HC Deb 15 May 1885 vol 298 cc634-49

in rising to call attention to the state of Forestry in this country; and to move— That a Select Committee be appointed to consider whether, by the establishment of a Forest School, or otherwise, our Woodlands could be rendered more remunerative, said, that, as last year he had the opportunity of addressing the House on the subject, he would not trespass long on their indulgence. The subject was one of considerable importance. England was almost the only country without a Forest School. Such institutions existed in Prussia, Saxony, Hanover, France, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Spain, Russia, and, in fact, in almost every other country. The need for a Forest School in England had by no means reference only to the State forests. There were some 2,800,000 acres under wood; while, in the Colonies, the forests were estimated to cover no less than 340,000,000 acres. In fact, our interests in this respect were larger than those of any other country in the world. He would only give two instances out of many which might be quoted to show how much might be effected in this direction. Thirty years ago, the Landes was one of the poorest and most wretched regions in France. It had been judiciously planted, and was now one of the most prosperous. The increase of value was estimated at no less than £40,000,000. In India, 15 years ago, the net forest revenue was only £52,000; while, since the establishment of a Forest Department, it had risen to over £400,000, which, of course, would represent an immense increase in capital value. Competent authorities had estimated that there were over 5,000,000 acres of land in this country which might be planted with advantage. M. Boppe, one of the greatest French authorities, had recently visited this country on behalf of the India Office, and clearly indicated his opinion, though he expressed it as courteously as possible, that we were behind other countries in the management of our woodlands. Our own highest authorities were of the same opinion. Mr. Brown, in his standard work on Forestry, said that— If our woodlands had been judiciously managed, we should not find so great a part of the woodlands of Great Britain in the unprofitable state in which they are. Mr. Cruikshank, in his Practical Forester, said that— Nothing was more common than to see trees planted in situations for which they were utterly unsuited, and he gave many illustrations. The Journal of Horticulture said that— It is little less than deplorable to witness the miles of woods that are practically valueless from a commercial point of view, whereas, under skilled supervision, they might yield a substantial revenue to their owners, and in addition be an advantage to the trading and agricultural community. And the same view has been ably advocated by The Journal of Forestry. At a recent meeting of the Convention of Royal and Parliamentary Burghs of Scotland, held in Edinburgh on the 8th of April last, on the motion of the Lord Provost a unanimous resolution was adopted in support of the Motion which he had the honour of moving. Indeed, so necessary was a scientific training that the officers intended for the Indian Forest Service were sent to study at Nancy. No doubt, that was an admirable institution; but, naturally enough, it was specially adapted to French requirements. For instance, one of the subjects was French law; again, of course, French technical terms were used. The India Office proposed, he believed, that a part of the course should in future be passed at Cooper's Hill, but that the students should spend some time in France to study the practical part. The fact that we had to send our young officials to a foreign School of Forestry was an acknowledgment of the truth of two things—first, the advantage and importance of the systematic course of training of those who were to be engaged in the management of woodlands; and second, that such systematic training could not be obtained in this country. With respect to the latter point, he was informed that the West Indies having recently applied to the Colonial Office for some- one to advise them on their Forest management, it had been impossible to find any person in this country competent to do so. The Cape of Good Hope and Cyprus had also been compelled to intrust their forests to foreigners. They were indebted to the hon. Member for Dublin (Dr. Lyons) for several interesting reports on Forest management; but he would leave his hon. Friend to deal with them. The present was, for two reasons, a particularly favourable time for the inquiry he proposed; because Dr. Schlich, the head of the Indian Forest Service, was now in England, and, he believed, that this was also the case with his predecessor, Dr. Brandis. They would, therefore, have the advantage of the advice and co-operation of both those gentlemen. He believed, secondly, those gentlemen were, with the India Office, engaged in considering the organization of the instruction of Indian officials on the subject. He was always reluctant to ask the aid of the Government for any object that could be effected by private enterprize; but it was almost impossible for private individuals to establish for themselves a satisfactory Forest School. It was, indeed, a case which could not be left altogether to private enterprize, because a Forest School necessarily required access to a considerable area of forest. If a well-organized Forest School was established, the Indian students would afford a valuable nucleus in the first instance. He did not, however, wish to express any decided opinion in favour of the establishment of a Government School of Forestry. It was a subject for inquiry, and he thought it at least worthy of consideration whether some intermediate system might be adopted which would enable some one or more existing institutions to benefit by the national forests and woodlands for the instructions of young persons in forestry. He also urged the appointment of this Committee, on the ground that anything which tended to revive the interests of agriculture was of the greatest importance and ought to be encouraged. At present, the landed interest was so greatly depressed that they ought not to neglect any step by which its condition might be improved. To show the demand for timber, he reminded the House that our annual import was about £16,000,000. He believed that the average income derived from woodlands might be substantially increased. Moreover, he thought it was clearly desirable that the whole question should be investigated, before the Government committed themselves to a new system of training for the Indian Forest officials. He trusted, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government would consider that he had made out a strong case, at any rate, for inquiry, and that the House would accede to his Motion. In conclusion, he begged to move for the Select Committee of which he had given Notice.


