HC Deb 05 May 1971 vol 816 cc1349-51
5. Mr. John Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will cause the Scottish Development Department to initiate a study on the effects of unfair pricing policies by Scandinavian pulp and paper manufacturers on the paper industry in Scotland.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

This is a matter for which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is responsible. In the light of further information provided by the industry he has decided to take up the question again with the principal countries concerned.

Mr. Smith

I am glad that at long last the Government are to move at least a little on this matter which has caused about 1,800 redundancies in Scotland alone since the General Election. Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to keep up the pressure, either from his own Department or from other Departments, to make sure that we stop this terrible drain on our employment situation caused through the decline in the paper industry?

Mr. Campbell

I am well aware of the difficulties of international pricing policies in the paper industry. That is a matter for which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is responsible. The Regional Development Division of the Scottish Office keeps in close touch with the Department of Trade and Industry on these matters.

Sir J. Gilmour

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in view of the Government's intentions to seek entry into the Common Market, there is a danger that the Scandinavian countries will try to run paper mills in this country out of business during the negotiations?

Mr. Campbell

I am very much aware of these problems, which were aired in the House in a debate in which I took part when E.F.T.A. was formed 10 years ago. The Scandinavian countries are already competing with us as a result of that.

Mr. Douglas

Will the right hon. Gentleman, in his deliberations with his right hon. Friend in the Department of Trade and Industry, stress the fact that many of these companies in the process of rationalising are looking searchingly at their Scottish factories and therefore there might be a danger of their closing Scottish branch factories even though they may be economic?

Mr. Campbell

I will certainly draw my right hon. Friend's attention to what the hon. Member has said. It is a subject of which I am very conscious.

Mr. John Wells

Will the Secretary of State look particularly at the urgency of the matter? As he said, it is the affair of our mutual right hon. Friend. It is not only a Scottish matter, but a national matter, and it is desperately urgent. Concerning Scotland, will he particularly look at the alternative supply of home-grown pulp wood in increasing quantities which could help the Scottish industry? Furthermore, will he look at the possibility of hard-wood pulp mills in Scotland, which would enable a still greater quantity of home-grown timber to be used?

Mr. Campbell

I will certainly consider these matters. Having been involved with the pulp mill built at Fort William when I was a member of a previous Conservative Government, I am aware of the possibilities mentioned by my hon. Friend.