HL Deb 31 May 1951 vol 171 cc977-1001

4.14 p.m.

LORD HAWKE rose to call attention to the urgent need for the increased salvage of waste paper; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I fail to be a Victorian by a few months and doubtless many solid virtues, but I was brought up in a Victorian nursery, and the literature of the Victorian nursery was very different from the literature of the nursery of to-day: it was more improving and less depraving. I well remember that one of the simple tales with which I was regaled was entitled "Waste not, want not." Doubtless the theme is familiar to many of your Lordships, and it is my theme song to-day in bringing before your Lordships a situation which is causing industry a good deal of concern and horticulture very grave concern. I bring this matter up in no Party spirit. I do not think that His Majesty's Government are to blame for the situation, and I do not believe that action by His Majesty's Government is what is required to put it right. I believe that what is needed is action by the British people, and the British people will take that action only if someone puts it to them that it is their duty and to their advantage so to do.

We are a great manufacturing country, and we have to provide vast quantities of containers in which to send our goods to their ultimate markets. The traditional raw material for these containers, of course, is timber—softwood—but we are a country of very small forests; we have to import the greater part of our softwood, and a large proportion of that imported softwood has to be used for packing cases. Moreover, of course, we have to import all our wood pulp. Formerly, we were able to draw ad lib. on the great virgin forests of Northern Europe and North America, but to-day things are difficult. The fresh demands of civilisation are eating up the virgin forests at a most alarming rate. We thus tend to be thrown back for our containers upon the only substitute; and that is cardboard. In some ways that is only a palliative, because cardboard has to be made from pulp, and that pulp can be derived only from timber. But, happily, the timber fibre possesses one characteristic—it is nearly indestructible; and, though we cannot reconstitute timber, we can reconstitute paper into pulp, and from that pulp we make the cardboard for our containers.

Now I must trouble your Lordships with a few round figures. In 1950 we consumed approximately 3,000,000 tons of paper and cardboard, and we made a recovery of 850,000 tons. That is a recovery ratio of approximately 28 per cent. Out of this recovery we made 750,000 tons of cardboard. In addition, we imported one-third of a million tons of cardboard, so that we had for consumption approximately 1,100,000 tons of board. That by no means equalled the demand, and the mills have continually had to refuse customers. They believe that there is a potential demand for something in the neighbourhood of 1,300,000 tons of cardboard, of which as much as 1,200,000 tons could be homeproduced and the odd 100,000 tons imported. That is a big increase over the rate of manufacture of board in 1950—an increase, in fact, of the order of 50 per cent.

To produce that extra board, we re-quire the raw material. We cannot use pulp, because there is a world shortage of pulp, and in any event pulp has to be imported; so the only thing we have to fall back upon is our native resources of reconstituted waste paper. That means that we have to aim at a recovery of waste paper at a rate of, say, 50 per cent. above that achieved during the last calendar year. During the months of the present year that have elapsed we have already gone a good way towards recovering that extra amount. I admit that the target of recovery of 1,200,000 tons seems a big one. At the same time, there is a severe shortage; nobody can deny that. Odd lots of cardboard, which can be bought in odd corners of the Continent of Europe, are being sold at three and four times the price at which our own mills could turn out the goods, had they the necessary raw material. Industry is distinctly disturbed. The manufacturers are working from hand to mouth in regard to containers for their goods, and they are not always able to rely on getting them at all. Horticulture, for example, which has been promised cardboard containers to make up for the lack of non-returnable softwood containers, which its Continental competitors appear to obtain freely, seems likely to have even fewer cardboard containers this year than it had last. From personal experience I know that the big merchants of fruit baskets are unable to supply the usual cardboard covers, and I believe it to be correct that cardboard apple boxes are likely to be completely, or almost completely, absent this season unless some drastic change comes quickly over the scene.

In that serious situation it seems to me there is every justification for fixing the target at the highest possible level to meet the figure which the mills regard as required to satisfy the demand in this country. The situation is well known to a number of people, and an organisation known as the Waste Paper Recovery Association has been publicising collection for a long time. It is an organisation representing mills, newspapers and other users, and it has set a target for 1951 of 1,000,000 tons. To-day collections are nearly, but not quite, reaching that target; and I submit that the target is too low. It will not enable the demands of the consumers in this country to be met without a considerable import of foreign card-board, which may well not exist. In any case, why import when we can manufacture just as cheaply here at home? The target of 1,000,000 tons represents a recovery ratio of 33⅓ per cent., against the 3,000,000 tons which is going into consumption every year. I suggest a target of 1,200,000 tons, representing a recovery of 40 per cent.

