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Legal Deposit Libraries Bill

Volume 401: debated on Friday 14 March 2003

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Order for Second Reading read.

12.55 pm

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I want to thank all my right hon. and hon. Friends who are here today. The aim of this Bill is to update and extend the law on legal deposit. The legal deposit libraries of the United Kingdom and Ireland entered the 21st century operating under legislation that was passed in 1911, and which covers printed publications. However, more than 60,000 non-print items were published in the UK last year and it is expected that that figure will increase by four or five times by 2005. Non-commercial publications, including websites, add enormously to the number. At present, there are no systematic or comprehensive arrangements for the collection and preservation of such non-print publications. Without new legislation to ensure that non-print materials are saved for future generations, the 21st century could be seen as a cultural dark age that failed to archive a substantial and vital part of the nation's published heritage.

I take this opportunity to thank the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the libraries, and the staffs of both, for their advice and hard work during the drafting of the Bill. My interest in legal deposit comes from my background in the information and communications technology industry and in local government. As a researcher for British Telecom, I saw the burgeoning volume of electronic media and the importance of research publications that are available only in that format. As the former leader of a council that was a library authority, I understand the importance of the local and national archives. They form a key part of our heritage.

The purpose of legal deposit is to ensure that the nation's published output, and thereby its intellectual record and future published heritage, is collected systematically and as comprehensively as possible. We do this to make material available to current researchers in the libraries of the legal deposit system, and to preserve it for the use of future generations of researchers. Both purposes are important. The system dates back several hundred years and has been vital in preserving and making available the published record of previous generations for the researchers of today and of the future.

What might we be losing? The material at risk includes: major directories, such as the Europe Information directory, which is available on DVD; news sources, including the web-published results of public opinion polls from companies such as MORI; indexes to help researchers to locate material such as the Legal Journals Index; the Cochrane Library, which is arguably the best single source of reliable evidence on the effects of health care and which is available only on CD-ROM and the web; a wide range of important local government and national Government documents, such as the Home Office series of "online only" research reports; and an increasing number of e-journals, such as Sociological Research Online, which is available only on the web.

The Bill will allow legal deposit libraries to look seriously at archiving selected material from websites. Already, there are nearly 3 million websites in the .uk domain. To be frank, many of them contain trivial and irrelevant material, but we should think about archiving coverage of important events—events such as 9/11, general elections, millennium celebrations, the Queen's golden jubilee and the Commonwealth games. The burgeoning number of observatories that provide quality-of-life statistics for our regions and localities would be a gold mine for those who wish, retrospectively, to understand the nature of our times. All of them contain materials that future generations of researchers will want to access.

We have already lost an e-novel that was started by John Updike. The project was collaborative and was added to, chapter by chapter, by other authors. We have also lost records of events such as the petrol blockade sites, election sites such as bellforbrentwood, which has either gone or is about to go, and sports websites such as the Euro 96 football championship site in England.

Although there have been some revisions, the 1911 Act forms the basis of legal deposit as it is enacted today, namely, that publishers must deposit with the British Library within one month of publication a copy of all books published in the UK and Ireland. Five other libraries have the right to claim, within 12 months of publication, copies of the same material. The five other legal deposit libraries are the national library of Scotland, the national library of Wales, university library Cambridge, the Bodleian library Oxford and Trinity college library Dublin.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the Bill does not change the position of those other five libraries as regards printed material, which is the current position, and serves only to extend provision, to a certain extent, of non-printed material?

Throughout the development of the Bill we have sought to ensure that, in practice, the principles of access to materials for readers in Wales and Scotland will continue to be the same as they are now.

In the mid-1990s, following pressure from the legal deposit libraries and other interested parties, the Government issued a Green Paper on legal deposit and the possibility of its extension to other types of material. A working group chaired by Sir Anthony Kenny concluded in 1998 that only a system of legal deposit would secure a comprehensive published archive. He stated:
"The Government believes that it is extremely important to ensure that material published in this country is incorporated into our national archive irrespective of the medium used. The arrangements for legal deposit, which are concerned primarily with published material in print form, underpin the nation's academic, research and educational sectors. We intend to ensure that these benefits extend also to material published in formats other than print."
My right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, responded to the report in a parliamentary answer in December 1998. It ended:
"I believe the report makes a convincing case for moving towards legislation for the legal deposit of non-print publications on the basis of minimum burden on publishers and minimum loss of sales."—[Official Report, 17 December 1998; Vol. 3221, c. 682W.]
My right hon. Friend requested that, in the meantime, a code of practice for the voluntary deposit of non-print publications should be drawn up and agreed between publishers and the deposit libraries.

