HC Deb 14 June 1883 vol 280 cc533-4

asked the Secretary to the Treasury, Whether it is not a fact that the Crown now possesses the power to purchase by agreement fuel rights in the New Forest; whether it is essential to the public interest to retain the Clauses in the Crown Lands Bill which make it compulsory on the owners of fuel to sell them to the Crown; and, having regard to the fact that the evidence of such owners of fuel rights as have petitioned Parliament against these Clauses was not heard by the Select Committee to which the Crown Lands Bill was referred, he will consent to withdraw Clauses 7 and 8 in that Bill?


asked the Secretary to the Treasury, Whether the present owners of fuel rights have never been invited by the Crown to sell them by agreement, under its general powers of purchase conferred upon it by the Act 10 Geo. 4, cap. 50; whether the fuel rights, like the other common rights in the New Forest, extend over the entire forest, with the temporary exception of such lands as may be from time to time enclosed within temporary fences for the growth and preservation of young timber, under the Acts of 1698, 1808, and 1851, and not yet thrown open, and whether the woodland available for the supply of the fuel rights at the present time (adopting the estimate made by the Hon. J. K. Howard, late Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests, in his special report presented to Parliament in 1871, and subsequently, by order of the House, reprinted in 1875), amounts from 13,500 to 14,000 acres; and, whether the owners and the exercisers of the fuel rights, who are entitled to about 344 out of a total of 406 loads of wood from the New Forest, and who have petitioned against sections 7 and 8 of the Crown Lands Bill, have pledged their "local experience" that the fuel rights have always been satisfied, and may continue to be satisfied, without the sacrifice of any ornamental timber?


I will answer my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead at the same time as the noble Lord. The Crown can now purchase the fuel rights by agreement, and although they have not sent a Circular distinctly inviting sales, the fact is generally known by those interested, With respect to the case of the owners, although due notice was given, and ample opportunity for petitioning, the hostile owners did not see fit to appear before the Committee at the proper time; but, notwithstanding this, the Committee gave them an opportunity of making a statement, which, however, did Hot modify its decision. It is very desirable to get rid of these rights, because, as the Commissioner of Woods says, and the Select Committee agreed, before long there might not be timber to satisfy thorn. They are confined to the uninclosed parts of the Forest; and these, after deducting the 16,000 acres which the Crown is entitled to reserve, amount to only 6,169 acres of timber, of which 4,500 may be described as "ornamental and ancient woods." Thus there is now little available to supply the annual demand, which is equivalent to about 320 large trees; and it may soon be necessary to reduce the assignment of fuel to half rations. Some local people have asserted that no injury would be caused by the continuance of those rights; but they are probably not aware that they do not extend to the Crown reserves. Under those circumstances, I am not at present prepared to withdraw the compulsory clauses.