HC Deb 15 December 1975 vol 902 cc957-8
20. Mr. Aitken

asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he expects to receive the study on the immediate problems of the newspaper industry which he has requested from the Royal Commision on the Press.

Mr. Shore

I understand that the Royal Commission is aiming to provide the report on the immediate problems facing national newspapers by the end of January 1976.

Mr. Aitken

Is the Secretary of State aware that by the end of January the newspaper industry as a whole will be facing a number of unprecedentedly severe problems—not only financial problems, because virtually every newspaper is losing money, but also human problems, in that a large number of redundancies look like being inevitable if the new printing technology that will save the newspapers is implemented? Against that background, will the Secretary of State be fast and flexible in his response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, so that the impending crisis can be averted?

Mr. Shore

The hon. Gentleman speaks with considerable knowledge of the industry. I have been made aware of the serious problems that have faced the industry, particularly the national Press, over the past year. I asked the Royal Commission to present an interim report because I was worried about the scale of the problems and the timing of the difficulties in relation to the longer-term consideration by the Royal Commission. We hope to receive a report from the Royal Commission by the end of January and we shall give it the closest attention as soon as we receive it.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Is my hon. Friend aware that although there was opposition to setting up the Royal Commission, there is now a general recognition that it should have been set up? My hon. Friend will be receiving a report early in January on the immediate problems. When can we expect the full report to be published? One of the main problems to which the Royal Commission was asked to address itself was the concentration of the ownership of the Press into a few hands.

Mr. Shore

My hon. Friend knows very well that the long-term and in many ways most important questions affecting the Press require the accumulation and sifting of a great deal of evidence, and it will take the Royal Commission some time before it can produce its final report. Therefore, it is all the more important to make sure that if measures can be taken in the short term they should be taken so that we can at least be certain that we have a substantial national Press to report upon in a year or so's time.