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

It provides a very good advantage to small businesses. If anyone from the Treasury is listening, they will have heard how popular the Budget appears to be on the Government Benches as well as on the Opposition Benches. In this House, whether on Budget day or on big issues of foreign affairs and the like, we often focus on the macro big-ticket items, but often comparatively smaller things in money terms have the biggest impact in local communities. Libraries, and indeed the British Library, are an example of that.

The British Library is enjoyed by more than one and a half million people a year, with another 27 million visits to its website. Its origins in the British Museum Library go back 250 years or so. It is home to Magna Carta, handwritten lyrics by the Beatles and, I am told, even a gravestone. I am not quite sure where they have put it—perhaps in the same place as the “Ed stone” from Edward Miliband. Sorry, that was rather mean of me, but I could not resist it.

When I visited the British Library last week to talk about the Bill, the staff were very kind. They showed me some of their manuscripts and exhibits, including manuscripts from the Anglo-Saxon era. As somebody who did his thesis on the development of the burghal system of Edward the Elder, that was a real interest to me, though not to too many others in the world.