It was under that direction that the joint committee for voluntary deposits, with members representing publishers and deposit libraries, was set up. The JCVD oversees the operation of a draft code developed by it and endorsed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Publishers Association, the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, the Periodical Publishers Association and the legal deposit libraries.

The voluntary code, in operation since January 2000, covers non-print publications in microform—basically on microfilm, as well as offline electronic media, such as CD—ROMs, DVDs and magnetic discs. To date, more than 100 publishers have signed up to the scheme and more than 1,000 monographs and 850 journals have been archived.

The purpose of the voluntary system was to plug the growing gap in the national published archive ahead of eventual legislation to introduce the statutory deposit of non-print publications. It was also intended to act as a pilot phase, during which matters of definition, procedure and control could be agreed by the publishers and libraries and any difficulties in implementation monitored.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, the then Secretary of State, said in response to the working party:
"I agree with the report's conclusion that a voluntary code will not be viable in the longer term and I believe the report makes a convincing case for moving towards legislation for the legal deposit of non-print publications."
The scheme proved useful in assisting in the process of drafting effective and workable legislation. The JCVD arrangements will continue for the collection of film and sound materials.

Despite the success of the voluntary code of practice between publishers and legal deposit libraries, well over half of electronically delivered publications—the fastest growing group of materials—and about a quarter of hand-held publications, such as CD-ROMs, are not currently deposited. They are typically materials used in long-term research, which are of cultural significance and are a vital part of the nation's published heritage.

Collecting, storing and preserving that material will present the legal deposit libraries with a major challenge. They are already working with other countries to identify the best ways of preserving electronic materials. New systems are being developed to allow information to be migrated to media that will be used by future generations, permitting materials to be accessed even when their original formats have become obsolete. No one expects easy answers, but solutions are evolving. The Bill sets out a framework to enable the Secretary of State to implement secondary legislation in the form of regulations addressing the exact ways in which new media material will be collected. That is necessary to make sure that the legislation remains future-proof—materials published by technologies currently in development and those that have not even been invented yet can, if necessary, be brought within the scope of the legal deposit.

I want to make a practical point, but first I congratulate my hon. Friend on the Bill. I have received a significant amount of lobbying from people in my constituency, where there are two university libraries—Aberdeen university library and the Robert Gordon university library. They are anxious that the Bill should be enacted.

Clause 2 deals with the issue of new and alternative editions. My practical point concerns, for example, newspapers that are published and sold on the streets in hard copy form and, at the same time, published on a website on the internet. At the moment, the hard copy is required to be sent to the various archives mentioned by my hon. Friend, but the clause would seem to provide publishers with the option of sending either the hard copy or the online copy, which, for some, would be cheaper. At the same time, the provision may not cover issues of importance to future generations. For example, classified ads tell us a lot about what people think—

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can make his intervention more succinct. Perhaps the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Mole) has got his drift.

Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have got the gist of what my hon. Friend is saying. If two different media in which a publication appears are essentially the same, the clause requires only one version to be deposited, but if there is a substantial difference between the online edition and the print edition, they will be treated as separate publications. I hope that that helps my hon. Friend to understand the intentions behind clause 2.

I shall skate across the Bill's financial implications, as they are set out in the regulatory impact assessment, a copy of which has been placed in the House of Commons Library. Some publishers have expressed concern about clause 7, which deals with access and preservation. I believe that that is a matter of implementation, so it may be better addressed by the Secretary of State. However, I can reinforce the point that the legislative process involves detailed consultation with all stakeholders prior to the introduction of secondary legislation. Notwithstanding that fact, both the legal deposit libraries and publishers' representatives agree that new legislation is necessary to safeguard the future integrity and completeness of the national published archive. They agree, as do the Government, that new legislation should be generic to ensure that new formats and information carriers are included, by means of secondary legislation, within the legal deposit as they appear.

In conclusion, the legal deposit libraries provide vital collections for researchers in business and industry, as well as academics and students across the UK.

However, with the explosion in e-publishing, they face the prospect of becoming irrelevant. Unless we extend the law as many other countries are already doing, valuable material will be lost forever. The Bill provides a timely opportunity to update and extend the law on the legal deposit, and I commend it to the House.

1.9 pm

I congratulate the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Mole) on securing a high place in the private Members' ballot, and more so on choosing to introduce a Bill on such an important and worthwhile issue, which has widespread support in all parts of the House and from a large number of prestigious and prominent bodies in the United Kingdom. I compliment the hon. Gentleman on the authoritative way in which he presented his Bill to the House.

I have received substantial correspondence on the matter, as I am sure have many hon. Members present today, from a wide spectrum of interested parties and groups ranging from the Royal College of Surgeons of England, to the Arts and Humanities Research Board, from the Society of College, National and University Libraries to the National Maritime Museum. A common theme throughout the correspondence was overwhelming support for the Bill for the benefit of researchers, industries and the general public, both now and in the future.

On a slightly cautionary note, I also received correspondence from the publishers, who are anxious that the Bill may have been too hastily compiled, without adequate consultation with them. However, they were at pains to stress their overall support for the merits of the Bill, but felt strongly that their voice had been overlooked on some issues of huge consequence to their industry. I shall elaborate on their concerns a little later.

The current system of legal deposits dates back to legislation passed in 1911. The House at that time recognised the importance of archiving all UK publications in the interests of the recognition and prosperity of our national heritage. The original legislation has left us with much to be grateful for, ensuring that even the most seemingly trivial publications are preserved for future use, when their content may provide an essential resource.

The practice of depositing printed publications to the six legal deposit libraries—the British Library, the university libraries of Oxford and Cambridge, the national libraries of Scotland and Wales, and the library of Trinity college, Dublin—has led to the compilation of an immeasurably useful archive and resource that charts the history and heritage of the United Kingdom. To date, the British Library alone has archived more than 50 million items as a direct result of the Copyright Act 1911.

Speaking of the British Library, I take this opportunity to say what a great success, if largely unsung and unrecognised, that venture has been. On a recent visit, I was very impressed with the building, its architecture, its facilities and the professional way in which its services were presented. The British Library is not, however, just the building or, for that matter, the books and archive material in it. The quality of its services is due to the staff at all levels, and I pay tribute to them all, and in particular those who have worked tirelessly in the joint committee on voluntary deposits and contributed so significantly to the Bill.

It is important that we act with the same foresight as the Members who approved the original legislation in 1911, to ensure that the modern methods of publishing material are encompassed in the legal deposit legislation. The obvious advantages of publishing in non-print form, as a cost-effective and far-reaching medium, mean that many individuals are choosing to publish their material online in websites and electronic journals, or on non-paper media such as microform, CD-ROM and DVD. That is a reflection of the technological advances of our age, an era that future generations are likely to overlook unless we acknowledge the importance of these new methods of publishing. Just as the original Bill sought to preserve our heritage for the benefit of future generations, we must act to safeguard all modern publications for the same purpose. However, we must proceed with caution and common sense. Although we are all eager to include digital and non-print publications in the national archives and limit the loss of future material, we cannot rush into a matter of such importance without proper and in-depth consultation with all the parties involved.

Last year, it was estimated that more than 50 per cent. of electronic publications and some 25 per cent. of handheld publications failed to be consigned to any of the six legal deposit libraries. The web has not been systematically archived thus far and much valuable content has already been lost. Examples of materials that are being lost include web editions of the major newspapers, the Cochrane library mentioned by the hon. Gentleman and important e-serials such as the Oxford Economic Forecasting's "Weekly Briefing".

The most recent figure of 60,000 non-print weekly publications published within the United Kingdom is set to rise sharply in the coming years as individuals come to recognise the benefits of these new methods. In failing to register such items, we are failing to acknowledge elements of our modern culture and potentially harming the progress of future research by denying a new generation of researchers access to a vast archive of information.

I join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the work of the joint committee on voluntary deposits, working alongside the legal deposit libraries in their continuing endeavours to extend the national public archive. Their successes have meant that material that would otherwise have been lost to the libraries has been properly and justly archived. However, online publications and websites are not a part of that undertaking and therefore some 3 million websites in the UK are being overlooked as a result of our outdated legislation. The internet has provided us with an immense archive and source of information that should be acknowledged within the legal deposit system.

Before we endeavour to include this technology, however, we must assess whether the facilities and safeguards are in place to carry that out. I come now to one of the chief concerns of the publishing industry, as represented to me by the digital content forum, a group established by the Department for Trade and Industry and the Publishers Association whose membership comprises a number of eminent bodies within the publishing world, including the British Educational Suppliers Association, the Newspaper Society, the Computing Services and Software Association and the European Publishing Council, to name but a few.

In our haste to address the omissions within the legal deposit system, we may have overlooked key areas of concern, including the potential for breach of copyright of the highly valuable material deposited with the libraries by the publishers. Those publishers, who incur the cost of consigning their material to the legal deposit libraries, naturally seek a guarantee from the Secretary of State and the Department that adequate measures will be put in place to safeguard their publications from piracy and copyright infringement.

Furthermore, under clause 6(2)(f), the Government seem to seek to make the publishers liable for the cost of potential IT incompatibility by granting the Secretary of State the power to specify the publishing format, which may not correlate with that of the depositor. Does the Minister accept that that could be a costly and time-consuming burden to place on the publishing industry, and that therefore we should look into the merits of that practice before endorsing it? We must also be aware that it may be necessary to readdress some of the copyright laws and amend them accordingly owing to the unique nature of online publications.

