glad to see on the list of speakers that there are Back-Benchers speaking from all three political Parties.

At the same time, I share the disappointment of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, that more noble Lords of the Back Benches have not expressed their opinions. This is, after all, the first time in 150 years that important changes have been suggested in the Library, and changes that have been recommended by a body that gave the problems of the Library a most careful study. I hope that noble Lords on the Back Benches who are not present, or who do not intend to speak, will take advantage of the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, that they might communicate their views to members of the Library Committee.

The modernising of the Library and its services will be a most useful contribution to the efficiency of the House, and the proposals of the Working Group seem to me exactly what is needed to meet present-day requirements. We are all deeply indebted to the noble Lords, the chairman and members, who gave so much time and thought to the work of the Working Group. I think we are also indebted—and I can say this more easily because although I use the Library a great deal I am not a member of the Library Committee—to the chairman and members of the Library Committee, to the Librarian and his staff, for the very good beginning they have already made in putting into effect the main recommendations in the report. I was simply astonished to find how much had already been done in the past year to prepare for a better information service and to acquire more books and other material of topical interest.

However, I think we should look as far as we can into the future, and I should like to say something about two subjects. The first is an improved information service, and the second is the space that will be required for it and for the other facilities offered by the Library. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Darling, regarded the question of space as the most important problem of all, and he may be right, although I do not think I share his view.

I put the information service as a more important problem because I think it could do even more for the efficiency of the House. The report says, rightly, I think: A much better information service ought to be available to all Peers, and if it were it would be increasingly used". I regard this as the most important recommendation. I should like to see an information service in this House comparable in quality to the information service in the House of Commons. Of course, we must use theirs. The noble Lord, Lord Darling, very rightly pointed out the necessity for a partnership so far as possible with another place, but at the same time we shall always be the last in the queue; we must, therefore, have an information service of our own. And this service should provide not only briefing and background material for noble Lords who ask for it on a particular subject but similar material prepared in advance of debates and available to any noble Lord who may wish to speak on a Bill, on a Motion or on a Question. This, I think, is something entirely novel, but I do believe it could be of immense advantage to the Members of your Lordships' House.

As demand will increase when this new service is known to exist—this improving service, perhaps I should say—we shall need more staff for the Library. The enormous disparity between the Lords and Commons Library staff—anyone who looks at the figures will agree with me—is an indication of the extent to which we are still under-staffed. Another requirement for a better information service, besides staff, will be the full use of computer services as and when they become available. I believe good progress is being made with our own catalogue, so that it will be completed within the three years envisaged by the report, and can then, of course, be computerised. But we shall also need to use external computer services, commercial as well as public. We are not a Government Department—I think we sometimes make the mistake of supposing that we are—in our administrative capacities. I fail to see why we should be obliged to apply to the central computer agency whenever we want to use an external commercial service. The increased cost of doing this on our own would be trifling if we were thus allowed to link up with any external commercial service that, in the view of the Library Committee, could be useful to the House.

The expansion of the Library, when it has become an up-to-date information service and will require a larger staff, will also require much more space than we now have. Of course, we should begin by making use of the five rooms in the Library suite. The only one of these rooms that is not fully used at the moment is the Salisbury Room, which many of us will remember as Committee Room C. At five o'clock tonight, half an hour before this debate began, the Salisbury Room was empty and in darkness, whereas there was hardly an empty chair in any of the other rooms of the Library. This is not an isolated example of the neglect of the Salisbury Room. I believe the reason of this neglect is the difficulty of access. It is cut off from the other rooms by the absence of a door from the Queen's Room into the passage leading to the Salisbury Room. Many of us realised in 1975 that this door would be essential to make Committee Room C, as it then was, really used and recognised as part of the Library. Its construction is now suggested in the report, and I very much hope the work will be authorised in the the very near future so that it could be undertaken in the Summer Recess.

However, where is the Library to look for the additional space it will need for all to make use of its improved services? I can see only one answer to this question in the near future, and it is hinted at in paragraph 14 of the report. The Lord Chancellor's Office has now become a small Government Department, but it is still largely accommodated in this building. I would hope that as time passes more of its staff will be hived off, without, of course, in any way detracting from the efficient and effective service that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor requires. In this way the needs of an expanding House—and, of course, our numbers are increasing every year, unlike those of another place—could be given the priority they should have over the needs of a Government Department. I will conclude my remarks by making an appeal.


