HC Deb 24 November 1950 vol 481 cc663-750

11.33 a.m.

Mr. H. A. Price (Lewisham, West)

I beg to call attention to the serious shortage of paper and boards of all kinds and to move: That this House, conscious of the fact that adequate supplies of paper and boards of all kinds are essential for the maintenance of a fully democratic State, an efficient industry and a high standard of education, and in view of their importance as strategic raw materials, views with concern the current shortage of these commodities and the raw materials from which they are made, and calls upon His Majesty's Government to take appropriate steps to facilitate increased imports of paper-making raw materials and of paper and boards; to discourage by exhortation and example their misuse; to stimulate the salvage and collection of waste-paper; and to encourage the production and use of indigenous raw materials. Since I am myself a member of the paper trade, I must begin, of course, by declaring my interest. It is probably quite a long time since the paper-making, industry was debated in this House, and I am very happy that, as a result of the Ballot, it should be debated today through the instrumentality of my Motion.

There is no more important industry in the world than the paper-making industry. Life as we know it would be quite impossible without paper and boards of all kinds. I have not the time to develop that theme, but I invite hon. Members of this House to consider or to try to imagine life without paper and board. Travel, education, the business of government, business itself, pleasure, food, defence—in fact, every aspect of our national life depends upon an adequate supply of these materials. Yet, despite that fact, my impression is that less time is given in this House to the discussion of these basic materials than is the case with any other commodity of which we can think.

Like all great industries, the paper-making industry is constantly wrestling with problems of labour, fuel, raw material, technical development, water supplies and so on. During the war it was very closely controlled. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my view that the members of the trade who administered that control did a really wonderful job. It was a wonderful job done under difficult circumstances for which, it seems to me, they have been inadequately thanked.

Today, however, we are to discuss, I hope, not the past, but the present and the future—the problems of today, the prospects of tomorrow, and possible solutions of both. The Motion has been widely drawn, deliberately so. I have not the slightest doubt that newsprint will feature prominently in this debate, but I am particularly anxious that the debate should not be confined to newsprint. There are other qualities of paper of the utmost importance, and I hope to cause the searchlight of publicity to be directed towards these aspects today.

I shall strive to sketch in the main outline on the canvas, leaving it to those who follow to fill in the details and to give it light and shade. First, I would like to deal with paper and boards other than newspaper. It may seem strange, at first sight, to refer to the serious shortage of these commodities when it is remembered that current production plus imports is approximately equal to pre-war current production plus imports; nevertheless, there is a serious shortage of all classes of paper and boards—art paper, banks and bonds essential to industry, boards for packaging and so on, due to several factors. One is that demand under present conditions is outrunning the supply. Another is the continued need for increasing exports, and yet a third will be the increased demands made upon the industry by the defence programme.

In the face of this, there is a continuing shortage of the most important single raw material, namely, wood pulp. Before the war, the average stocks of wood pulp in this country were maintained at 410,500 tons. Today, facing a much greater demand than existed then, the average stocks are about 250,000 tons. Today, the imports of wood pulp are 125,000 tons a month. Before the war, the figure was 141,000 tons per month. Thus the stocks of wood pulp are down by 160,000 tons, and current imports are down by 15,000 to 16,000 tons per month; and the forward position cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as reassuring.

The paper-making industry since the war has made tremendous efforts to cope with the demands made upon it. For that, I think, much credit is due. Home production of paper and boards runs at 200,000 tons per annum higher than prewar, but imports of raw materials are running at about 200,000 tons per annum below pre-war—a situation, the danger of which is obvious, calling, in my view, for the immediate attention and positive action of His Majesty's Government. Already, adverse effects are apparent in the industry. Already machines are having to be closed down for lack of raw materials, and essential production is being lost. In other words, I would put it in this way to the Government: Although the horse has not yet bolted, the stable door is wide open, and we are asking the Government today to slam the stable door before the horse does in fact go.

I hope that no one will suggest that the solution of this problem is the reimposition of control. I have seen that suggested elsewhere, and I hope that it will not be suggested in this House today. I know that that is the classical Socialist remedy for ills of this kind, but, in our view, that is an illustration of the restrictive type of mentality which we deplore. If the Government would show as much enthusiasm for promoting plenty as they do for controlling scarcity, there would be very much less scarcity to control. We prefer expansionism.

Let us look at some of the causes of this situation. The first is that Canadian supplies of pulp to this country have been restricted on the score of dollar shortages. Secondly, America, having lapped up all the surplus Canadian production, has come into the European market to a far greater extent than before as a result of devaluation. In the first six months of this year, America bought from the European market 444,000 short tons of wood pulp, compared with 176,000 during the first part of last year, which is an increase of 270,000 short tons, 270,000 tons that we do not get.

Germany has been buying from Scandinavia. Before the war she was practically self-sufficient for wood pulp, but today 70 per cent. of the sources of her wood pulp are in the Eastern European zone, somewhat euphemistically described as beyond the "Iron Curtain." Therefore, Western Germany has to obtain wood pulp from Scandinavia. I also foresee the possibility of an added complication. The Swedish Government have imposed an export duty in the face of this tremendous world demand. No one quite knows how this is going to work out, but there is a danger to which I should like to direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention.

I understand that this export duty is to be based upon the price charged to this country. It seems to me and to others that there is a danger if the price to this country is restricted in order to keep down the amount of export duty to be paid on exports to other countries. If that happens, the logical corollary is that the quantities exported to this country will also be restricted. I mention this, not as an accomplished fact but as a possible complication against which the precautions might be taken.

All these factors are outside the control of industry. They are fit subjects for Government watchfulness and, if necessary, for high level intervention. I believe that there is still an enormous fund of good will towards this country in Scandinavia and Canada, despite the Government's unfortunate history in regard to newsprint in North America. I believe that it would be possible for the Government to capitalise on that good will and, with the co-operation of America, obtain a larger share of the world supplies of wood pulp for this country. Nor need this mean a decrease in the imports of other essential commodities, such as food and timber.

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will remember a case which I discussed with him two days ago, a case in which, by importing into this country 15,000 dollars worth of Canadian box boards, it was possible to earn 450,000 dollars by the export to dollar areas of confectionery packed in these boards. That is just one example, and I am sure that there must be many more. Obviously, to facilitate the import of boards under these circumstances is to assist our dollar-earning industries, and not the reverse. It is a shortage of packing materials that threatens our dollar exports. If we have not sufficient packing materials, then we cannot send our goods abroad, which is a danger to which I direct the attention of the Government.

There are two other ways in which the Government can help which are referred to in my Motion. The first is, by exhortation and example, to discourage the mis- use of paper. I do not want to prejudice the tone of this debate by using what might justifiably be described as petty criticisms; but the right hon. Gentleman must know the sort of thing I have in mind. Could not Government departments and other national bodies be urged to use the utmost possible discretion in the choice of the purposes for which they use paper and boards? Is it necessary, for example, for nationalised industries, which are monopolies administering essential services, to use paper to advertise the essential services which we all have to use anyway?

How much paper is the Festival of Britain going to take? Information reaching me so far has taken the figure to over 2,000 tons. I have not the slightest doubt that the ultimate figure will be very much more. That is an awful lot of paper. Is that really an irreducible minimum? Every Member has received from the Festival of Britain an envelope containing a substantial quantity of literature, and very poor literature, it is, in my opinion; perhaps the publicity experts would like to express an opinion on that. As far as I can see, this is almost a complete waste of paper. Could not the Government help in this way?

Mr. John E. Haire (Wycombe)

Has not the hon. Member seen the Travel Association's publication entitled "Coming Events," in which they give a special display to the forthcoming Festival? Does he suggest that this is bad publicity?

Mr. Price

I am not suggesting that all paper that is used for publicity is being misused. I am suggesting that greater care should be taken to see that paper is not misused.

Mr. Moeran (Bedfordshire, South)

Can the hon. Member suggest any way by which the misuse of paper by private industry can be controlled—for example, the 3½ million pamphlets which were given away at the recent Motor Show?

Mr. Price

There is a good deal of waste of paper in private industry. But that is the point I am making; that the Government by exhortation and example should play their part in discouraging the misuse of paper. If the Government misuse paper, industry will follow their example, and the reverse is also true.

The next point is the use of what I call indigenous raw materials. I am particularly interested in the use of straw. Ever since I entered the paper trade, some 23 years ago, I have been interested in the possibility of using straw for paper-making. It has seemed to me folly that while we are so completely dependent on overseas supplies of raw material for paper-making, we should allow hundreds of thousand of tons of straw to go to waste every year. I understand that before the war thousands of tons of straw were burnt for the sake of something better to do with it.

I know the difficulty. I know that it is not so easy to convert straw into paper-making pulp, as it is in the case of wood and esparto which are the conventional materials. But, in the conditions of world shortage to which I have referred, surely it is tragic that we should not use such a source while it is available. During the war we used straw very widely. In 1945, we were using straw at the rate of 350,000 tons per annum. The figure has dropped today to 85,000 tons, a loss of 90,000 tons of finished paper. I believe that paper production from straw could be stepped up over the 1945 figure to about 200,000 tons of finished paper a year. It can hardly be necessary to exaggerate the importance of that.

The ruling price of straw is between £8 and £8 5s. a ton. Collecting, baling and transport present problems, but not insuperable problems, which could be overcome. I am wondering whether the Ministry of Agriculture could not help us here. Some sections of the industry agree with my views. Others are not so enthusiastic. My feeling is that as far as the latter are concerned, in the short run it is likely to be a case of "Hobson's choice"—they will just have to use it, as they did during the war, as a result of shortages of other raw materials; but in the long run I think that all their objections could be met by the establishment of central pulping plants, which could be erected for the sole purpose of converting straw into pulp, thus relieving the paper-making factories of that responsibility, and by selling the pulp to the paper makers.

A very interesting article appeared in "The World's Paper Trade Review" on 9th November. Talking of the use of straw, it said: There was a suggestion some years ago of setting up centralised pulping plants for the conversion of straw in appropriate areas, and a scheme was submitted to the Government of the day. This is a practical proposition which might well be undertaken now. I believe that three such plants, suitably sited, as near as possible to the main sources of straw and, if possible, near the sea, in order to assist the efficient discharge of the effluent, could easily cope with the tonnage to which I have referred.

There are other raw materials which have been investigated. I noticed that the same article in "The World's Paper Trade Review" refers to the fact that in Aigiers eucalyptus is being experimented with. It includes also this sentence: It will be recalled that at Algiers an esparto and straw using mill is already producing fine papers. The ironical point about this is that that paper is being produced with machinery supplied by British firms. If machinery from British firms can be used for making paper from straw in Algiers, surely it can be used for that purpose in this country.

My next point concerns the question of waste paper salvage. This is a very important raw material for the hoard making industry, and I use the generic term "container boards" as covering, I do not want to say a multitude of sins, but the many different qualities which are used for the packaging of goods. It [...]ight not to be necessary to go into very much detail after the excellent Adjournment debate of about three weeks ago, which was initiated, I believe, by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), but I must go briefly over the main details.

The position as I see it is this. Up to July, 1949, collections through local authorities and through the normal channels of the waste paper trade were running at such a level that users were becoming overstocked. They just could not take any more. In August, 1949, the figure of stocks was 120,000 tons. The Board of Trade were asked to help by taking this waste paper salvage and putting it into dumps. They declined to do so and instead, on 6th July, 1949, they revoked the order which required local authorities with populations of over 10,000 to collect waste paper.

Had I been consulted, if I may say so, I would have urged that the control on consumption which was then in force should have been eased or removed, but that was not the course taken by the Board of Trade. They first of all removed the order requiring local authorities to collect. Local authorities, in view of the stock position, were left with large quantities of salvage on their hands and simply could not move it. They were let down rather badly, and their enthusiasm for waste paper salvage, which was never very high, sagged even lower.

Two months later—I think the date was 5th September, 1949—the Board of Trade removed restrictions on consumption, and the previous tendency was completely reversed. Stocks of waste paper, which have now fallen even lower, had by August, 1950, fallen by 40,000 tons, and a delicate situation had arisen. Industry were aware of this and were doing all they could to meet it. The largest single users of waste paper in this country have for the past few months had 18 of their sales staff doing nothing but going round the country encouraging local authorities to collect waste paper, telling them how to do it, how to make a profit out of it, and encouraging them, by placing long-term contracts at guaranteed prices, to adopt these schemes on a long-term basis.

One of the biggest difficulties which they encountered was in convincing local authorities that salvage was really necessary. Local authorities asked them. 'If this really is important in the national interest, why do not the Government tell us so?" The Government were urged to tell them so, but they did not do so until three or four weeks ago. I am very glad the Government have now done that, but it was done rather late. It was a pity they had not done it before. Already, the position is very dangerous and consumption is being lost. The firm to which I referred had to shut down one machine about three weeks ago. Today, two machines are shut down. A thousand tons of production of these essential container boards is being lost every week, and, despite that, their stocks of waste paper, which stand today at about 6,000 tons, are still going down by about 500 tons per week.

That brings me to my last point on this issue. When machines close down, men become redundant. That redundancy can be absorbed for a time on other kinds of jobs, but this cannot last for ever. I have the authority of this firm for saying that they hope to be able to retain all their labour at least until Christmas, but that unless the supply of waste paper between now and Christmas improves considerably they cannot give any guarantee beyond then, which means that early in the New Year, unless they get more waste paper, something may happen which we should all regret.

Another important aspect is the question of newsprint. It ought not to be necessary to remind the House that this subject has been debated several times in recent months; nevertheless, the position today is so serious that we might well consider it again. Before the war, Britain had the finest newspapers in the world, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Today, we still have the finest newspapers qualitatively; but quantitatively based on the consumption of newsprint per head, we have dropped to tenth place, and based on the number of pages, we are very nearly at the bottom. We very nearly have the flimsiest newspapers of any country.

Briefly, the position is this. Before the war, we consumed 1,200,000 tons of newsprint per annum, two thirds of which was home produced and the remainder imported. Today, home production is down to 580,000 tons per annum; 100,000 tons is earmarked for export—that is, 40,000 tons more than in 1949; and 100,000 tons goes to the unrestricted periodicals—I do not complain about that—leaving a balance of only 380,000 tons for our own newspapers.

In order to maintain a six-page newspaper we need 530,000 tons, which means that we must import, if we are to maintain six-page newspapers, 150,000 tons of newsprint per annum. The modesty of that target of a six-page newspaper is surely apparent when we bear in mind that U.N.E.S.C.O. has said that the minimum, if the Press is to do its job satisfactorily, is an eight-page newspaper. It has been said that newspapers are the measure of the prosperity of a country. If that is so, then we are nearly the poorest nation, which I do not believe is the case.

The present plight of the newspaper industry is to my mind due almost entirely to the way in which the Government have treated the Canadian newsprint manufacturing industry. Other factors have played their part but compared with that central factor the others fade into comparative insignificance. We have defaulted in our Canadian contracts three times, and I want to deal with each of those three occasions.

The first, with which I am not so much concerned today, was when Lend-Lease came to an end. A supply of 224,000 tons of newsprint per annum became only 93,000 tons in 1946. That was unfortunate, but not fatal, and I am certainly not blaming the Government for that. The second occasion was a very different story. It was in 1947. In the Autumn of 1946, Lord Layton went to Canada armed with the written authority of the Government to place contracts for 300,000 tons per year for 1949, 1950 and 1951. He had with him the written assurance of the Government that if he could place those contracts, import licences and dollars would be made available. On the strength of those written assurance, the contracts were placed, but less than a year later those written assurances were dishonoured.

The Newsprint Supply Company have often been blamed for that, but it has nothing whatever to do with them. They were helpless. It was a Government decision to cut dollar expenditure for this purpose that brought about that situation. What is more, the Government are not free of responsibility for the dollar position. They had run through the American loan in two years, instead of the five years which they themselves had estimated. That was why they took that decision.

Mr. Pannell (Leeds, West)

I understand the hon. Member's case that there should be at least some measure of control, but before he leaves that point would he indicate the rising prices in America and not merely pass them by?

Mr. Price

If I allowed myself to be diverted by that interruption, I should be discussing not the paper and board industry, but the economic policy of the Government.

Mr. Pannell

That is what the hon. Member is going on to do.

Mr. Price

That is nevertheless an important subject, which we should all like to discuss another day, but not today.

Mr. Haire

Before the hon. Gentleman became a Member of the House we discussed it fully.

Mr. Price

I hope that we shall discuss it again, and I hope to take part in such a discussion, but it is not what we are discussing today. My point here is to make it quite clear that the blame does not attach to the Newsprint Supply Company. Members of the Government have often succeeded in creating the impression that this was entirely a matter for that company, but this is not so.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Harold Wilson)

Will the hon. Member give evidence of this statement that Members of the Government have blamed the Newsprint Supply Company for this position in Canada?

Mr. Price

Had I expected to be challenged on this I should have had the evidence with me—[HON. MEMBERS: "The hon. Member has made a statement."]—but the right hon. Gentleman can rest assured that before the debate is over he will be given the evidence, I think, by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Bishop); if not by my hon. Friend, then by somebody else. At any rate, I will see that it is supplied.

