HC Deb 21 July 1959 vol 609 cc1053-6
28. Mr. Hoy

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the concern felt by Scottish paper makers regarding the proposed Free Trade Area; what representations he has received from them; and what action he is taking to safeguard the employment of people in this industry.

37. Mr. Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why he has refused to receive a deputation of representatives of the paper industry and certain local authorities, including Fife County Council, to discuss the effects on the Scottish paper industry of the implementation of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Outer Seven countries; and, in view of the particular severity of the effects of such a scheme on Scotland, whether he will reconsider his decision.

38. Mr. Willis

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why he refused to meet a deputation from Scottish local authorities concerning the proposed Outer Seven Free Trade Area and the paper-making trade in Scotland; and whether he will now change his decision.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has recently received a deputation from the British Paper and Board Manufacturers Association and has also received written representations from the Scottish local authorities. I too have received similar written representations from several local authorities including Fife County Council, and from the Scottish paper industry. The Government are, therefore, well aware of the factors both as regards the paper industry as a whole and the Scottish industry in particular, to which the local authorities drew attention.

I have assured the authorities that their representations have been brought to the attention of the Ministers immediately concerned and that they will be weighed very carefully together with all other relevant considerations.

Mr. Hoy

Yes, Sir, but is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the industry, which employs 17,000 men and women, many of them in rural parts of Scotland, is very important for these areas? Will he bear in mind that the industry also provides considerable employment for miners in Scotland, so that any threat to it would have the widest repercussions?

Mr. Maclay

Yes, Sir, I am well aware of these factors and so are my colleagues more directly concerned.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the Minister entirely satisfied with the decision he has made to refuse to meet the Fife County Council and other authorities? Is he aware that they know that the Secretary of State has an obligation to put the Scottish point of view at Cabinet level, that this is all they are asking for, and that they are very angry at his attitude in refusing to meet them? Will he reconsider his decision, in view of the fact that, in Fife particularly, not only is there a paper industry which is threatened with extinction if this scheme goes through, but that it will also have adverse effects on the coal industry, as my hon. Friend has said?

Mr. Maclay

In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, as I think the hon. Gentleman knows, I see a great many deputations and there is a time limit on the absolute number I can receive. In particular, I would point out that in this case the issue is one which concerns areas in Scotland other than those which ask me to receive them, as well as areas in England and Wales. The local authorities concerned can rest assured that their views have been fully brought to the attention of all my colleagues.

Mr. Woodburn

On behalf of the whole of Scotland and other constituencies, including my own, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the Scottish paper trade feels that the Government have given it rather a brush-off in the discussions? Surely it is entitled to receive some information about whether this really will be a death blow to the industry, and the silence of the Government gives it that impression. Or will the Government give some assurance that in those negotiations there will not be a complete wiping-out of the industry, which might mean the wiping-out of villages throughout Scotland?

Mr. Maclay

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has received a deputation from the industry. In regard to the latter part of his supplementary question, I would refer the right hon. Gentleman to the reply given by my right hon. Friend last Thursday.

Sir W. Anstruther-Gray

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there are other Scottish Members well able to speak up for their own constituencies and that, although there is something in what the right hon. Gentleman has said, there will be a great deal of support for the line which the Government are taking.

Mr. Hamilton

On a point of order. In view of the extremely unsatisfactory nature of the Secretary of State's reply, I beg to give notice that I will seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment or on the Report stage of the Consolidated Fund Bill.