British Library Board (Power to Borrow) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:10 pm on 13th March 2020.

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Photo of Bim Afolami Bim Afolami Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden 12:10 pm, 13th March 2020

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill would amend the British Library Act 1972 to give the British Library the freedom to borrow. I stop at the word “borrow”, because earlier today, I was having a word with the Minister for School Standards, and he asked, “What’s your Bill about?”. I said, “It gives the British Library the ability to borrow.” He thought about it, and said, “Can’t it do that already?”. I said, “Borrow money, Minister, money.” He thought I meant borrowing books. The Bill would allow the British Library to apply for Government loans through its sponsor Department, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, represented on the Treasury Bench today by the able and fantastic Minister for Digital and Culture. I believe— I hope—that the Bill is supported by the Government. I am delighted to take it forward.

Access to books really matters. I am very lucky; I grew up in a house with a father and grandparents who love books, and went to a school that was well equipped. I grew up in a village in Berkshire that had a brilliant library, staffed largely by volunteers. It was a wonderful environment in which to grow up. All the things that I am now interested in—history, economics, politics occasionally, Latin, Greek, the ancients—[Interruption.] Yes, and more; given what is going on, I wish I was a bit more interested in science at the time, then I would know a bit more now. My interest in all those things came about through my access to books, and so my access to learning.