§ Lord JACOBSON
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress is being made in the discussions within the newspaper industry towards implementing the recommendations made in the interim report of the Royal Commission on the Press.
My Lords, these discussions are, as the noble Lord says, going on between managements and unions at top level within the national newspaper industry. Her Majesty's Government are not a party to them. Our understanding is that substantial progress has been made at industry level on guidelines for arrangements on pensions, redundancy terms and decasualisation.
§ Lord JACOBSON
My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply, may I ask him to bear in mind that owing to the depreciation of sterling there has been a steep rise in imported newsprint prices which has further added to the difficulties of the newspaper industry? Will he further bear in mind the importance of urging on both sides in these negotiations the need to stress that any agreement nationally arrived at is both understood and honoured at plant and office level?
My Lords, I certainly take note of the second part of my noble friend's supplementary question and will do what I can to stress his point. In regard to newsprint, it is true that the price of newsprint naturally reflects world 168 trading conditions and exchange rates, but the Government have no plans at present to intervene in the commercial negotiations between the newspapers and their suppliers.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
My Lords, may I ask whether discussions are also going on in regard to investment and manning, at any rate at company level?
Yes, my Lords. The interim report of the Royal Commission put stress on those two problems and the Joint Standing Committee is giving attention to them.
§ Lord MURRAY of GRAVESEND
My Lords, is my noble friend aware, as I am sure he is, that the trade unions concerned are just as aware of the newspapers' problems, and indeed that two of the larger unions, NATSOPA and the NGA, look as though they are more than aware by the possibility of an amalgamation within the next couple of years?
Yes, my Lords. The trade unions are of course aware of the industry's problems and indeed joined in a joint memorandum to the Royal Commission which was helpful in producing the interim report referred to in the Question.