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British Library

Volume 164: debated on Monday 18 December 1989

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84.

To ask the Minister for the Arts when the British library project is expected to be completed.

The complete building will be operational by 1996, although the first main phase will be opened in 1993.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this major and exciting project underlines the Government's commitment to the arts in all their forms? Will he take this opportunity to confirm that the British museum reading room will remain open?

I can assure my hon. Friend that the round reading room, which is of historic importance, will be kept open under the overall responsibility of the British museum after the British library has moved to the new St. Pancras building. On my hon. Friend's first question, which is of great importance, the new British library is the Government's biggest civil construction today and the biggest cultural construction of the century. There could be no better evidence of the Government's commitment to the arts and the library world than this major new centre of excellence. It will provide remarkably improved services to the reader, in much better environmental conditions, and it will all be located in one building instead of the present 18.