British Library Board (Power to Borrow) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:52 pm on 13th March 2020.

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Photo of Neil O'Brien Neil O'Brien Conservative, Harborough 12:52 pm, 13th March 2020

This is an excellent Bill, and I pay warm tribute to my hon. Friend Bim Afolami, whose constituency I zoom through every morning on my way here, for bringing it to the House. He has spotted an important lacuna in the law and an opportunity, at no cost to the taxpayer, to get more value out of one of our most important public institutions. I congratulate him on bringing the Bill forward and I hope it makes progress.

Like my hon. Friend, I want to pay tribute to the important role of books and public libraries in our community life, and in my own life. Like him, I probably would not be here if it were not for libraries and books, whether it was Kirklees library, which we have already heard about, which used to drive its little van around Dalton when I was a child, or Huddersfield public library—the children’s bit in the basement where I enjoyed much of my childhood. At university, I was lucky to be able to use the Bodleian, an incredible library, and to stand outside the Radcliffe Camera—for bibliophiles, it is this wonderful vent where the smell of old books is wafted at you on an industrial scale. I am not sure I ever really benefited from the intellectual resources of the library, but at least I enjoyed the smell.

In my own constituency, there is the wonderful work done by places such as Kibworth community library and Fleckney library, which is not just a great library; it also has a wonderful café and is a hub for the community where all kinds of other things happen.