One immediately asks the question: is this a possible or an impossible task? One then considers what has happened in the past. We turn to precedent. During the war there was an efficient and full scheme of recovery. In the first place we must remember that the total output from which we could recover was a great deal lower than it is to-day. It was from one-half to two-thirds of what it is to-day. In 1941, we recovered 44 per cent.; in 1942, 61 per cent.—that, presumably, was swollen by the throwing out of accumulations of records and so on. In 1943, the proportion was 52 per cent.; in 1944, 46 per cent.; and it was not until 1945 that we dropped below 40 per cent., to 38 per cent. Remembering that that percentage was derived from a much smaller quantity of paper used, I suggest that it leads one to believe that 40 per cent. should be obtainable now. During the war recovery was done by compulsory order, and compulsion remained until 1949, when there were some recession in trade and a slight piling up of stocks, and the compulsory order was withdrawn. The result was that certain local authorities dropped out, and once they drop out it is extraordinarily difficult to get them back again. I am not advocating a return to compulsion: I think that would be wrong. I want merely a rather stronger persuasion.

If we are going to do this, we have to ask whether it is economical. The mills are guaranteeing for some considerable time ahead a price of £6 10s. 0d. a ton upwards; and, in fact, owing to the strong market, they are paying £10 10s. 0d. and upwards, depending on the quality. There are many local authorities who are making a comparatively good thing out of this business; and if one local authority can do it, there seems to be no reason why some of the others should not. Moreover, where they do not recover this waste, in many cases they are paying men good money to destroy it, which seems to be a most insane thing to do. Even some of the rural district councils, where collection is obviously much more expensive than anywhere else, have been making a few hundred pounds towards the rates.

I do not intend to go into details of the best way to increase collection. My noble friends Lord Llewellin and Lord Morrison have much more experience in this matter than I have, and they are going to do that. However, I suggest that there are one or two broad principles that should apply. First of all, there should be no compulsion; secondly, it is most important to make it quite clear that this is a permanent feature. It may be necessary for the mills to give possibly a slightly longer guarantee of price, even if it means some lowering of the bare minimum; but the permanency must be stressed. Another important point is that the mills and merchants must show themselves able and willing to store ad lib. The situation is rather like that when there is a run on the bank. The way to stop a run on the bank is to appear to be prepared to pay out "to the crack of doom." Either the merchants or the mills must appear to be prepared to take in this waste and, if necessary, store it for ever.

Then one must have the right sort of publicity. And the purpose of my putting down this Motion is to try to secure for this scheme the necessary publicity throughout the country. We want the ratepayers to prod their local authorities; and we want the people to have something collected, so that when the local authorities come there is something to give to them. Probably the chief hope is to bring the bad collecting authorities up to the level of the good, or even, possibly, to induce certain boroughs who are not collecting at all to start a collection. I have had put into my hand a letter from a London borough (which shall be nameless) where I should have thought waste paper abounded. They have decided to make no attempt to collect it. On the other hand, I understand that they are paying men to take it away to be destroyed. I may say here that I should like to see a little more publicity about the respective collections of the various local authorities. There are some amazing variations. We must not forget, too, that this business is also being carried on by the waste paper merchants, and their agents, the rag-and-bone men. Again, where the local authorities cannot, or do not, cover the ground, it is quite possible for bodies such as Women's Institutes or Boy Scouts to run a collection of their own and, by arrangement with the merchants, make appreciable sums for their funds—£10 a ton, or more for better stuff.

All this can be done only through publicity, and, as I have said, that is my purpose in putting down this Motion. We must make the local authorities realise that it is a permanent, remunerative public duty; and we must make the public realise that manufacture and horticulture are being placed in serious difficulty by the fact that there is not a proper nationwide collection. Finally, I should say that anything that decreases our demand on the world pool of saleable pulp ultimately means that there is more pulp for other purposes, such as newsprint. That is just common sense. We have very few raw materials in this country. Why not make the best use of those we have? "Waste net, want not." I beg to move for Papers.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I may say at once that I have not risen to attempt to reply for the Government, but it has been suggested to me that, as I have some experience from the local authority angle, the procedure of this House is elastic enough to allow me to take part in this debate. Later on, my noble friend Lord Lucas will make the reply on behalf of the Government Department responsible for this work. I may also say that I have not risen to oppose anything which the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, has said, but to thank him for once again drawing your Lordships' attention—and I hope the attention of the public, which is much more important—to the serious shortage of a raw material urgently required by industry.

I feel that it is a pity that the term "waste paper" is so commonly used. I prefer the expression used by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke,"wood pulp," because that is what waste paper is. It is the raw material for a multitude of manufactured articles, many of which are urgently needed for defence. It is of great value to the export trade; its scarcity is crippling some of our home industry, and even our housing and building programme is threatened by the scarcity of plasterboard, of which wood pulp is the principal raw material. Waste paper differs from most other raw materials which we have to import in that it is plentiful in our own country. But because our people, in the mass, are careless and easy-going—because to use a phrase used by the noble Lord, they have not been taught to "Waste not, want not"—many of our local authorities have not troubled to introduce modern methods of efficient collection, except in war time when, with our backs to the wall, the Government had to adopt methods of compulsion.

