To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the future of the national library of Wales at Aberystwyth.
The national library of Wales will continue to operate under the terms of its royal charter, which lays down the objects for its functions. It will receive grant in aid, including capital, of about £5·75 million next year. This represents an increase of nearly 18 per cent. compared with this year.
I am sure that the Minister will agree that hon. Members are proud of our national institutions such as the national library of Wales. Will he give a categorical assurance that the library's status will continue for many years to come?
There are no plans to review the copyright status of the national library of Wales. Under that status, it is entitled to claim all publications, but there is no requirement that it should do so. In the interests of efficiency, it is incumbent on the national library and on other copyright libraries to keep their collections policy under constant review.
I am glad to hear my hon. Friend's excellent announcement of grant in aid. Does not that give the clearest indication of the Government's support for the national library of Wales?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are not only allocating £5·7 million to the national library next year. We are currently funding the outstore building which is under construction at the library at a cost of £1·8 million. We also footed the bill for some necessary repairs, at a cost of £1·1 million last year. Moreover, back in the early 1980s we financed the provision of a second book stack at the library.
Does the Minister of State realise that rumours about departmental closures and downgrading are a source of grave concern to those who support the library and to those who work there? Does he accept that the library is not a luxury but a valuable national resource? Bearing in mind that the next century will be information driven, why does not the hon. Gentleman take a positive view and ensure that the national library is able to make the best use of satellites and fibre optics? Will he show that he intends to support this great national resource 100 per cent?
I think that we have already shown it in the figures that I gave in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Jones). I wholly agree with the hon. Gentleman that the library is a most valuable resource and we are extremely proud of it. I am sorry that the staff inspection report, which was an internal document for comment by the Welsh Office and the national library, has been misinterpreted somewhat mischievously. We have already been in touch with the library to discuss modernisation and the use of all modern accessories to knowledge.