April 1, 2012
Which law are we talking about ?
It has surprised me that in the past year when there have been several court cases and legal actions about public library services that none of them appear to have challenged the Secretary of State over his conduct in the role of superintendent of the public library service under the 1964 Libraries and Museums Act
Even the Charteris Inquiry in the Wirral concentrated on other obligations of local councils to consult and be inclusive - but not on the duties of the Minister. In that case I thought it was wrong that the DCMS themselves appointed the Inquiry Chair - because they were effectively able to set the limits of the inquiry to exclude their own activities, and they did
In other cases in London and in the Shire counties, the concentration of legal attention seems to have been focussed on other legal obligations of the council than those particularly defned in the Libraries Act. We have had arguments about social inclusion, processes of consultation and all kinds of things that could apply to any council activity, but none that apply particularly to libraries
Not only is this wrong, but it is dangerous because it increasingly creates a set of precedents for local councils to behave, in my view, illegally, with respect to the one Act that matters.
Most of the narrative and argument of campaigners, press and even MP's has been about the 1964 Act - and the have been repeated affirmations from all the political parties that they think the Act should stand.
So why haven't we had a public, thorough, neutral, legal case in which the matters of detail and fact of the operation of the Act are explored properly?
It's a mystery to me ... perhaps a lawyer can explain?
If the argument is that the only effective and proper place for the scrutiny of the Minister is Parliament, and not the Courts, then somebody ought to alert the Culture Select Committee to their role in the 1964 Act- there ought to be proper regular reporting to Parliament and the Act does need to spell this out.
What is happening at present is public deception - the people believe they have recourse to a law which is affirmed by Parliament, but in fact this law is not protecting them at all. This is not because the law is wrong, but because the courts and our legal system are, apparrently, refusing to uphold it.
Posted by Perkins at April 1, 2012 11:12 AM