in seconding the Motion, said, he would remind hon. Members that he had, for some years past, called attention to this subject in connection with Ireland. It was, undoubtedly, the case that, of late years, a very considerable diminution had taken place in the amount of wood planted. Ireland had formerly been able to carry on a large amount of iron smelting by means of her wood, and the smelting had come to an end when the supply of wood had ceased. He had to thank the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) and the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Derby) for the ready assistance which they had given him in investigating the important subject of Forestry. In Reports, which included the greater portion of Europe, it was clearly laid down that those countries could no longer afford to export an unlimited amount of timber to this country. It was the same with regard to the United States and to Canada, where the timber had been recklessly cut down, and where constant forest fires destroyed as much timber as would have supplied European demands for some years. The hon. Baronet the Member for London University (Sir John Lubbock) had referred to our timber imports as amounting to £16,000,000. That Return, he (Dr. Lyons) thought, must refer to timber alone, without other Forest produce, such as tar, pitch, resin, and bark. The whole of the Forest produce imported into this country really amounted to about £30,000,000. With regard to European countries, France was not in a position to supply all her own industrial wants, but was importing a large amount of timber every year. We must also look for a cessation of the timber supply from the Baltic in a very short time; the countries in that neighbourhood had lately been supplying small timber, which showed that they were cutting down miniature trees. There could be no doubt that a vast amount of good had been done by the enclosure of existing forests, and the planting of new ones; and equally certain was it that one of the main economic causes which had hindered the progress of Ireland had been the destruction of her forests. The forests had been destroyed, partly in order to prevent the natives from sheltering there from their oppressors, and partly for smelting purposes. The amount of woodland in Ireland was decreasing; there were now 45,000 acres less than in 1841. The total amount of timber now standing in Ireland was only 350,000 acres. How much that was below the amount of woodland Ireland ought to possess, was seen from the fact that the best authorities had held that to keep a country in good order and insure the proper growth of crops from one-third to one-fourth ought to be protected by woodland. Moreover, it had been conclusively proved that the absence of forests was productive of torrential rains, which caused much devastation along the course of the natural systems of drainage in a country. The amount of woodland possessed by Great Britain, though much larger in proportion than that of Ireland, was small compared with other countries. In Prussia there were 34,000,000 acres, in France 22,000,000 acres, in Austria 23,000,000 acres, and in Hungary 22,000,000 acres of woodland. To the excellent management and cultivation of her forests he believed that the present prosperity of Hungary was in a great measure due. It had been well and truly said that shelter was as good as half food for cattle, and he had no hesitation in saying that the amount of timber in the British Empire was infinitely below what it ought to be for the proper protection of the soil, the proper protection of flocks and herds, and for the general development of industry. The question of our timber supplies was of the greatest agricultural, commercial, and industrial importance to this country. At present, a large amount of timber was imported into this country; and if, through the breaking out of war, one single year's supply was stopped, many industries would be ruined, probably, for five years to come. How much might be done by the State for Forestry was, he thought, shown by the conduct of our Indian Government. The Indian Forestry Department had saved the Indian Forests from the destruction and devastation to which they were rapidly becoming a prey, and had made their administration financially and in every way a great success.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to consider, whether, by the establishment of a Forest School or otherwise, our Woodlands could be rendered more remunerative,"—(Sir John Lubbock,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