My Lords, before the noble Earl comes to his conclusion, may I ask him whether the Committee have considered, or any members of the Committee have considered, proposals that have been made here and there, now and again, about House of Lords reform? There are some proposals which, if acceptable—note the term—would mean some reduction in the number of Peers in the House; obviously this might affect the Law Lords, and might even affect the noble Prelates; you cannot tell. Ought not the possibility of House of Lords reform be taken into account?

The Earl of LISTOWEL

My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot reply to the question of my noble friend Lord Shinwell, because I am not a member of the Library Committee. However, I can safely leave the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, to answer the question.

I should like to conclude by making an appeal to the Government—which I am sure will be noted by the Government Ministers on the Front Bench—to support the small increase in public expenditure that will be necessary if the efficiency of the House is to benefit to the fullest possible extent from the improvement in the Library service recommended by the report. That is surely not an unreasonable request at a moment when constraints on public spending are so much less than they were even a year ago.

6.1 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, both regretted the small number of speakers taking part in this debate, but I think that I can take some comfort from that fact. People are usually much more ready to come forward with their complaints than with their expressions of satisfaction. I should have thought that the small number of speakers is an indication that there is widespread satisfaction with the Library services.

The noble Lord, Lord Teviot, referred to the Truro Collection—that magnificent collection of law books given in memory of Lord Chancellor Truro by his widow after his death in 1855. It occurs to me that now that that collection is being moved from the Truro Room to a corridor upstairs, there may be some danger that the link with the name of Lord Truro will be lost unless special care is taken to preserve the association.

I think that the new corridor upstairs at present is known as the East-West Link Corridor, which may be a very accurate description. However, "The Truro Corridor" would certainly trip more easily off the tongue. If that suggestion were adopted let the corridor be boldly sign-posted "The Truro Corridor". In addition, or alternatively, let the new glass-fronted shelving which is to contain the collection be boldly inscribed "The Truro Collection". In that way we shall continue to respect the wishes of Lord Truro's widow when she made us this magnificent gift.

6.4 p.m.

Viscount ECCLES

My Lords, I rise rather embarrassed by all the kind remarks which your Lordships have made. The tribute really goes to the working party as a whole: it met many times and discussed everything, I think, as carefully as your Lordships would wish and we produced between us a report which evidently commands a large measure of satisfaction. I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Teviot for introducing the subject in such an able speech. His own great knowledge of genealogy and heraldry makes him a good library man and he has always helped us very much on the Library Committee.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, that one should not be disappointed that there are only a few speakers. When I was for many years in the other place and a General Election came round, as the sitting Member defending my seat I was always delighted when nobody turned up at the meetings and there was no heckling and no questions because I knew perfectly well that I was going to get in again! That experience is, perhaps, valuable to us here tonight.

Before I turn to the main points, I should like to pay a tribute to Mr. Christopher Dobson, our Librarian, who has now retired, and to wish him well, surrounded by the books in his own library, which he has chosen with great discrimination. His kindness, patience and great knowledge of the history of Parliament were very much appreciated by many of us.

The impetus behind setting up this working party was the frequently expressed desire that the books, journals, information and services in your Lordships' Library should be made as effective as the library services available in another place. I always thought that there was more in that demand than just a sense of unjustified inferiority because, in both Houses and outside, anxiety is felt about the growing power of Ministers over and against Back-Benchers of all parties. We know that the gap has widened rapidly between the information available to the Executive and the information available to Parliament as a whole. If Parliament does not have adequate information, its sovereignty is easily transferred to Whitehall or to bodies not elected by the people. My noble friend, Lord O'Hagan, wrote an admirable article in The Times this morning in which he said that one way to deal with this problem was by more Select Committees. I quite agree, but a Select Committee is no good if it does not have adequate information with which to do its work of inquiring into the actions of the Executive.

The other place has had greater resources than we have ever had to cope with this information problem and we cannot ever expect to match the size of its library staff. Even if the money was forthcoming, as several noble Lords have said, we would not have the room to accommodate staff on a scale equal to that of the other place. The wonder is that your Lordships have enjoyed such a good service, rendered by so small a staff, working with such a modest collection of material relating to current affairs.

