Paper Industry

Oral Answers to Questions — Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th August 1980.

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Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham 12:00 am, 4th August 1980

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on his recent meeting with representatives of the paper industry.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I met representatives from the paper industry on 21 July, when we discussed the industry's situation.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we face the threat of the virtual extinction of the manufacturing of news print in Britain? Does he accept that that has arisen despite good labour relations and considerable improvements in productivity? What steps are the Government taking, or what steps can they take, to ease the threat?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I accept that the industry faces difficult pressures. I accept, too, that there are a limited number of possibilities, which are now being discussed between the Government and the industry.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely

Is the Secretary of State aware that about 60,000 jobs in the paper and cardboard industry are in jeopardy, principally because of the Government's insistence on raising the price of energy? Is he aware also that if that continues there is no way in which our industry will be competitive vis-รก-vis its overseas competitors?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

It is true that energy prices throughout the developed world are making it difficult for industry. That is one of the factors that it is raising with us.

Photo of Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke , Darwen

Is not the increasing cost of energy one of the greatest burdens from which the paper and board industry is suddenly suffering? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the enormous increase in energy prices is breaking the camel's back?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

My hon. and learned Friend will know that energy prices are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy. The industry is arguing strongly that energy prices are damaging it.

Photo of Mr John Evans Mr John Evans , Newton

Does the Secretary of State accept that British industry is paying much higher energy costs than its foreign competitors? Does he agree that what is needed, if the industry is to survive, is Government action at least to put it on a par with its competitors? Will he take the opportunity to announce that under section 7 of the Industry Act 1972 he is prepared to give assistance to Bowaters' Ellesmere Port plant to save 1,500 jobs?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I must not assume the responsibilities of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy. There might be an argument whether, and if so the degree to which, the industry is paying more than its competitors. I have told the House that Bowaters and the industry are having discussions with the Government.