supported the Motion. He said, that it was Dr. Johnson who, on the occasion of his visit to Scotland, said that during the whole of his travels in that country he only noticed two trees which were large enough to hang a man upon. If that was a true picture of Scotland at that time, it must be said that the face of the country had been very much altered, and that they were fairly entitled to put forward a claim for encouragement by the Government, inasmuch as they had done a great deal for themselves—private enterprize had undoubtedly done a great deal to reafforest many of the barren hillsides of Scotland. He might instance the county of Inverness, which now contained over 900,000 acres of woodland—he thought the largest area of woodland in any county in the United Kingdom, not even excepting Yorkshire. Perhaps no stronger argument could be put forward in favour of the appointment of the Committee, as suggested, than that used by the hon. Baronet the Mover of the Motion (Sir John Lubbock), when he said that this was the only great country of Europe which took no notice at all of the national property in its forests. The hon. Baronet had said that we had 3,000,000 acres under wood in England, and yet, as regarded the proper management of that immense property, the Government did absolutely nothing. On the con- trary, the Government, not very long ago, offered a direct discouragement to the formation of additional woodlands when the Act was passed for rating of woodlands. He did not complain of woodlands being rated. They were property, and as such should be rated; but, nevertheless, it was a discouragement to those who were inclined to continue planting to find that what must for some time to come be their most unremunerative property was to be subject to rating. What might they expect from the sittings of the proposed Committee? The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had said yesterday that little could be expected from a Committee at this period of the Session. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] Then he must have misunderstood him. If they were not to expect the establishment of a School of Forestry in this country, an immense amount of information would, at all events, be collected and placed at the disposal of the public. It might be asked, what was the difference between Forestry and any other description of culture, such as horticulture? Why should the State be expected to take steps to encourage Forestry? There was this great distinction between Forestry and all other sorts of rural industry—namely, that it called for an amount of foresight, and patience, and self-denial on the part of those engaged in it which was not the case to the same extent with such pursuits as agriculture and horticulture. The returns were not immediate. They might expect, from the labours of this Committee, that it would make accessible to the public a vast amount of knowledge in regard to Forestry, which was not at present accessible to them. They might expect that information would be collected as to the best kinds of timber to plant. There was an immense quantity of money wasted just now in mistaken Forestry operations. No one who had spent any portion of his life in studying the subject could fail to be distressed in going through the country to see hundreds and thousands of acres of neglected woodland. Considering the amount of private energy and self-denial involved in the formation of woodlands, it was not too much to ask the Government of this country to recognize that, and to take steps to place within the reach of the public the best possible information on the subject. The present Prime Minister, as they all knew, took a great deal of pleasure in some of the pursuits connected with the arboriculture of the country; audit was surely not too much to expect that the right hon. Gentleman would extend his energies to the constructive arts of arboriculture as well as to the destructive arts.


