7 MAY 1948, Page 3

Paper Running Short

The time is coming when the Press will have to fight really hard for its own preservation., With newsprint consumption at about a quarter of the pre-war level, it must already have been- difficult for the daily papers to resist the temptation to use more of their four- page pittance in self-defence. But the present position is such that further silence will amount to a dereliction of the duty to maintain the minimum essential service of information and opinion to the public. In a hurried Debate on the Adjournment late on Monday night attention was drawn to the fact that stocks of newsprint by the end of this year will be down to 90,000 tons, which is far below the war year average and too low to give any complete guarantee that the disaster of two-page papers will be avoided. An incomplete and unhelpful reply to this debate was given by, of all persons, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health. It would plainly be over-charitable to conclude that the Government regards the matter as of first-class importance. Yet at the recent United Nations Conference on Freedom of Information a resolution was passed which referred to inadequate production and unequal distribu- tion of newsprint as harmful and dangerous. Again, the United States Government is sufficiently impressed with the importance of paper in keeping democracy healthy in Europe to include newsprint for Britain in its tentative list of supplies to Europe under the Marshall Plan. But the Government has made it clear that the American offer will not be accepted. Since part of the newsprint would have to be paid for in dollars that decision could be justified. But rock bottom has been reached. There can be no more cuts.