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"The Milkman's On His Way"

Volume 116: debated on Monday 11 May 1987

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asked the Minister for the Arts if he has received a copy of the book, "The Milkman's on His Way"; and if he will make a statement on his policy with regard to the availability of this book in public libraries.

I have seen this book. In my view it is riot suitable to be stocked in a children's library.

If the children's sections of libraries such as Haringey library persist in stocking such depraved and corrupt literature, what action can my right hon. Friend, or indeed the ratepayers, take?

I agree with my hon. Friend's reflections on the book, which does a great deal to undermine family life and moral standards. I feel that it is right for anyone who sees such books to speak up strongly. The ratepayers in individual local authorities are the most important people to make representations to those authorities. I have no powers to intervene. It is up to the ratepayers to make their views known. The matter is in their hands.

I have here a letter sent by the chairman of the Conservative party to the "proprietor" of St. Pancras library, at No. 100 Euston road. We all know that the chairman of the Conservative party comes from the "burn-the-books" school of Toryism, but will the Minister give the House an assurance that, in the regrettable and miserable event of his Government being re-elected, that will not form part of their hidden manifesto and that the existence of a "proprietor" of St. Pancras library is not an indication that a future Conservative Government would privatise the libraries?

The hon. Gentleman seems a hit jittery this afternoon. I regret that he did not join my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) in condemning the books that we see in some boroughs, particularly in London, and I hope that he will reconsider. As for our general public libraries, they are outstanding. They include some of the best libraries in the world, and we have every intention of maintaining them.

Does my right hon. Friend agree with those local authorities that seem to regard the works of Enid Blyton—which are certainly not great literature—as subversive?

It is true that some local authorities have said that Enid Blyton is sexist, which I find extraordinary. Again, however, it is ultimately in the hands of ratepayers to make their views known, and I hope that more of them will do so.