I will answer the earnest appeal of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Herbert Maxwell); but I am sorry to say I must accompany my complete answer to that appeal with a criticism on the manner of it, and the phrase which he has employed. The hon. Gentleman said he hoped I would consent to extend my energies, and add constructive to destructive arts in respect to arboriculture. I should have hoped that the hon. Gentleman would have been disposed to contend—as I am disposed to contend—that those who cut down the trees are the only true Conservatives. The hon. Gentleman said, most truly, that there are multitudes of ill-managed woods in this country. Why are they so ill-managed? Simply because of the superstition of their owners, which prevents thorn from properly thinning and clearing them. I am prepared to contend that there is nothing that does more to increase the ground of complaint with respect to the condition of our woods and plantations in general, than that superstition of a multitude of their owners, which leads them to think that it is a kind of sacrilege to cut down a tree; and, moreover, it tends to injure their woods, instead of its being the only ready way of keeping them in a good condition. I agree cordially with the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken, in thinking that it is quite worth while to appoint the Committee proposed by my hon. Friend (Sir John Lubbock); but I must make a certain reservation. I do not wish to be bound, on the part of the Government, to the establishment of any Forestry School, and I will give the reasons why I do not think there should be any foregone conclusion upon that subject. My hon. Friend who made this Motion—and I feel we are indebted to him and to those who have supported it—has spoken of the Forestry Schools that were instituted abroad. Now, that is quite true; but there are two observations to be made—first of all, that in foreign countries they depend much more on the direct aid of Government than we do in this country; and, secondly, that the scale of operations to be conducted is infinitely larger. I am not quite sure that we are all agreed as to the amount of field that is open. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down stated, I think, that in the county of Inverness there were 900.000 acres of wood. I am convinced that that must be a complete error on the part of the hon. Gentleman, and that there can be nothing approaching to that figure in the county of Inverness. In fact, I have heard from those who have looked into the subject that the whole amount of woodland in Scotland does not reach. 900.000 acres. T would not venture to give a confident opinion upon that matter; but I am convinced it is an error to say that there are 900,000, or anything like 900,000 acres of woodland in Inverness.


I may have been wrong in the figure I have given; but of this I am sure, that the acreage under wood in Inverness is larger than in any other county in the United Kingdom.


I do not wish to contest that point. There are very large acreages in one or two other Scottish counties; but I am convinced that they do not amount to anything like the figure mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.


I think it is 400,000 acres.


I am afraid I could not afford even that. My hon. Friend (Sir John Lubbock) was understood by me to say that there were 2,800,000 acres of wood in England. I am disposed to question that figure also.


That includes Scotland.


At all events, I believe this, that there is plenty of room for improvement in the management of woods in this country. Everything is done almost at haphazard. There is no fixed tradition, there is no authoritative system, and I may say, though the land agents are a body of men quite as intelligent as any other class in the community, and in many esses of very high intelligence indeed, yet it is rare to find a land agent, as far as I know, who has any practical or useful knowledge of Forestry. You will find them men admirably qualified for every other department of their duty, and yet unable to lend assistance in this respect. I said I wished to be quite free on the question of the establishment of a Forestry School, and I mentioned one reason why we should be free. But another matter is this—allusion has been most properly made to the study of Forestry in India; and eulogiums have been pronounced, which I believe to be hardly deserved, upon the leading servants of the Indian Government who have been connected with that interesting subject. The Indian Government has had the most special reasons for giving attention to it. First of all there was the great question whether, when pursued on a large and systematic scale, it was possible to make Forestry profitable, which hitherto it had not been. I certainly have the hope that that question either has received, or is in course of receiving, a satisfactory answer in the Indian Dominions of Her Majesty. But, besides that, it must be recollected that in India there have been most important reasons connected with climate, with the provision of a due supply of moisture in the air, and with the regular growth of the food of the people, which are not present here, and which give an altogether extraordinary importance to the subject of Forestry in India. But the Indian Government had, and still has, a School of Forestry in India as well as in England; and that latter school it should be known, as I understand, though it belongs to the Indian Government, is not in any way confined to persons connected with India, or contemplating residence in India. I understand it is allowed to anyone desirous, and able to pay the necessary fees, to be a candidate for admission to that school. It is possible that very valuable assistance may be derived from that school for the purposes of afforesting in England. But I think that besides the comparatively limited scale of operations in this country we have some other difficulties to deal with which ought not to be left out of view. First, our woods are so broken down into detail, that the number of properties on which there is the amount of wood that would admit of the large application of systematic training is not great. I myself have had a good deal to do with one estate, which, although not so large in regard to growth of timber as some estates in Scotland, is almost as large as any in England. It has somewhere about 6,000 or 7.000 acres of wood, and that is a growth extremely rare, not in Scotland, but in England. But besides the fact that our woods are so cut down into small bits of patchwork on the face of the country, it must never be forgotten that they are not kept here to any large extent for the purpose of profit as woods, but for the purposes of landscape beauty, and of pleasure and of sport—of sport above all. All these things must go, I think, to moderate our expectations as to what can be done; but, at the same time, it is quite true that my interest in these subjects has certainly caused me constantly to observe, from the manner in which woods are managed, and the degree of accomplishment and attainment brought to the management of them, how much might be gained if there were more of common tradition on the subject—which common tradition must be the fruit of a good deal of training. There are some parts in this country—in the Midland counties—where, I believe, the art of woodcutting is practised with a nicety, and, I believe, with an actual beauty, which is not to be found anywhere else; but there are other parts where scarcely anyone knows how to cut down a tree. That deficiency indicates a general want of attention to the subject. I will not enter any further into the matter. The subject is one of very great interest; and I have some considerable hope that great utility will arise from the inquiries of this Committee. I think the hon. Member who has just sat down ^Sir Herbert Maxwell) did not catch exactly what I said yesterday with regard to the appointment of Select Committees at this period of the Session. What I did say was that it was unadvisable at this period of the Session to appoint a Select Committee to conduct inquiries which could not produce satisfactory results; but as regards the Select Committee now asked for, in the first place, my hon. Friend who has asked for it has given special reasons why at this moment the appointment should be made; and, in the second place, although it is true that the working time will be short, and that a Dissolution is likely to intervene between this Session and next, still a partial inquiry this Session may perfectly well be made, and taken up in a future Session and carried on to its completion. Therefore, it will be understood that we remain perfectly free with respect to the direction which the inquiries of the Committee may take, and the recommendations it may make, upon which it will be the duty of the responsible Ministers of the Crown for the time being to pass judgment. With that due and just reservation, I can give my hearty support to the proposal, and I sincerely hope that very great benefit may result from the inquiries which the Committee may make.


