HC Deb 24 March 1955 vol 538 cc2248-9
15. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the President of the Board of Trade why he refused the Newsprint Rationing Committee's recommendation of a small increase in its newsprint ration.

18. Mr. Dodds

asked the President of the Board of Trade in view of the recommendation made to him by the Newsprint Rationing Committee for an increase in the allocation of newsprint, what action he is taking to enable national daily and Sunday newspapers to increase space.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

We have authorised imports of 100,000 tons more newsprint this year than for 1954. The stock position is at present and is likely to remain for some months below the level which the industry has so far regarded as safe. The industry is now considering a scheme under which it would be assured of a higher level of newsprint imports and would accept responsibility for newsprint distribution. I am awaiting its acceptance of the scheme.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

If the Minister's object is not to build up television advertising or paper stocks for election leaflets, why was it that in his speech last week he said that the newspaper industry perhaps does not want to be free of Government control? Why is he resorting to these strange antics to justify the only rationed Press in the world?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that I exercise no control over what goes into the newspapers and am endeavouring to get rid of any controls of the way in which they are made. The sooner I get rid of those controls the better.

Mr. Dodds

Is not the right hon. Gentleman able to make a greater allocation for newsprint? Does he not appreciate the great need for larger newspapers? Will he not answer my hon. and gallant Friend's questions? Are the stocks being retained until election time, as the "Observer" said, for Conservative speeches? Is it part of the policy to handicap the newspapers against commercial television? Will the right hon. Gentleman answer those two questions?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I have already increased the level of imports of newsprint from 350,000 tons to 450,000 tons, and if the scheme which I am suggesting goes through, that figures will rise to 500,000 tons on an annual basis to 1958. Here is a great opportunity for getting more newsprint and more freedom.