§ Mr. Burgon
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress he has made in his negotiations with newspaper publishers to develop a voluntary agreement for increases in the levels of recycled content in newspapers; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Meacher
I am pleased to be able to announce today the successful conclusion of my negotiations with the newspaper publishers. Ten years ago, the publishers entered into a voluntary agreement with the Government to increase levels of recycled fibre in newspapers. Over the last decade this has led to increases in the recycled content of newspapers from 28 per cent. to 52.4 per cent.
Both I and the newspaper publishers acknowledge that to achieve further significant increases in recycled content will require a major addition to the recycled output from British newspaper mills. However, in anticipation that the new capacity will be forthcoming within the next two years UK publishers have agreed the following targets: 60 per cent. by the end of 2001; 65 per cent. by the end of 2003; 70 per cent. by the end of 2006.
The newspaper publishers have said that it is their firm intention to achieve these targets but the Government recognise that there may be factors beyond their control. Progress towards these targets will, therefore, be continually monitored by the Newspaper Recycling Working Group with formal in-depth reviews carried out at each target stage. At these reviews, the following factors will be taken into account:the availability of additional reprocessing capacity, which is dependent on whether a decision to increase investment is reached this year;the growth in consumption of newsprint, which is currently about 2.5 per cent. per annum;the quality of the recycled newsprint available and, in particular, whether this hindered the production process significantly and damaged the product;any uncompetitive pricing of recycled newsprint by newsprint suppliers.
The reviews will be on the basis of an understanding that the objective of the agreement is to achieve high and rising recycled content of UK newspapers; and the newspaper publishers have reaffirmed their commitment to continue to achieve the most stringent targets compatible with such newly arising factors which may be beyond the control of industry.