HC Deb 24 July 1991 vol 195 cc716-7W
Mr. Hardy

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) if he will discuss with the British Standards Institute steps which may be taken to maintain access to hard copy material, rather than microfiche, in respect of material held about EC standards;

(2) if he will take steps to ensure that there is adequate public access to EC standards, following the closure of the British Standards Institute library and their termination of arrangements for the loan of such material.

Mr. Leigh

The charges and conditions for the supply or loan of standards are matters for the British Standards Institution, which is an independent, non-profit distributing body established by royal charter. I am, however, advised that the relevant facts are as follows.

British, European, international and foreign standards may be purchased by post or in person from the BSI sales department at Milton Keynes. Stocks of British standards are also held for over-the-counter sale at other BSI offices and some chambers of commerce, as well as at over 60 regional booksellers.

For many years, BSI has offered to public libraries and others a complete set of British standards documents and an updating service to ensure that these are maintained. When re-examining the cost of providing its various servicers, BSI established that the subscription for this service was equivalent to about 5 per cent. of the cover price of the British standards provided and was uneconomic. Consequently, BSI announced annual, phased increases in the subscription rate to £2,500 in 1990–91 and £6,000 in 1993–94. Details of the charges for the forward years were given to help public libraries plan their budgets. Even after these admittedly substantial increases, the cost to a library of maintaining a complete set of standards will remain only a small fraction of the cover price of the standards supplied, which BSI estimates as being in excess of £35,000.

BSI's purpose in offering this service to public libraries is to make reference sets of British standards available for inspection by local industry, educational establishments and members of the public. However, it came to BSI's attention that a small, but significant minority of libraries had started to lend their copies of standards, a practice which had never been BSI's intention or policy. BSI therefore wrote to libraries pointing out that standards which are supplied on subscription terms may be used only for reference purposes, and must not be loaned to inquirers.

Another aspect of access is photocopying. BSI has assembled statistical evidence, which, in its view, demonstrates that sales of British standards have been substantially reduced by photocopying without BSI's written permission. BSI has not sanctioned photocopying of standards beyond the "fair dealing" exceptions of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988. Public libraries have therefore been asked to adhere to the provisions of that Act and to ensure that photocopying is allowed only where it is genuinely for research purposes.

BSI also offers a loan service for a range of non-British standards, for a minimal charge. BSI curtailed a part of this service from 1 January 1991 since it was operating at a considerable loss. However, BSI has since had discussions with the Library Association, ASLIB and LINC, and I understand that a full service may be reinstated in the near future, but at an increased price to cover BSI's costs.

The BSI library at Milton Keynes has not closed.