The third occasion to which I want to refer is the decision of January of this year following devaluation. I want to deal with this in some detail. In January of this year the Government decided they could allow no dollars whatever for imports of newsprint during the first half of 1950. Once again they went back on their contact. I hope that before this debate is over someone will explain to me why it is that this Government is so tender in its handling of contracts for potential war materials for countries such as Egypt and Poland, and yet tears up newsprint contracts with Canada almost without a second thought; why it is they can find dollars for amusement machinery for the Festival of Britain but not for 25,000 tons of newsprint; why it is we can envisage the provision of millions of dollars for the import of American coal to enable us to honour our coal contracts with Europe, but we cannot find a much smaller amount of dollars to enable us to honour newsprint contracts with Canada.

In January dollar imports of newsprint were stopped altogether for the first half of this year, and I wish to read to the House a cable, which I have in my hand, and which arrived in this country on 15th January. It came from Montreal and is signed by a man named Doane—a name which will be familiar to the President of the Board of Trade: We note there is to be further meeting. Monday of Newsprint Supply Company Board and Board of Trade and we shall be greatly interested in the outcome as believe decision reached can well be momentous one. The Canadian newsprint industries have been perplexed. Press dispatches principally attributed to London have indicated complete cessation in 1950 but neither the industry or self has ever believed this will be the final official decision. Today's newsprint contracts were entered into with the complete knowledge and approval of your present Government and if dollars are being allocated for unbleached sulphite"— I ask the House to note that— in 1950 we believe dollars should be found for at least token shipments of newsprint and we think a rate of 50,000 tons annually is close to token as it represents only one-third minimum anticipated for 1950 and less than 20 per cent. of pre-war rate. It is our considered opinion that if some way is not found to maintain continuity the reaction here will be that England has run out on an obligation to some of its very best friends and this reaction could well extend far beyond the circle of newsprint manufacturers. In addition to the moral obligation involved there is also the realistic factor of self-interest. Newsprint supply and demand are in close balance today. There are unnatural restrictions in many world markets so it could well be that in a matter of even months it will become apparent Scandinavia cannot do the job you need in either pulp or paper.

Mr. H. Wilson

What date was this?

Mr. Price

It was 15th January. It would therefore seem most important that every effort be made by the publishers and your Government to retain the present interest in your needs now held by this industry and it should he kept in mind that some of the present Canadian suppliers have only recently been interested in the English market having come in of their own free choice as against available North American markets to help out at a time that England's need could not be filled elsewhere. That cable was read to the President of the Board of Trade on 16th January at his meeting with the Newsprint Supply Company. It is in the face of the absolutely clear and unequivocal warnings contained in that cable, which were emphasised by the newsprint industry, that the President decided to stop dollars for the import of newsprint for the first half of this year.

Mr. H. Wilson

May I interrupt the hon. Member? I only wish to help him to develop his case. If, as he says—and I agree with him—the telegram came on 15th January, would he explain why it is that on 16th January and on two further occasions in March, newspaper proprietors came to see me and, even on the assumption of no dollar imports, even on the assumption of the continued rate of export at the present figure, they said it was possible to increase the size of newspapers, because their stocks were excessive?

Mr. Price

I will explain it in so far as I know the answer. The authority in these affairs sits behind me, and I have not the slightest doubt that he can explain much more fully than I. But I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that in February of that year there was a General Election and one of the reasons why the industry asked for seven-page papers for a period was the General Election.

Mr. Wilson

No, the hon. Member is quite wrong.

Mr. Price

I said one of the reasons. If I am wrong, someone will put me right.

Mr. Wilson

They asked for it to be continued after the election.

Mr. Price

In the face of the threat of four-page papers the right hon. Gentleman eventually agreed to allow dollars for 25,000 tons for the second half of 1950. Had that 25,000 tons been forthcoming the Newsprint Supply Company could have maintained their six-page papers. Unfortunately, those 25,000 tons were not forthcoming. What had happened was exactly what had been forecast in this cable. We had lost the market. The newsprint just was not there any more. It had gone elsewhere, and all we could get was 10,000 to 12,000 tons. Had we obtained the 25,000 tons the six-page paper could have been maintained. As we have not got it we have fallen below the six-page newspaper and our stocks are falling to dangerous levels. I believe the actual figure is about 70,000 tons as against the Government's own agreed safety minimum of 100,000 tons. At the time, I would remind the House that we are still exporting 40,000 tons of newsprint more than in 1949.

I wonder if the President in his reply will deal with this point? On 27th July, dealing with this question of exports, he gave an undertaking to my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. John Rodgers): I have already suggested to some of our friends in the Commonwealth that we should get together to review the whole question of newsprint supplies and how we can help one another on that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th July, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 814] I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman is in a position to report progress? Have there been any steps taken with our friends in the Commonwealth to discuss this question of newsprint supplies?

The emphasis is always placed on the national Press when we are discussing newsprint, and I do not propose to minimise the importance of the national Press. But I would emphasise the importance of the local Press who are also involved. The local newspapers play an indispensable part in our national life. They perform important duties which the national Press cannot perform. They report local activities, meetings of the borough council, the doings of local personalities, the activities of hon. Members of this House in their constituencies, and the performances of local operatic societies. They carry small advertisements and help local business; and, for the most part, maintain a very high standard of balanced responsibility. As the Lord President of the Council will know, in his constituency and in my constituency which adjoins it, the "Lewisham Borough News" and the "Kentish Mercury" both circulate and are excellent examples of the kind of local newspaper I have in mind. I suggest that their needs must be looked after.

It is a fact that workers in the newspaper industry are concerned at the continued shortage of newsprint. I have in my hand an account which appeared in the "Staffordshire Evening Sentinel" of 9th November. At a meeting of the trade unionists employed in the newspaper industry the following motion was put and passed: This meeting records its deep concern at the serious situation existing in the newspaper industry through the continued restriction of the supply of newsprint, and, further, is of the opinion that recent Government appeals for increased production by means of incentive schemes are impossible to implement unless this restriction of paper is eased. The meeting request the Board of Trade to explore all channels with a view to increasing newsprint supplies at the earliest possible moment, as the present position holds grave danger of unemployment in the newspaper industry. I have also in my hand details of a letter which were sent to the Government. I believe it was sent to the Department of the right hon. Gentleman, but I cannot be sure. It was circulated to the Government. This came from Yorkshire. It reports a meeting which passed a similar resolution to the one I have read out and goes on to say: The Government's persistence in the present policy of restricting paper supplies for newspapers is having a far more serious effect on the workers' livelihood than on the newspaper proprietors, and it is bound to result in alienation of the support hitherto given to the Labour cause by hundreds of thousands of workers dependent on the newspaper industry throughout the country. Far be it from me to interfere with the political education of these gentlemen, but I would rather they remained politically uneducated and in employment than become politically educated and out of employment. I am sure that on that point at least all hon. Members of this House will agree with me, even though they do not accept any of the other points I have made.

I have referred to the tremendous good will which I believe exists for this country in Scandinavia and Canada. I am sure that the Government, even at this late stage, could capitalise that good will and obtain for this country a larger share of the world supplies of both newsprint and pulp. I believe that if the Government showed courage and wisdom and gave the skilled and expert planners of the newsprint industry, who know their job, freedom to tackle this newsprint problem, they would relieve the anxiety of many of their supporters about their security of employment; they would end this spontaneous reasoned, and justified country-wide campaign throughout the Press of the country; secure fuller publicity about the useful activities of hon. Members of this House in their constituencies, and do real public service by enabling the Forth Estate to maintain its status as the best in the world.

12.16 p.m.

Mr. Nabarro (Kidderminster)

I beg to second the Motion.

In doing so I must, in accordance with the tradition of this House, declare that I have a remote commercial and industrial interest in the particular problem under discussion, in that I am the managing director of a company which consumes large quantities of the materials of which adequate mention has been made, cardboard, fibreboard, millboard and associated products.

Most of the speech of my hon. Friend seemed to be devoted, to newsprint, and I would in complementary fashion, devote practically none of my time to that subject, important though it is, but would rather concentrate on the present problems which are arising, and I believe are becoming acute, through the shortage of suitable materials for the packaging of goods for the export trade, for defence requirements and for the distribution of many essential foodstuffs, manufactured goods, commodities and so on, on the home market. Throughout the last six months the position has steadily been deteriorating. Perhaps it is associated, in a measure, with the devaluation of sterling. I believe that it is, because it has aggravated the problem of the supply of alternative materials since sterling was devalued and that has created, enlarged and possibly temporarily increased demand for fibreboard, millboard and associated products used for packing purposes.

The position is now so bad that manufacturers and exporters all over the country are coming to their Members of Parliament and saying, "The Government are continually asking us to increase our volume of export, notably to the dollar countries, but will you, as a Member of Parliament, ask the Government where we are to get the materials in which to pack our goods?" In fact, many companies which manufacture containers from fibreboard and allied products are today having to quote to manufacturers, who need packing for export purposes, 12 to 15 months delivery for export containers. That, of course, is a fantastic position, because it means that our manufacturing companies in turn have to quote their overseas customers 12 to 15 months delivery, due to the fact that they have nothing into which these manufactured goods can be put.

Many people say, "In such circumstances why do not these companies turn to more orthodox forms of packing, such as timber boxes." The statistics of timber for that purpose readily demonstrate that the timber situation is, if anything, more difficult than the fibre situation. The facts are that in 1938 the imports of soft wood timber to the United Kingdom, excluding pitwood and plywood, amounted to 1,793,000 standards. In 1949, the imports of soft wood amounted to 1,079,000 standards, excluding pitwood and plywood, or about 60 per cent. of the 1938 figure. The most of that I would say should be devoted to essential constructional and house building purposes and a minimum to packaging. The amount of softwood timber used last year for packaging purposes is 230,000 standards, or approximately 22 per cent. of all the soft wood timber that came into this country.

Hon. Members may disagree with me as to how many houses ought to be built in a year, but may I put this point to them, because I am sure that this argument has not been adduced in this House previously—one-and-a-half tons of waste paper collected is equal in terms of packing materials to one standard of softwood timber. For every one-and-a-half tons of waste paper which we collect in this country, additional to what we collect at the present time, we are, through the medium of that waste paper, providing the softwood timber for one standard council house. Therefore, the President of the Board of Trade, in future exhortations which go out from his Department, might encourage people to collect waste paper as a direct method of providing more timber for house building, because that is the logical development of the argument which I put before this House on 2nd November and on many other occasions for quickening the salvage arrangements of most local authorities within the United Kingdom.

May I turn to the question of the world available sources of supply for this container board, millboard, or fibreboard required for packaging purposes. There are only three sources of supply. One is the American group of countries, the United States and Canada; the second is Scandinavia, Norway and Sweden, and Denmark to a lesser extent; and the third, of course, is the indigenous supply of the country concerned, in this case the United Kingdom. I would never advocate the right hon. Gentleman allowing any dollars, in present circumstances—and I say this with great deliberation and with a knowledge of the trade—to be used for the purchase of container board, mill-board or fibreboard from Canada or the United States of America. If we have dollars available we should spend them on newsprint.

There is the alternative source from Scandinavia, which for the most part includes mills in Sweden and Norway. A peculiarly difficult position has developed in the last 12 months as a direct and logical result, I believe, of devaluation of sterling. I went over to find out the facts for myself, and I drove my car from the North of France to inside the Arctic circle, visiting various mills on the road. I learned, in Scandinavia that the demand for wood pulp, paper products and container board from the United States, Canada and other dollar areas has been accentuated to such an extent in the last 12 months by virtue of the fact that Scandinavian countries devalued their currencies by a ratio approximately commensurate with the devaluation of sterling, that the Scandinavian output of these products available for shipment overseas is going largely to the Americas. Even if we wanted to get the container board from Scandinavia, none would be available.

Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)

The hon. Gentleman is making an honest and well informed speech of a non-controversial kind. I should like to follow up this point of his about devaluation. Is he quite certain that it is devalution and not the result of the Korean war and the general shortage of these products that has plunged those countries into the market to use their dollars against our soft currency?

Mr. Nabarro

I concede to the hon. Member that the Korean war has a bearing on the situation, but this flow of exports of wood pulp and allied products from Scandinavia to the new world did, in fact, commence on a greater scale before the Korean war. The primary cause of that movement was undoubtedly the devaluation of sterling, and I may add, again in a non-controversial spirit, the fact that Germany in pre-war days was a large producer of wood pulp. However, the sources of supply of wood pulp in Germany are almost entirely in the Eastern zone, and what is available in the Western zone is inadequate for German domestic purposes. As a result Germany is buying wood pulp and allied products in Scandinavia.

I do not believe we can turn to the Americas or Scandinavia, so that we come to the third source of supply, a much bigger salvage of waste paper and allied products within the United Kingdom. It is a well-known fact that we are the greatest importing country in the world, and many millions of containers flow into Britain packed with foodstuffs and commodities of all descriptions. I would venture a guess that not more than 20 per cent. of all those containers are ever salvaged or re-used, in present circumstances.

It is interesting to relate that the Government sets no example, the War Office particularly, in a matter of this sort, because there is a standing order to all Royal Ordnance factories in the country that the containers they receive, be they timber or fibre board, must be burned, which in view of the fact that thousands of tons of packaging material is involved every year, is a sad reflection upon our ability to progress towards a balanced economy. I make that point in no controversial spirit.

It is a difficult problem. The War Office have to face the fact that if the local executives of the Ordnance factories were allowed to sell this salvage material—and here I cast no reflection on the integrity of the officials concerned—there is always the danger of corruption. That is why this order was made by the War Office. But in our desperate straits we must take steps to salvage that material concerned.

I am pleased to say that, as a result of the speech I made in this House on 2nd November and of the collaboration of the Waste Paper Recovery Association in reprinting 3,000 copies of that speech and sending them to all local authorities in the United Kingdom, no fewer that 50 local authorities have restarted collections within the last 21 days, and I am informed now that another 100 local authorities are contemplating restarting collection. Even these 150 local authorities, added to the 400 who were collecting before, only gives us a total of 550 local authorities collecting waste paper out of an approximate total of 1,600 such authorities in the country as a whole.

This debate should amongst other things provide a further stimulus to local authorities and the general public to encourage the salvage of all clean waste paper and board. Unless we are able to collect an additional 250,000 tons of waste paper during 1951 the situation by next Spring—and I am saying this in the nature of a prognostication—is that a part of our export trade will be paralysed, the needs of the defence programme will seriously be prejudiced, and the distribution of essential supplies of foodstuffs, medicines, raw materials and all sorts of things within the home market of the United Kingdom will very seriously be impeded.

I turn for a few moments to another aspect of the problem under discussion today. The publishing industry views with the greatest apprehension the trend of events in regard to raw material supplies for 1951, and, in this connection, I think I might crystallise their fears by quoting from an excellent letter which appeared in "The Times" of 13th November, 1950, from the President of the Publishers Association, Mr. J. D. Newth, who said— The intense mobilisation of this country's material resources for purposes of defence, in which we are now so properly if regrettably engaged, should not obscure the cardinal truth that the cold war which necessitates this policy is fundamentally a conflict of ideas and of philosophies, a contest for men's minds. That recalls a very pertinent remark made by the late Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1942 at one of his most famous "fireside-talks", when he said, "A war of ideas could no more be won without books than a naval war could be won without ships."

There is no doubt that, unless we are able to provide greater quantities of fibre board and binding materials for 1951—and I exclude from that category newsprint, which is an entirely different consideration—then we shall encounter the possibility of having gradually to cut down the £10 million worth of books which we export. That is in itself, a valuable contribution from the economic point of view. A reduction of book ex- ports would vitally affect the conflict of ideas and ideologies which is being engaged in all over the world between Russian totalitarian Communism, on the one hand, and the dissemination of British ideals of democracy and justice, on the other hand. A generous and continuous flow of books and publications to overseas countries, and the salvage of materials in the United Kingdom, are essential factors.

May I conclude by saying that I do not attach any blame, in any way, to the President of the Board of Trade for the decision he took in July, 1949, when he withdrew directives to local authorities for the salvage of waste paper. The situation at that moment was such that the local authorities collecting waste paper, in all parts of the country, could not get the mills to take it, because storage capacity was filled. Such local authorities appealed to the President of the Board of Trade and said, "What on earth are we to do with the waste paper?" Of course, the President of the Board of Trade had to remove the compulsion which had remained from the war years and allow matters to take their course.

Devaluation, rearmament and the increase in the volume of exports has brought about an entirely different state of affairs today, and I suggest that the President must now take a lead, not by compulsion, but by exhortation and persuasion, along with his allies the Waste Paper Recovery Association. He must appeal to the Women's Voluntary Services, the Women's Institutes, the trade unions, the trades councils, the Labour Party, if he wishes, and the Conservative Party as well, through the medium of the British Broadcasting Corporation and Television Services and executives in offices and factories, to make them all realise that the salvage of waste paper is a vital need. The President of the Board of Trade must banish lethargy, drive out temerity, inspire energy. I am sure that we can then overcome our problems.

12.35 p.m.

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu (Huddersfield. East)

Like the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), whom I should like to congratulate most sincerely on a very able speech, I must first declare my personal interest in this matter to the House. I am by profession a journalist: in a very small way I am an author, and therefore, it is my personal interest to have as much paper as possible for publications produced in this country. I should like to put one or two qualifications to that later on in my speech. I begin by saying that neither in the excellent speech to which we have just listened, nor the very reasoned speech with which the Motion was moved, did I find anything with which I want to quarrel violently, so far as their substance or tone are concerned.