said, he thought the House was greatly indebted to the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Lubbock) for having brought forward the subject; and he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) was greatly pleased at the acceptance of the Motion by the Government, for he quite agreed with the remarks that fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, to the effect that the art of thinning out trees had I been tremendously neglected in this! country. It was one of those subjects which required large study, and ought to be more cultivated than it was. Few men know how to thin a plantation, and scarcely two would agree as to the proper time when the thinning should take place. It was on this account that our plantations in England had suffered so severely. He also agreed entirely with the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to the area of land under wood in this country. He did not think that anything like the area was under wood which had been stated by some hon. Members. In the county of Sussex they had turned their attention towards growing timber, but especially underwood for the purpose of providing hop poles, hoops, and other matters, and had greatly increased the value of these woods, though he was very sorry to say that lately, not only had timber and bark fallen, but underwoods had been reduced in value quite 35 per cent. An additional result was that they found employment for large numbers of poor people during the winter months. In pursuing that course, however, they could not shut their eyes to the fact which he had just stated, that the value of this underwood and timber had greatly depreciated; and he was afraid it would not be until there was a diminution of the supply from abroad that the value of timber in this country would rise to a fair level. He was informed, however, that nearly all the timber near the rivers of America, and except in the interior of France, Italy, and Spain, had been cut, and there was but little chance of many large supplies reaching us in the future from those countries. Therefore, there was every opportunity for the profitable growth of woods and timber; and he hoped that we, in this country, should not neglect planting such kinds as would grow fairly well on land that was not good for agricultural purposes. He believed that this Committee would do a great deal of good, and he should be glad if one of the results of the inquiry was to teach young men the art of cultivating timber. As it was, there was considerable difficulty in getting men to manage woods properly. He hoped that the general result of their labours would be to increase the growth of timber everywhere, giving increased employment to the working classes in the winter which it was hardly possible to procure in any other way.


