My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade expects to lay an Order before the House by the end of next week giving details of the quota levels for 1976. I can, however, say that there will be no general increases.
Does my hon. Friend accept that although the news that there will be no general increase is slightly better news than many of us expected, it will still do very little to assist the British paper industry? Is he aware that production is currently running at about one-quarter down on that of last year, that unemployment in the industry is growing, and that short-time working is widespread? In view of the situation in the industry, does he not accept that it is grossly unfair to British paper workers that a quota system should be maintained which allows only for an increase in the amount of paper imports into Great Britain? Will he persuade his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade to seek urgent talks with the Scandinavian countries with a view to devising a quota system which more accurately reflects demand in the home market?
I very much agree with what my hon. Friend says about the problems of the paper industry. He will have noted what has been said following the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in September. I certainly acknowledge, also, that these are matters that require international discussion. My hon. Friend will know that discussions with the EFTA countries and with the paper industry and other interested parties in the United Kingdom have now taken place, but further discussions will be held, possibly in the spring of next year.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the problems of the paper industry are further exacerbated by the problems of dumping in this country? Will he give an undertaking that any representations made to his Department will be looked at carefully?
We are aware that there appear to be imports into this country from some rather bizarre quarters, and we are certainly ready to look into them.
Do not the imports from Scandinavia consist almost entirely of newsprint? One should not get confused between the importations of newsprint, which are necessary, and other paper imports, which are affecting the paper production industry in this country.
This is certainly a complex question. What we have to try to do is, on the one hand, to give the maximum possible protection to our paper making industry while at the same time, on the other hand, ensuring that the paper using industry has the supplies that it requires.