I should want to turn the emphasis on some of the things which the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. H. A. Price) said, although with the substance I have no quarrel at all. For example, in the matter of newsprint, I myself have always felt that it was a mistake by the Government to break the Canadian contracts. I said so at the time, and I believe it was a most unfortunate action to take. Having said that, however, and looking back over what has happened since, it seems to me to be rather doubtful whether the breaking of that contract has been quite so serious in its effects as I thought it would have been. It seems to me that, even if we had maintained that contract, we should still be faced with extreme difficulties in getting newsprint supplies from Canada, not merely because of a shortage of dollars, but because of the fact that, so far as I can gather, the Canadian producers regardless of contracts are largely over-sold at the present time.

What worries me about the position now is that, although we have a contract with the Canadian authorities, the problem that seems to face us is getting it fulfilled, and I ask the President of the Board of Trade, if he possibly can, to give us all the information about the negotiations now going on in Canada and about the prospects of whether the Canadians will be able to fulfil the agreement they have made.

That is the only comment which I want to make on the newsprint situation today, apart from saying this. The biggest single action that could be taken to improve the position of countries like our own which are, at the moment, so desperately short of newsprint, would be for the United States to agree that there should be some sort of international agreement for pooling newsprint and allocating it amongst those who need it. I believe that that applies not only to newsprint but to all forms of paper, because one of the major difficulties with which the world is faced at the present time is the enormous buying by the United States in all the markets of the world.

Apart from the question of new supplies from one source or another, it is enormously important that we should make the best use of what sources we already have, and that brings me to the question of salvage, with which the hon. Members for Kidderminster and Lewisham, West have dealt at some length. I believe that this is a most urgent question that has to be tackled right away, and this is where I make a distinction in emphasis between myself and the hon. Member for Lewisham, West, who tended rather too much to blame the Government for this. I would place more of the blame on the Waste Paper Recovery Association, on whom part of the responsibility must rest.

I hope that whoever is to blame for the fact that a new salvage scheme throughout the country has not yet been started, whether it be the Government, the local authorities or the Waste Paper Recovery Association, will get a move on as fast as they can, but with this qualification. I beg my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade not to give tremendous publicity to a salvage drive which will get all the housewives busy putting their stuff in their back gardens ready to be collected before he has the collectors available to pick it up. There is nothing more exasperating than being clutted up with stuff which one has carefully got together to help the country and then to find that no one comes to collect it.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, West spoke about developing new sources of paper supplies. I wonder if enough is being done both by industry and by the Government to carry out research into new sources of raw materials. I should like my right hon. Friend to consult with the Secretary of State for the Colonies to see to what extent the Colonial Development Corporation can be brought into to help in the development of new types of fibres, and so forth. We must realise that the shortage of paper today is a problem which is not going to pass in a year or two. I am told that we are consuming paper of all kinds at a rate which is about 10 per cent. above the possible replacement rate. That being so, we are going to be faced with a very serious shortage, far worse than the present shortage, in a few years time unless we devote such resources as we have to research into new forms of raw materials.

Apart from wanting to build up new sources, doing what we can to make the best use of salvage, and getting the best possible sharing of existing supplies throughout the world, there is one other thing we must do, and that is to see that, so far as the supplies within this country are concerned, they are used as efficiently as possible. One of my hon. Friends suggested that there was a considerable misuse of paper by advertising. I am sure that is so, and that there is a great deal of what really amounts to waste by private enterprise firms using great quantities of high-class paper for their brochures when they could equally well use lower grade paper of which there is not such a great shortage.

While I say that of private enterprise, I am perfectly prepared to agree that precisely the same thing applies to the Government. I am horrified to hear that very large supplies of paper have now been bought by the Army. It seems to be that the more paper there is about an Army the less efficient that Army is going to be. I beg my right hon. Friend to watch the Service Ministers in order to see that no more paper goes into the Armed Forces than is absolutely necessary for various vital purposes.

I think we are all aware of the tremendous importance of having an adequate supply of paper for the spread of ideas. We know, too, how important are supplies of paper to industry. For example, it is not much use having a very large expansion in the production of cement if we cannot provide the bags into which to put it. But I suggest to the House that we must bear in mind that to the man who has no house the fact that he cannot get a book to read, or not as many books to read and that newspapers have only six or four pages is not of prime importance. Nothing we say or do here should in any way prejudice the chance of that man getting a house in a reasonable time.

Subject to that qualification, I beg the Government to do all they can to find new sources of supplies, to stop any wastage that is going on, and also to see that the industry itself does everything it should in order to ensure that we have the most effective and the fullest possible use of the paper that is available to this country.

12.45 p.m.

Mr. George Ward (Worcester)

I do not think anyone on either side of the House would disagree with the last few words of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu). None of us wishes to see house building cut in any way. Indeed, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we are continually pressing the Government to increase it, and nothing has been said so far in this debate, or, I am sure, will be said, which could in any way be interpreted as meaning that we must have more newspapers and less houses.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) dealt extremely ably with the difficulty of those requiring box containers. His constituency marches with my own, and he knows the vital importance of this matter to us in Worcestershire. We are in the centre of a large fruit farming district and the farmers have to have cardboard baskets and containers for their fruit. We have also a variety of light industries, of which one of the largest, and certainly the oldest, is, of course, the glove industry. We have about a dozen gloving firms in Worcester alone, and they need cardboard boxes for the export of their goods. While I have no personal interest to declare in any way, I am concerned to see that these two vital industries are helped in every possible way by making greater supplies of containers available to them.

These industries rely almost entirely upon a company of box makers in my division, called Bevingtons, which was established in 1845. They are not a very large firm, but they have for many years supplied the gloving industry and the fruit farmers with their boxes. They make rigid and collapsible box cartons and also fruit baskets, and it is no exaggeration to say that this company is today threatened with complete extinction. Only this week they have had to dismiss two of their employees, and none of the remaining employees can feel very secure unless something is done to help this industry. The management have tried as hard as they possibly can to obtain further supplies of raw materials, but not since July this year have any of their suppliers been able to accept a single order from them, and even today they cannot give them any promise of being able to do so in the near future.

To show how bad this situation is, the stocks of cardboard suitable for box-making in this company's store rooms are now completely exhausted. They have been making boxes, alternatively, by using the cardboard which they normally use for making fruit baskets, but this is extremely uneconomic, because it comes in suitable sizes only for making baskets and, in any case, the stocks of that particular board will be completely exhausted in two months' time. There is bound to be very much greater unemployment then. What will happen to that company? What will happen to the glovers who must have boxes to export their gloves, and what will happen to the fruit farmers next year?

None of the half-dozen suppliers of cardboard for this purpose, from whom Messrs. Bevington generally buy their stocks, will accept orders until 1951 and, in the case of basket board, they will not accept orders until next June. This position was made clear to the Board of Trade as long ago as last August, in a letter dated 21st August, 1950, from Messrs. Bevington to the right hon. Gentleman's import department in Birmingham; and this situation was set out in some detail. A reply was received that nothing whatever could be done.

A similar reply was received in November, in answer to further representations. But when one of Messrs. Bevington's customers wrote to the Board of Trade begging them to help Bevingtons, so that they should have supplies, the reply came: It is suggested that if Messrs. Bevington are unable to meet your requirements, you may wish to approach the British Paper Box Federation or the British Carton Association at 27, Chancery Lane, London, W.C.1, in the hope that they may be able to assist. The only suggestion the Board of Trade made was that Messrs. Bevington, through no fault of their own, should lose their customers to some other company. I do not think that was a very helpful suggestion on their part.

Another aspect of this is that it is causing a tremendous black market in imported boards, as I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster will agree. For example, imported Swedish board was £45 a ton in August, and today it is £80 a ton, and it is vastly inferior stuff to British board which is only £22 a ton. Imported leather boards cost £58 a ton in June. By October they had gone up to £78, and today they are costing £80 to £90 a ton. It is entirely because British mills are so starved of raw materials that they need for board-making that this black market has grown up in imported board and this tremendous inflation has taken place. In the interest of keeping down the cost of living, I beg the President of the Board of Trade to look into this matter and see what he can do.

I have taken my own division as an example to try to bring home to hon. Members the very grave difficulties these people are in, but, of course, there are many others concerned outside my own division. The Government must really consider, at once, the livelihood of those engaged in industries concerned with box-making and making cardboard and so on, because it is an industry so essential to our export trade and to so many other industries; and those people making cardboard and cardboard boxes have as much right to employment as anyone else.

The Government knew the position perfectly well in August, and, as far as I can see, they have completely ignored it so far. The main solution lies in the collection of wastepaper, as was admirably put by three previous speakers in this debate. I will not elaborate on that, except to say that perhaps the gravity of this situation might be brought home by one further figure, and that is that one cardboard manufacturer in the London district had stocks of waste paper last October of 47,000 tons. Today it has gone down to only 6,000. The main solution lies with the local authorities, and I hope the Government will get busy on that right away.

There is another suggestion which I would like to make. The Prime Minister, in announcing the armament programme, said it was the most the country could do within its industrial and manpower capacity, without putting it on a wartime footing. I wonder on what figures that statement was made. I wonder whether whoever examined the cardboard indus- try might not have made a mistake, because I am told that, even if the pulp becomes available to keep every mill in this industry busy, with the demands of the armament programme, the normal users of cardboard could not get enough supplies for their needs. I ask, therefore, whether it is true to say that the particular part of the armament programme which concerns the cardboard industry is, in fact, within the capacity of the industry.

There is no one keener than myself on the armament programme, but we must have very careful regard to the fact that if it is not carried out with the greatest care it might well easily throw people out of work, and it looks as if it will in this case. The other point is that I am told the cardboard industry is still waiting to hear the details of the armament programme, and until those engaged in that industry get those details they cannot possibly plan for the future and cannot accept any large orders from their customers. I ask the Government to let the cardboard manufacturers have details of their programme as quickly as they can, because that will help them very considerably.

I hope the Government will bear in mind the facts that I have given. These people, in my own division, are being thrown out of work and are wondering whether their business is going to survive or not. While the Government delay and deliberate, these people are in a serious position, and I ask the Government for action at once.

12.58 p.m.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Harold Wilson)

The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. G. Ward) illustrated the main theme of his remarks by reference to some events in his own constituency, but as he did not give me notice—though I may be wrong about this—I am sure he will not expect me to reply to the points he raised. I was a little surprised that he approached the problem in this way because, after all, the difficulties from which that firm is suffering are the normal difficulties associated with free and uncontrolled enterprise at a time of acute shortage.

I notice that the hon. Member did not blame me for taking off control, or for other successive relaxations in control that have taken place. He said there was a black market. We have always understood from their remarks that hon. Members opposite thought a black market only operated in conditions of control. There is a very serious shortage which has happened at a time when controls have been removed. I will come to that in a moment.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. H. Price), in a speech with which, apart from one section, I certainly could not quarrel, has moved a Motion with which I certainly would not wish to contend. I agree with most of what is in the Motion and with a good deal of what he said. My only complaint, if any, would be that some, if not all, of the remedies which he proposes in the Motion have already been put in hand, most of them some time ago. His speech as a whole rather gave me the impression of someone who decided to make a speech about paper and had then conducted his researches very widely in an attempt to find what was wrong, what complaints could be made against the Government, and what suggestions could be offered; and in the end found that he had hardly anything to say against the Government and, therefore, returned to a subject which he knew he could safely take up—the subject of newsprint.

He gave a few of his views on newsprint, which he admitted had been very fully covered in the House before, and in doing that he covered a lot of ground. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), in an admirably restrained and constructed speech, dealt principally with the general paper situation apart from the newsprint situation. I shall try as far as possible to reply to all the subjects covered by hon. Gentlemen.

As the hon. Member for Lewisham, West, said, the supply situation for paper is rather tight at present, though the real shortage is limited to a small number of individual types. The production of paper in this country this year has been 103 per cent. of pre-war. The hon. Gentleman gave some figures, and, as he made clear, the production has not been inadequate in itself. On the other hand, of course, imports have fallen, not through any lack of import facilities on the part of the Government but, as hon. Gentlemen have made clear, because of shortage of supplies in our principal buying areas. When we have home production running at 103 per cent. of pre-war and yet we have this chronic shortage, it is clear that there are factors at work pushing up the demand for the paper. The principal factor at work is full employment, for it means that the country requires more paper for industrial uses—

Mr. Manningham-Buller (Northants South)

Everything is now blamed on full employment.

Mr. Wilson

We did not have much chance of blaming everything on full employment when the hon. and learned Gentleman's party was in power before the war. Even he will realise that when we have full employment and far greater production, more paper and more raw materials of all kinds are required. I should have thought that a very simple proposition to make.

As the hon. Member for Kidderminster said, with the present volume of export trade, more materials are required for export packaging. I agree with him that the situation on that side of paper consumption is very serious. It is a matter of concern for all of us. I have made it clear, as did the hon. Gentleman, that the present situation is not in any way due to any failure of home production. On the contrary, all the mills concerned have done extremely well in the face of a very difficult situation. The fall has been due to a fall in imports, which have not yet regained their pre-war levels. That is due to a world shortage over which we have no control.

The hon. Gentleman referred to devaluation. I thought he was right, in replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), to point out that the shortage in Scandinavia and other markets began before the Korean war but has been intensified by the Korean war. On the other hand, I should not regard the increase in demand or activity as being due to devaluation or entirely due to devaluation.

What has been quite plain is that the increased rate of activity in the North American continent since the autumn of last year, and before Korea, has meant that there has been very heavy American buying of many materials in areas from which we would normally have bought our supplies, quite apart from devaluation, and quite apart, as he said, from the Korean situation. It will be recalled that we were debating our newsprint difficulties in the House certainly before the Korean situation was having any marked effect on demand, but at that time we were already suffering from the expanded competition of the American newsprint purchases.

As I have said, there are one or two items which are particularly short. Certain hon. Members have already made clear what some of them are. Apart from newsprint, which I will come to in a moment, I would list those papers made from kraft pulp. For instance, sack kraft paper for multiwall sacks for the cement industry, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) referred, kraft liner, which is needed for packaging exports, and pure kraft wrapping paper which is required for wrapping foodstuffs, are particularly short, and certain packaging boards are temporarily short—we hope it will be only temporarily—while art paper is also short for a number of temporary reasons.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the consumption of paper by Government Departments, the nationalised industries and so on. I have already drawn to the attention of all the departments concerned the need for increased economy, both quantitatively and qualitatively, so far as art paper is concerned, but, as he would be the first to realise, we must have an equal, if not greater, degree of economy now on the part of private industry. I say "greater" because the use of paper or the waste of paper in certain sections of private industry is much more serious in terms of total quantity, particularly in regard to some of the types of paper to which he referred.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the Festival of Britain. I have been into that matter very closely. I believe that a large part of the increased demand for high quality papers connected with the Festival results from the fact that a very large number of private or semi-private organisations, and some local authorities, are bringing out special publications in honour of the Festival, not in any sense at the direct request of the Festival Office or with its sponsorship. They are all combining to increase the demand for this paper which is in very short supply.

To turn to the remedies which the hon. Gentleman proposed, he talked first about increased imports of paper-making materials and of paper and board, and the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. G. Ward) also spoke about the shortage of materials. These items have been on open general licence from all the countries in Western Europe and from Finland since 1st April, 1950. That means that all our principal suppliers except North America have been free to send to us and we have been free to import from them since April of this year. Indeed, dollar allocations for the principal papers and the principal boards which are in short supply have already been given months ago—in some cases since the beginning of the year.

We have provided dollars for sulphite pulp without which our newsprint production could not have been maintained, for kraft pulp, for kraft liner, for sack kraft paper and other types of kraft. We have also provided dollars for other kinds of chemical pulp, particularly special types. and to a small extent for mechanical pulp, of which only a little is available now for export, even from North America. Even if all the dollars in the world were made available we should not be able to bring very much greater supplies from North America. We have authorised the expenditure of dollars for pulpwood to maintain our home production of mechanical pulp.

The measure of our shortfall on essential supplies—the shortfall is really marginal, but nevertheless very serious—is the measure of the extent to which in the kraft field we have been unable to obtain supplies even for dollars. When dollars have been made available we have not been able to get the materials because of the high rate of activity in North America. I agree with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East, that it would be wrong to allocate dollars for paper, even if the paper were available, if that meant interfering with timber for housing or essential food imports. I was glad to see that the hon. Member for Kidderminster took exactly the same view; I agree with what he said.

Perhaps I should mention one point before I pass to the other remedies pro- posed by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West. In the last Parliament we used to hear a lot about bulk purchase in connection with paper and board, and all our difficulties were blamed on bulk purchase. It is clear from today's debate that since the end of bulk purchasing difficulties have not disappeared; indeed, they have become intensified. I am quite sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite who are connected with the paper trade would be the first to admit that the British paper industry owes a great deal to the successful and enterprising commercial buying by the Paper Control in the last year or two, because this year the British paper industry has had the benefit of large stocks of pulp bought by Paper Control at prices which have made our paper this year the cheapest paper in the world.

