asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, the anticipated imports, both in tons and value, of newsprint from dollar sources during 1954; and what estimate he has formed of the increase or otherwise that would occur in such newsprint imports from dollar sources in 1955, following complete decontrol of newsprint and reversion to a free market on 31st December, 1954.
Imports from dollar sources in 1954 of 226,000 tons, costing about £12·3 million, have been authorised.With regard to the second part of the Question, my noble Friend cannot forecast how much of their production the Canadian mills would be prepared to sell to this country if imports were freely allowed and control over consumption were removed. Nor can he say how rapidly our newspapers would expand.
Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the principal defence so far against a fuller decontrol of newsprint is a shortage of dollars? Is he aware that large quantities of dollars have currently been spent on canned fruit imports, thus undermining the Worcester-shire fruit growers' market? Cannot these inessentials be eliminated and the dollars spent on something far more essential, namely, newsprint?
I think that the announcements in the last week or so show that the Government are trying to be as helpful as they can to the newsprint industry.
Will the Minister make up his mind whether it is a shortage of dollars or a shortage of newsprint which is holding up a solution to this problem? He seems to be changing his mind week by week. His statements do not coincide with a statement by the Canadian newsprint manufacturers.
The hon. and gallant Member will, I think, recall that I said that there was a shortage of newsprint in the short-term. In the longer term the main obstacle is that we have to watch the balance of payments position carefully.