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Paper Supplies (Book Publishers)

Volume 436: debated on Thursday 24 April 1947

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6, 7 and 8.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) what cut in the supply of paper to publishing firms is expected to result from the recently announced reductions in fuel allocations to paper mills;

(2) how much saving in coal is expected to be made as a result of the recently announced reductions in fuel allocations to paper mills; and what proportion of this figure is estimated to result from the reduction of paper supplies to book publishing firms;

(3) whether the contribution of the book trade to British exports was considered before the recently announced cuts in fuel allocations to paper mills was made; and if he will give figures of the estimated loss.

Coal allocations to paper mills, as to other sections of industry, have recently been substantially increased. All paper mills receive the basic allowance to industry which now stands at 50 per cent. of requirements, estimated, in the case of the paper industry, at 67.000 tons per week. Many mills are receiving, in addition, supplements from the regional pools. Moreover, current deliveries of coal are in many cases running in excess of allocations. I am unable to state what coal will be saved as a result of any reduction in the supply of paper to publishers, or what this reduction is likely to be, but I hope that, as a proportion of the whole year's supply, it will be small, and that exports of books will not be affected.

Will the hon. Gentleman try to give us more detailed figures as to the exact amount of coal saved by the paper being cut off from the book publishers, because that is the specially important part of the trade? Will he tell us whether his answer means that, in fact, the fuel allocations have been restored—that we are to go back to the situation which existed before the recent cuts were made?

It means that, at the. present time, the allocations are 50 per cent. of their basic requirements, and, in some cases, they are receiving more, as the result of extra allocations from the regional pools. The basic allocation is being exceeded quite deliberately.

Does the Minister realise that the publication of textbooks is being gravely affected by this shortage of coal due to the crisis, and can he give any indication that, as the result of the school-leaving age, there will be an adequate supply of textbooks published?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman can be quite sure that I am aware of the necessity of doing all we can to assist this very important industry, particularly on the educational side, and anything that can be done to assist it will be done.

As the result of the revised allocation, will the Minister see that there is sufficient coal sent to the five paper mills in Aberdeen where there has been some unemployment owing to the shortage of coal?


asked the President of the Board of Trade why his Department has informed the Publishers' Association that the recent cut in coal allocation to the paper mills is unlikely to result in a loss of more than 10 per cent. of the current quota of paper for book publishers, when it is the view of the paper mills that it will result in a loss of 50 per cent.

I am not aware that the Publishers' Association have been so informed. I do not think, however, that the effect of the coal position on paper supplies generally will be as serious as my hon. Friend suggests.

Can my hon. Friend say what measure of priority is given to the book publishing industry, as it seems that his Department's attitude is somewhat barbarian towards that trade, particularly in view of the inability of new authors to obtain publication of their books, and the implications of the export trade, to say nothing of adult education?

Neither the Department nor the Ministers concerned are unaware of the importance of the book publishing trade, but my hon. Friend must keep a sense of proportion. There are other trades which are even more vital.

Has the Minister studied the letter by Sir Stanley Unwin in "The Times," and does he realise the grave injury which is being done to education, to the export trade and to other national interests, and the very small quantity of coal required to remedy these very serious matters?

I have not read the letter referred to. I am rather occupied at the moment, but I will do my best to see what can be done.

Will any reduction in the fuel allocation to paper mills lead to less paper being available for football pool promoters; and, if not, why not?

Can the hon. Gentleman say what is the actual percentage of the cut, as far as book publishers are concerned?

It is not a cut. It is a loss of production arising out of the fuel shortage. A good estimate would be about 30 per cent., I think.

Since the hon. Gentleman's reply seems to indicate that his Department have not the figures to distinguish between the saving to the book trade and the other savings to the paper mills, does this not also indicate that his Department have never considered the actual saving of coal which would be made by the cuts to the book trade, and should he not, therefore, consider the whole problem again in consideration of the fact that the book trade should have priority over all other demands for paper?

I am sorry, but I could not possibly accept such a sweeping assertion as that the book trade should have absolute priority over all other forms of the paper industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not? "] Because we need to wrap up our food in paper containers, and there are many other uses. I could not accept such a sweeping assertion, but I am prepared to look into the whole matter.

When he is looking into the whole question, will the Minister also investigate the need for increasing coal to manufacturers of paper-making machinery, because that may prove a bottleneck in book production before long?

When will the hon. Gentleman's Department start planning for plenty instead of for shortage? They have failed most miserably in everything they have undertaken.

I trust that with all this, the hon. Gentleman will not lose sight of the needs of the weekly reviews.

Is the Minister aware that the sort of paper which is used for wrapping up food is not the sort of paper used for publishing books? His reply was quite irrelevant to the problem, and it shows quite clearly the barbarian attitude of his Department towards the book trade.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the replies, I wish to give notice that I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment.