HC Deb 20 February 1961 vol 635 cc2-4
1. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what arrangements have been made for a consortium of publishers to assist him in the publishing and distribution arrangements in connection with his scheme of cheap books for overseas.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Dr. Charles Hill)

An export consortium has been formed by a number of publishers with special interest or experience in exporting books. It has begun to operate and is already giving valuable advice, particularly about marketing arrangements, in connection with the low-price book scheme. I am very grateful to the members of this consortium for their help.

Mr. Thomson

Would the right hon. Gentleman be kind enough to publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the names of the members of this consortium, and could he reassure the House that the members are not of such high level in the publishing world individually that they will find it difficult to hold frequent enough meetings to get the action now needed?

Dr. Hill

Any question of the publication of names is a matter for the consortium itself. I should prefer not to comment on the level of its members, but it is representative of the publishers engaged in export business.

2. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what progress is being made with Her Majesty's Government's scheme for cheap books for overseas, apart from the arrangements for cheap editions of university text books; how many titles have been selected; and how many books it is expected to distribute during the coming year.

Dr. Hill

To date, the Advisory Committee has recommended 30 titles for production in low-priced editions, and negotiations are proceeding with the publishers. This is in addition to the 23 textbooks now in course of printing and despatch. It is rather too early to forecast the number of books to be produced this year, which must depend on the course of the negotiations with the publishers.

Mr. Thomson

But does not the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster think it is a little strange that he should now cautiously say that it is too early to forecast the number of books being produced when last year he forecast that he would have 2 million copies produced by the end of the year? Does not his Answer, and his Answer to the previous Question, give some indication of the kind of handicaps that a country like Britain appears to face in trying to compete with the Communist world in providing cheap books?

Dr. Hill

The hon. Member will recall that it was decided to put the emphasis in the first place on textbooks—I announced that to this House—and that does affect the numbers concerned. In general, I should like to tell the hon. Gentleman that after a slow start, when many problems had to be resolved, the scheme is now well under way, and we should from now on see a steep increase in the number of books.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether arrangements are being made with certain countries that ban the entry of Britsh books? Some very good and enlightened books are banned by the British Commonwealth countries. What is the good of trying to export books to those countries if they are to be banned when they get there?

Dr. Hill

There is an enormous opening for British books, even allowing for the few countries that ban their importation.

Mr. Mayhew

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House when the first book will be sold?

Dr. Hill

The first books are now in transit to India, so it will be very soon.