The lack of these valuable materials is making things very difficult. As soon as the crisis is over we all slide back into our easy-going, thriftless ways, and every month thousands of tons of valuable raw materials are burned, buried or dumped, at heavy expenditure. Then the circum-stances change again and, with our central organisation reduced to skeleton dimensions, and hundreds of local authorities having abandoned waste paper collection, we start all over again. This has already happened twice in my lifetime, and now here we are in the same pickle again— importing waste paper at a time when we can ill-afford to pay for it, and when it is in plentiful supply in our own country and needs only the organisation of efficient collection. Meantime, as the noble Lord has said, the first to feel the pinch is the important board-making industry. It seems to me somewhat remarkable that while we have in Britain what I think is the largest board-making organisation in the world, The Thames Board Mills, yet at the present moment they have valuable machinery standing idle for lack of raw material. To try to overcome that difficulty they are making frantic efforts through the Waste Paper Recovery Association, offering higher prices than ever before, big money prizes and other methods, to get the laggard local authorities back into action.

Some of your Lordships may know that I have for some long time, for many years before the war, and during the war period, taken an interest in the reclamation of waste material and its return to industry. That is my sole reason for venturing to make some suggestions in this debate. The first suggestion I have to make is, I admit at once, a long-term proposal, but I cannot resist mentioning it. It is this. To assist in overcoming raw material difficulties, we need to build up a permanent extension of all known methods of reclaiming waste materials and returning them to industry and agriculture. What this means I can best illustrate by giving an example of which I have personal knowledge. During the past twelve years a local authority in Greater London, with a population of 130,000, has. by mechanically separating usable materials from the refuse of the town, recovered and returned to industry and agriculture materials to the value of £1,500,000. Since the war the demand has been well maintained; and it is still maintained.

If I may give your Lordships the figures for the twelve months ended on March 31 this year, here are details of some of the materials recovered by this local authority in Greater London. Fine dust used for land reclamation and brick-making, 9,091 tons; cinder for fuel, particularly for greenhouses, 2,195 tons; metals, 2,429 tons; textiles, 221 tons; kitchen waste—sterilised and used for feeding pigs and poultry—30,000 tons.


IS the borough Tottenham?


Modesty forbids my mentioning the name of the authority. I was going to add that this last figure of 30,000 tons—I do not want to mislead anyone — includes the kitchen waste which, by arrangement, is collected from sixteen adjoining local authorities—an arrangement which they make amongst themselves. After payment of all expenses, this collection has yielded to the local authority a surplus of income over expenditure of £20,000 per annum, which amount has gone to reduce the rates. And this figure has been maintained for over ten years. My suggestion, therefore, is that what one borough can do, others can do; and in fact some of the more enterprising are doing it. But the rapid expansion of modern mechanical methods of recovering these raw materials, instead of burning, burying or dumping them, deserves the attention of all concerned.

May I briefly recall what happened during the war? I made a speech in another place and a good many Members came to me afterwards and wanted to see The Thames Board Mills. We made up a party of about fifty or sixty Members of Parliament, including Mr. Burgin who was the then Minister of Supply and, if my memory serves me aright, the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin. We went down to The Thames Board Mills. I am not going to say anything about The Thames Board Mills, although I have a high opinion of them. What happened was that while we were there a ship came in, from one of the Scandinavian countries, containing 6,000 tons of waste paper which had been purchased, and which our sailors had risked their lives to bring over in war time. While this paper was being unloaded, barges from London authorities containing 20 per cent., or probably 30 per cent., of waste paper were being barged past The Thames Board Mills to be dumped in the lower reaches in Essex. That is still going on to-day; indeed, one London local authority—which I will not mention, as the noble Lord did not mention his—has again within the last month started to barge waste paper down the river, at some considerable cost to themselves, and it actually passes The Thames Board Mills in order to be dumped in the lower reaches off the Essex coast. That seems to me foolishness. I hasten to add that I am making no claim that any particular local authority is more patriotic than any other. This work has been and is being done on a sound business basis.

My second suggestion is also, perhaps, rather a long-term proposal, and I will only mention it in a sentence or so. It seems to me that there is urgent need for setting up a Metropolitan Salvage Board to be responsible for the reclamation and return to industry of usable materials obtained from refuse. With the machinery which is required to-day in order to do this efficiently, many local authorities cannot be expected to provide themselves with it. Therefore, I suggest a Metropolitan Salvage Board, somewhat on the lines of the Metropolitan Water Board which has functioned very successfully. I have tried to indicate briefly, and without going into detail, that we have here a vast field in which British ability and ingenuity can achieve important results. With apologies for straying a little from the Motion, may I now return to it and make a few specific suggestions on waste paper?