As a result of that successful bulk buying, chemical paper has this year been something like £4 or £5 a ton cheaper than comparable Scandinavian types and our mechanical paper has been between £1 and £2 a ton cheaper. I should like sometimes to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite, and perhaps even the Press, pay tribute to the successful bulk purchasing which was done last year.

The hon. Gentleman's second remedy related to wastepaper collection. As he knows, during 1949 wastepaper collections, especially in the unsorted grades, which are mainly handled by local authorities, temporarily outstripped the ability of the mills to take what was collected, and there was a collapse in the prices paid by the mills and it was highly unremunerative for the local authorities to maintain their collections. I was forced, as the hon. Member for Kidderminster rightly said, to withdraw the directions to local authorities to maintain the compulsory collections. That has undoubtedly led to a falling off in the amount collected.

With the situation of supply and demand as it was last year, the low prices which the mills were willing to offer, and the refusal—it would be more correct to say "inability"—of many mills to take the collections, it was an inevitable result that the collection of this paper would fall. This year there has been a revival of demand for wastepaper. By the autumn of this year the stocks held by mills had reached a dangerously low level, and current market prices for waste are now considerably higher than maximum prices which were ruling under control in 1949.

I agree with what was said about the importance of a new drive for wastepaper recovery. I also agree profoundly with my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East, about ensuring that that drive is not a propaganda drive but will be backed by the effective collection facilities at the disposal of the local authorities. We have been in discussion with the Waste Paper Recovery Association, and I expect to have within the next week a detailed scheme from that Association for the launching of a new salvage drive. The success of this drive will depend very largely on the willingness of local authorities to co-operate. I am sure that local authorities will have learnt that hon. Members in all parts of the House have strongly supported this drive and are calling upon them for their maximum effort and maximum co-operation.

Since the announcement of a guaranteed price, before the scheme itself had been worked out, and certainly without any compulsion, some 40 local authorities who had discontinued collections last year have voluntarily decided to begin the collections again, and I hope that these 40 will very soon be joined by very many others. I also hope that hon. Gentlemen will use their influence throughout the country to see that the campaign is as effective and as fruitful as it can possibly be.

Mr. Nabarro

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider doing two things in connection with his last remarks? First, will he, for the benefit of hon. Members, publish the details of the wastepaper recovery scheme submitted to him and adopted? Secondly, will he publish in his "Digest of Statistics" every month the level of national wastpaper collections and consumption?

Mr. Wilson

I will certainly do the first, and, if possible, I will carry out the second suggestion.

Mr. H. Price

I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman will also bear in mind stressing the importance of salvage not only to the local authorities but to the public, too.

Mr. Wilson

Yes, Sir. I fully agree, subject to the qualification made by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East.

Then there is the question of the use of other indigenous raw materials, and imported raw materials, and supplies of a type we have not generally used in the past. There is straw. As the hon. Gentleman knows, during the war we used large quantities of straw for the manufacture of printing and writing paper because esparto grass from North Africa was not at that time available. At that time many mills, especially esparto mills, increased their boiling capacity to produce more pulp from straw, and increased it by about a third. Now that esparto supplies are adequate, naturally the mills have largely given up straw and reverted to esparto.

There are a number of reasons for this, of course. In the first place, esparto gives a higher yield of fibre per ton, and a much larger output from a given boiling plant. Esparto requires less coal per ton of fibre produced, and gives a better quality of paper, and, of course, there is the question of price as well to be considered. I quite agree, though, with what the hon. Gentleman said and with what my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East said, that, looking many years ahead, we may be faced with very serious long-term problems of world shortages, not temporary but permanent—shortages of the materials required for paper making.

I quite agree we must press on with this matter of testing out all possible alternatives to the traditional materials. Straw, for instnce, for replacing esparto, as I said could be helpful towards making good any shortages of sulphite pulp. It cannot be used as a substitute for Kraft pulp, and it cannot be considered on a long-term view as a substitute for mechanical pulp, and, therefore, cannot make a large contribution to the newsprint problem.

The paper trade has shown itself willing to invest large sums in new plant of various kinds, and it is very well aware of the necessity of developing those nontraditional materials. I have already been—not for some months only but for several years—in close contact with the Colonial Secretary, as was suggested, on the question of developing alternative sources of supply, particularly in the Commonwealth, and a good deal of research and development work has been going on. Beginnings have been made with the use of tropical hardwoods and such materials as bamboo and bagasse, which was mentioned in a previous debate here on newsprint. There is room and there is need for a great deal of further research and development work, and I am certainly prepared to look very sympathetically at any proposals put up to us for extending or speeding up this work.

But all these are long-term problems, and provide only long term solutions, and most of the speeches today have dealt with the present situation as we have it in 1950. We have these shortages, and they have been developing steadily over the summer, and even before the war in Korea, and we are faced with the problem of how to deal with them. The hon. Gentleman said he hoped that they would not be dealt with by the re-imposition of control, which he referred to as the classic Socialist remedy. I would remind him of something he probably is already well aware of, I am sure, and that is an article written in the "Papermaker and British Paper Trade Journal." It puts the argument, I think, on this question as clearly as any hon. Member on this side of the House could, and I would remind the hon. Gentleman of what it said: During the control and rationing period it was generally admitted that everyone got his fair share, and, of course, essential purposes received priority. We fear that if present complaints are genuine—and some we know of undoubtedly are—there is in the present circumstances every possibility of the Board of Trade stepping in again. As we commented when the control was relaxed, it is up to the industry to control itself efficiently and fairly. If mills are going to close order books for months ahead, then we think that those customers who previously received supplies on the rationing basis are to be sympathised with if they receive what they think is an unfair distribution. If the industry cannot control itself, then the powers that be will do so, and we are sure no one wants that to happen again. That was what was written in that journal.

We are attempting to proceed on the basis of self-control by the industry and voluntary priorities. There are many essential priorities—the hon. Member for Worcester mentioned one, and other hon. Members have mentioned others—which must be given priority over less essential uses, and my Department has called the paper trade together and asked them to co-operate in making those priorities effective and in seeing that the most important national uses get first share of what supplies are available. It is also vital to ensure in this system of self-control that the small man is not squeezed out, because there is every danger of his being squeezed out by the larger firms who may be tied up with larger supplies.

I am sure the whole House would have no patience with the industry if the results of this self-control led to a lot of small men being squeezed out just because they were small men. At the meeting we had with the industry we had the fullest promises and fullest assurances of cooperation in working out the system of voluntary priorities of this kind. I personally hope that we can solve this problem without recourse to the reimposition of controls, but if we do not succeed on this voluntary basis, if the system of voluntary priorities does not work satisfactorily, if nationally important needs are not being adequately met, if the small paper user is being squeezed out, then I am sure the whole House will support me in bringing control back.

Mr. H. Price

I should like to clarify my views on this question of controls. I am not against controls if it should be proved impossible to overcome the present shortage. What I ask is that every effort should be made to overcome the shortage before the question of the re-imposition of controls is considered.

Mr. Wilson

That is the line on which we are working, and I am glad to have the hon. Gentleman supporting us on that. I am sure he will agree that the industry is on test in this matter. I personally feel, because of the assurances that we have had, that the industry will satisfactorily measure up to its responsibilities. I am glad to have the assurance of the hon. Gentleman that if it did become necessary to reinforce control we should have his support.

Mr. Wyatt

There is one small user who is already beginning to go to the wall. He is the book publisher, and it may be too late in his case if we wait until the situation is in chaos before control is considered. Will my right hon. Friend do something to protect the book publishers? They use only 2½ per cent. of the whole total of paper, in any case.

Mr. Wilson

I have been very active on behalf of the book publishers in the discussions that have been held, and I also hope their position is to be improved. If not, I will proceed on the lines I am sure my hon. Friend has in mind.

Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)

Will there be some guarantee given that no section of the customers will be squeezed out by unequal distribution in connection with this working out of priorities?

Mr. Wilson

We have drawn the attention of the industry to this—and they accept the position—that we have certain national priorities which must be fulfilled. We have indicated what the priorities are, and that, subject to the priorities, there must be a fair share of the supplies available, so that we do not have individual users going short while others are getting an abundance of supplies. I think that is my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Beverley Baxter (Southgate)

What is meant by "national" priorities?

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Gentleman should know what they are—although I admit the papers do not give much indication of what they are from time to time. But they are obvious ones. One must be the defence programme, and another the export drive, and other things associated with it, including the tourist trade, and so on.

Mr. Baxter

I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I thought that he meant priorities within the paper industry, and I did not know what was meant by the word "national."

Mr. Wilson

What I meant was national priorities which we want the paper industry to respect, honour and fulfill.

Mr. Nabarro

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point may I intervene. He has just made a very important statement in saying that the industry must itself be responsible for discipline. I entirely agree with him, but there is one factor he must remember. He must tell the industry on behalf of the Government just how many thousands of tons of paper and board are going to be required for defence purposes in 1951, otherwise the industry cannot work the system.

Mr. Wilson

I quite agree, and I hope that as soon as possible we shall be able to indicate those figures to the industry. However, the hon. Gentleman will be the first to realise the difficulties of making any clear forecast of requirements for those purposes in 1951.

Mr. Holman (Bethnal Green)

Before my right hon. Friend passes from the general situation may I put this point. He has referred to shortages. Would he make it quite clear that imports of paper and board for the first ten months of this year are 50 per cent. above those of 1949, and nearly 35 per cent. above those of 1948?

Mr. Wilson

I quite agree with the figures my hon. Friend has given. I thought it would have been clear from what I said earlier that while the situation is generally pretty tight, the real shortages are confined to only one or two individual types of paper, to which I have referred.

Turning to newsprint, we have had a number of debates this year on that question, and I do not think the hon. Gentleman has added very much to what has been said on this occasion. It is a self-evident truth, I think, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East, that if it had not been necessary to cut off dollar supplies we should clearly have had more newsprint available in this year, 1950. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that when the decisions were taken, particularly those of last year to which he referred, our dollar position was extremely serious, and I am quite certain that no one would have made more capital out of a decision to spend dollars on newsprint and to cut the dollars on timber for housing still further and to cut the dollars on food, than many hon. Members opposite.

Mr. H. Price

Are timber and food the only things that could have been cut?

Mr. Wilson

I have often asked hon. Gentlemen opposite to say what they would have cut last year. We have had no indication from them of anything that could have been cut. What they wanted, of course, was a political situation in which they could say we ought to have spent more dollars on timber, a political situation in which they could say we should have spent more dollars on food, and a political situation in which at the same time they could say we should not cut newsprint supplies at all.

As I have already made clear as a result of an interruption I was able to make through the hon. Gentleman's courtesy in giving way, last winter the newspaper proprietors asked the Government's agreement to increase the size of papers. They said that an increase was possible, that stocks were excessive, and that the increase was possible even allowing for no imports from Canada, even allowing for a full export programme. They said that they could increase the size in the first half of 1950, and there was no thought, I am sure, in their minds, as there was no thought in our minds, that to allow increased size of newspapers in 1950 would bring us to the difficulties we have had in the last three months, which have resulted from that decision to increase the size.

It is true, of course, that the Newsprint Supply Company did protest strongly against the decision about dollar imports. I think that it would be fair to say that these protests were made mainly on commercial grounds, and mainly on the ground—quite properly and fairly, I think—that they did not want to be mainly dependent on a single supplier. It was not, so far as I am aware—and I am referring to the period of December and January of last year—suggested that as a result of cutting these dollar imports we should not be able to meet our requirements for newsprints in 1950.

Mr. Bishop (Harrow, Central)

I think that the telegram which has been read out by my hon. Friend indicates the basis on which the strong objection to the interruption of dollar supplies was made. May I also take the opportunity of saying that we never claimed, and the Canadians never asked, that there should be no cut in dollar imports. What we and they urged was the preservation of continuity.

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Gentleman is quite right when he says that they urged preservation of continuity, even if it meant short supplies. But if it is true that they were already in January, 1950, so concerned about supplies being received, I cannot understand why he and his colleagues pressed on us so strongly that because of high stocks they should continue with the increased size of newspapers during March and April and maintain that increase in size until as fate, I think, as July.

I think that it is fair to say that the main reason why the situation deteriorated so seriously and rapidly, contrary to the expectations of both the Newsprint Supply Company and the Government—we had both been over optimistic—was the change in the world conditions during the summer, which meant that the Newsprint Supply Company was not able to get supplies which they and we both hoped they would get, partly as the result of the increased consumption by the United States Press. As the result of that, which was not foreseen either by the Company or the Government in the spring, we arrived at this serious situation, and the serious step of the reintroduction of tonnage rationing had to be taken.

Mr. Bishop

The right hon. Gentleman must not assume that I agree with this. I do not agree at all.

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Gentleman will, no doubt, say in due course why he does not agree. He knows perfectly well that in March of this year, he and his colleagues came to see me, and on the clear understanding of no dollar imports and on the clear understanding of the maintenance of the export programme, it was put to me that they should maintain the seven page newspaper up till July. There was no suggestion that that was going to mean tonnage rationing in November.

Mr. Bishop

That has nothing to do with it.

Mr. Wilson

I think that he and we were over-optimistic, and I do not think that on looking back he and his colleagues or we can be blamed for being over-optimistic. We showed some reluctance about the increase in size, and asked him if he was sure that there would be enough supplies for the second half of 1950. I am sure that he and his colleagues at that time were confident that there would be enough supplies for 1950. It is true that although this serious step has had to be taken, the consumption of newsprint this year has already been 60 to 70 per cent. above what it was in 1948. I think that the main increase in the use of newsprint had been through increased circulation rather than through increased size, and it is a fact that we have a very high circulation by our newspapers in this country.

The hon. Gentleman has referred to the question of imports from Canada. We have for some time, as the dollar position began to improve, been considering whether we can get our imports of newsprint from Canada back on a long-term basis. The hon. Gentleman, who was comparing the dollar situation last year with the dollar situation now, really must agree that there has been a change in the dollar situation. We should not have taken the steps we did with regard to newsprint in 1947 or at the present time if the dollar situation then had been what it is today.

As there was this progressive improvement throughout the summer, we have taken various steps about the importation of newsprint from Canada. On 29th of June, although this was only a small step to reintroduce supplies, we informed the Newsprint Supply Company that we would agree to the import of 37½ thousand tons from Canada in the first half of 1951 in addition to the 25,000 tons already authorised for the second half of 1950. This gave the Canadian mills 12 months' view ahead. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues rightly said that in the present situation we cannot put newsprint on a short term basis. The first six months' period was not long enough, and we had to go on to 12 months or, indeed, preferably on a much longer basis. When it became clear that newsprint could not be bought even with a 12 months' view ahead, we agreed on 10th July to authorise another 37½ thousand tons for the second half of 1951, giving 18 months' forward view and security to the Canadian newsprint mills. We have followed this up since.

On 27th October, following discussions with the Newsprint Company, we agreed to authorise dollars for a long-term contract with Canada, covering an additional 400,000 tons for the whole period to the end of 1953. As the hon. Gentleman knows, representatives of the Newsprint Supply Company are now on the other side of the Atlantic.

Mr. Bishop

That is not so. The chairman of my company is in the United States, but not on the company's business.

Mr. Wilson

I accept that. Really, the hon. Gentleman, I think, is going a little far in saying this. The chairman of the Newsprint Supply Company is, in fact, in North America. He has been in very close touch with me on this question, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and I gave him a letter authorising these discussions to take place. The hon. Gentleman is quite right in that they will take place under the aegis of the commercial representatives of the Company and not of the noble Lord, who is over there at the present time. It has been our urgent desire as the result of this long-term contract that we should secure an improvement in the amount of newsprint to be issued in the immediate future in order to see us through the very difficult months that lie ahead.

The other question which has been raised on the matter of newsprint has been our exports to Commonwealth countries. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is seriously suggesting that we should cut these exports at the present time. I hope that as the result of the steps taken it will not be necessary to consider such a step, and that we can maintain these essential supplies to other parts of the Commonwealth.

The hon. Gentleman quite rightly referred to the position of the weekly provincial newspaper. As he knows, we have taken a very special interest in this matter. I fully agree with him about the special difficulties of the local newspapers and of their importance in the life of the community. In the Summer, I indicated what, I am sure, was the wish of the whole House, that the Newsprint Rationing Committee, which has a very difficult job allocating supplies among different types of newspaper, would bear in mind the weekly newspaper in their rationing scheme. I asked that if any tonnage rationing was introduced, and particu- larly if any serious cuts were made in consumption, they should give preferential treatment in such matters as full allowance for waste, to the weekly newspapers. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have, I think, been very reasonable about this, and the way in which they have operated the scheme has given a preferential basis to the provincial weekly newspaper.

If any further cut should become necessary, I hope that it will be possible to exempt the weekly newspapers from any cut that might be necessary on the larger papers. Their total consumption in terms of quantity of newsprint used is very small indeed and cannot make any significant difference to our total newsprint budget.

I very much hope that the newsprint authorities will bear that in mind, if, as I hope will not be the case, it becomes necessary to consider any further reduction in consumption. We have made it clear, throughout, that it is for the Newsprint Rationing Committee to allocate its supplies on behalf of the Government. We have never tried to intervene, apart from this request, and I do not want to intervene. But if I felt that the weekly newspapers were not getting a fair deal and were not being protected, then I should have to intervene. With the good will of the hon. Member and his colleagues, I am sure that that will not become necessary.

