HC Deb 22 June 1981 vol 7 c13
16. Mr. Moate

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the present level of Government support for the paper and board industry.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

To date grants of £18.04 million have been made under the paper and board industry scheme. Paper and board companies also benefit from the forms of support available to industry generally.

Mr. Moate

Does my hon. Friend agree that most paper mills have neither sought nor received massive support from the taxpayer, but that the same cannot be said in many other parts of the Common Market? What action are the Government taking to prevent State support being given in other countries, notably France and Holland, to certain companies, especially those that are in difficulties? Is that fair competition? What can be done to ensure that there is fair competition?

Mr. Blaker

My hon. Friend is not entirely right to say that the paper, printing and publishing industries have not received support from Government. During the past eight years they have claimed about £114 million in regional development grants. There are two companies in Europe, one in France and one in Holland, that concern us because of possible support from their respective Governments. We have expressed our concern to the Commission in both cases.

Mr. David Hunt

Is my hon. Friend aware that Wirral attaches the greatest importance to the possible reopening of the Bowater plant at Ellesmere Port? Will he assure the House that everything possible is being done to encourage Consolidated Bathurst in that vital venture, which will provide a tremendous boost to the area?

Mr. Baker

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. The Government have welcomed the interest shown by Consolidated Bathurst of Canada in reopening Bowater's Mersey mill, which closed last November. I met the president of that company on 30 April, as soon as he expressed interest in the matter. We are in close contact with the company. We are giving urgent consideration to the question of providing assistance for that project.