The noble Lord's suggestions, as I followed them, were: no compulsion—I agree with that; longer-term contracts— and I agree with that; and, thirdly, that there should be some arrangement whereby, if the time comes when the mills have adequate stocks in hand, they can keep those stocks instead of breaking off the whole system, as has been done before I suggest, therefore, that when the present competition, and offer of large cash prices to local authorities comes to an end, the Waste Paper Recovery Association should turn its attention to other ways in which to prevent the chaotic booms and slumps which have made their industry difficult for many years. They might explore the possibility whereby, when once again the collections exceed capacity to absorb them, instead of allowing several hundreds of local authorities to make heavy losses and abandon their collections (between 500 and 600 authorities stopped on the last occasion) this useful raw material might be stockpiled, as is being done with other materials. I believe that suggestion is well worth investigation, and it is, in effect, what I think the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, proposed. This would also be an incentive to the local authorities to install the necessary mechanical plant and secure greater efficiency.

I would suggest another incentive—in my opinion far better than cash prizes to local authorities. This cash prize business does not appeal to me very much. I remember one occasion when a small local authority that had never collected any waste paper at all entered a com-petition, having collected two tons, and won the first prize: whereas other local authorities that had been collecting up to hundreds and thousands of tons a year were left out, because the prize was given to the one making the biggest advance. This particular local authority obviously had made an unparalleled advance! I would suggest that, instead of offering further money prizes, waste paper recovery associations, trading and supply associations, local authorities, industrial undertakings and business firms be offered, free or at a reduced price, containers or sacks in which the paper can be kept clean and tidy for collection. In spite of all the propaganda there is still an enormous tonnage thrown into dust-bins, where it is irretrievably lost—except in the case of the few local authorities with mechanised separating plant.

Finally, I am sure I shall be supported by all your Lordships in saying that I do not regard this as in any sense a Party political question. I have never treated it as such, nor, I am sure, will any of your Lordships. I could have mentioned several local authorities who are black sheep in this campaign and who even now are not pulling their weight. Some of these black sheep are controlled by my Party and some by the Party of the noble Lords opposite; and there are a good many controlled, I fear, by council officials who just cannot be bothered to introduce new methods. I hope that this debate in your Lordships' House may do something to arouse all these to a sense of the duty they owe to their country and to urge the public whom they represent to insist on better results. I support the noble Lord's Motion.

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, we are all obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, for raising this matter. We are also very glad indeed that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, has taken part, because we all realise how much he personally has done, over very many years, towards furthering the collection of materials which would otherwise have been wasted, and paper has been one of them. The noble Lord's recollection of the trip to The Thames Board Mills is not altogether accurate. He had only an idea that I was there. In fact I was there, but my then Minister, Dr. Burgin, was detained at the last moment and I had to make the speech on that occasion —I think it was rather a good one! I am only sorry that the noble Lord who was there does not even remember whether I was there, or the speech that I made on behalf of my Minister.


My memory may have played me false. There was a further trip a week later and Dr. Burgin came on that occasion.


There may have been two occasions. But it was The Thames Board Mills trip, and I remember the noble Lord's being there. As I say, on the occasion of which I am speaking Dr. Burgin was unable to come. I also remember the ship about which the noble Lord spoke. It was monstrous in those days that men of the Merchant Navy should have been bringing waste paper across the North Sea, at great personal risk, when very few people in this country were taking the trouble to collect any. I well remember the starting of the campaign to which the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, has referred as an efficient and full scheme of recovery. It saved a great many lives and a good deal of paper and made us able to carry on with our war effort.

I do not think enough people in this country realise that waste paper is the essential raw material for what is called "board." In the present shortage of timber and the demand for it for houses, we do not want to use timber for packing cases. For that purpose this board could be used—heavy board. It is used for the packing of an immense amount of our overseas sales and commodities for our home trade. I do not think, either, that enough people in this country realise the need for light board for containers of the multiplekind. Practically all the food stuffs that were supplied during the war on the points ration scheme were contained in that kind of light cardboard. Cigarettes and all sorts of other commodities require for their proper packing and distribution this light board, and if we do not get a sufficient amount of it from one source or another the distribution of a great number of essential articles is literally stopped. At this time we cannot afford the dollars to buy the wood pulp we should like— and, in fact, it is far better to make these packages out of waste paper than to cut down acres of good forest land for this purpose. I wish that everybody who threw away paper idly in our parks and thoroughfares would realise that if they would keep it clean and return it to those authorities who take the trouble to collect it, it is capable of being used again.

