Library Services

Oral Answers to Questions — The Arts – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th July 1988.

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Photo of Andrew Smith Andrew Smith Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 12:00 am, 4th July 1988

To ask the Minister for the Arts whether he will visit Oxford to see the range of library services offered by the county council there.

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

I have no immediate plans to do so.

Photo of Andrew Smith Andrew Smith Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

Although the Minister may have no immediate plans to visit Oxford, will he join me in congratulating the Oxfordshire library staff on the marvellous job that they do? What steps does he intend to take to ensure that there is more investment in library facilities? Will he assure us that the disastrous thoughts that the Government have had about charging for library services will not be proceeded with, and will he make a clear declaration to the House to reassure people that the abysmal record of library closures under his stewardship will not be continued?

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

Without any shadow of doubt, the Oxfordshire library service is of a very high standard. I am pleased that its submission to me on the Green Paper was very constructive. It showed an understanding of what the Green Paper was about, which is that there should be improved value for money and improved services. We are looking for ways to achieve that. The hon. Gentleman seems to misunderstand what already happens in libraries. Libraries already have discretion and authority to charge for certain types of service and £22 million is already raised in that way. Furthermore, services are being improved by a number of library authorities. The hon. Gentleman shows ignorance about that side of the service. I seek to bring the service up to date, bearing in mind the dramatic changes that have taken place in it over the past 10 or 15 years. That will lead to an improved service.

Photo of Mr Frank Haynes Mr Frank Haynes , Ashfield

To ask the Minister for the Arts When it is his intention to introduce legislation to implement the proposals in the Green Paper on financing public library services.

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

Some of the proposals in the Green Paper would require legislation, although others would not. For those that do, the first step will be to put an enabling power in place. The introduction of new powers by order will follow once the responses to the Green Paper have been fully assessed.

Photo of Mr Frank Haynes Mr Frank Haynes , Ashfield

Is the Minister aware that the Green Paper is a disgrace? Does he not realise that the library authorities up and down the country are doing a first-class job? All that the Government are trying to do is to pour money into the pockets of the people who buy in. Nottinghamshire county council has always done a first-class job.

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

The hon. Gentleman should not get quite so excited——

Photo of Mr Frank Haynes Mr Frank Haynes , Ashfield

I do get excited about things like this.

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

The hon. Gentleman does get rather excited from time to time, but he may like to know that the representations from a large range of local authorities have been extremely constructive and have shown a complete understanding of what the Green Paper is all about. The hon. Gentleman does not—[Interruption.] It would help if the hon. Gentleman would listen for a moment, but perhaps he does not want to hear. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to realise that a clear reassurance has been given that the basic services will remain free. However, there are a number of services for which there is some charging already. That is one way of increasing revenue and improving specialist services. Is the hon. Gentleman interested in improving services, or not?