I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. Under the Copyright Act, 1836, the Benchers of the King's Inns were given a grant of £433 6s. 8d. a year as compensation for loss of right to free copies of books for the library. That Act was repealed by the Copyright Act, 1911, which, in turn, was repealed by the Industrial and Commercial Property (Protection) Act, 1927. Both these Acts made provision, however, for the continued payment of the grant which is a Charge on the Central Fund. As the law stands, the whole of the grant must be spent in the purchase of books.
The King's Inns Library was founded about 1787 by the Benchers of the Society of the King's Inns, by whom it is owned and maintained. Its income consists solely of the Government grant of £433 6s. 8d. a year, which represented the annual value of the books received under the Copyright Act, 1801, at the time of the withdrawal of this privilege by the Copyright Act, 1836. As Deputies are aware, the library is largely used by barristers and law students for reference and study purposes. It is open to the public under certain conditions and permission for reading and reference is freely given to approved persons.
Some time ago, the library authorities represented that every year many books needed to be rebound, and, following these representations, a Grant-in-Aid of £3,000 was provided for this purpose in the Vote for Miscellaneous Expenses for 1944/45. The full £3,000 was duly paid in that year. The library authorities suggested at the same time that they should be allowed to use up to one half the annual grant for binding books. This suggestion appeared to the Minister to be reasonable and he undertook to ask the Oireachtas to enact the necessary legislation. It was the intention, at first, to proceed by way of a section in the Finance Bill of last year but, at the last moment, the provision had to be deleted as being outside the scope of a Finance Bill. It was then necessary to have a separate Bill prepared, and that is now before the House.
The Bill repeals the existing statute law and re-enacts it in amended form so as to allow up to one half the annual grant of £433 6s. 8d. to be expended on the binding or re-binding of books or serial parts of volumes preserved or to be preserved in the library. Under sub-section (2) (b) of Section 1 of the Bill, payment will not be made in any financial year unless the Department of Finance is satisfied that the statutory conditions have been, or will be, fulfilled in respect of the previous year's grant. This arrangement accords with the existing statutory practice which has worked satisfactorily. The grant will continue to be a charge on the Central Fund.
No additional charge on the Exchequer is involved by the Bill and the only change in the law proposed by it is to permit up to one half the grant to be applied in binding or re-binding books.