At present stocks of raw material for the board-making industry are extremely low, and something must be done to increase them. Under the spur of war not only local authorities but all sorts of other people up and down the country made great efforts to collect this waste material. It is just as necessary now as it was in those days. A great deal more of this material will be wanted before long, since we have increased our rearmament programme. Too much of this paper is burnt or thrown by the wayside or on a rubbish heap. Although we are using more paper in this country than was used in the war, less waste paper is being collected. Some local authorities have given up collection entirely. I noticed an article in the Statist of April 21, which referred to the present-day collection by local authorities. It stated that in 1939 the local authorities' share of the collection was the negligible amount of 1½ per cent. It rose to 30 per cent. in 1942, and since then it has sagged to only 10 per cent. I understand that the aim now is that in addition to the 600,000 tons collected through the waste paper collecting industries, the local authorities' collections should go up to at least 400,000 tons. With my noble friend, Lord Hawke, I think that they can go up higher than that if the authorities really try.

Of the 1,767 local authorities in Great Britain, 1,200 have collecting schemes in operation. That means that some 567 do not have them at all. I am not going to be so careful not to mention names. I think that when Tottenham does well, we should say that Tottenham does well. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison, was quite right in not boosting his own part of London; but let us, at any rate, give full credit to Tottenham. Not long ago a member of your Lordships' House collected a large sackful of clean waste paper and offered it to the dustman in Chelsea. The dustman in Chelsea said that they had no such collection. They ought to have. Every local authority ought to have one. I believe that some authorities are going to review the position to see whether they cannot make money out of it. During the war, waste paper to the value of no less than £9,000,000 was collected by local authorities; so that over the country, as a whole, £9,000,000 went back in relief of rates. What could be done then can be done still.

I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, that the smaller authorities may well want to share one of these sorting plants, because they are expensive things in their original capital cost. There is not the slightest reason why the London boroughs should not share one between them. There is not a great distance between some of the London boroughs and so there can be not the slightest reason why, with a little co-operation, they should not all subscribe to the erection of a sorting plant. In the course of a few years they would recover the cost or, at any rate, obtain a good re-turn on the capital paid for that particular machine. Some authorities now are making money. I am told that the following councils—they are quite small ones—expect their waste paper revenue this year to be equivalent to the saving of 4d. on the rates: Wilmslow in Cheshire, East Ashford in Kent, and Darlington. They are all expecting to relieve their local rates by as much as 4d. in the £, which is worth doing. This is patriotism, and it is a patriotism that pays. When you find that patriotism pays, there is a double reason for going in for it. This is clearly a scheme which, if you get a spur into your borough engineer and a good keen man is working it, can pay any sizeable district council. I am told that Preston and Newport (Isle of Wight) estimate a revenue equal to a 3d. rate, and Watford 2½ d. In Hornsey, last year's collection of waste paper equalled a saving of a 3¼d. rate; and Southampton's contribution was over 2½d. All the other local authorities, if they work it properly, will not lose on this scheme; they will make a saving, and one which is well worth while.

Let me say at once that I quite agree that these people, like the Association to which reference has been made, must themselves be prepared to store if there is a glut. They must play their part in that way. If suddenly there is a glut, as there was in 1949, and every-body's collection is disorganised because nobody will take it, this scheme will not be running on a systematic basis. And if people take the trouble to collect waste paper, they should know that it will be stored until it is needed, and they can rest assured that they have done a good service for their country. What we all want to get from this debate is a little more publicity. I am not attaching any blame to the right honourable gentleman at all—I was away at the time, as a matter of fact—but it was only when I came to read up some material for this debate that I learned that the ex-President of the Board of Trade, Mr. Wilson, had made an appeal last January. The Press and similar people ought to go on repeating those appeals. In their case it would be a patriotism that paid, because if we can collect waste paper to make our essential requirements of board, we may have sufficient foreign exchange to obtain more newsprint for the newspapers. Therefore the more advertisement they can give to this matter, the better it will be, not only for the country but probably for their own interests.

I agree, too, with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, that it would be far better to provide good containers than cash prizes. Personally, I do not know to whom or to what in a local authority a cash prize goes —whether it goes to the relief of rates, or to the borough engineer, or to be divided between the dustmen. I do not know who gets the prize. But it would be far better to provide good containers which the authorities could either use themselves or give to those householders who say they are willing to segregate paper from other things in their waste matter. I am told that one authority issues cards which may be put in the window of a house so that the dustman can see that there is a bag of waste paper to be collected there. The dustman need not bother anybody about waste paper except those people who have put cards in their windows indicating that their bags are full of paper and that they need collecting. Methods of that kind encourage people to sort out their waste paper. It needs a little trouble. If advantage is taken of the trouble to which they have gone, then they will go on doing it; but if they get a rebuff and nobody comes to collect their wastepaper, or if, as happened in 1949, the mills will not take it, then the verve is taken out of the scheme of collection. We do want the salvage of more waste paper. If this de-bate helps to stir people up, and with Par- liament once again taking a hand in the matter such as it took under the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, when he was in the House of Commons in the early days of the war, then we shall have done some good to-day. My noble friend Lord Hawke is moving for Papers. We want the country to return their papers. This Motion will not be pressed upon the Government. It is for everybody in this country to return their wastepaper; and if they return more wastepaper as a result of my noble friend's Motion, then, indeed, that will be his reward.

