HC Deb 20 July 1950 vol 477 cc2455-9
21. Mr. Hurd

asked the President of the Board of Trade what proportions of the total supply of newsprint and mechanical pulp are now used by the daily and weekly newspapers and by periodicals, respectively; and what were the proportions so used in 1948; and if he can give an estimate of the proportions so used in 1938.

Mr. H. Wilson

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Hurd

Will the Minister tell us whether the proportions have substantially changed?

Mr. Wilson

They have changed, but I should not have said substantially.

Following is the answer:

It is estimated that daily and weekly newspapers are now using about 88 per cent. of all the newsprint consumed in this country, and that periodicals are using about 11 per cent. The respective proportions were probably 90 per cent. and 8.5 per cent. in 1948, and 92 per cent. and 7 per cent. in 1938–39.

Mechanical pulp is used both in the manufacture of newsprint and for mechanical printing paper for periodicals and other uses. It is estimated that newspapers are now using a quantity of paper which represents about 46 per cent. of the total, supplies of mechanical pulp, as compared with 55 per cent. in 1948 and 63 per cent. in 1938–39.

In 1948, the total consumption of mechanical printing paper by periodicals represented about 16 per cent. of total mechanical pulp supplies and has probably since increased, but no accurate information is available for 1950 or for the pre-war period.

22. Mr. Hurd

asked the President of the Board of Trade what commitments he has entered into for the export of newsprint to Australia in the present year; and how this compares with the average quantity exported in the past three years.

Mr. H. Wilson

None, Sir, it is the paper mills who enter into such commitments in the light of commercial considerations, but we have informed them that export licences will be permitted for the export of about 75,000 tons of newsprint to Australia, as compared with an average of 11,955 tons in the three years 1947 to 1949.

Mr. Hurd

Will the Minister say to what extent this greatly increased export is due to pressure which the Government have applied to the British newsprint mills? Further, what steps is he taking to safeguard the interests of home consumers, that is to say, the newspaper industry and the readers of newspapers?

Mr. Wilson

If the Government had been prepared to issue export licences for all the newsprint which the mills have been asking for, and which they would like to supply abroad, a much greater tonnage would have been involved.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Has the right hon. Gentleman taken advantage of the presence of Mr. Menzies in this country to discuss the matter with him?

Mr. Wilson

Yes, Sir, and I might say that Mr. Menzies has taken advantage of his visit to this country to press for more.

Mr. Snow

Will my right hon. Friend resist the Conservative demand to restrict Commonwealth trade?

28. Mr. De la Bére

asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the failure of some Continental contractors to deliver a substantial tonnage of newsprint for the second half of this year, and the short supply from the home mills, to what extent he can make concessions to the weekly provincial periodicals to ensure them sufficient newsprint for the second half of this year.

Mr. H. Wilson

While I should be reluctant to interfere with the discretion of the Newsprint Rationing Committee, I would agree with the hon. Gentleman that it would be desirable within the limits available that weekly provincial papers should have so far as possible special consideration. It may be of assistance if I now announce that dollars will be made available for the import of a further 37,500 tons of newsprint from Canada in the second half of 1951, provided that the Newsprint Supply Company can place the necessary contracts for delivery before the end of that year.

Mr. De la Bére

So far so good, but is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the British public are entitled to a free end fair sized Press so that the news can be fully maintained? Although I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman has said I want him to do far more. We must have an adequately sized Press in this country.

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Member will be aware, if he studied the Debate we had in the small hours of yesterday morning, that the newspapers themselves only this year thought it would be possible to maintain the size of newspapers without requiring any dollar expenditure at all.

Mr. H. Hynd

In considering the allocation of newsprint between national and local newspapers will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that local newspapers generally do not publish comic strips or serial stories?

Mr. Wilson

I have never been concerned with what is contained in newspapers, national or local, from that point of view, but I have suggested to the interests concerned that if any further cut in tonnage becomes necessary, the weekly provincial papers should be exempted from that cut.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Arising from the right hon. Gentleman's statement about the allocation of dollars for the second half of 1951, is he aware that we regard that as a distinct advance? But can he make any further statement to us about the second half of this year and about the very serious position in which the newspapers are at present in regard to newsprint?

Mr. Wilson

No, I do not think that I have anything to add to what I said in the House recently in regard to the second half of this year, when I made a full statement of the reasons which led to the deterioration of the position.

Mr. Butler

Has the right hon. Gentleman anything to say about the export of newsprint and the extent of that export from this country?

Mr. Wilson

I should be surprised if the right hon. Gentleman, in view of what has so often been stressed on his side of the House about the sanctity of contracts, was asking me to interfere with and override contracts already entered into for the second half of this year.

Air Commodore Harvey

Does it mean that the present size of national and provincial papers will be maintained during the whole of next year?

Mr. Wilson

It means that depending on the amount that can be bought from soft currency sources, there is no reason why the present size should not be maintained throughout 1951. The Government will, naturally, do everything within their power to see that the size of newspapers does not fall below the present size next year.

Mr. Hurd

Will the right hon. Gentleman have a further talk with Mr. Menzies to see if Australia will delay taking some newsprint during the latter half of this year so that we can maintain the present size of newspapers?

Mr. Wilson

I am seeing Mr. Menzies tomorrow morning, but as I have made clear to the House the discussions are on the footing that Mr. Menzies is pressing for larger supplies of newsprint for Australia for next year.

Mr. Deedes

Having reached these arrangements, will the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that we will stand by this contract with Canada on this occasion, and not repeat what happened last year?

Mr. Wilson

The first thing is for a contract to be concluded. The Government have made dollars available for the acquisition of newsprint, but it has not so far proved possible to place a contract. The request was made to us only last week by the Newsprint Supply Company that these dollars should be allocated, and they have now been allocated.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

In view of what the right hon. Gentleman said in reply to my right hon. Friend about the sanctity of contracts, does that mean that he regrets his own interference with that sanctity last year?