The legal deposit libraries certainly have the experience to encompass all new material included within the legislation in their deposits. The success of the legal deposit scheme thus far has ensured that the foundations for expanding the scope of the national intellectual archive are already in place. However, while the willingness and co-operation of both sides may already be established, the means for carrying out the expansion may not be readily available.

The digital content forum was keen to illustrate the experiences of the Dutch national library in implementing a similar scheme where substantial public funding was needed to address the problems that it encountered. The scale of what we are proposing here today may need to be considered in more detail in Committee and perhaps in the other place in order to placate and benefit all those involved.

It was generally agreed by all those with a vested interest in the legislation that the joint committee on voluntary deposits would be required to continue its effective work or else that a similar body would be set up in its place to oversee the new measures and help to sustain good relations between the industry and the legal deposit libraries. A renewed role and responsibility for such a body is an issue that may also have to be addressed, owing to the technicalities of implementing such a Bill. For example, websites can alter with extraordinary frequency, so will it be the role of that body to decide when a site qualifies as a new publication?

I am delighted that it has been recognised in the drafting of the Bill, in clause 8(7), that the Secretary of State should be required to consult deposit libraries and publishers before making any new regulations under the Bill. I seek an assurance from the Minister that undue Government intervention will not be imposed on any of the interested parties, which could be enabled under clause 7. I have been informed that the promises to publishers on consultations after the Bill's publication were not adhered to. Publishers were promised a consultation period of several months; instead, they got five days. It also seems that the draftsmen have not obviously sought to address the need for a balance of benefit and burden for all parties involved.

In the interests of the Bill being UK-wide legislation, I understand that the appropriate consultations with the devolved Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have taken place and that all the issues have been adequately discussed and considered. The Bill will further compound the strong relations that previously existed between the British Library and the national libraries of Scotland and Wales through their co-operation in effectively carrying out the necessary application and administration. The outcome of such co-operation ensures that individuals throughout the United Kingdom can benefit from the system of legal deposits.

I therefore offer the support of the Opposition for the purposes of the Bill in the interests of the continued success of the legal deposit scheme. In an age of increasing numbers of non-print publications, it is vital not to lose sight of the simple objectives of legal deposits in ensuring that all UK published material is archived and preserved for use in the present and in the future. In step with the new opportunities afforded to the publishing world as a result of technological advances, the legislation needs to be updated to reflect a rapidly expanding medium of publishing and to safeguard the preservation of UK publications.

However, I should like to reflect the concerns of those who have raised objections about the apparent hastiness in drafting the Bill. We have only one opportunity to implement this worthwhile measure, so we must endeavour to do so with caution, due consideration and, above all, proper and full consultation with the groups that will feel the impact of our decisions today.

We shall be looking to improve the Bill in Committee so as to reflect the concerns expressed by the publishing community. Without its full and unconditional support, such a Bill will probably be unworkable, and we will not be giving the Bill unconditional support in future if those issues have not been properly and satisfactorily addressed. Perhaps the Minister could indicate that he is both aware of those recent difficulties and prepared to address them in due course.

1.23 pm

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Mole) on his good fortune and his excellent choice of measure to champion.

I am a chartered librarian who worked in public, workplace and academic libraries for 30 years before my election to this place. I also chair the all-party group on libraries and information management, which was formed in 1998 on the initiative of the Library Association, now reborn as CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.

The clear and sustained support of both the Secretaries of State who have held the post since 1997, and their Arts Ministers, is much appreciated in the library world. I hope that the Minister who is present today is willing to assist the passage of my hon. Friend's Bill, which seeks to address a key issue that affects the availability and preservation of material vital to the pool of knowledge world wide.

I am especially pleased to be speaking on a Bill about libraries. A survey carried out a few years ago discovered that visiting libraries 'was the fifth most popular pastime in the UK, after visiting the pub, eating out, driving for pleasure and eating out at a fast food chain. In 1998 the Prime Minister said:
"The Library is a platform for self-development, a gateway to knowledge and a catalyst for the imagination".
The excellent May 2000 report on public libraries by the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport said:
"Libraries are one of the longest-established and most popular and valued public services … the ubiquitous public libraries network is underpinned by the national libraries and archives".
The Bill would ensure that valuable material is not lost for present and future seekers of information and knowledge just because it is in a non-print format. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich has already covered the materials that do not yet require legal deposit; the number of information sources that are being wiped out is staggering.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee report to which I referred said that libraries would have to provide both electronic and book material. Almost six years ago, the Government committed themselves to establishing the public library information technology network to promote lifelong learning, public access to knowledge and social inclusion. The people's network project, which has come via the New Opportunities Fund, provides an information and communications technology learning centre that offers access to materials and ICT training opportunities in each of the UK's 4,300 public libraries.