5.11 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to support the most useful Motion introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, I intend to confine my remarks to what I regard as the most important aspect of it—namely, publicity. It is exceedingly difficult to get the whole of the nation at any time to realise the importance of a question which may not reach normal front-line publicity in the newspapers, and I think it will be generally agreed that there are far too many people in the country who, even to-day, have not the faintest idea of how serious is the problem or, indeed, that wastepaper is urgently required at all. Furthermore, even those who do recognise the necessity for this collection have often the greatest difficulty in finding anyone who is willing to accept the materials recovered. I know that that has been the experience of many people, including some of your Lordships, all over the country. The question is how can we get as many people as possible to realise their responsibilities, and inform them of where to take their waste material.

I am going to put briefly before your Lordships a suggestion which I hope may be considered constructive. In the first place, who is to be the person in each household most suited to be collector-in-chief? I think it will be agreed that it is the long-suffering housewife. Practically every housewife in the land to-day has a book which she studies at least once a week, and sometimes more often. In these days, I am afraid it is not the Bible; it is her ration book. I would suggest that in all future printings of ration books a space should be left at the bottom of the front page on which should be inscribed in bold type a notice something to this effect: "The country needs all old news-papers, wastepaper, and cardboard. Bring yours to …," and a space should be left for the local authority to insert, by means of a rubber stamp, the appropriate destination of the waste material, because it is obvious that in all large boroughs and county areas there will have to be more than one centre of collection. Those words might have to be followed in certain cases by a notice to the effect that it would be called for every second Tuesday, or something of that kind. But I submit that the insertion in ration books of a notice of this kind would ensure that every housewife in the country had her attention drawn to the necessity for such salvage, not only once but probably two or three times a week. The matter is undoubtedly very important, and the noble Lord, Lord Hawke. is to be congratulated on bringing it forward to-day.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, replies to the discussion that has taken place, I should like to take advantage of the laxity in certain respects in rules of Order in this House, to call particular attention to part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison. The passage I have in mind, and to which allusion has already been made by my noble friend Lord Llewellin, concerns the wonderful work which has been done at Tottenham in regard to the collection of refuse which has been turned into the most valuable food-producing material. I rise only to emphasise that the advantage of collection, whether it be of waste paper or of refuse, in a way that has already been proved to be a success, might well be obtained in more large centres of population than is the case at the present time. Thanks to the kindness of Lord Morrison I am aware that this work has been extended well beyond the Metropolitan area, to the north of the country, but I am not at all satisfied that the importance of that particular aspect of collection is appreciated generally, both in Scotland and in England. As has been said, the collection of waste paper is a form of patriotism which will pay equally well as that other form of collection which has been referred to, and which is now helping to feed the people of this country.

5.18 p.m.


My Lords, my task in replying to this debate has been made easy by the constructive speeches that we have heard, and pleasant by the charming manner in which the Motion was introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke—pleasant for me personally because he opened his remarks by saying that he did not attach any blame to His Majesty's Government, thereby creating for himself what I should think must be an all -time record. I also find myself in entire agreement with him when he said that the solution to this problem was not by way of compulsion. In fact, I find myself in so much agreement with all that he said that I shall find it somewhat difficult to make a speech at all.

I am grateful also to my noble friend Lord Morrison for his invaluable contribution. I do not know why my noble friend was so modest about the municipal authority of Tottenham, of which he is a member. He is never so modest outside your Lordships' House about the deeds of the local football team which he also adorns, and of which he is president —and, as a matter of fact, we sometimes get rather weary of hearing about the prowess of Tottenham Hotspur! But I am glad that even Tottenham can go down in history as having achieved some-thing other than the championship title or some other eminence in a football competition.

The noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, as is usual, has made a valuable contribution. I was rather interested in his description of the speech he made at the Thames Board Mills. A sympathetic throb went through me when I listened to him saying that as a Parliamentary Secretary, deputising at the last moment for a Minister, he had made a brilliant speech, and that history has failed to recollect that he was even present. I am sure that there are a good many noble Lords in this House who have a great deal of sympathy for him.

