§ Mr. JESSON
asked the President of the Local Government Board (1) if he has received a resolution that was passed at a conference of delegates interested in public libraries held on Thursday, the 13th instant; whether he is aware that fifty-one public authorities have already obtained special Acts to enable them to exceed the penny rate; that four others are applying for the same facilities; and that 138 others are supporting the Library Association movement for the removal of the present rate limit; whether he is aware that this rate limit prevents a number of small public authorities from providing public libraries; and whether he can now see his way to grant facilities which will enable public authorities to continue their useful work in connection with public libraries;
(2) whether he is aware that a number of public libraries have been closed by public authorities because it has been found impossible to maintain them upon the present restricted 1d. rate for libraries; whether he is aware that this limitation prevents the payment of an adequate scale of salaries to librarians and their staffs, and the proper upkeep of the buildings and the repair and renewal of the books; whether, having regard to the serious position in which public authorities now find themselves, he will take steps to remove the present limit upon the library rate, or consider the advisability of making a Grant-in-Aid to those public library authorities which are now in financial difficulties, so as to prevent more public libraries being closed?
§ Major ASTOR
My right hon. Friend has received a copy of the resolution referred to in the first question, and he is aware of the fact that a number of local authorities have obtained powers by local Acts passed in the last twelve or fifteen years to increase the amount of the library rate. But as stated in reply to a question of the hon. Member for Elland on the 3rd instant, my right hon. Friend has no indication of a widespread desire among local authorities for a general1944W alteration of the rate, which would require legislation. My right hon. Friend does not think he can propose a Grant-in-Aid from imperial funds as suggested in the question. As the hon. Member is aware, it is proposed by the Ministry of Health Bill that the powers with respect to public libraries should be transferred from the new Department.