The debate has ranged over a wide field. I cannot offer to the House any hope that in the immediate future there is going to be a vastly increased supply of pulp or kraft raw materials, or of the newsprint available. All of us, taking a realistic view of the situation and the very high level of world demand, both for newsprint and for paper-making materials, realise that we are in for a very difficult period ahead. But the Government have shown, both in relation to newsprint and the paper situation generally, that we shall do anything we have in our power to do to improve the situation. I think that the relatively restrained nature of the speech of the hon. Member, until he got, at any rate, to the newsprint situation, shows that even in his researches he has not been able to find any real grounds for criticism in the industry of the action by the Government in this respect.

1.42 p.m.

Mr. Deedes (Ashford)

The debate, like the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, has so far been non-controversial. It has been almost amicable, and it has culminated in the very important statement the right hon. Gentleman has just made about the future of newsprint supplies from Canada. I do not think it fitting or proper for me to make any observations on that statement, except perhaps one of a general nature. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will accept the view that good will with the Dominion of Canada is a huge factor in the whole subject we have under discussion today. I hope that in any negotiations which may take place, he will bear that factor in mind.

I am bound to say, in a debate like this, that I have a sneaking sympathy for the right hon. Gentleman and the Government, because many demands come from many quarters, many conflicting demands, which are directed at the same source of supply. The right hon. Gentleman would have been entitled to say that he has received so many demands that he cannot meet them all, and that therefore he will meet none of them. Instead of doing that, he has joined with some of the speeches that have been made today in helpfully trying to find ways to increase supplies.

It is helpful to establish some kind of priority. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned two priorities—defence and the export programme. What I have to say today has a bearing on both. I think that priority should be related to the needs of the moment. I hope I shall get a wide measure of agreement if I say that, among the many conflicting needs we have been discussing, there is none greater than the war of ideas which is raging at the moment in what we call the "cold war." By that, I mean that our ideas and way of life should be made widely known, firstly, to our own people and, then, to the people of the world, particularly to the people of the Colonies. That is an absolute priority in the present situation in relation to defence.

This entails two things. It means first that our literature, past and present, should be available in as ample supplies as possible, and secondly that as full a picture of contemporary events as possible should also be available. The first is a matter which, broadly, concerns the publishing industry, and the second is a matter which concerns the newspaper industry. I want to speak principally on the problems of the publishing industry.

As the right hon. Gentleman said a moment or two ago, in relation to their demands on paper, the publishing industry enjoy what can now be called a free market. That is to say, the publishing industry can order the paper they wish and, with luck, get approximately what they ask for. The limitations have more recently grown more severe. They are now on a waiting list for paper of something like eight to nine months, and that period is tending to increase. Long-distance orders are also being suspended. But, broadly speaking, the publishing industry are free. I am certainly not going to be so reactionary as to suggest that the Government should exercise any more control than they do at the moment.

On the other hand, the publishing industry is faced with shortages not only of paper, but of straw-boards for binding and many other ancillary requirements which are becoming more acute. The outlook is filled with uncertainty from the point of view of the publishers fulfilling demands at home, and from the point of view of publishers who have to consider their export trade. On the question of whether this is a temporary difficulty or not, there is nothing in what the right hon. Gentleman has said which diminishes my idea that we are here facing a long-term problem, a problem which is not going to be quickly or easily solved. We now find publishers wondering whether they will be able to meet 50 per cent. of their demands in the future. Generally speaking, the Government ought to consider most carefully the implications of this feeling in the paper industry, both in relation to the wider problem of the war of ideas and in relation to exports.

Although we are talking in relation to the publishing industry having a free market, there is the qualification that the Government can take at any moment from that free market what they want. Recently, as part of the rearmament programme, they found it necessary enormously to increase their priority demand on the existing pool. especially for His Majesty's Stationery Office. I know a little about the figures, but I am not going to quote them or question the Government's absolute right to take what they need in the interests of the rearmament programme.

I consider, however, that the Government should try to avoid diminishing the existing pool of publishing paper by their emergency demands. They should try to increase the size of the pool to meet their rearmament programme, a programme for which the House has already voted the necessary money, and for which the House would be prepared to accept the extra cost involved, even if it involved dollars. In other words, the Government should not take for their rearmament programme anything out of the static pool of the paper available for publishing and literature, but should seek to expand the field. The rearmament programme is going to lead to an increased demand for paper, for publications of a defence nature, for A.R.P. and so on. It means that some of the luxury propaganda publications must be curtailed, or put behind the need for pamphlets on defence. I suggest that those are two modest demands to make.

Let me say a word in relation to the problem of the publishers, who deserve a bigger share than they have so far had in this debate. In the first place, they have to meet a demand for educational books which is insatiable and which has been created partly by the Act of Parliament which we all support and on the implementation of which we all speak with one voice. All the difficulties connected with educational works are well known. They include the problems of getting reprints or, in the event of a failure to do so, the ordering of entirely fresh editions, which is a wasteful procedure.

Secondly, there is the point about exports. Publishers have a special problem in that they cannot differentiate between the quality of their products for home consumption and those which are to be used abroad. It is much too expensive to deal with publications in two different ways. The book which is read here will be sold and read abroad. There is uncertainty, not only in the publishing section, but throughout the whole of the paper industry.

Uncertainty is particularly difficult, however, for publishers. It means that they cannot promise the continuity which is absolutely essential to buyers overseas, and it means that their customers tend to lose confidence. I have tried to avoid statistics, but I must say a word about the exporting record of the publishing industry. It is right to mention this partly because of the bearing it has on my theme about the war of ideas and also because it is the view of sound authorities that the propaganda value of freely published works is considerably greater than that of official publications, of which there is no lack.

Our exports are now of the order of about £11,500,000 a year compared with about £4,500,000 in 1943; that represents 35 per cent. of the turnover of the publishing industry and is the highest pro portion ever achieved except for 1940, which was an exceptional year. For these reasons therefore the aspect of exports should not be overlooked.

I should like to mention one or two other smaller points. Broadly speaking, books of higher scholarship are slow sellers. Books of the lowest scholarship—and we all know some of them—are quick sellers. In a shortage, publishers would naturally tend to go for the quicker, rather than the slower, sellers. Therefore the difficulties which exist put a certain premium on works of higher scholarship.

Books are expected to reflect a certain amount of contemporary opinion, which is liable to get out of date after about nine months. I know that it is technically possible to get a book published in three months, but nine months is nearer to the usual time. This hinders not only contemporary contributions to current problems, but what is much more important, scientific publications. While shortage exists there is also of course, a tendency to reinforce success, to make sure of what is known to be successful and what is known will be successful. This is a tremendous handicap to new authors.

No one who has studied the appalling difficulties of dealing with propaganda, much of it misinformed, much of it woefully constructive, in certain of the Colonies, will underrate the importance of making available suitable literature to fill the vacuum which there exists. Anyone who has studied this problem realises that the answer to the violent kind of propaganda that is now going on in certain Colonies is not its suppression or censor- ship, but the substitution of something better in its place. In this direction the publishing industry has a very large contribution to make.

I come now to the second point which I have mentioned: the overall need in this war of ideas to present as full a picture of contemporary events as possible. I choose that phrase carefully, because it covers all sections of the Press, good, bad and indifferent. "Good, bad and indifferent" is an element common to all human institutions, including the Press, with or without a Press Council.

There are two aspects to this. Without disrespect to the proceedings of this House, I suggest that a full and well informed account of what is going on in the world is today almost the first priority for newspapers. I hope that that is not controversial, particularly as I think that in the profession its foreign correspondents, by and large, do a pretty good job of work. It was never more necessary than now that we should know what is going on in the world, and should get as much, and as much accurate, information as we can about it.

I do not want to be controversial, but now that it can be an offence for a Member of the House to go and see for himself for any length of time, it is at least important that Members of the House should have made available to them information, which today they lack, on what is going on in those places where the future of the world may well be decided. If Mahomet cannot go to the mountain, then the mountain must come to Mahomet, and at present the mountain, in the shape of important foreign news, is no more than a mouse.

The vicious circle, which leads first to a shortage of available raw material and then to a shortage of the men who are required to use that raw material, is continuing, and in a very alarming way, in the profession of journalism. We cannot expect to maintain a corps of first-class correspondents unless they are given the scope which, as anyone who examines their newspapers will know, is given to American correspondents. Many of us are perturbed about the effect of newsprint on the profession, and in no field more than in foreign reporting. The profession of journalism has always been hazardous—those of us who have been associated with it would not have it otherwise—but it is now positively precarious, and I doubt whether any parents in the House would have any idea of sending their children into it.

I have tried to be non-controversial because, whatever differences there may be between us, the question of paper priorities and the use to which the paper is put are matters apart. It is vital that we should keep in our minds the broad theme that the war of ideas is a very essential part of our programme of defence. It may be that the very defences that we are now preparing can be as well covered by paper as by more solid forms of arms.

The free and wide circulation of ideas are two major factors in this war of ideas. It is an open question whether our future indeed our prospects and victory in the so-called "cold war" depend upon the pen or upon the sword. That is a very open question. I think that every hon. Member will join me in praying that it will be decided by the pen and not by the sword, and in the light of that consideration I urge the Government to give very careful consideration to this particular part of the paper problem.

1.58 p.m.

Mr. Holman (Bethnal Green)

I, like the mover and seconder of the Motion, begin by declaring my interest in one of the aspects of the paper trade, an interest which, however, nowadays has become more spasmodic. I want to emphasise that the position which we are discussing is not a new one. The problem of shortages has been with us since the war, and a new situation, to which one or two hon. Members have referred, has been created. In my maiden speech in October, 1945, I declared that it would be essential that rationing and price controls should continue until such time as shortages had disappeared and that in the case of the paper trade, this would last for many years.

In 1949, there arose a peculiar position, which neither the mover nor the seconder of the Motion have dealt with. The quantity of paper which was imported fell steadily as compared with 1948. Every quality of manufactured paper was affected in the same way. In the case of kraft paper, to which reference has been made, in the first 10 months of 1948 we imported 46,325 tons. In the first 10 months of 1949 the figure dropped to 42,596 tons, and the figures published two days ago show that in the first 10 months of 1950 we imported 62,773 tons, which is nearly 50 per cent. above the same period of last year. The same thing happened with greaseproof and other wrapping papers.

Part of the troubles which are now arising is the aftermath of the action of the trade itself in 1949. This point needs to be emphasised. I am not blaming the importing merchants. They were licensed and, as far as I can discover, they all imported their full quota, but in a position in which the non-dollar world was failing to sell either paper or pulp to the dollar and hard currency areas, the situation arose that in 1949 there was a rather substantial fall in prices when the large converters in this country restricted their imports and purchases of paper. The result was that in many cases stocks fell abnormally low, and it was only when the market prices began to increase in the autumn of last year that buying recommenced on a full scale.

My right hon. Friend mentioned the magnificent job which Paper Control had done in buying the pulp at what was in practice the lowest price in and around July of 1949. They bought sufficient to cover British paper making requirements of those times until the end of last March, and some quantities were left after that date. If I appear to be in any way critical of the policy arising from that transaction, I would only say that although they have done a magnificent job of work in regard to the purchase of this pulp, I think that commercial practices should have been operated; and that from time to time the pulp sold to the mills should have been on the basis of replacement value, as it is in the case nowadays with base metals. In this way British paper prices would have risen steadily throughout the year instead of showing the enormous rise of from £15 to £20 per ton according to quality when complete decontrol of prices took place.

That is a minor criticism of control, but it did have some influence on the willingness of the mills to purchase their pulp when they were notified in October, 1949, that they could import freely all the pulp they could buy from 1st April of this year onwards. They felt that there was such a lot of cheap pulp about that they ignored the first rise in the market; and that factor has contributed to the problem now arising through shortages. I ventured to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend in the course of his speech to these shortages of raw materials. British production is higher than before the war. The imports of raw materials of all descriptions for British paper-making are higher for the ten months of this year than in any year since the war. The rise is not so great this year as it was in 1949, but it still continues. I am only sorry that esparto grass has shown a fall this year, otherwise the rise would have been more substanial.

There is a relative shortage in relation to our needs under full employment. We have increased our productivity recently 8 per cent., and, roughly speaking, that means 8 per cent. more material of one sort or another to protect our products and to see they reach their destinations in proper condition. As we all know, and as hon. Members have mentioned, the sources from which we can get our raw materials have been reduced. In 1949 at the end of the war, part of Finland was absorbed into the Soviet Union. That proportion of Finland included one of the greatest pulp producing areas and one of the biggest paper mills in that country. Paper from Eastern Germany, and Czechoslovakia is tending to go eastwards instead of westwards, and the same applies to pulp.

I would say a word about newsprint in this connection. In the unsettled state in which the world is, we do not want to become too dependent on Finland as the main source of supply. Let us do the greatest possible amount of business with Finland, but at the same time do not let us become too completely dependent on that source for newsprint in the future. That is one of the reasons why I was delighted when my right hon. Friend mentioned the new contract to be arranged with Canada covering the years 1951, 1952 and 1953. Our problem is a relative one. Our production and our imports have been rising steadily. The difficulty in a world today which is being steadily brought back to its feet economically—especially Western Europe—is increasing competition for the available supplies, and that we must welcome.

The problems mentioned by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) in relation to publishing, have in the last two or three years been related to bottlenecks in the finished processes and labour and machinery difficulties, rather than paper. Since the war they have never had so much paper as they have had in the last few months. In the same way board has increased. The quantity of imports has been very considerable. The makers of fibre cartons and so forth have their order books full, in many cases with duplicate orders, partly to ensure supplies and partly in the belief that prices will rise further. We should take every opportunity of exploring new sources of supply of our raw materials for paper making.

The position of straw is a difficult one. The machinery we have so far in this country has not been the most efficient. It is mostly war-time adaptation. I believe, however, that after a period it is highly probable that wood pulp will again be much cheaper than any known process of straw making; although I think that for bleached straw pulp there may be a permanent market. I hope the Government will do their best to co-operate in any schemes to develop straw as a future raw material for paper making in this country, although I think we all agree it has only a limited use, and mostly when combined with other forms of pulp.

I am very pleased that the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. H. Price) raised this matter today because I feel that the whole question needed discussion on a broad basis without specialised pleading for one or other sections of the paper industry. We have had specialised pleadings and that is detrimental to the country as a whole. All paper should be regarded as having a variety of uses and needs and as being connected with many matters vital to the country. We desire to cultivate the brain but we must also remember our basic needs. The whole of life is helped or hindered by the availability of paper, on which we rely entirely for propaganda and our basic needs.

2.11 p.m.

Mr. Beverley Baxter (Southgate)

I must apologise to the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Holman), because I was able to hear only the last part of his speech. I agreed with what I heard but perhaps I should not have agreed with all of it. I hope he will forgive me if I am not able to follow him in this discussion. I was using up a certain amount of my Order Paper to ensure that I should not speak at too great length.

I think you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, were in the Chair when we had the intervening speech by the President of the Board of Trade. He has a remarkably attractive and soothing bedside manner. He gives the impression that his concern for the newspapers is very great. He sits by the bedside, gives such good advice, cheers up the patient and is so solicitous, that altogether the patient feels that even if he dies, he could not be in more comfortable or comforting hands than those of the President.

If the Home Secretary is still listening to me, I would suggest, if he has any influence in the inner circles of the Labour Party at top level, that when the time comes as it should come very soon, for the selection of another Foreign Secretary, the President of the Board of Trade should be considered. Since there is no foreign policy—I know this is slightly out of order—the Government should have as Foreign Secretary a Minister who tries to hide that fact more successfully than the present incumbent.

However, I refuse to be lulled into a false philosophy or a false sense of newspaper security by the attitude of the President of the Board of Trade. When he mentioned the fact that the newspapers had suddenly flown into a mad debauch of seven pages, it sounded as if it was a Fleet Street night out. Seven pages! He was not angry with us; he was quite nice about it. He was just hurt that we should ever imagine, first that it could be done, and secondly that we should be so reckless as to attempt such an extravagant level. Seven pages! There is not another civilised country in the world which would put up with seven pages.

Mr. Pannell

Seven pages of what?

Mr. Baxter

Seven pages of newspaper. If the hon. Member is going to attack the "Daily Herald" I shall not listen to him. I consider the "Daily Herald" is a first-rate newspaper and it is not fair that hon. Gentlemen opposite should so consistently attack their own newspaper.

Mr. Pannell

If I allow the hon. Gentleman to get by with the "Daily Herald" perhaps he will join with me in condemnation—and I present him with the first point—of the waste of space by "Reynolds News" with their serials; and perhaps he will have something to say about the "Daily Express," the "Sunday Express," and last, but not least, the tripe that goes into the "News of the World."

Mr. Messer (Tottenham)

And the "Evening Standard."

Mr. Baxter

The hon. Gentleman in his enthusiasm has set out to attack "Reynolds News"—

Mr. Pannell

I presented the hon. Member with that point.