On behalf of His Majesty's Government, I welcome this debate because it is our policy to encourage by every possible means, and for the reasons which have been so clearly set out, the reclamation of waste paper. The demand for packaging material, both for export and for the defence programme, is growing apace. The demand of the home buyer for better packaging of goods is insistent and increasing. As the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, pointed out, it is a very valuable contribution to the solution of the housing problem because waste paper is the principal raw material for board manufacture, and plaster board figures prominently in the materials which go into the construction of a house Although we have allocated dollars for as much packaging material as we can obtain from North America, we cannot look forward to receiving as much as we have had heretofore, because there is a shortage of packing material in America to-day. So, we now have got to look to the salvage of waste paper as the main means of supplying our own demands.

Unfortunately, some board machines are lying idle, and, as Lord Llewellin rightly pointed out, waste paper stocks are low. I was much interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, said about potential, because I think it is possible to obtain all the increased quantities required. As he said, there is more paper now in circulation than ever before, and recovery depends largely upon the efforts of local authorities, for although the largest volume of waste paper comes from industrial and commercial concerns, and is collected by private industry, the biggest increase in our present salvage must come from local authorities.


My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord would not like to go on record with one slip which I think he has just made. He referred to the largest circulation of paper ever, or words to that effect. No doubt, he meant to say the largest circulation since pre-war days.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I should certainly like to correct what I just said, and to say that there is a larger circulation of paper to-day than there has been since before the war. It would have been more accurate if I had said that in the first place. As the noble Lord has said, a nation-wide salvage campaign has been launched on behalf of the paper and board mills by the Waste Paper Recovery Association, and on this subject I have some figures which more or less line up with those given by the noble Lord, but which I should like to place on the record, since they are official.

This national salvage campaign has now been in operation for some six months. The number of local authorities collecting has risen to about 1,200, compared with about 774 who were collecting at the end of 1949. Now as to receipts —I am speaking about the period of the salvage campaign. In January, receipts were equivalent to an annual rate of 946,000 tons; in February, to an annual rate of 987,000 tons; and although in March there was a slight decline, to a figure equivalent to an annual rate of 931,000 tons—principally owing to the holiday period—in April the figure went up again to the all-time record of the equivalent of an annual rate of 1,056,000 ton. This compares with the 849,000 tons collected in 1950. The highest war-time collection, in 1942, was 874,000 tons. The target of waste paper recovery which the Association set themselves, I understand, is an annual rate of 1,000,000 tons. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, that that is on the low side. In 1950 recovery was about 27 per cent., and the amount recovered in April this year, equivalent to an annual rate of 1,056,000 tons, represented a recovery rate of about 34 per cent.

Although the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, said that the maximum potential would be somewhere in the region of 40 per cent., I should like to see the target lifted to 50 per cent. That would represent an annual rate of about 1,500,000 tons. I do not think that is impossible of achievement. If we could lift the target to 1,500,000 tons that would go a very long way towards easing the problem of our export packaging and our rearmament task. It would also make for a larger supply to meet home market needs. I think such a target is possible because the waste is there. There is no doubt about that, and I was very glad to hear this fact underlined by both the noble Lords opposite who have spoken, and by my noble friend Lord Morrison. The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, truly remarked that the poor unfortunate individual in the household who is responsible for the collection of this stuff is the housewife. She has all my sympathy. She studiously follows those exhortations and collects her waste. Then the refuse collector says to her: "I am not allowed to take it; I have no separate container. I should have to throw it among the other rubbish and the cinders." Eventually the poor harassed housewife calls in her equally harassed husband and the poor man finishes up by burning the waste paper on the garden bonfire. That is what happens in a considerable number of cases.

At the present time the mills are offering local authorities a minimum guaranteed price of £6 10s. 0d. per ton, in most cases up to March, 1953, for mixed baled waste paper, and they have also offered to take all that can be collected in that period at the higher market prices ruling, which at the present time are in the region of £10 10s. 0d. a ton, compared with £5 10s. 0d. a ton a year ago. So I think the incentive is there for the local authorities to make the effort. I hope that local authorities and the mills will read with great attention reports of this debate, if the Press can find sufficient space to give some publicity to it, and I hope they will have regard to what noble Lords have said. I hope the mills also will listen to what noble Lords have said, regarding both extending the guarantee period and (I think this is the correct expression to use) stockpiling for the future. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, that we cannot have another slump like that which we had two or three years ago, when the prices fell and the incentive went. Waste paper was not collected. Now we have to start all over again. There must be some continuity in collection; there must be a guaranteed price.