said, he had great pleasure in congratulating the hon. Baronet (Sir John Lubbock) on the acceptance of his Motion by the Government. He (Dr. Farquharson) was glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister that at length Forest culture was to be placed in this country upon a satisfactory basis. He (Dr. Farquharson) came from a part of the country where a great deal of planting was going on, and which was well known, to the Prime Minister; and although that planting was conducted liberally, largely, and well, yet there was in it a little too much of the haphazard mode of which they had just heard. They heard a great deal in these days of increasing the agricultural output of the soil; but they heard very little about the great increase in the value of their land, which might result from a proper method of planting and growing trees on waste land. A great deal of waste land had been taken in for agricultural purposes which would never repay the expense; whereas, if it were planted, they would obtain an excellent crop of trees which would pay in every case, and which would confer great benefits on the country in the improvement of the climate and in other ways. He thought it was discreditable that (hey had to send to France or Germany to learn a science which their young men might as well learn at home, if they had the proper materials; for he was sure that if they had in Scotland sufficient opportunity, they would be able, from the excellent woods there, to teach the young men how planting should be carried on. As an instance, he would call the attention of hon. Members to (he afforesting operations on the property of Lord Seafield, so admirably managed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Mr. T. C. Bruce). At the present time, he had a successor to a forester who was very-anxious to obtain some instruction, so as to be able to do things on a better and more scientific scale, and he did not know where to get opportunities of instruction without sending him abroad at great expense. He should hope that, in future years, he would get that instruction at home. He was very glad to hear of the appointment of this Committee, for he was certain that from its deliberations great good would ensue. There were many thousands of acres of waste land in England that might very profitably be afforested.


said, he thought the discussion came very appropriately at a time when the Committee on Irish Industries was sitting; and he had no doubt that the two Committees would recommend the Government to take greater interest than they bad hither to done in the development of those industries, including Forestry, especially as there was no part of the United Kingdom where improved methods of Forestry would be of more advantage than in Ireland. The hon. Member for Dublin (Dr. Lyons), who had made himself remarkable by devotion to this question, had dealt instructively with many branches of the subject; but there was one to which he had not referred—namely, the fact that whilst we taught our poorer children all sorts of useless subjects, we gave them no instruction in those technical arts by which they could obtain a livelihood. In the Black Forest and in Switzerland the young people were profitably employed in making the thousands of toys which were imported into this country. There was no reason why many thousands of our unemployed and starving population might not find the means of subsistence in this industry. The Prime Minister had deprecated the interference of the State; hut the State had, in Holland, reclaimed the land from the sea, and here, at home, as he (Mr. Dawson) had said, was expending its resources in teaching many subjects to the children of the poor, which, from, a wage-earning point of view, were absolutely useless. It would be much wiser that children should receive good technical training in the trades by which they were to make their living.


said, he was glad that the Government had consented to the appointment of the Committee; and he took as an illustration of the gross ignorance on this subject the wretched condition of the trees in Kensington Gardens. He thought one had no need to go further than that locality to see what a lamentable want existed of scientific Forestry in this country. With regard to the Indian Forest Department, great compliments were paid to it; but he (Sir George Campbell) considered they were a little too laudatory. No doubt, the Indian Government had honestly desired to establish it efficiently, and had been as successful as could reasonably be hoped; but yet it had not been so successful as some people seemed to think, because they had net had here at head-quarters a School which would be a foundation from which young men could be sent out to do good. Whatever had been done of good had been done by sending young men abroad to France and Germany, where, on account of ignorance of the language and otherwise, they laboured under disadvantages. The Indian Forestry Department had been petted and praised in anticipation; but it had not yet succeeded in establishing scientific Forestry, and its receipts were derived largely from cutting down wood, giving it something of the nature of a commercial Department.


said, he was gratified to find that for once England, Scotland, and Ireland were thoroughly united on this matter, for the subject was one in which the Three Kingdoms were equally interested. There was no good School of Forestry in the country; and nobody need go farther than our magnificent Parks and Gardens to see that the art of Forestry was absolutely unknown in this country. Thousands of our best trees were killed because similar treatment was apparently applied to all trees alike, and it did not appear to be known that what, was good for one true killed another. While agreeing with the Prime Minister that there should be no foregone conclusion, he hoped the matter would not be entered upon with the idea that a School of Forestry was not necessary, and that Government assistance should not be given to it.

Question put, and negatived.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put. Ordered, That a Select Committee he appointed to consider whether, by the establishment of a Forest School, or otherwise, our woodlands could be rendered more remunerative.

Resolved, That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee of Supply.—(Mr. Hibbert.)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."