Companies in the paper and board industry, like other industries, can already benefit from a wide range of industrial support measures to improve their competitiveness.
Does the Minister agree that it makes more sense, is cheaper and more efficient to save rather than to create new jobs in the paper and board industry? If so, will he consider putting between £5 million and £10 million into Thames Board Mills, Warrington, to prevent it from closing, and thus save between 800 and 1,000 jobs?
I have met the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Evans), as well as the chairman of Thames Board Mills, to consider the problems facing that plant. The company has told me that it has examined the possibility of keeping the mill open, but unfortunately it cannot foresee a viable future for it.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, given the increased use of indigenous raw materials, energy resources and new technology, there is no reason why the British paper industry should not continue to flourish and play a major role in the economy? Does my hon. Friend further agree that to achieve that we must ensure a flexible use of the Industry Act for worthwhile projects?
We provide support for various projects in the paper and board industry. There has been a freeze in the average level of electricity prices for 1983–84. Of course, new investment is being made all the time. There is a big investment of £100 million in Workington and about £40 million or £50 million has been invested in Ellesmere Port by Consolidated Bathurst.
That is a very wide question. The disadvantage that high energy users have borne in this country has been to some extent reduced, although not entirely eliminated, by the adjustment in the value of sterling.