Mr. Baxter

But if we are to hold a debate upon the ethics of newspaper publication, that is quite another thing. I am endeavouring to answer the hon. Member for Leeds, West, who intervened. It is an old custom honoured in this House that an hon. Member who intervenes should listen for a few seconds in case he is answered—

Mr. Pannell

Yes, in case he is answered.

Mr. Baxter

I am endeavouring to answer the hon. Member. I do not say for one moment that newspapers have made the best use of their pages, but that is another debate which we cannot go into now. But I am sure hon. Gentlemen would agree that to speak of seven pages as if it were generosity beyond description, on the part of the President, is utterly absurd.

I received this week a copy of my home town newspaper, the Toronto "Globe Mail," an ordinary daily copy of a morning paper. It had more pages than all the morning newspapers in London put together.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

How much advertising?

Mr. Baxter

A great deal of advertising, but thousands upon thousands more words to read as well. At any rate what has the hon. Gentleman got against advertisements? Some of the best writers in the world are engaged in writing advertisements, and advertisements are a tonic to the nation. They have a psychological effect upon the life of the nation. However, the fact remains that the "Toronto Globe Mail" has more pages in the morning than all the London newspapers put together. That is an absurdity, which is not the fault of "Toronto Globe Mail."

The President of the Board of Trade told us we were to get more newsprint. I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman has returned, and I might say that in his absence I paid a tribute to him for his bedside manner, which made us feel that we were not as sick as we thought we were. However, when the doctor went away we began to ask ourselves whether his diagnosis was right. The right hon. Gentleman reminded us there is to be an increased importation of newsprint from Canada, and I think he gave the figure of 400,000—

Mr. H. Wilson

I do not want any misunderstanding about this. We have authorised dollars for the purchase of 400,000 tons. The contract has not been signed yet, because that is a matter for commercial negotiation.

Mr. Baxter

That is as I understand it. As the President says, there has been authorisation for the purchase of 400,000 tons over a period of three or four years, but as he says with that complete honesty which we always associate with him, it has yet to be negotiated? Is Canada going to supply us with the newsprint? I know the Canadians pretty well. They are generous and shrewd, and they are going to ask, "What is this proffered contract worth? Will the President of the Board of Trade carry it through or will he cancel it? We did business with Socialist Britain before. We entered into a contract after we had turned down better prices from South America and the United States in order to keep faith with Britain. Britain said—no doubt there were difficulties—'We cannot carry this through,' and those contracts were cancelled. There is now a kind of 10 years' agreement in abeyance. That is not being carried through."

What is the inducement to Canada outside its natural love of this country and its desire to assist her, for their producers to enter into a contract with us? They do not know what the contract is worth. I hope Canada will enter into this agreement not only for our sake but for Canada's. On the long-term basis it is better for a producer to have many markets than to have a few, for eventually the consumer will dictate the price. Therefore, I hope that the Canadians will be ready to help us, but do not let us imagine for a moment that their pulses are beating with excitement at the news that Britain is ready to spend dollars. They can sell everything they produce to their customers in South America and the United States.

I should like to remind the President of the Board of Trade of what I said the last time I spoke on newsprint—to consider not necessarily unemployment, although that may become a problem in the newspaper industry, but non-employment. That is a most serious thing. How are the newspapers to encourage and recruit talent when they are so hard pressed to maintain their existing staffs? Young men coming down from universities, the future dramatic and sports critics, the young men who have special ability but who have to prove themselves, are in great difficulties. Editors have to tell them, "Unless we are to dismiss our existing staffs to make room for you, we cannot take you on." I agree that genius will find its way, but I am not speaking of genius.

Again and again young people write to me from the universities—they think I understand the newspaper situation—asking me for my advice as to how they can get into newspaper work. I say to them that I do not know how to advise them or how to open the door to them, because under our present system, with the newspapers smaller than any others in the world, the problem facing editors and proprietors is to keep the people they have employed and not add to their numbers. That is a very serious thing, not only from the point of view of the newspapers, but from the nation's standpoint.

I also want to refer to the use which has been made by the newspapers of their space, a point already referred to. In a great many cases they have not made the best use of it, but we are not here as a board of censors; we are discussing newsprint. In the present condition of world affairs, with their complexities and dangers, news from different nations should be balanced, and there should be a record in our newspapers of what is said in every country of the world today. But newspaper men, looking at the incoming mass of material, wonder how they can handle it to get it into the small space at their disposal.

I am glad to see the Secretary of State for Scotland in his seat on the Front Bench. He has been a newspaper man, and I hope very soon he will be one again. At the Warsaw conference a speech was made by Ilya Ehrenburg which I read in the "Soviet News," which is presented to me every day here. That speech should be printed in every newspaper. While I do not agree with all of it, it is a most important speech and should be in the newspapers of this country. But today, the editors, sub-editors and their chiefs of staff approach their task by saying of necessity, "What can we leave out?" That is the principal task of the men today who are presenting the newspapers to the people, and nobody knows it better than the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

The hon. Gentleman wants more space for Ilya Ehrenburg, but did not his party do their best to keep him out of this country?

Mr. Baxter

I did not think we had anything to do with it. So far as I am concerned I would not have stopped the meeting at Sheffield. I had every intention of going to it, not necessarily as a delegate but as an observer, as I do to the Socialist conferences. It was absolutely asinine that we did not let everyone in, because if they are malefactors we should have a look at them. Never before has a mouse-trap been so carefully fixed so that the mouse could not walk into it. I think our action on that occasion was utterly stupid, but that is another point.

I hope the President of the Board of Trade is a reformed character, though I doubt it. I hope he will stop talking to the newspaper industry as if he had given them tremendous concessions, whereas he is not doing anything like what he ought to do. Above all, I hope, when we enter into this contract with Canada, that this time for a change he will stick to it.

2.26 p.m.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

I have heard most of this debate, and I am sure everyone will agree that not only is it uncontroversial but very thoughtful, too. I do not propose to keep the House for more than a few minutes, but there are one or two points I should like to bring out. One in particular has been mentioned before. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. H. Price) mentioned a newspaper, the "Evening Sentinel," which is actually distributed and published in my constituency of Stoke-on-Trent. I am going to refer to another article from that newspaper in a moment.

Provincial newspapers have an entirely different relationship with their readers from the relationship of the great national newspapers with their readers. The newspaper I have mentioned has a monopoly in the area where I live, but I make no complaint about that. It acts as a forum, particularly in its letter space, which is delectable, very neces[...] and most stimulating. We spend the weeks there discussing the merits of Picasso or whether pears are too expensive. Whatever the subject, the newspaper is available to assist us in matters of that kind.

On the subject of salvage, hon. Members will be delighted to hear that in Stoke-on-Trent, we never accepted the argument that cheap waste paper would last for ever. So we carried on with our work of salvage and we have gained the benefit. The salvage committee is one of the most successful commercial committees of its kind in the country. It brings in the equivalent almost of a shilling rate as a result of its activities, nearly half the total cost of the cleansing of that city of 270,000 people.

Mr. Messer

Does my hon. Friend know that Tottenham holds the record?

Dr. Stross

I know that Tottenham holds the record, and I was perfectly sure it would not be overlooked when my hon. Friend was sitting in front of me.

I want to come now to the question of how essential it is in a war of ideas to have sufficient publication of books and periodicals to enable people to pick and choose and educate themselves in the civilisations in which they live. In that connection, I also want to mention the misuse of paper, which seems to me to be of two kinds. First, in connection with the daily or weekly newspapers, it is concerned with sensational stories that tend to cause great anxiety among those who read them, and especially among those who cannot protect themselves against this type of information—things like the "flying saucer" racket and the "invasion of the earth from other worlds," which have been running recently. Stories of that kind I think are wrong and foolish, and tend to make people unnecessarily anxious.

There is a far worse aspect of this problem, and that is the use of paper for the printing of obscenity. I am happy to note that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is present, because, on this point I want to quote from the newspaper I mentioned with regard to a case which came before the stipendiary magistrate and on which judgment has already been given. I am, therefore, entitled to discuss it.

The police, having obtained a search warrant, were able to seize nearly 16,000 periodicals and books of a type which they felt were obscene, and this took place in Stoke-on-Trent. Some of these publications were British, some were imported from France, some were even printed in French and some were American publications. As a result of the hearing of that case, many thousands of them have been destroyed, though in the case of some it was not considered necessary to destroy them. The House will be interested to note that, as the stipendiary said, young people and decadent old people are affected by such publications.

Here are the names of some of them: "You're Dead, my Lovely," "Spoiled Lives," and "Make me a Corpse." These are, I presume, the kind of publications that were destroyed, although I would point out that it is not possible to travel up and down the country without seeing books of this description on many railway stations publicly offered for sale. Some of the magazines were given names like these: "Jingle," "Whiff," "Fads and Fancies" and "French Frolics." These were English. Amongst the American publications we have "Overheard," "Titters," "Winky," "Whispers" and "Eye-full." I do not know what "Eye-full" means.

Mr. Baxter

May I ask the hon. Gentleman where these publications are available?

Dr. Stross

I am very happy to say that they are no longer available, because they have been destroyed.

Since the Home Secretary is here, I want to put it to him that publications of this kind not only misuse paper but are a tremendous enemy to young people, and especially adolescents. This is a very serious matter in reality, because what happens—and one does not have to be a psychiatrist to know it—is that there is a tendency here that causes youngsters to make mistakes, to avoid the real things of life, which encourages delinquency and which injures the decent healthy roots of courtship and marriage. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade, and certainly the Home Secretary, will assist us in matters of this description.

Lastly, may I say that, having heard the whole of the debate today, I cannot feel that there is any difference between us. We want our newspapers to be as large as possible, to give us all the news they possibly can—though we would like to draw the inferences as much as possible ourselves—and in that way we shall benefit.

2.35 p.m.

Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)

It is a matter of some personal regret that I cannot follow the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) in his study of lurid literature, but I would like to follow him on the issue of the quality and standards of the publications which we have a right to demand in this country.

I must declare my interest in this matter. I am a member of one of the largest advertising agencies in the country, and, I may add, one of the most successful. I am, therefore, a user of nearly everything in the realm of publicity, publishing and art which has been discussed during this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Southgate (Mr. Baxter) has already made reference to the efforts of those employed in the advertising business, and it is on that particular subject that I would like to say one or two words.

The present situation, without any question, is undermining the future of the printing trade and nearly all allied trades, for the very real reason that we cannot recruit talent into the industry, because it is impossible to recruit such talent into an industry whose future is in any doubt. It is a matter of very great concern, to those of us who have from day to day to read the publications of other countries, to note that, in those very ways in which this country was formerly pre-eminent in the presentation of its publications, and the method of our printing, we are now tending to fall behind other countries, and, in particular, America and Switzerland, and, to a certain degree, France and the Scandinavian countries.

Why is this so? It is so because in nearly every aspect of the printing trade we are having difficulties. We are having difficulties about paper. We are having difficulties because we have troubles due to the war years, and also because the horizon for the newsprint situation is contracting when it ought to be enlarging. That is why we are placing so much importance upon an increased supply of paper and materials.

A good deal has been said in this debate about the highly important question of the battle of ideas, and I would like to add that we cannot send raw recruits into the battle of ideas. Unless we are training the men who can not only write but also present our papers and periodicals in a competitive fashion, we cannot hope to win that battle.

I would like to refer to a publication which I think will not find disfavour with hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is a remarkably good publication, entitled "Soldiers of Lead," and is published by the authority of the Labour Party. The opening quotation in that publication is this: With 25 soldiers of lead I could conquer the world. We are not urging imperialism of this sort, but we do realise the importance of the study of the presentation of materials and the importance of the development of technical methods. It is for that reason that we must have the additional materials with which we can encourage and train men in the printing and allied trades.

Reference has been made to packing materials. How we are to present our goods is just as important as how we are to present our ideas, and I do not think that anyone who knows anything about international trade will fail to-realise that, slowly but surely, our methods of presentation are falling below the standards of our main competitors.

I hope I shall not be regarded as controversial if I say that there is rather more competition overseas at the present time than in this country. Even though, from the point of view of free and competitive enterprise, there is an overwhelming case, I think there is also a very strong case that should again appeal to right hon. and hon. Members opposite. At the present time they are engaged upon a new experiment. It is not for me to comment here upon the success or otherwise of that experiment, but I would say to them very firmly that the success of that experiment must depend, from their point of view, upon the power to explain to the people of this country what they are doing and how it is being done. That depends upon the ability of those charged with that explanation to give it effectively and intelligently.

All that, again, depends upon having the recruits and the resources available, and at the present time those recruits and those resources are rapidly declining. I would therefore commend to those who disagree upon the method of conducting our affairs that on this particular issue we have common ground. There is no reason to believe that a man who is called upon to put across ideas and the principles that govern nationalisation should have any less talent than the man who has been putting across the ideas which have governed private enterprise activity. In fact, to argue in that way is to argue very much against the interests of the nationalised industries in which right hon. and hon. Members opposite have so much interest.

In conclusion, I submit that this matter goes very deep; indeed, it goes to the very roots of the whole of our democratic exchange of ideas. The presentation of ideas and the ways in which ideas are set out are as much a part of the whole structure of persuasion as the creation of the ideas themselves. Therefore, I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that if he starves this highly important industry of ours, he is opening the way to disaster, not only for that industry and everything connected with it, but also for the society in which we live.

2.43 p.m.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) did not want to give the House the impression that the pornographic literature of which he spoke had been produced for consumption in North Staffordshire. I happen to be a citizen of Stoke-on-Trent, and I should resent it very much if any such suggestion was made, because one can search from one end of Great Britain to the other without finding an area where culture is more valued than in North Staffordshire. To say otherwise is a gross libel upon the people of North Staffordshire, which I am sure my hon. Friend never intended.

Dr. Stross

Not only is my hon. Friend quite right in making this point, but I think I can assure the whole House that what has happened in North Staffordshire is that we have used our powers to destroy these things which, unfortunately, are not being destroyed in other places. These books are available all over the country, and we want other people to do what we have done.

Mr. Wigg

I think that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade might well look to see how it came about that this literature was imported into this country, how it came to be here at all, and what were the circumstances of its importation.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Does my hon. Friend think it is part of Marshall Aid?

Mr. Wigg

I do not know whether it is part of Marshall Aid or not, but I am not disposed to treat a serious matter of this kind as a joke. When we are so short of dollars it is a very serious business indeed to find that literature of this kind is appearing in this country, and, whether it appears in Stoke-on-Trent or in my own constituency of Dudley, it is equally serious. I hope that the Board of Trade will look into the matter.

I now wish to come to the speech of the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey). Whenever I listen to Tory speakers, either in this House or outside, I always find a tendency to denigrate their own country. The hon. Member for Harrow, East drew a comparison between the standard of printing of our newspapers and those of the American Press. I am the recipient of two American papers each day, the "New York Times" and the "New York Herald-Tribune." I am extremely glad to get them because they afford me an opportunity of getting a glimpse of American life. I am sure that if we made a comparison between those papers and the daily papers printed here in London there would be no question that the printing of our papers is immeasurably better. I noticed recently that my eyesight was beginning to decline a little and I have had to start wearing glasses. I wonder whether it is not due to the fact that I have begun to read American newspapers.

Mr. Ian Harvey

I should like to make it quite clear that I was more concerned in my comparison, not with the daily Press, but with general publication and block-making which overseas conditions have made much easier than they are in this country. I did not intend to make any comparison between overseas newspapers and our national Press.

Mr. Wigg

I do not intend to be drawn into a discussion on technicalities; I do not know anything about them. However, I have just concluded my first visit to the United States. I stayed for a few nights at an expensive hotel and had the opportunity of seeing the kind of literature on sale there. They are not in the same class with the comparable publications which we get in this country. I am glad to be able to pay a tribute to private enterprise in this country for the excellent work it has done in the past and is doing now both as regards printing and presentation. For the life of me I cannot think why the hon. Gentleman should make the point he did unless it is that the Conservative Party must find some means of trying to make out that we are not quite as good as other countries. The truth is that we are miles ahead of other countries.

Mr. Deedes

I do not want to be controversial, but surely the hon. Member would agree that the readers of, say, the "New York Times" or the "New York Herald Tribune" are presented with a very much fuller picture than English newspapers can present?

Mr. Wigg

On the contrary, I would not agree with that for a moment. Before I went away, I arranged for my newspapers to be delivered to me and therefore when I got back to London I had the chance to compare them with the papers I had while in Washington and New York. I am sure that from all points of view the papers published in this country are miles ahead.

Nevertheless, I greatly regret that some of the gangster methods employed in American journalism are beginning to permeate the presentation of British news. One has only to read, for example, the "Daily Express" of the past two or three days in which they attacked my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health in order to realise that. I am sure that the "Daily Telegraph," which I think is a very good paper, our own "Daily Herald" or the "Evening Sentinel," to which my hon. Friend referred, are miles better than the American newspapers. And we ought to be very proud of the fact, and certainly be very careful before we give any impression at all that either in newspaper writing or in the technical aspect we have anything to learn from the Americans.

On the other hand, in previous debates in this House, I have raised my voice in protest against cutting down the newsprint supplies. I think the Government were extremely shortsighted—and the President of the Board of Trade must share the responsibility—when they cut the Canadian contract. It was a stupid thing to do, because it should have been foreseen that a time would come when we would want newsprint and would not get it because contracts had been cut. It would have been far better for us to spend the dollars and keep the contracts going and, if necessary, resell some of the newsprint ourselves, because obviously newsprint shortage is going to continue for a long time.