The number of local authorities not collecting is small, so far as the urban and semi-urban areas are concerned. We cannot, of course, expect some of the rural areas to organise campaigns, because it would be economically impossible for them to do so. Only five out of all the urban and semi-urban areas having a population of 50,000 and over are not collecting. True, there are some bad spots. The noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, has mentioned one—Chelsea. How he will make his peace with his noble friend Lord Lloyd, I do not know. But just to make the score even, since this is a non-Party and very friendly debate, I will also mention Camberwell, which is presided over now by my noble friend Lord Ammon. These are the two black spots in London. If the noble Lord can make his peace with his noble friend Lord Lloyd, perhaps he will help me to make my peace with my noble friend Lord Ammon. I can understand the case of Camberwell, but it is amazing that waste paper should be a blot on the landscape of Chelsea. As Chelsea extends to the other side of the river, it may be able to make a lot of money this year out of paper left behind by visitors to Battersea Park. We have to "ginger up" the local authorities. In that direction I will rest content with what noble Lords have said. I hope that we shall be able to stress this quality of patriotism, patriotism that pays, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, pointed out, it will make a valuable contribution to the relief of local rates. Local authorities are neglecting their duties to their ratepayers if they do not salvage all they can, and so relieve the rates.

We are hoping for the kind co-operation of the Press in publicising this debate, but I should not like it to be thought that this salvage campaign will make any great difference to newsprint stocks. The fast-running rotary presses used by newspapers to-day require a far higher grade of paper than can be made with any content of waste paper: breakages in continuity of paper runs on high-pressure presses are serious matters. But that does not detract at all from what the noble Lord said about the collection of waste paper having a beneficial effect on the use of wood pulp for packaging material, and so on the total supply of wood pulp.


My Lords, I should like to make it clear that I never thought that this recovery of paper could be used for newsprint.


I am glad the noble Lord said that.

May I now add one word on the wider aspect raised by my noble friend Lord Morrison and by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan? In this country we have touched only the fringe of the reclamation of waste for productive purposes. When we are faced with material shortages far wider in scope than mere waste paper, I think it behoves everybody, both in scientific research and in the physical collection and preservation of waste, to use every effort possible. As time goes on, we shall be more and more called on to use everything we can. I recollect the advertisements of a well-known bacon manufacturer who used to claim that he used everything in the pig "except the squeak." That is what we have to do in all fields. I am grateful, and the Government are grateful, to the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, for raising this matter to-day. I hope he will be as constructive in future as he has been this afternoon. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, for his valuable contribution, and also my noble friend Lord Morrison, and I trust that this debate will have done the good for which your Lordships hope.

5.34 p.m.


My Lords, I am gratified to find that my little debate has met with such general approval. I knew that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, would not be in disagreement with much of what I said, but I little thought that he would step up my target still further. The target he has set for the waste paper recovery scheme is a formidable one, nearly double that of last year. I must confess that I have not checked up whether the mills are capable of dealing with such a quantity. I know that they can use my target, and no doubt the noble Lord has made that check himself. I think that several valuable points have arisen out of this debate. First of all, we are entirely agreed on the need for "gingering up" local authorities, and I think we are all agreed on the fact that the general public do not properly know what is expected of them.

As regards detailed methods of collection, I was greatly struck by the idea of giving householders a card to place in their windows. That would save endless hours of labour for council collectors. It has also been pointed out to me since I sat down that the steel industry advertises regularly for scrap. I should have thought it possible for the waste paper merchants likewise to advertise for collections in those areas where the local authorities do not collect. I have in mind those local areas where we must depend on the Women's Institutes, the Boy Scouts, or even the local licensee who, perhaps for charity, encourages his customers to bring along all the paper they can collect out of their houses. In the colloquial, we have "done our stuff." It remains only for the Press, if possible, to allow sufficient space for our "stuff" to get across to the public. Before I conclude, am I to take it that His Majesty's Government will accept my Motion?


My Lords, if I may speak again with your Lordships' leave, if I accept the Motion, the obligation will be laid upon me to produce Papers. That would only increase the difficulty of waste paper collection! Therefore I hope the noble Lord will technically withdraw his Motion for Papers.


My Lords. I know there is this difficulty about laying Papers—not waste paper, I hope —but it would be a happy end to this debate if the Government could accept this Motion. I do not know that there would be any practical difficulty if we did not press strongly for the production of Papers, but the acceptance of the Motion would be a fitting end to the most harmonious debate I have ever heard.


My Lords, I suggest that there is nothing to prevent the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, from putting his Motion but not pressing for Papers. I am sure that if he asks for the Motion to be accepted, leaving out that part which asks for Papers, it will be accepted.


If the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, is willing to do that, I accept it gladly.


Certainly. There is nothing I should hate more than to receive Papers. I will not press for Papers, in view of the way the noble Lord has met me, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers and put a further Motion before the House.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, I beg to move to resolve, That in the opinion of this House there is urgent need for the increased salvage of waste paper.

Moved to resolve, That in the opinion of this House there is urgent need for the increased salvage of waste paper.— (Lord Hawke.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.