If we are raising public expectation of access to the world wide web and delivering the means to do that in local libraries, how can we afford to allow so many rich sources of information to disappear, literally into the air, by letting slip the opportunity to preserve non-book material? Our legal deposit libraries must have such material, to ensure that a full range of media are archived and accessible to meet the thirst for knowledge in a changing world.

Legal deposit in this country—in England, more specifically—will celebrate 500 years of existence in 2010. It started with Sir Thomas Bodley, the scholar, diplomat and alumnus of Oxford university. He devoted himself to re-establishing the university library, which was reopened in 1602 and renamed the Bodleian library in his honour. He negotiated a deal with the Stationers Company to build up the library's collections, and in 1610 the company agreed to send a copy of every new book registered at Stationers Hall to the Bodleian. Although I am an Oxford reject—and a Cambridge and Bristol reject—I have nothing but praise for the Oxford graduate who began the process of preserving material for wider use.

I am afraid that I do not have time.

The first Copyright Act was passed in 1709, and further Acts followed in 1801, 1814, 1836 and 1842. The 1814 Act required the deposit of items within a month and the penalty for non-compliance was £5—the equivalent of £200 today—plus the value of the book and all legal costs. However, the Bill would amend the Copyright Act 1911, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich said, is the latest legislation that covers legal deposit. Meanwhile, the comprehensiveness of our national intellectual archive is becoming seriously deficient.

Publications deposited in the British Library are preserved for the benefit of future generations. They are added to our national heritage and are available in the library's reading rooms. They are recorded in the British Library public catalogue, which is accessible on the internet, listed in the "British National Bibliography" and used by librarians and information managers, and by the book trade for stock selection. The catalogue is available in print, CD-ROM and online formats and it has a worldwide distribution.

The British Library is not only a unique resource for scholars but a gateway to the world's knowledge. A great part of its mission is the dissemination of knowledge, and that is dependent on the delivery of electronic services.

The British Library received more than 5,000 responses to a consultation carried out in 2001, and 85 per cent. of respondents agreed that the library should increase its collections of digital material. One of the priorities decided after the consultation was the creation of an integrated technical system to provide access to printed and digital material. The British public and the wider world need to be able to access the whole spectrum of knowledge, irrespective of its format. The Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich is well overdue, and we must not lose the chance to extend the range of media that is subject to copyright. I urge hon. Members to support the Bill.

1.29 pm

I am glad that the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Mole) has decided to update a law introduced by that most reforming and enlightened Government in 1911. My colleagues and I will certainly support him.

The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) rightly mentioned the significant role of the British Library, and pointed out that it was far more than just a building in the St Pancras area. It is also a large facility in Boston Spa in Yorkshire. I know that because my dad used to drive minibuses full of Sheffield university students there. Its importance is growing, in that it extends the physical reach of the British Library and also underpins much work in the higher education sector.

In a letter to me, Bob Boucher, vice-chancellor of Sheffield university, said something worth quoting:
"From a higher education perspective, it is my opinion that strengthening legal deposit is a key step in underpinning our increasingly knowledge-based economy; and that there will be long term benefits for UK competitiveness."
We need to make people aware of that broader scope. The demands we are making of publishers are being made for the wider benefit of the United Kingdom economy.

I must thank the British Library officers who not only briefed me on the Bill but allowed me to be distracted by mediaeval illuminated manuscripts. Some of those, interestingly, will be covered by the Bill. One of the best ways of issuing such manuscripts for people to see is via CD-ROM, and the library has some wonderful systems. 1 hope that legal deposit will mean that the work of anyone in the UK who publishes a mediaeval illuminated manuscript will find its way into our legal deposit libraries. The Bill strikes me as an important step involving material from the very old to the very new.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on introducing his proposed measures via regulations. The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire rightly said that we should ensure the continuation of the excellent cooperation between publishers and libraries through voluntary agreements. We do not want to place too heavy a burden on publishers. There are some very difficult technical issues: for instance, what defines publication? That is clear enough in the printed world, but not so clear in the non-printed world. I do not think that tidying up such issues could be done in the Bill directly rather than through regulations, given a rapidly changing technology.

Given that clauses 6 and 8 of a 12-clause Bill provide a regulation-making power, would the regulations be subject to the affirmative procedure in the House or to its negative counterpart?

