Vaizey on libraries: 'We can't go on like this'

Shadow culture minister Ed Vaizey has lambasted the government's record on libraries and citing the Conservatives' new slogan: "We can't go on like this."

At a speech to the Society of Bookmen on Thursday evening (4th Feb), Vaizey said that in the last 11 years Labour had "commissioned report after report, introduced one initiative after another, chopped and changed direction with breathtaking speed". He concluded: "It is hard to see any long term sense of direction or strategy" and said there had been a "massive failure in leadership."

Culture minister Margaret Hodge came in for particular criticism, with Vaizey saying it was "outrageous and offensive to everyone who ever cared about books and reading" to raise the question of whether libraries should remain a statutory local authority service. "This proposal would put the future of every public library in the country under threat." He also criticised Hodge's suggestion that local libraries should start selling books as "irresponsible."

If elected, Tories would introduce a voluntary Charter for Libraries and Reading for local authorities to sign up to, to commit themselves to providing a "first-class library service", as well as establishing a development agency for libraries through the MLA, with a four-year programme to inspire local authorities to invest in their library service.

The Advisory Council on Libraries would be abolished, Vaizey said, and a national library card would also be introduced.

Meanwhile the shadow culture minister also promised that a Tory government would act quickly to bring copyright law up-to-date if it wins the next election, telling publishers: "Your businesses must be protected by effective and up-to-date intellectual property laws". He said the government had "failed to act" while people and companies - "most obviously Google" - have continued "to innovate, or transgress, depending on your point of view".