I agree with the hon. Member for Harrow, East, that it is vital, in a war of ideas, that our own people should be well-informed and that we should produce newspapers and books of the highest possible quality so that the ideas we have tried out in this island, and in which we believe, shall be known to the world. But we should not start by talking down our present achievements.

The provincial Press have my admiration, though I have certainly no reason to thank them for they are not on my side of the political fence. I should, however, like to draw a distinction between "The Evening Sentinel," to which the hon[...] Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) referred, and which is linked up as part of a chain under the ownership of a group in London and papers of another kind, of which there are examples in my constituency. The papers that are part of a group are not half as valuable as the independent papers we have in the Midlands such as "The Dudley Herald" or "The Wolverhampton Express and Star," which are locally-owned and have a local tang about them. They are the very stuff of which democracy is made.

It would be a very serious blow if a position came about in which it would be economically impossible for those papers to carry on. I know nothing about the technicalities of the newspaper business, but I understand that, unless sufficient newsprint is made available, a point may be reached when it will be difficult for the local newspapers to carry on. I lend my voice in support of hon. Members opposite in urging the Government to take all possible steps to make it possible for these independently-owned newspapers to be kept in business and to continue the job which they are doing and have done so successfully in years gone by.

2.54 p.m.

M. Bishop (Harrow, Central)

My interest in one aspect of the matter discussed today is known to the House, and has been referred to in the course of this debate. I am connected with the Newsprint Supply Company and am Chairman of the Newsprint Rationing Committee. While the President of the Board of Trade was speaking, I ventured to interrupt once or twice—I hope not discourteously—because he did seem to be addressing some of his remarks to me. One could never be sure, Mr. Speaker, of having the privilege of catching your eye, and I should not have liked some of the things he said to pass with the assumption, perhaps, of hon. Members that they were said in agreement with the point of view of the Company I represent.

I am glad that, today, we have had a debate which has embraced the wide problems of paper and paper board in all their aspects, and has not merely been concentrated upon newsprint; and I would not say a word to diminish, or to show any want of sympathy for, the difficulties that other users of paper are facing due to the shortage of supply today But the debate has brought out the fact that newsprint is really the Cinderella of this paper industry today.

We have been told that home production of other grades of paper is 103 per cent. of pre-war. In the case of newsprint it is, I think, rather less than 75 per cent. We have been told that the consumption of other grades of paper is, today, about equal to the pre-war consumption. In the case of newsprint, available for the newspapers, it is today under 50 per cent. of the pre-war consumption. I do not want to go over the old ground which has been covered in previous debates in this House, but I do want the House to understand how very serious and very critical the situation concerning newspapers is today.

Since July, when we last debated the subject in the House, the position has deteriorated very greatly. As hon. Members know, we have had to return to the wartime system of rationing by tonnage, and we face the possibility—I think it would be right to call it the probability—that, within the next few months, there will have to be a much more drastic and serious cut in consumption by the newspapers. It is a really deplorable situation that, five and a half years after the end of the war, newspapers should only have available to them 50 per cent. or less of the supply they had before the war. That would be bad enough if the demand today were only equal to the demand before the war, but, as the House knows, there has been an enormous increase in the demand for newspapers, and the actual sales of newspapers in this country, today are up by no less than 70 per cent. of the pre-war figure.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about certain matters in which he suggested the newspapers themselves were to blame for the present situation. He said one thing which struck me as being very extraordinary but it seems, somehow, to have got into the departmental brief, it I may put it that way, because it has turned up in various statements recently. He said the inability of the Newsprint Supply Company to buy the newsprint which they expected to buy from Scandinavia, is one of the causes of the present trouble.

I should like to deal with that, because we have to have our dealings with the Scandinavian countries, including Finland. This is the only one of our sources of supply that is not subject to Government control, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would be as sorry as I should be if anything were said that might cause ill-feeling, or do anything to injure our relations with those countries. In fact, and it is a very fortunate thing, we have been able to buy in the Scandinavian countries far more than we had reason to expect. I should like to give the House some figures.

Before the war we used to import about 120,000 tons of newsprint from the Scandinavian countries. That source was completely cut off during the war, and it was only in 1946 that we began to resume those imports. We started with a very modest total of 5,000 tons in 1946, rising to 18,000 tons in 1947, 27,000 tons in 1948, 84,000 tons in 1949 and 118,000 tons in 1950. While I should like to be cautious about the prospects for 1951, we definitely expect to get not less than that total in the coming year.

Our relations with those countries are extremely satisfactory. We admire them for the wonderful way—I would specially refer to Finland—in which they have got back into full working order after what they suffered during the war. We are very grateful to them for the efforts which they have made, and are continuing to make, to help us in our problem. I hope the House will take it from me that there is really no basis for a suggestion that we are getting less from that quarter than we were entitled to expect, though, of course, we would be grateful if we could get a little more.

Mr. H. Wilson

I am sure that the hon. Member would not wish to misrepresent me. What I said will be clear on the record. I said "Scandinavia and other countries." Will he not agree that, if he takes into account France and one or two other countries, the budget presented to us at the time of the suggestion to continue with the seven-page paper, has not been fulfilled because of the impossibility of getting the necessary supplies in France and one or two other countries?

Mr. Bishop

We have what we regard as our regular basic sources of supply, and they are the Scandinavian countries and Canada. When for any reason we are debarred from getting as much as we want to get under our long-term basic contracts with our regular sources of supply, we try to get what we can from other sources.

It is true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that early this year when we knew what the situation was with some of our basic sources of supply we made a contract with France. France is a marginal exporter of newsprint. When times are easy France may have some surplus newsprint to export; when times are difficult France herself has to seek sources of supply outside. We made a contract with France, but after the first few deliveries had been made the French Government had to stop the export, because the French newspapers themselves were in a critical supply position. We were disappointed in what we had hoped to get from France this year. It was a matter of something considerably under 20,000 tons.

I now turn to what the right hon. Gentleman said about the over-optimistic estimates of the Newsprint Supply Company and the decision of the company, which was acquiesced in by the right hon. Gentleman—although rather reluctantly—to maintain what we call the seven-page basis up to 2nd July. I should explain first that that originally arose in connection with the General Election. We wanted additional newsprint and additional space for the newspapers to cover the period of the Election. Then it was agreed that that additional page should be continued until Easter, and, under pressure from the Newsprint Supply Company, the right hon. Gentleman finally agreed that that additional page should be continued up to 2nd July.

It is true that at the time that decision was made the situation was very much easier than it is today. We had then a stock of newsprint of over 130,000 tons. We agreed with the right hon. Gentleman's Department that 100,000 tons should be regarded as the basic safe minimum, and we desired to continue at the maximum possible size until we had got down to that level. That is what we did. However, I should like to put this matter in its proper proportions. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that it was this decision to keep to the seven-page basis instead of dropping back to six pages, which was one of the causes of the crisis we are facing today. I want to tell the House what the facts are so that the House can judge the importance of this factor in our present position.

If we had returned from the seven-page to the six-page basis at Easter instead of on 2nd July, when we did so, we should have saved 12,000 tons of newsprint. Assuming that that 12,000 tons had not been consumed in any other way, the position today would be that we should have a stock of 82,000 tons instead of what we actually have, 70,000 tons, which is still far below the figure of the agreed minimum. It would not have affected the basic position at all. We should still have had to go back to the war-time system of tonnage rationing and we should still be faced, as we are today, with the probability of having to make a further cut in size very soon.

This was a business decision, a matter of judgment, and of course businessmen make mistakes, for they are not infallible. It is the capacity to admit a mistake which enables one to learn from the mistake. Maybe it is a matter of judgment whether we should or should not have cut back our consumption at an earlier date than we did. Maybe if hon. Members knew all the facts of the present situation they would say that we ought to cut back our present consumption now below the six page basis.

It may well be that in January or February next year we shall be accused of having made a wrong decision in not having come back to the four page wartime basis in November. If so, I suggest that it will be just as reasonable to accuse us of that in January or February as it is to accuse us now of having stuck to the seven page basis until 2nd July. I wish the House would appreciate the tremendous pressures which there are upon the newspapers today—pressures which reflect themselves upon the Rationing Committee and the Newsprint Supply Company.

Reference has been made by my hon. Friend to the resolution of U.N.E.S.C.O. as long ago as 1947 that eight pages is the minimum size in which a newspaper can perform its duty to its readers in present circumstances. Well, eight pages is a very modest level compared with what we used to have before the war. I shall be interested to know whether the Government would accept that as being the minimum objective at which we should aim. I hope and believe that they would, but they must realise that until we get to that minimum of what is needed for a newspaper to discharge its duty to the public, there must be all the time the strongest pressure to use whatever newsprint is available.

Mr. H. Wilson

I do apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman a second time, but I think he knows we do accept that as a target to arrive at as soon as the situation makes it possible. As to the seven pages, I do not dissent from his statement of the facts and figures, but I think he is slightly misrepresenting me when he refers to my criticism of his colleagues having done it, and when he blames the present situation on that. I quite agree with the figures as he has given them, but I think he will agree with what I said, which was to rebut charges such as we have had today from the hon. Gentleman, that the Government should have foreseen this coming in November, and that if we had, we should, even if we had no dollars, still have bought newsprint from Canada earlier in the year. I was representing to the hon. Gentleman that if, in fact, the newspaper interests themselves felt it would be possible to go back to the seven pages, then it would be quite unfair to say that the Government were taking an over-optimistic view when, in fact, both sides took, as it has turned out, an over-optimistic view.

Mr. Bishop

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the pressure of world demand created by the boom that is going on in the United States today is greater than any of us were able to foresee, but I should like to say one word in a moment—though I am not going back over the old ground—about the Canadian situation.

Meanwhile, I should like to quote as an illustration of what I have said about pressure on the newspapers, the case of "The Times." "The Times," as a three-penny newspaper, on the basis of rationing that we have, has always enjoyed a larger allowance of pages, of course, than the penny national papers. But "The Times" was the paper that, above all others, put pressure upon the Rationing Committee to make sure that it would he able to maintain what it regarded as the minimum paging necessary to do its duty to its public. The right hon. Gentleman knows this, because he was subjected to some of the same pressure as that to which we were subjected at the time. The moment we turned to the basis of rationing which enables an individual newspaper to choose whether it will print all the copies that are needed or to cut its sale to maintain its pages, "The Times" chose to cut its sale, and keep what it regarded as the minimum number of pages.

Mr. McCorquodale (Epsom)

Would my hon. Friend tell us how many copies "The Times" has cut? Is it 25,000?

Mr. Bishop

I understand, about 25,000 copies. About 25,000 readers of "The Times" have got to go without it either in whole or in part—not those who have the privilege of dwelling in the Government hostel in Park Lane. We had a Question answered on that point, and we were told there has been no reduction in the supply of copies of "The Times" there. And not the staff of the Central Office of Information. An hon. Member asked a Question about that, and got the reply that 82 copies of "The Times" are being supplied to the Central Office of Information, and that there had been no cut in that figure because it was the irreducible minimum that they required.

My irreducible minimum requirement of "The Times" is one copy a day, and however irreducible that may be, it has, in fact, been reduced. My newsagent, who believes in fair shares—of which I heartily approve as Chairman of the Rationing Committee—has decided I must do without "The Times" one day in every week. I expect other hon. Members have had the same experience.

This is a tragedy. It is the tragedy, as I referred to it in the July debate, of the miserable conditions of war-time rationing, to which we have been brought back. If the cut were only what it is today, about 5 per cent. of the total consumption of newspapers, perhaps we should not say too much about it, but I do want the House to realise that unless some drastic and unexpected intervention can take place during the winter months which we are facing now, we must expect a much more drastic cut in consumption by the newspapers than has happened yet.

One reason is that imports are a seasonal business, and we are dealing with countries whose ports get frozen up in the winter. In normal conditions we draw on stocks during, the winter months which are made up again in the open water season. We can no longer draw on stocks. Now our stocks can be cut no farther. They are far below the danger level, and newspapers must live from now on upon their current intake; and unless, as I say something like a miracle occurs, that current intake during the next six months will not be sufficient to maintain newspapers even at their present size.

The right hon. Gentleman has said—and I agree with him—that the situation we are facing now is due basically to an increase in world demand. When we are talking about world demand we mean demand in the United States of America. In the United States they are consuming newsprint at the rate of six million tons a year, which is two-thirds of the whole of the world production of newsprint, and a very small percentage increase means, of course, the difference between an adequate supply and an acute shortage in the rest of the world.

I must say that while this is an underlying basic cause of the shortage from which we are suffering today, the immediate cause of our difficulty is the decision made by the Government which tied the hands of the industry and made it impossible for us to do what otherwise we would have been able to do; that is, to look after the interests of the British newspapers, despite conditions of the world market. The first of these decisions, which has been referred to repeatedly, is the cancellation of the Canadian contract. The second important decision was the decision to increase the export of newsprint from this country just at the time when the Canadian imports were being cut off.

I do not want to weary the House by going over this old ground again. What can be done now? The first and most vital thing is to restore the Canadian life-line of supply. I was delighted to hear the statement which the right hon. Gentleman made about the fresh approach to the Canadian mills, through the Canadian Government, in the hope that we may be able to get back on to a long-term basis of supply. But I would warn the House not to be too optimistic at this stage about the possible result of this approach. I would warn the House that the loss of confidence in Canada has been something much greater and more serious than the House has, I think yet realised. I would warn the House that the Canadians are bitterly hurt. They have reason to be. The rejection of their appeal which, as I suggested in venturing to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, was an appeal, not to maintain the full supply at a time when we were in acute dollar difficulties, but to maintain continuity by at least a token import under our contracts. The way in which that appeal was rejected has had a very serious affect indeed.

Now the Canadians are in desperate difficulties themselves. They have what are called "requirement contracts" with American publishers, which means that they undertake to supply all that the individual American publisher needs. Now the American publishers are stepping up their requirements. The Canadians are facing a very difficult problem if they divert back to us some of those supplies which we rejected when we could have had them, and which now have gone elsewhere.

The problem is to restore confidence and belief in the minds of the Canadian mills that we are coming back, not merely to seek through them a renewal of our supplies at a time when we are in desperate need, but to make them a permanent, regular part of our supply. I hope and believe that that is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, and, if it is so that he will succeed in convincing the Canadians that it is so.

About exports—and this is my final word—we have never objected at all to the continuance of the export of newsprint from this country, which, as has been rightly said, go out under long-term contracts which are of value to the British mills. What we have objected to is the sudden decision greatly to increase the volume of these exports at a time when we ourselves are in such desperate need. We know the difficulties of our friends in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and elsewhere in the Empire. We sympathise with them, and we are in a position to be able to sympathise with them, because, as they would be the first to agree, our own troubles are even more serious.

On behalf of the whole of the newspaper Press of the country, I am sure I can safely say that we would be pre- pared to agree to share equally with them in whatever resources are available to us all, but we cannot agree that, at a time when our need is so desperate, the Government should choose this moment to increase the exports to 100,000 tons, which is nearly twice the normal export of newsprint from this country before the war. I feel that we are in a position where we have to consider planning anew. In planning anew, we ought to begin by admitting the mistakes we have made in the past, which applies to the Government as well as to the newspapers. It is only by admitting them that we shall recognise them and learn to profit by them, which is what is needed now.

I do not know that anything much can be done about the immediate prospects. We have to live through the next six months as best we can, and hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not exclude the possibility, if necessary, of enabling us to have some of the tonnage which would otherwise be exported. That is the only way in which we can hope to "get by." We want a long-term plan based on the bitter experience we have been through during the last few months. I hope that we shall be able to join the right hon. Gentleman and the Government in formulating such a plan, working to it with the knowledge that, having been based on experience, it will be stuck to and not changed as changing circumstances of the day may seem to require.

3.22 p.m.

Mr. Linstead (Putney)

I shall not attempt to follow my hon. Friend for Harrow, Central (Mr. Bishop), even if I could, in his masterly survey of the newsprint position, and because I know that the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) is most anxious to have a short time before the end of business to deal with her Motion. I venture, however, to make one comment upon a remark made by my hon. Friend, when he suggested that 80 copies of "The Times" were too much for the Central Office of Information. I cannot help feeling that if the number of copies of "The Times" which go into that office were to be substantially reduced, it might find itself a little short of the information the office exists to disseminate.

In concluding the debate, I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. H. Price). He has chosen a subject and made use of an opportunity which go far to justify Private Members' Motions on Fridays. The Motion has brought prominently before the public, as well as before the responsible Minister, a state of affairs which is causing a great deal of disquiet and anxiety throughout the publishing industry and the whole of industry itself. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman—I am sorry that he has left the Chamber—was less than generous to my hon. Friend, when he said that he thought my hon. Friend must have decided to make his speech and then get his facts together. It did not seem to me that the masterly survey my hon. Friend made justified that sort of reflection from a Minister of the Crown.