We will tidy up such issues in Committee—and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, one of the concessions that the Opposition can often screw out of the Government is the changing of a negative to an affirmative resolution. I think I have made it clear that in this instance, as in many involving technical issues, regulations are appropriate regardless of how they are introduced—but I look forward to teasing out the answer to whether an affirmative resolution, a negative resolution, or a "maybe" resolution somewhere in between, is the most appropriate option.

In fact, it will be an affirmative resolution.

I thank the Minister for clarifying the matter. We can claim an Opposition success at this early stage.

I hope we can work with bodies that are already trying to deal with some of these issues. There is a huge amount of expertise out there. Sheffield university tells me that it already has a close relationship with the British Library through a
"joint Concordat, which fosters collaboration in a range of technical areas and underpins research".
There is a lot of technical co-operation between university libraries, which are also at the forefront of the process of receiving electronic publications. A vast amount of work, especially scientific work, is already received in that form. Sheffield Hallam university has, in its Adsetts centre, a library specifically designed to cope with either electronic or print media.

The expertise exists to reconfigure the whole library according to the balance between the two.

I would also like to refer the hon. Member for Ipswich and the Minister to what is going on in industry. It is interesting that certain bodies are now trying to come up with cross-industry standards, particularly using systems such as extensible markup language—or XML, to use a terrible three-letter acronym—as a way of defining how data can be stored so that it can be retrieved in the future. Companies such as the Boeing corporation, which is designing planes with a far longer lifespan than the programmes used to produce the documentation for them, are having to tackle these issues now, and are trying to come up with open standards.

One positive spin-off that I hope will come out of the Bill is that if these common standards and interfaces are being advanced for legal deposit purposes, there could well be a beneficial effect on publishers in general, in that it would encourage them to use that standard for their general work and storage, for example, it would make their collections more valuable if they chose to sell on the copyright in the future if it was held in those commonly defined standards. There is, therefore, a huge amount of work in the academic and industrial sectors that can be drawn on. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will receive widespread support for his Bill, and I wish him every success in taking it forward.

1.36 pm

I, too, support the Bill, which, as others have said, updates the 1911 legislation and extends the scope of depositable materials to encompass the new technologies and the online publications and websites that have been referred to. If only 50 per cent. of this kind of material is being deposited on a voluntary basis, we are left with a real difficulty, because it is not always possible to determine now what might be of value to future generations. That is the important distinction between voluntary and compulsory deposit schemes. If we believe in the value of deposit, we have to be prepared to keep the nature of the material to be deposited under constant review. There is no doubting the importance of online publications and websites—they represent a huge part of academic publication—and I am sure that the changing web editions of newspapers will be of value to future generations. They are cultural artefacts—although they may not appear so now—just as the votive tablets found around Greek shrines, or the letters retrieved from Hadrian's wall, were cultural artefacts.

The hon. Member for Ilford, North (Linda Perham) reminded us that the history of compulsory deposit went several centuries further back than 1911. In a way, it goes back even further. The founder of the very first library, Ashurbanipal of Assyria, appears to have requisitioned tablets from private collections when establishing his library, and when the Ptolemys came to set up their new library at Alexandria—a new city, with no existing booksellers or books—they sent agents to the docks to requisition by compulsion any copies of books that were found on the ships. The books were copied and returned to the ships, or in some cases kept and copied, with the copies being made available to their owners. So there is nothing new about the history of compulsory deposit.

Several tests should be applied to the Bill. Is its new scope reasonable? Will it be burdensome? How will the material deposited be protected from copying? What are the powers of regulation? So far as the scope is concerned, it seems reasonable. The draftsman has done his best to reconcile the style of the statute with the modern world of new technology, although he seems to have copped out slightly on the definition of all this material, which he defines simply as
"work published in a medium other than print".
That is perhaps a clever alternative to defining it himself. I certainly regret his use in clause 6 of the Americanised spelling of the word "programme". I think that we could have avoided such spellings in British legislation, and perhaps the Minister could help us with that in Committee.

Will the legislation be burdensome? A thorough regulatory impact assessment has been deposited in the Library, as the promoter of the Bill has told us. Option 2 seems to detail some quite considerable costs, but goes on to point out that they will be outweighed in the end by the benefits. I am certainly content with that. Will the new material to he deposited be fully protected from abuse? The publishers will want more assurances that original work is to be protected, not least because so many matters are left to regulation, although I am sure that that can be explored further in detail in Committee.

I am glad that the powers of regulation are future-proofed, because we cannot be sure which even newer technologies we may have to encompass in 30, 40 or 50 years. I am reassured, too, that, as the Minister pointed out, most of the powers would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, which affords some protection.

