HC Deb 13 March 1917 vol 91 cc902-3

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the restrictions placed on the supply of paper, he will consider the desirability of giving power to the Paper Commission to refuse paper supplies to the halfpenny comic papers and papers of a similar character, in order that sufficient paper may be reserved for papers and weekly journals serving some national purpose?


I am afraid that the difficulties of drawing any exact line of division between periodicals whose publication serves a national purpose and those which could be suppressed without loss to the public interest are such as the Paper Commission could not be expected to overcome.


Are we to understand that the hon. Gentleman cannot draw a distinction between a halfpenny comic paper and an evening newspaper?


Being an ordinary-human being, I am unable to do so.


asked whether steps are being taken to ascertain the stocks of paper held by various newspapers; and whether when this has been done it will be possible for the Commission to restrict the right to prevent purchase from the mills in cases where it is found that sufficient stocks are held to publish for the next three, six, or twelve months, and so enable such smaller newspapers or journals as may be found by the Commission to be serving some national purpose to purchase sufficient paper to continue publication even in a restricted size?


I understand that the Paper Commission are obtaining the information with respect to the stocks in this country. When the facts have been ascertained, careful consideration will be given to the question whether any action is; necessary or desirable.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if the proportion of paper allotted to certain proprietors this year is in proportion to the amount utilised last year, and that they cut down their supplies last year in accordance with the wishes of the Government, they are now penalised as compared with those who did not cut down their supplies last year?


That point has been brought to our notice and is under consideration.


asked whether a newspaper recently obtained 500 tons of paper while, at the same time, notice has been served on all the existing papers and weekly journals that they can only obtain half supplies in future, a quantity which is in many cases insufficient to publish even in a restricted form?


No newspaper has had more than its regulation supply through the licences of the Paper Commission. Any further or special supplies that any newspaper may have obtained must have been bought in the open market without any assistance from or knowledge of the Commission.