HC Deb 03 May 1949 vol 464 cc833-6
54. Mr. Blackburn

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the decision of the Newsprint Rationing Committee that the scheme of "The Times" newspaper enabling students to buy it at reduced rates must cease, although the sales so made are not included in the circulation figures of "The Times," he will instruct the committee to amend its regulations so that the scheme may continue.

Mr. J. Edwards

One of the considerations which influenced my right hon. Friend in agreeing to the restoration of the unrestricted circulation of newspapers at the beginning of this year, was the rule of the Newsprint Rationing Committee prohibiting newspapers from canvassing for orders by any method and offers of any benefit to members of the public as an inducement to purchase. In the circumstances, he has not felt called upon to intervene in the case to which my hon. Friend refers, although he has observed a reference to it in the Press.

Mr. Blackburn

Is the Minister aware that students have now enjoyed and valued this concession for over 20 years? Is it not really a little unfair of the Labour Government that we should be put into this situation, in which we are taking away a concession for which we have to pay nothing, from a very important and sometimes indigent section of the community?

Mr. Edwards

I have every sympathy with my hon. Friend's point. Indeed, I once profited by this arrangement myself. However, this is a matter primarily for the newspaper industry. If either "The Times" or anyone else cares to refer the case to us, we will consider it, but it is a matter in the first instance for them.

Squadron-Leader Fleming

Was this particular regulation put before the President of the Board of Trade and sanctioned by him before it came into operation?

Mr. Edwards

This is an arrangement which is made by the newspaper people themselves, and is not a matter for which the Board of Trade takes the responsibility.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

In view of the seriousness of any further rise in the cost of living to the clergy of the Church of England, can my hon. Friend say whether this decision of the Newsprint Rationing Committee will alter the present arrangement whereby clergy can buy "The Times newspaper at a reduced rate?

Mr. Edwards

I should like notice of that question.

Mr. Lipson

In view of the fact that this concession does not come within the category to which my hon. Friend has drawn attention, could not the President of the Board of Trade make representations, without giving directions, that he regrets this decision, to see if it can be withdrawn?

Mr. Edwards

I should not be willing to suggest my right hon. Friend's intervention in the case. It is a matter for the newspaper people themselves, unless they wish to bring it in front of us. It is not our business but theirs in the first instance.

Mr. Emrys Roberts

Would the hon. Gentleman make it clear that this kind of concession cannot by any means be described as canvassing for orders? Could he not make that clear to the Newsprint Rationing Committee?

Mr. Messer

Ought they not to know that?

Mr. Blackburn

In view of the fact that there is fairly strong feeling on this matter, would my hon. Friend be good enough to receive some hon. Members about it, to see if he can use his good offices to restore the concession?

Mr. Edwards

I should be very happy to discuss the matter with hon. Members on either side of the House, but I cannot agree to commit my right hon. Friend to intervention.