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Public Lending Right

Volume 167: debated on Monday 12 February 1990

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To ask the Minister for the Arts what he intends to provide for public lending right in the next financial year; and to how many authors this applies.

Funding for the public lending right in 1990–91 is £3·5 million. The registrar forecasts that approximately 15,500 authors will receive payment in February 1991.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that our authors deserve generous support, and does he have any plans to increase support in the near future?

It is very important that we continue to support authors through the public lending right for their contribution, through the library system, to public reading. In 1988–89 I was able to increase the budget by 27 per cent; in 1991–92 I should be able to increase it by 29 per cent; and in the following year, under the three-year funding rule, I shall be injecting an extra £250,000. The fund remains very strong and is making a contribution to authors whose work is of much value to the public.

Is the Minister aware that this kind of money goes to people whose faces fit? There is something that I should like him to consider seriously. Many of the people who were made redundant from the mining industry in Nottinghamshire have become writers. Those people need some encouragement, so the Minister should get off his backside and put some money in their direction. He should stop looking after Front-Bench Members who are writing books.

The hon. Gentleman's performance gets more dramatic every time he speaks. Last time I recommended him for a drama award; I think that this time I shall recommend him for a book award.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister promised me a drama award last time, but I have not yet received it.

A neutral panel is considering the matter.

It is impossible to be precise about the varying effects. Some will gain, whereas others will lose, but it is absolutely clear that those with charitable status will not lose.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one author who will benefit from this measure is Mr. Salman Rushdie? Is it not time for everyone in this country and elsewhere to accept the ancient saying:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."?

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to that matter. I join my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in condemning most strongly the threat to Mr. Rushdie, which has been renewed recently. I endorse every word that my hon. Friend has said. One of the cardinal principles of our democracy is freedom of expression. It is a principle which we must uphold to the last.