British Library Board (Power to Borrow) Bill – Second Reading | Lords debates

My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in this debate, and I congratulate my noble friend Lord Vaizey on the excellent way in which introduced the Bill and, indeed, on all the work he did as a DCMS Minister.

Literacy is everything. Just look to our prison population to understand what transpires when we fail people in that respect. When I say literacy, I mean across the sweep, including financial and digital literacy, and I congratulate the British Library on everything it does, understanding the breadth of what we mean when we talk about literacy.

Does the Minister agree that the British Library has such a crucial role to play when it comes to the levelling-up agenda: yes, in its fine building at Boston Spa, yes in the excellent plans for Leeds city centre but, more than that, with its hub and spoke model, which positively impacts people right across the country? When it comes to accessibility, will he confirm that the British Library does everything to attempt to make the collection and the materials accessible to all, not least disabled people? Indeed, when we look to the fabulous business scheme already mentioned by my noble friend Lord Vaizey, it is very positive that almost 20% of those who avail themselves of the business service are disabled people—almost one-fifth, compared to a national average of just 2%. Can my noble friend say some more about some of the opportunities which the British Library will have available to itself through this borrowing which would not be available under the current grant-in-aid arrangements?

In conclusion, the British Library is such an excellent example of our soft power. I believe the Bill would serve it, and through it, us, so very well. The British Library is a vital vehicle for levelling up, literacy and learning, for part of our Covid recovery, helping communities up and down the country, businesses to start and the build back better agenda. The British Library: the word.

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