My thanks to the Unison public services trade union for sending a transcript of the Westminster Hall debate.
Lisa Nandy opened the debate by drawing attention to the Â£1.1 million cut in the library budget in her area, and said that nationally it was estimated that 400 libraries either have closed, or are under threat of closure. Nandy continued saying that the argument that library usage had fallen has been â€˜much overstatedâ€™, drawing attention to figures that show that library usage is only 10% lower than 10 years ago, and that libraries have a 91% satisfaction rating. She also said â€œI urge the hon. Gentleman (Mel Stride, Con, Central Devon) to understand that libraries cost money to run and cannot simply be run by volunteers on thin air.â€
Annette Brooke (Lib Dem, Mid Dorset and Poole) said if â€œwe want to equip our children with the skills that they need for later life surely we must build on the use of librariesâ€. Alison McGovern (Lab, Wirral South) said that local authorities are not planning for the cuts that they are having to make, she said, â€œThey are being forced to cut first and deal with a vision for the service afterâ€.
Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Culture responded to the debate, he said that â€œif Labour had been re-elected, it would have got rid of the statutory library serviceâ€. He went on to say that there was â€œa lot of good news on librariesâ€ and that the â€œdeath of libraries has been greatly exaggeratedâ€.
The full transcript of the debate can be accessed by visiting the Westminster Hall debate page on the title bar of this blog.
Alan Gibbons comments:
“I am a little puzzled by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey’s assertion that “If Labour had been re-elected, it would have got rid of the statutory library service.” I have been a very strong critic of both the ConDem stewardship of libraries and the record of the preceding Labour administration but, in a debate with the then Culture Minister Margaret Hodge on Newsnight, I challenged her about precisely this issue. She reassured me on the record that there would be no attempt to repeal the 1964 Libraries Act, a statement she confirmed in a Bookseller article. I think Ed should provide some substantiating evidence if his assertion is to be credible.”