The working party was faced, as the noble Lord, Lord Darling of Hillsborough, said, with a large number of difficulties in proposing any significant improvements, because not only is space very short in our part of the Palace, but the pressure on the space that we have has increased enormously in recent years following the appointment of several hundred Life Peers. However, the picture is not all gloomy. We found that it was physically possible, and agreeable to the Lords of Appeal, to transfer large quantities of legal records and books from the main rooms of the Library to the corridors upstairs adjacent to the Court of Appeal. Among the books which we decided to transfer was the Truro Collection, to which the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has referred. I quite agree with him that we ought to perpetuate the name of such a splendid gift and I have no doubt that the Librarian will come up with some ingenious suggestion—perhaps the one made by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale—to ensure that that is done.

The movement of the books provides us with a good deal of space for greater acquisitions on current topics. We always had in mind that if, after all the legal books had gone upstairs, there was still not enough space in the main Library rooms, we could consider moving some of those books to which the noble Lord, Lord Darling of Hillsborough, referred, which are splendid in themselves and look very nice on the shelves, but which are not very often consulted. I must tell him that they are sometimes consulted. Even I look at the French books occasionally.

Of course, the trouble is where to put the extra staff. We cannot accommodate staff on shelves. Therefore, we had to select one of the rooms in the main Library in order to concentrate there the information clerks and assistants, without whom the improved inquiry service could not be brought about. I shall return to the nature of the change in the Queen's Room in a moment.

But we faced another severe handicap which actually had a considerable effect upon our recommendations. There has never been a comprehensive catalogue of all the material in your Lordships' Library. For example, the legal books have never been catalogued with the other books; they have been kept quite separate. But two or three years ago the Library Committee made a start and when we came to look at the situation in the working party we realised that the time taken to compile this catalogue in modern form, but with the existing methods, was quite intolerable. If you do not have a good working catalogue, you really cannot have good information services. It is the background for these.

Given these daunting handicaps—and they were daunting—it was natural that the suggestion should be made that the best and quickest way in which Peers could enjoy equal facilities with another place would be to amalgamate the two Parliamentary Libraries. That was on the assumption that the other place would agree and then your Lordships would have access to all the facilities for inquiry and research now enjoyed 200 yards down the corridor. Whether the other place would have looked favourably on such a suggestion, we do not know. Perhaps those of us who served there for some years may be permitted to doubt it. But, in fact, we never put the suggestion to their Committee because the majority of the working party were firmly in favour of retaining your Lordships' Library as a separate organisation.

I should like to give the reasons. I imagine that in the 19th century most noble Lords had adequate private libraries of their own. Anyway, your Lordships' Library began, not as a general library in support of our legislative functions, but as a law library in support of the Court of Appeal. That has always been a prime function of our Library. The happy result is that we possess collections of legal records and books far wider than those of the other place, and we must not forget that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor lives and works in the Palace and that he requires books for carrying out his Office. On the other hand, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Darling of Hillsborough, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, that now that the Lord Chancellor's Office has become a small Department of State and now that a good deal of it is already out-housed, there seems to be a case for containing the expansion of the Lord Chancellor's use of the space in the Palace. However, that is not for me to comment upon, except to say that I do not think that there are any other rooms which might, sooner or later, be available for the Library of your Lordships' House.

I am not at all in favour of moving the Law Lords and the Court of Appeal out of this House. I say this simply as a Member of the House, but I think we benefit enormously by having the advice of the Law Lords during all our Committee stages and the general business of the House. It appears to me to be part of the British Constitution that the Supreme Court of the land should be composed of Peers, and that is one of the reasons why this House is distinct from another place and needs a separate Library to serve its Members.

Obviously, any working library comes to reflect the functions and practice of the institution which it serves. Your Lordships' House is not a duplicate of the House of Commons, but a separate Chamber of the legislature, having a style, a composition, powers and functions different from those of the other place. Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will agree that our Library does and should continue to reflect these differences. Perhaps I could give one small example—we have no Smoking Room; we use our Library for relaxation as well as for working in. When we are there, and awake, we want to know what is happening in the Chamber and to have available information about our current and future business and much other historical and literary material. We want the chairs to be plentiful, comfortable and covered in red leather, and the atmosphere to be congenial. All that is very different from the greeen and dramatic atmosphere along the corridor.