There has been criticism this week of the haste with which the proposals have been produced, but it might be fair to say that the Bill has been a long time in the making—it was, as I think the promoter said, first proposed some seven years ago. The House has a rare opportunity to update copyright law, which is not a subject that commands priority time. It is remarkable that the Copyright Act 1911 has stood the test of time for so long, but we owe it to the supporters of that Act to ensure that it is kept up to date. I for one find it refreshing that a society that may be on the eve of war can make time to consider its cultural capital and ensure that the processes of cultural transmission are improved rather than weakened. I support the Bill.

1.41 pm

I shall be brief. I, too, support the Bill and welcome its introduction by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Mole). I do not have 30 years' experience as a librarian, which he hon. Member for Ilford, North (Linda Perham) has, but I worked for several years in the national library of Wales in Aberystwyth, which is in my constituency. What is more, I worked not with books, but with non-print materials—the electronic media. I am perhaps the only Member here who has dealt with acquiring, cataloguing and archiving those materials, so on that ground too I welcome the Bill.

It is also right to point out that on 1 April the new National Assembly body for supporting libraries and archives in Wales, CyMAL, will establish itself, again in Aberystwyth, where, of course, we have the college of librarianship as was, which is now the school of information studies. We have a real sense of knowledge and expertise, particularly on the technical, information and archiving sides, which I hope and expect to be rolled out to support the Bill and work done with other libraries in the UK, and the British Library in particular.

I want to make two brief points. First, we will be at risk of suffering a cultural loss if we do not pass the Bill. I shall give an example. If Members want to know my party's current political thinking, they will find nothing in print, not because we do not have any political thinking, before anyone butts in, but because our deliberations and publications are all on the web. Our political organ is, and these days it is published only on the web.

Time does not allow, I am afraid. I want to conclude, and the hon. Gentleman's Bill is up next.

Wales Watch was the only satirical publication to give an alternative view of Welsh politics—unfortunately, it has just ceased publication—and, again, it was available only on the web, not in the printed media. The Minister, who represents Pontypridd, may not be interested in reading about Plaid Cymru on the web, but I know that he would be interested in the gwlad rugby website, which is the main forum for discussion of Welsh rugby in Wales. Again, it is available only on the web.

I shall give a final example in this regard. No Welsh language daily newspaper is published in Wales in print—there are only weekly and monthly publications—but the BBC prints a daily Welsh language newspaper on the web, which is called Cymru'r Byd. It appears on the BBC website every day, and is updated every few hours or so.

As Members all round the House have said, a range of cultural artefacts is about to disappear, but the national library is printing some of them, which is interesting: a library is printing material that will be collected by other libraries. Peter Lord has produced an excellent publication entitled "The Visual Culture of Wales" under the auspices of the centre for Celtic studies. It is published in print, but the CD format is, of course, much bigger and it carries more pictures and allows more exploration, so it is substantially different from the book. It gives a wider view of the visual and cultural history of Wales. As the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) mentioned, the national library publishes its own visual items—print collections, map collections and pictures—on the "Gathering the Jewels" website.

Two things arise in connection with the detail, but I will not go into the detail now. We will do so, I hope, in Committee after the Bill receives its Second Reading. The first difficulty we need to explore is technology. The most famous example is the BBC's Domesday book project. Having been collected through schools and colleges—young people throughout the United Kingdom were involved—the material was unable to be read by the new Acorn computers.

It has taken the BBC years and years to reconstruct the book. It is now available, I understand, but as someone who collected that material I know how easy it is for it to become out of date. We collected computer programmes and computer games. I am sure that it is not possible to play those games any more. It is easy to see how we played chess with the Lewis chess men. It is not so easy to see how we played computer games in the mid-1980s or 1990s. That is a key question. Technology and squaring that circle will be important.

I would like the Bill to place as much emphasis on the expertise of librarians and archivists as possible. We have a possible way forward in the way in which, not the British Library itself, but the other copyright libraries have gone after certain material. They have had to be aware of what is out there in order to collect it. To a certain extent, that was always going to happen with electronic publication. It is the expertise of the archivists and librarians that will identify the publications that are out there and seek to collect them.

The final point is not a frivolous one; it needs to be said. The most popular publication on the web at the moment is pornography. The most popular searched term is probably Anna Kournikova, babe or something like that. Pornography is collected by the British Library and other libraries. It is a publication. Therefore, collected electronically, it will come within the ambit of the measure.

We must be aware of that as we debate and discuss the issue in Committee. I will not go down that track now, but we need to be aware of it. I will not mention Mr. Desmond or anyone else at this stage. I say simply that that is a real issue which will face anyone who is collecting electronic media. With those few words, I hope the Bill receives its Second Reading.

