HC Deb 05 April 1971 vol 815 cc23-5
24. Mr. Roger White

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to assist the paper industry following the closure of mills and short-time working in the industry.

Sir J. Eden

Officials of the Department met employers and union leaders from the paper and board makers industry on 24th March. I am urgently considering their report.

Mr. White

My hon. Friend will be aware that at the meeting on 24th March both the employers and the trade unions drew his attention to the unfair pricing policies operated by the paper-producing Scandinavian countries. Do these policies contravene the E.F.T.A. Agreement? If so, what steps will he take to overcome them?

Sir J. Eden

I am aware of the points raised by the deputation, and I am continuing to give them close study. The point to which my hon. Friend refers in particular has already been the subject of representations to Scandinavia, and I shall be looking further into the matter.

Mr. Gregor Mackenzie

Is the Minister aware that in Scotland more than 2,000 people have lost their jobs in the paper-making industry over the last two years, and that their number is growing now? Can he assure the House that instead of only making representations to Scandinavia he will, as has been suggested, also consider the attitude of some companies here which want to close their mills and import newsprint from Canada?

Sir J. Eden

I am very much aware of the industry's problems. The changes in corporation tax will undoubtedly be of some assistance, and I hope, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman does, that generally my right hon. Friend's Budget proposals will go some way to easing the industry's problems.

Sir J. Rodgers

Is my hon. Friend aware that only last week 1,000 jobs were lost by the closing down of five out of 13 mills at Aylesford? Will he talk to his right hon. Friend, and discuss the whole problem with our E.F.T.A. partners when they meet in about a month's time, and, as a short-term measure of help, will he consider granting I.D.Cs. more easily in future?

Sir J. Eden

With regard to the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, these are certainly matters for continuing discussion between myself and my right hon. and hon. Friends. As to the second part, I.D.C. proposals have to take account of the position of a particular industry in the general employment or unemployment context of the area concerned.

Mr. Wellbeloved

If intermediate status is to be conferred on areas which have suffered major closures of industry, will the hon. Gentleman look at the London Borough of Bexley, where there have been a number of major closures and where unemployment is now at the highest level ever, and do something about dealing with the unemployment situation in the Prime Minister's own borough and in my constituency?

Sir J. Eden

This, again, comes into the wider G.L.C. travel-to-work-area, which is not so adversely affected as are some other parts of the country.