HC Deb 04 March 1965 vol 707 cc1502-4
10. Mr. Onslow

asked the President of the Board of Trade what estimate he has made of the present annual cost of printing work for British newspapers and periodicals that is carried out in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

59 and 60. Mr. Wilkins

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) what information he has concerning the burden on Great Britain's balance of payments situation of printing work for British newspapers and periodicals produced in continental countries;

(2) what is the effect upon Great Britain's balance of trade situation of the production in Holland of bulb catalogues in colour, which were previously printed in Great Britain.

Mr. Jay

No estimate has been made either for newspapers and periodicals or for bulb catalogues, but in either case the effect on the balance of payments is very small.

Mr. Onslow

Does not the Minister agree that it is desirable for him to reconsider this matter and to make an estimate? Is he aware that there is at least one single contract which is estimated to be worth £2 million a year which is being carried out in Germany and which could be carried out by a British firm if it were not for trade union opposition to the recruitment and training of the men required to operate the machinery? Will he not use all his influence to put an end to this sort of restricted practice, which leads to a totally unnecessary drain on our balance of payments?

Mr. Jay

Obviously, I have no control over where all these contracts are placed. That rests with the people who place them. But at the moment the amount involved is too small to justify any emergency action.

Mr. Fell

On a point of order. I am extremely sorry to raise this matter again, Mr. Speaker, but we have two Questions—Nos. 59 and 60—put down by an hon. Member opposite and taken together with the Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow). Previously, we had two identical questions put down in the same way.

Mr. Speaker

I have every sympathy with the hon. Member. I think that he may fairly assume that the House observes what happens. It does not miss much. None the less, it does not raise a point of order for me.

Mr. Wilkins

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that there is serious concern in the printing industry about the amount of printing, particularly colour printing, which is now being done abroad? Does he not agree that some part of this problem must be found in the fact that manufacturers who provide and distribute catalogues are able, first of all, to distribute them far more cheaply through the Dutch Post Office than they can through this country, saving many thousands of £s, and, secondly, are able to save considerable sums—in some cases vast sums—in Purchase Tax? Will he not discuss this aspect of the problem with his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Jay

I am quite willing to discuss it with my right hon. Friend. If the figures grew much larger than they are now, no doubt they might become a serious problem.

Mr. Barber

In view of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) about restrictive practices in the industry, and in view of the Prime Minister's appeal the other day for new attitudes in industry, what do the Government intend to do about this matter?

Mr. Jay

Restrictive practices in this industry would be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and not for me.