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I congratulate and thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Mole) on and for securing time for the Bill. I am delighted to be present to offer the Government's support and doubly delighted to hear the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) tell us about the vast collection of pornography in Aberystwyth at the national library of Wales.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide a framework for the safe keeping of our national intellectual output for future generations. Over the past three years, publishers and deposit libraries have been working collaboratively using the voluntary code of practice to manage the deposit of non-print material. That has enjoyed some success, as we have heard. Recent research shows that, under the voluntary deposit scheme, the British Library receives around three quarters of non-print monographs and up to half of all electronic UK publications. That improvement is due in substantial measure to the good work of publishers and deposit libraries through the joint committee for voluntary deposit, which has performed such a good job in overseeing the operation of the code and solving emerging issues.

It was always the intention that the voluntary scheme for depositing non-print material would be temporary. The growing non-print publishing industry means that if we do not have powers to provide for deposit of its products in future, we risk losing the opportunity to capture an important part of the national archives. Indeed, there has already been a tangible loss, as we have heard from hon. Members. While the voluntary scheme is a vast improvement on the situation of three years ago, it is still not sufficient to safeguard our intellectual heritage. Each day that goes by without a statutory base for the deposit of non-print material sees the loss of published works whose value in the future could be incalculalble. The loss of this material to future research should not be allowed to continue.

The Bill provides a solution. It will ensure that the nation's published output—both in print and non-print—will be collected and stored for the benefit of present and future generations. The Bill provides for two systems, one for print and one for non-print. I reassure the hon. Member for Ceredigion that the system for print will carry on as before. It is in the area of non-print material that we are seeking to break new ground.

I fully recognise the expressions of concern from the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss), who said that we need to proceed carefully and to take full account of the interests of electronic publishers and rights holders. In any future regulations, we would need to get the correct balance between the legitimate needs of the national archive, which can be expected to vary in accordance with different classes of material, and the implications and costs for the businesses of publishers and other stakeholders. I am glad that he made that point.

The Bill for non-print publications will be generic, and there are good reasons for this. With the possibility of new classes of electronic publications being introduced at any time, the Bill needs to have the flexibility to allow for such changes. Without such flexibility, it is likely that the Bill would be out of date within a very short space of time. However, as I have said, when we make regulations for new classes of publication, we shall do so only after careful and meaningful consultation with publishers and other stakeholders.

One of the key issues is the ability to read that content, so we need to ensure that access mechanisms are retained along with the material.

My hon. Friend is right and reiterates a point made by the hon. Member for Ceredigion. I am sure that I wrote several brilliant novels on an old Amstrad that I certainly cannot read now. That is a shame; the world has been denied them. My hon. Friend is right and we must take that into account.

The Bill gives the Secretary of State powers to make regulations regarding the type of material deposited, the location of deposit, timing of deposit, the number of deposited items, when items are considered to be duplicates, and the manner in which deposit libraries will provide for the access to, and safeguarding of, legally deposited material. Regulations will be made only after full consultation with the major stakeholders, in particular the publishers and the deposit libraries. That is provided for in clause 8(7).

The Bill has been prepared with a view to minimising any additional burden that may be placed on deposit libraries and the publishers. It is important that we should not introduce legislation that in any way undermines the commercial viability of publishing operations. Again, that was emphasised by the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire.

With electronic works, the questions of illegal use surfaces more readily. That is why the proposed secure network operating between the legal deposit libraries would be so important. It would enabie the legal deposit libraries to ensure access to legitimate users while managing that access closely and in co-operation.

When making regulations, the Secretary of State will ensure that the necessary safeguards for accessing legally deposited material are included so that publishers can have full confidence in the security of the system. The issues of intellectual property rights and copyright are the concern of my right hon. Friend Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, as are the business implications for publishers and other stakeholders.

I want to emphasise that the views of the publishing industry, the deposit libraries and any other stakeholders will be sought at every stage. The Bill's provisions also give special regard to the interests of Wales and Scotland. Scottish Ministers and the Welsh Assembly will be consulted on all regulations and will have the right to consent to regulations that seek to restrict their entitlements. The legal deposit system will provide for a comprehensive UK archive to be developed at the British Library, while ensuring that Scotland and Wales are able to add to their own national archives in a manner that will enhance their respective value to researchers for many years to come. The British Library will continue to work closely with the national library of Scotland and the national library of Wales in the spirit of the concordat of devolution.

In our opinion, this Bill is compatible with the European convention on human rights. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich on introducing it, and I commend it to the House.

I want to do no more than welcome the wide-ranging support from Members on both sides of the House for the importance of the process of legal deposit and the institutions that support it; to observe the valid concerns of publishers—I hope that they will be addressed in Committee, and I am happy to meet publishers to ensure that they are taken on boardS—and to thank those right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken today and shared their expertise. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 ( Committal of Bills).