Shadow Culture Minister, Dan Jarvis today questioned Ed Vaizey at the dispatch box. Jarvis challenged his counterpart on the issue of libraries by asking the Minister, “With no Vision, no strategy, no urgency – from a Minister who is fast becoming the Dr Beeching of libraries, does he believe he has a responsibility to act as a “champion” for libraries across Government, and if he does – how would he assess his performance to date?”
The question followed on from the Speak Up for Libraries Rally last week which saw 500 library supporters descend on London to highlight the devastating impact library closures are having on our communities around Britain.
Jarvis explained, "The Speak Up for Libraries Rally demonstrated the strength of public feeling there is for this issue. I was privileged to speak at the event last week – and as Ed Vaizey was unable to attend, I wanted the 70,000 people who signed the WI petition against library closures, to have the chance to hear his response.
“Libraries are vital for our communities as they provide a place for all people to learn, socialise, and read. They are also very often a community hub which provides space for local organisations and groups. The Labour Party understand this, and we are currently in the process of consulting with the library community on our Report, “A Vision for a 21st Century Library”.
“New research has demonstrated that more than 100 libraries across the country have either closed, are run by volunteers or have been turned into social enterprises since April 2011, and we know that up to 600 libraries across the country are under threat.
During the exchange in the Chamber, Vaizey avoided the question and instead referred to his stance on the Wirral, in which the then Labour Government intervened to order an inquiry into the closures.
Outside the Chamber, Jarvis concluded “Today’s answer from Ed Vaizey was wholly inadequate. He completely avoided the question, just as he avoided the rally last week, and instead pointed to the exact example which he should be following; a Labour Secretary of State intervening in library closures. If he does not act soon, he will be known as the Dr Beeching of Libraries, and tragically, our libraries will be lost forever.”