Legal Deposit Libraries Bill
Mr Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam, Liberal Democrat)
I am glad that Mr. Mole has decided to update a law introduced by that most reforming and enlightened Government in 1911. My colleagues and I will certainly support him.
Mr. Moss rightly mentioned the significant role of the British Library, and pointed out that it was far more than just a building in the St Pancras area. It is also a large facility in Boston Spa in Yorkshire. I know that because my dad used to drive minibuses full of Sheffield university students there. Its importance is growing, in that it extends the physical reach of the British Library and also underpins much work in the higher education sector.
"From a higher education perspective, it is my opinion that strengthening legal deposit is a key step in underpinning our increasingly knowledge-based economy; and that there will be long term benefits for UK competitiveness."
We need to make people aware of that broader scope. The demands we are making of publishers are being made for the wider benefit of the United Kingdom economy.
I must thank the British Library officers who not only briefed me on the Bill but allowed me to be distracted by mediaeval illuminated manuscripts. Some of those, interestingly, will be covered by the Bill. One of the best ways of issuing such manuscripts for people to see is via CD-ROM, and the library has some wonderful systems. I hope that legal deposit will mean that the work of anyone in the UK who publishes a mediaeval illuminated manuscript will find its way into our legal deposit libraries. The Bill strikes me as an important step involving material from the very old to the very new.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on introducing his proposed measures via regulations. The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire rightly said that we should ensure the continuation of the excellent co-operation between publishers and libraries through voluntary agreements. We do not want to place too heavy a burden on publishers. There are some very difficult technical issues: for instance, what defines publication? That is clear enough in the printed world, but not so clear in the non-printed world. I do not think that tidying up such issues could be done in the Bill directly rather than through regulations, given a rapidly changing technology.