I am very glad that throughout the debate emphasis has been placed upon the essential value of paper for the running of modern civilisation. It ranks with such things as petrol and electricity as a means of enabling our way of life to continue. We seem to have passed from the Stone Age, through the Iron Age, and are now in the paper age, with its drawbacks but also with its many advantages. I was very glad to hear the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) about the value and necessity of paper in the war of ideas. It is not necessary to underline further what he said, but it was repeated very cogently in a letter, which has already been referred to, from the President of the Publishers' Association.

I was reminded of a more simple and, perhaps, critical expression of the same idea by the late George Bernard Shaw. In "Back to Methuselah," he makes his female automaton say, "How can you expect my husband to know what to think if you give him his breakfast without his paper?" I am not at all sure that that does not have a profound significance in the civilisation in which we live.

In the speech of the President of the Board of Trade I failed to find any real sense of urgency and understanding of the seriousness of the present situation. A great deal has been said about shortage of newsprint. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise—his speech gave hardly any indication that he does—that so for as paper for periodicals is con- cerned, the mechanical paper mills are unwilling to accept further orders outside those sent in by regular customers, and that they have already had to tell the periodical Press that there may be a 10 per cent. cut in their present quotas?

As far as book papers are concerned, there is now a delay of eight or nine months; no orders can be accepted for pure paper, and for art paper the delay is something like 12 months. In card, no promises of delivery can be obtained, and for strawboard, although orders are being accepted, no delivery date can be given. The position is very well summed up in this letter from suppliers to users with reference to teams of printing paper: I will do my best to arrange for delivery before August, 1951, if this is at all possible, but you will understand that owing to today's conditions all orders are subject to availability of raw materials at time of manufacture. How is industry to carry on in that state of uncertainty?

Mr. Holman

Is the hon. Member not aware that, on a rising market, the ordinary commercial practice is to double or to treble orders, and to place them in a number of directions when the opportunity occurs, and that the number of excessive orders which have been booked by paper mills arises partly for this reason?

Mr. Linstead

My information is that at present industry is buying in small job lots as and where it can find the supply, and that it is not a question of putting in excessive orders, but of being only too glad to lay hands on anything which may happen to be available.

The results of the present shortage are uncertainty and confusion, not only throughout the whole of the publishing and book trade, but throughout the whole of industry. The supplies of cartons, papers and all similar types of packing, trade catalogues, advertising materials and periodical advertising are all in jeopardy. This kind of uncertainty may lead to very serious hold-ups in production, because it is not realised, or is not emphasised as much as it might be, that although paper is primarily a part of distribution, distribution is primarily a part of production; and unless there is wide distribution it will ultimately be found that production falls off.

The present shortage is leading to a steady increase in prices. Already these materials have risen by 33⅓,50,oreven 100 per cent., and the result is being reflected in costing systems by rises in retail prices. I heard very little in what the President of the Board of Trade had to say to give me any hope that he really understood that industry was up against this most serious crisis. I do not know also that he really understood the extent to which useful business in this country is going abroad. A great deal of printing which used to be done in this country is now being sent to Holland, or even to Austria; and possibly to America. Ultimately that will be detrimental to our own export trade.

I was glad my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford drew attention to the effect on the scientific and educational book trade. That is a very difficult trade which is important not only to us and to our students here, but also to British-speaking students all over the world[...] because our scientific and technical books are not merely used here, they are the staple necessity of students throughout the British Commonwealth. I have seen letters recently from universities in the Commonwealth complaining of the difficulty of getting the scientific and educational books which they must have.

It is also important for the President to remember the effect of these shortages on American firms which are now being encouraged to open up business in this country. I was handed this morning a letter from an American firm which is trying to, and has, developed trade in this country, and from this country to Europe, and which is now finding it cannot get the packaging material it needs. How can the President expect to encourage dollar investments in this country if he is not proposing to enable American firms to get the sort of materials which, in their own country, they regard as a mater of course?

I would make one or two comments on the speech of the President of the Board of Trade. My hon. Friend the Member for Southgate (Mr. Baxter) referred to the soothing bedside manner of the President, and the note which I had made, quite independently, was "complacent." I did not see in his manner of dealing with this situation any appreciation, such as one would expect from an important Minister of the Crown, of the fact that he was dealing with a really serious and urgent situation. He chose to make some remarks about the result of free and uncontrolled enterprise in the paper industry having created these difficulties. What he did not do was to point out what I believe to be the serious fact, that we cannot mix free and controlled economies in the way he is trying to without very often getting the worst of both worlds. This is an example of trying to combine control with freedom and getting the worst of both worlds.

We were all disappointed when the right hon. Gentleman rather lightly swept on one side the suggestions made in the debate by saying he had put these remedies into operation long ago; that, in other words, there was very little more he could do and events would have to take their own course. Nothing he suggested in the way of additional remedies seemed to me to have any encouragement for the future at all. He said that long ago he had given an open general licence for certain things to be imported. He said that with regard to kraft material, if he gave dollars the trade would not be able to buy.

The right hon. Gentleman said with regard to bulk purchase that that would have to continue and that the industry owes much to good forward buying by the Paper Control. Everybody who has had to deal with the industry has admitted that. But it still is quite significant that before the Select Committee on Estimates, in their seventh report, the Controller of Timber himself said that his personal view was: without committing my President that when we have completed this year's buying it would be better if the buying reverted to the paper traders, although temporarily I think it will cost the country more. It is quite significant that the President has chosen to ignore that expression of opinion from a most experienced servant of his Department.

I, fortunately, need not make any further reference to newsprint in view of what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central. I will only express my satisfaction that no further question, at the moment anyway of control, and still less of censorship of the Press, which seemed to be implied in two of the speeches made from the other side of the House, has been suggested today. It is useless for Governments to start interfering in such matters as the quality of the contents of publications. That is something that must be left to an educated and informed public opinion, and the less the Government have to do in that field the better.

I shall conclude by saying that what is important in the whole of this field is a real understanding by the Minister not merely of the newsprint situation, of which he is well informed, but of the importance of all the other sections of the cardboard and paper industry, where there is confusion and dislocation just round the corner. More than anything else it is his duty to give that industry, with all its ramifications throughout the whole of our industry, as much certainty as he possibly can. The industry can operate with shortages if it is certain where it stands. What the industry cannot do is operate on uncertainty.

3.39 p.m.

Dr. King (Southampton, Test)

I am very glad that this debate has been conducted not perhaps in a non-controversial way, but without the bitterness that has marked discussions on this subject outside the House. But even in today's debate, we have had some evidence of the tension which underlies this subject. The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Lindstead) has charged my right hon. Friend with being complacent, because, realising the needs of newsprint and of paper, he did not help the industry enough. But my right hon. Friend is also aware of other great economic demands of this country. If there is one criticism which I wish to make of those who have spoken—and, like them, I shall in a moment be pleading for more newsprint—it is that in this debate they have tended to be unaware of the other equally important demands which have to be considered by my right hon. Friend in the economic difficulties of our time.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. H. Price) opened the debate with the singular expression that there is no more important industry in the country than the paper industry. He imagined for us a world without printing and the Press, but he by-passed agriculture, fishing, engineering and all these essential industries without which he could not exist in a world which was full of paper. I am sorry that in today's debate there should have been tendencies by the representatives of the Newsprint Associa- tion to pitch the blame on the Minister for the very grave international and world-wide shortage of newsprint and for all the technical moves and mis-moves that have been made, perhaps by both sides, during the negotiations and the changes that have taken place in the last two years. We are faced with a grim economic problem. The view of the newsprint world expressed temperately is that the Minister has not been sufficiently aware of the rightful place that paper and books play in the economic struggle.

I believe that both sides to some extent are to blame for the present bad feeling. The politicians, in dealing with this question of newsprint, have been wrong when they asked—what use is made of the newsprint? What use is made of newsprint is finally a matter for the Press and for the newspaper industry itself. On the other hand, I believe that members of the Newsprint Association have been a little bit Simon Pure and squeamish in this matter. No politician objects to being attacked by the Press; no politician objects to be attacked even occasionally under the belt as rather shamefully certain newspapers have done to certain Ministers. But the newspapers must not resent the politician's right to hit back.

I get somewhat tired when a newspaper, which hits boldly and manfully all round, adopts an indignant, righteous, touch-me-not attitude when a Minister ventures to answer back in somewhat the same way. We had an occasion during the last few days when statements by a Minister over a period of years were set out in parallel columns. I am not certain that any newspaper could survive an equal test of what it has said over the years. When politicians criticise the Press, the Press might remember that they always get the last word, and they need not adopt the attitude which has been attributed to Gladstone when it was said of him "I do not mind his producing the ace of trumps from up his sleeve, but I do object to his suggesting that God put it there."

This matter of what use is made of newsprint is not a matter for politicians to decide but for the Press and the journalists who produce the papers to produce their own code of ethics. But we have an opportunity whenever this matter is discussed to express our own views on the subject. I feel that this debate offers us the chance of protesting against detailed reports of unsavoury crimes. The best local newspaper possibly in the country, one which I know well, reported the details of a crime which had taken place in that area at such length that fathers had to secrete the paper in the evenings from their children. We had recently a shocking case of an ex-Member of this House being pilloried by the Press, publishing the details of the false unsavoury charge, which was gone into against him.

I suggest that these are things which the Press should very well consider and deal with, but, since newsprint is an industry, I want to appeal for newsprint as I would appeal for the mining or the engineering industries. Hon. Members on this side—indeed, hon. Members on both sides of the House—profess to support the policy of full employment, and I see great dangers to the Press of this country if newsprint does not take its rightful place in the community of becoming a depressed industry.

I would declare that I have no interest in this debate except as a Member of Parliament, but I am told by newspaper friends that when newsprint was increased recently, a number of newspapers took on extra staff, and that the decrease in newsprint supplies means that they may have to consider discharging some of those men whom they engaged. I am told that the tremendous increase in the price of newsprint, on the one hand, and shorter supplies and smaller newspapers on the other, might well mean that newspaper after newspaper will have to retrench in the matter of staff, and that, so far as the journalistic profession is concerned, this might well become a serious problem in the years ahead.

I want to make a special plea for the local newspapers. In whatever tight newsprint situation we find ourselves, the big combines of newspapers can fend for themselves, even though they have their difficulties, but, if that is true of the great Press octopus, the great trust Press, then the burden in these days on the single little industry, the one-man industry, the little shop in the newspaper Press, is indeed a grave one.

As newsprint has come into the country, newspapers have had to take what was coming and make arrangements to store it, knowing that if they did not take and store it they might lose it altogether. One newspaper man has told me very graphically that they were on the edge of a precipice, and that if at any time during the winter we had snowdrifts and serious interruption of road traffic, then indeed the newsprint supplies going to the various local newspapers might not get through and the newspapers might come to a standstill.

I am putting in a plea for the really local "locals" which do not belong to the combines which have reached out their tentacles so hungrily. In this country, we are still honeycombed by a great mass of local newspapers, as in the county in which I live, and I would pay tribute, without wishing to incur the accusation of seeking to boast my own constituency, to the tremendous work of the "Romsey Times," the "Hampshire Advertiser," the "Hampshire Observer," the "Hampshire Chronicle" and the "Bournemouth Echo," all of which, during the war years, did tremendous services, not only in keeping up the morale of the people in the towns, but in the local news which they conveyed to our boys overseas and in the links which they maintained between home and overseas under very difficult conditions. I had personal experience during the years when I was in Bournemouth of the tremendous services which the local newspaper can do and which continued throughout the war years.

Newspapers like the "Hampshire Chronicle," by a semi-amateur, semiprofessional organisation, maintain links between all the many villages which go to make up the county of Hampshire, and if these should perish because of a shortage of newsprint, something will perish from our land which makes Hampshire Hampshire as well as England, and makes Yorkshire Yorkshire as well as England—something which I think we should all be very sorry to lose from the life of our people.

I understand that these local newspapers are now facing very grave problems indeed. The cutting down to four pages means that they have to choose between advertisements and news, and they are reaching a point where the advertisements which they carry from a financial point of view make the space available for news items too small for the papers to be a newspaper proposition at all. I know of local newspapers which have sacrificed advertising space in order that they might carry out their civic duties of recording council meetings and other civic news.

I am one of those who welcome the statement which the Minister made this afternoon. I still believe that while, from the business point of view, we may not find it profitable to break into the exports we are sending to the Dominions of 100,000 tons of newsprint, we ought to appeal to the Dominions to make their contribution to the democratic struggle and to bring about an equalisation of newspapers as between the Dominions and this country. In the Library hon. Members will find a copy of the "Melbourne Age" which, I believe, has 40 pages. It seems rather crazy that we should be exporting newsprint to Australia for their 40-page newspapers when our own are so small.

I am wondering whether the allocation of newsprint as between the weeklies and the dailies is fair to the dailies. I am very pleased to know that we are attempting to secure from Canada an increased supply of newsprint, but I would suggest that we make an appeal for fair shares of the newsprint which is in such short supplies throughout the world. It has been pointed out that two-thirds of the world's newsprint is consumed by the United States of America. We surely believe that if the propagation of the democratic way of life is going to play a vital part in winning the battle for democracy in this world, then just as we ask for economic Marshall Aid and just as we pool our military resources with our allies for military defence, so there ought to be some pooling of the world's newsprint.

I believe that in the years ahead the Press has a very important part to play in this community. We can appeal to it to do its job and we can criticise it for the details in which it fails to do its job. We can ask it to sacrifice its own unsavoury murders and to present the cause of democracy, but it can only do its job if it gets the raw materials with which to do it. I welcome whatever signs there are in the Minister's speech of the awareness of the serious position in regard to newsprint and of some move towards solving this grave problem.

3.54 p.m.

Sir Peter Bennett (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

I want to bring this debate back from newsprint to the ordinary commercial needs of the country. I am as anxious as anybody that we should have plenty of paper because it seems to me that from the way we are going on, it will soon be the only wrapping material left. I presided over a conference of buyers from all over the country the other day. The shortage of many materials was mentioned, but the one universal shortage reported to me at that conference was that of paper and paper materials.

We are reaching the stage where it is becoming extremely difficult to get paper, and if it goes on it will soon be almost impossible to deliver goods because of that shortage. In the old days we tried to get away from cartons because we thought they were a waste—they were nearly always thrown away—and we had honeycombed cartons. Now we cannot get timber for that and we are driven back to cartons. But we cannot get cartons in any quantity. We try to get the cartons returned, but we are a wasteful race and people throw them away and do not trouble about them. We can get a certain number back in bulk, but when it comes to cartons used for packing articles which go into retail shops it is practically impossible to get them back. So we sat down to discuss how we were going to deliver our goods. I said, "Very well, you must wrap them up." They said, "We cannot get brown paper." I said, "What about tissue?" They said, "We cannot get tissue." So I instituted an economy drive.

The reason I mention that is because I think the nation should be told that today we have not sufficient material for our papers and for packing, and that, unless the nation starts to help, we shall have to go back to the days of the war when we had to carry intimate articles, unwrapped, under our arms because we had no paper. We are getting back to the stage when we cannot get sufficient packing material to send our goods abroad with any feeling of confidence, or sufficient packing materials for the home trade.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) urged the Gov- ernment to re-institute the salvage drive to the maximum extent at once. I agree, but I want the Government to go a stage further. I put my officer on the job, and what happened? He said, "Look at the amount of paper they are taking for the Festival of Britain." I agree that we have to make the Festival a great success, and that it must have paper; but that is no reason why any commercial or Government undertaking should waste paper.

I know from the amount of paper that I receive, and that goes into my wastepaper basket, that there is an enormous wastage. I want the Government to publicise the fact that we are short of paper and ask people to go back to war-time arrangements. We should ask them to use envelopes a second time, and use the backs of scribbling pads instead of using fresh blocks. I use the backs of our Order Papers and I make a lot of notes on them. I urge the Government to institute this economy campaign.

3.58 p.m.

Mr. McCorquodale (Epsom)

In the few minutes remaining, I should like to say that I am sure the whole House will agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. H. Price), and my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and others of my hon. Friends have made very good use of the luck of the Ballot for the first day of Private Members' Motions. The speeches were full of factual information, and were delivered in a non-party spirit. I think that has been echoed from all parts of the House and that the congratulations of the House will go out to them.

I am intimately associated with this business, in the matter of both printing and paper-making. I urge the Government most sincerely to realise that this is going to be a chronic shortage, because, as education advances in the world, so many more people will want to read and to make greater use of paper I agree with the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster that the Colonial Development Corporation should consider how best it can help produce pulp. It could not do a better job for the world and the Empire.

There was an admirable letter in "The Times" recently, by the President of the Newspaper Society, stating that thousands of tons of sugar-cane were going to waste in the West Indies, that thousands of tons of papyrus on the side of the Upper Nile were going to waste, and that thousands of tons of fibre in the East Indies were going to waste. If the Government concentrated on this matter, the long-term problem might well be solved.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That this House, conscious of the fact that adequate supplies of paper and boards of all kinds are essential for the maintenance of a fully democratic State, an efficient industry and a high standard of education, and in view of their importance as strategic raw materials, views with concern the current shortage of these commodities and the raw materials from which they are made, and calls upon His Majesty's Government to take appropriate steps to facilitate increased imports of paper-making raw materials and of paper and boards; to discourage by exhortation and example their misuse; to stimulate the salvage and collection of wastepaper; and to encourage the production and use of indigenous raw materials.