§ Lady KINLOSS
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government why the Public Record Office charges 20p for each electrostatic print of documents requested for copying.
§ The LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)
My Lords, the charge of 20p represents the current average cost of producing an electrostatic print in the Public Record Office. The increase from 17p last January was the first since October 1977, apart from a 1p increase for VAT.
§ Lady KINLOSS
My Lords, while thanking the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for his reply, may I ask whether he would not agree that there is a vast difference between that charge and the charge made by the British Library of 7p, the Bodleian Library in Oxford of 6p and, commercially, between 7 and 10p per copy for the same service?
§ The LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the noble Lady is begging the question by describing it as the same service. It is a different service. More than two-thirds of the costs of the Public Record Office are attributable to salaries and wages. The high proportion is due, first, to the work involved in locating the documents and producing them and, secondly, to the difficulty of working with documents of different shapes, sizes, colours and densities, many of which 722 are made up in assemblages which have to be handled with care if damage is not to be done to the document;thirdly, to the fact that the vast majority of orders are for single copies of individual documents;and, fourthly, to the cost of providing estimates to customers, especially by correspondence, and of keeping accounts to meet the management requirements proper for a public service.