The administrative costs of subscription services will vary according to their nature and scope. Library authorities in England wanting to set up premium services will want to assess for themselves these costs.
Would not a premium book service be yet another example of rewarding the haves and punishing the have nots? Would it not mean new books for the well-off and dog-eared copies for the poorer people in the community? Does that not go against the whole principle of a free library lending service? Will the Minister reconsider this horrific proposal?
We must get the matter into perspective. A large number of local authority library services, if not most, already charge for certain services, although not, of course, for the basic service. With the Green Paper we are debating whether, in the light of all the changes in library services in the past 10 years or more, we should give scope for charges in other parts of the service. This is just one of a number of proposals. The consultation period lasts until the end of June and, after that, I shall assess the areas to which we can extend that power. The basic services remain free.