Although the majority of our working party were firmly against amalgamation with the Commons Library, we were all wholly in favour of the closest possible co-operation between the two. One of the best things to come out of our report is the machinery that we have set up for this co-operation. It is working very well. In addition, last week we had a joint meeting on computers—chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Darling of Hillsborough—with the other place, where we agreed to share the experience of all the computer services that might be installed in either Library.

If complete amalgamation was not desirable—and we did not have enough space to bring our information services up to the level of those of the Commons—what were we going to do? Very fortunately, the development of computerised information services is just reaching the stage when we can be really confident that these devices will give us a service adequate to our needs, with far fewer staff and at much cheaper cost than would be the case if we emulated their organisation and their methods.

Very shortly (I think in a week's time) we shall be linked with the British Library Data Base and, among other things, this will enable us to be one of the first—I think the first—libraries in the United Kingdom to produce, and month by month to keep up-to-date, a comprehensive catalogue of all the material that we possess. This operation will cut down the time needed to get the new catalogue to something between two and three years. It will take a little time to learn how to use these instruments. But once we know how, things will move fast, and it will be much cheaper than if we had to take on the number of cataloguers who would otherwise be required.

The main change in the suite of Library rooms on the principal floor is the conversion of the Queen's Room to an inquiry room, and there the reference books will be collected, the information clerks will have their desks and telephones and most of the new machines will be installed. As was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, that has meant that the historic documents have had to be moved to the Salisbury Room, but this is only temporary because we hope to find a secure position for them on the line of route. The Salisbury Room is a little cul de sac and far fewer members of the public who are interested in these documents now get to see them. That is a pity, but I think that, if we talk this over with the Lord Great Chamberlain and Black Rod, it is possible that we shall be able to solve what is really only a security problem, though an important one.

The Librarian is to be congratulated on the speed with which the changes are being made. He took to computerised information services like the proverbial duck to water. It was very gratifying to see his skill and enthusiasm. But it will take a little time before all the equipment is in operation and the staff are trained to use it to the full, and before your Lordships are familiar with the new services at your disposal. It was an excellent idea that we should have some seminars, or teach-ins, as to how to use these machines. They are very simple but a little frightening when you first start to use them. When you find out what they will tell you about yourself, you become very respectful towards the automation and telecommunications industry.

I hope that the changes in the main rooms meet with general approval. We cannot satisfy everybody. For instance, I am sorry for the noble Lord, Lord Maelor. He regrets that he cannot smoke in the Truro Room. I am no longer a smoker so I cannot share his discomfort, but I understand it. I can only say that we asked a good many noble Lords, and the great majority were in favour of making the Truro Room a non-smoking room. The Derby Room is certainly improved by taking away the clerk's desk and by adding quite a large number of additional working places, and that is a smoking room. The Brougham Room is improved by having the journals and newspapers all together, and that also is a smoking room. The Salisbury Room is not a smoking room. I know that it is often empty because I use it a great deal just because it is often empty. I do not know whether I want to encourage other people to use it or not.

The Library Committee are anxious to serve the House. That is what we are there for. We wish that noble Lords would not be backward in telling us what they want. When we know what noble Lords want, then we shall do our best to supply it. The Librarian and his staff would be glad to have suggestions of any kind for any aspect of the Library. I am sorry to have kept your Lordships so long. We have a fine Library. It has had a great tradition, but after 156 years it is time that we should try to bring it more or less into the world in which we now live.

6.24 p.m.


My Lords, there is virtually nothing left for me to say except, Thank you. This short debate has been most worthwhile, and I concede to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, that Members must be satisfied and that is the reason why there have been so few speakers. The noble Lord, Lord Darling, gave the debate some colour by voicing his differences. I cannot say that I altogether agree with him about the removal of books to other libraries. It is an idea, but whether the extra footage gained would be worth all the upheaval is something we must think about. We have all benefited from Lord Listowel's interesting speech. Finally, my noble friend's speech was one of the most interesting that one has listened to for a long time. For a long time to come if anybody wants to know what has happened to the Library, or anything about the Library, he should read his speech. I commend this Motion to your Lordships.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at twenty-six minutes past six o'clock.