HC Deb 01 March 1938 vol 332 cc1054-8

Motion made, and Question proposed: That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £308,160, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938, for Stationery. Printing, Paper, Binding and Printed Books for the Public Service; for the Salaries and Expenses of the Stationery Office; and for sundry Miscellaneous Services, including Reports of Parliamentary Debates.

11.5 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Colville

There are several causes which have contributed to the increased expenditure which has necessitated this Supplementary Estimate. The causes are the provision necessary for additional staff and revised salary scales; the exceptional rise in the price of paper which has accounted for a very large sum; the introduction of the 45-hour week in the printing and kindred trades, which was adopted in the Stationery Office as from 4th October, 1937; the rise in the price of office sundries; additional publicity in connection with the Health and National Fitness campaign; increased requirements of other public Departments in connection with Press advertisements; and increased requirements of stationery, printing, and office machinery for public Departments generally. These causes amount to a total of £437,010, against which there are Appropriations-in-Aid of £128,850. By far the largest item is due to the exceptional rise in the price of paper, amounting to £220,000.

11.7 p.m.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence

A number of highly controversial points appear to arise in this Supplementary Estimate. In the first place, there is the increase in the cost of paper. Am I to understand that that is due to the tariff that has been put on paper? Perhaps the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will give us information on that score. To whom does this additional sum go in the increased cost of paper? Another item is the additional publicity that is being arranged by the Departments. It is not very long since one of my right hon. Friends put down a question, the answer to which was given in writing, relating to the additional publicity of various Government Departments. This is a matter to which the Committee is entitled to give very careful attention. There are some cases where the publicity given to a Department is in favour of the public service, and we all recognise the advantage and value of that, but we cannot altogether shut our eyes to the fact that some of the publicity is definitely designed to assist the Ministers themselves and, not to put too fine a point upon it, to boost the qualifications of Ministers and recommend themselves to the electors. A very large additional item is involved in this Supplementary Estimate, and it would be interesting to know how much is due to this new publicity on behalf of the Government. There are also other points which require examination.

11.9 p.m.

Mr. Mabane

I should like to raise a point on the question of Press advertising on behalf of other Departments. There is an Appropriation-in-Aid of £18,000, presumably coming from other Departments to defray the cost of these advertisements. Can the Financial Secretary tell us why the whole of the cost of advertising on behalf of the Department is not met by Appropriations-in-Aid contributed by the Departments?

11.10 p.m.

Mr. Maxton

I am surprised at the tremendous increase attributed to the price of paper. I have some responsibility for a newspaper and while I have been aware of a rise in cost, I have not been aware of a rise which amounts to 33⅓ per cent. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman slipped in an item which he knew would appeal to hon. Members on this side, as to improved conditions for the workers but if I am not mistaken the increase due to improved conditions works out at about 2½ per cent. which is trivial compared with the increase in the cost of paper. I gather from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) that the total increase is due not to the increased cost of paper but to the increased use of paper. Perhaps the Minister would give us a little more detailed information to show what was the percentage increase in the price of paper and the increase in the quantity of paper used.

11.12 p.m.

Sir Hugh Seely

This is one of the biggest increases in these Supplementary Estimates. Under Sub-head E relating to paper the additional sum required is £239,000. This Sub-head is divided into various items, the largest of which is departmental stationery, envelopes, wrapping and household paper, account books, etc., amounting to £115,000. This is an enormous sum, and we ought to have a little more information about it. One would have thought that, in the matter of departmental stationery, it would have been possible to have budgeted with sufficient accuracy to avoid the necessity for a Supplementary Estimate of this high figure and I hope we shall have a fuller explanation.

11.13 p.m.

Mr. A. Reed

The question has been raised on the increased price of paper. It is a subject of which I know something, having some connection with the trade, although I am not interested in, nor have I anything to do with, the Stationery Office. My hon. Friends above the Gangway will be interested to know that their friends in Soviet Russia are largely responsible for this increase. Paper is made from wood pulp and the raw wood comes very largely from Russia, and last year our Russian friends doubled the price of the wood from which pulp is made. The rise in the price of the raw material is due to causes over which we have no control and no doubt hon. Members above the Gangway will be glad to know that their Russian friends are getting so much money.

Mr. Garro Jones

I hesitate to rise merely to offer a tu quoque to the hon. Member who has just spoken but I must remind him that the paper dealt with in the Estimate is not newsprint, made from pulp, coming from Russia. These envelopes and so forth are made from esparto grass which comes from Morocco, which is under the control of the hon. Member's friend General Franco.

Mr. Reed

I happen to know that by far the largest proportion of the paper used by His Majesty's Government is made from wood pulp. A small percentage is made from esparto grass, which largely comes from Algiers and Tunis, practically nothing from Morocco, and since the war nothing from Spain.

Mr. Garro Jones

A percentage of the paper is made from esparto grass and of wood pulp from Russia.

Mr. Reed

Russia imports timber for wood pulp to Germany, France, Norway, Sweden and other parts of the world.

11.16 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Colville

The right hon. Gentleman opposite has asked me about the rise in the price of paper, and how much is due to tariffs. I can assure him that it is not due to any rise in tariffs, but largely due to the increase in the price of the raw material, which brought about a very steep rise in the cost of paper in this country. The method of buying paper by the Stationery Office is to have ad hoc tenders for their requirements from British mills. They find this the best method, and while there has been this steep rise in price I think there is a tendency for the position to ease a little.

As to the question put by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), the proportion of the increase due to cost and due to increased consumption, I think the actual provision is £220,000 for the rise in the price of paper; for the additional expense in connection with the Ministry of Labour, and the health campaign it is £5,250; and for the increase in the requirements of other Departments £13,750. The increase in the price, therefore, is by far the largest amount. I regret that it should be so, but it is due to circumstances over which we have no control. The right hon. Gentleman will not expect me to deal with the question of publicity. It affects many Departments and I am speaking for the Stationery Office, which has to provide the material. I am satisfied that the requirements which were made upon us have been met.

11.20 p.m.

Major Sir Ralph Glyn

There is an expenditure under sub-head I upon which I should like some information. Under sub-head I (e), Press advertisements on behalf of other Departments account for £27,000, and in the Appropriations-in-Aid there is an amount of £18,000 for advertisements. I do not quite understand the discrepancy between the two figures. Can my right hon. and gallant Friend say why it is that these advertisements which are done by the Stationery Office for other Departments do not appear in the Estimates of those Departments?

11.21 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Colville

I cannot give a full answer to my hon. and gallant Friend to-night, but I will do so on another occasion.

Resolved, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £308,160, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938, for Stationery, Printing, Paper, Binding and Printed Books for the Public Service; for the Salaries and Expenses of the Stationery Office; and for sundry Miscellaneous Services, including Reports of Parliamentary Debates.

Forward to