HC Deb 03 June 1932 vol 266 cc1484-9

(1) The provisions to be inserted in a scheme with respect to securing amenity and the protection of existing amenities may include provisions for the preservation of trees, whether standing alone or in groups or in woodlands.

(2) Where any provisions for the preservation of trees in woodlands are included in a scheme, the scheme must also contain provisions enabling the responsible authority to consent, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as they think proper to impose, to the cutting of trees and other forestry operations in a woodland which is in use, and is intended to be continued in use, for the production of timber.

(3) A person aggrieved by the refusal of a responsible authority to give their consent to any such operations as aforesaid, or by any conditions imposed by the responsible authority, may within twenty-eight days from the date on which he received notice of the decision of the authority, or such longer period as the Forestry Commissioners may allow, appeal to the Forestry Commissioners and the Forestry Commissioners shall allow the appeal, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as they think proper to impose, if they are satisfied that the proposed operations are in accordance with the practice of good forestry.

The decision of the Forestry Commissioners on an appeal under this sub-section shall be final and conclusive and shall have effect as if it were a decision of the authority.

(4) In this section the expression "timber" includes all forest products.—[Sir H. Young.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

I move this Clause in order to meet a line of criticism which was taken in Committee and which appears to have very much force in it. Under the Bill, the planning authority has power, subject to the rights of compensation, to make orders controlling and preserving woodlands, which is very much in the mind of the public at the present time. It was stated in Committee that unless we took proper care in regard to the control and preservation of woodlands the result would be that we should deprive the owners of the woodlands of the right to manage their woodlands according to the principles of good forestry. The consequence might be that woodlands would be dealt with in an unintelligent way and that trees would pass beyond maturity, rot and fall into decay. There was much force in the contention that it is necessary to do something in order to preserve the powers of those responsible for the woodlands, so that they may deal with them in accordance with the principles of good forestry. The New Clause sets before itself two objects. In the first place it seeks to preserve the proper management of woodlands in the hands of the owners and not indirectly or directly to transfer it to the local authorities who are not accustomed to, or experts in, forestry. In the second place, the Clause seeks to make sure that no specific power or control exercised by a planning authority shall be so exercised as to prevent the woodlands being dealt with in accordance with the principles of good forestry. We therefore take precautions so that nothing shall be done to prevent the woodland and forestry industry from being carried on on good sensible lines or being turned once more into a lucrative and profitable industry. The Clause also provides that any prohibition of any specific way of dealing with woodlands shall be subject to an appeal to the appropriate authority, and I am sure the House will agree that the most appropriate authority would be the Forestry Commissioners. Therefore, they are nominated in the Clause as the arbitral authority in all cases of appeal as to proper conduct in the control of woods in accordance with the principles of good forestry.

11.30 a.m.


The new Clause only appeared on the Order Paper to-day for the first time and there has been little opportunity to study it and no possibility of consulting the Forestry Commission about it. My right hon. Friend, however, approached the chairman of the Forestry Commission yesterday, who got into touch with me, and I am authorised by the chairman of the Forestry Commission to state that he considers the Clause a sound one. For what my poor opinion may be worth, I confirm that view, and I have no doubt that it will be approved by our colleagues, the remaining Forestry Commissioners. From the point of view of the private owner of woodlands, and it may be the corporate owners of woodlands, I also think it is satisfactory. It is inevitable in these matters that at times there may be a division of opinion between possibly the less informed persons who would regret the removal of picturesque old trees, such as we all love to see about the countryside, and those who take the longer view and realise that, to maintain permanently the beauty of a woodland, when old trees reach or pass a certain age they must be removed and their place taken by others. It is a very poor policy in forestry or landscape, where you have to think of all time, to leave the wreck of a fine tree, because it retains some elements of the picturesque, until it falls to pieces and there is nothing to take its place. I think the Clause is as sound an attempt as we can expect to be devised to reconcile the different views of those who are equally desirous of maintaining the beauty of the countryside. I welcome the Clause and hope the House will accept it.


I should like to raise one point so far as the Clause gives any right to local authorities to control woodlands. Will it be possible for a local authority to prevent the sale of timber should the owner require it for the payment of Death Duty? One of the priceless heritages of the people of this country is the beauty of England, which has been provided for them in the past 100 or 150 years by the private owners of the land, but the march of democracy is such that large estates have to pay heavy death duties upon the death of the owner. I am not contesting that matter at the moment but merely stating the fact. It is also well known that one of the sources of revenue for the payment of Death Duty is the sale of timber, and it is not going to be fair if, on the one hand, the State assesses certain value on a property which has to be paid on the death of the owner, and with the next breath deprives the owner of a means of paying those death duties. We ought to have an assurance from the Minister that where an owner desires to sell timber in order to pay Death Duties no difficulty should be placed in his way, or, if a difficulty is placed in his way, that the amount should be reduced by the value of the timber which he would otherwise have been able to raise. It will make it almost impossible to carry out the liabilities which the State puts upon owners if restrictions of that kind are put in the Bill.

Brigadier-General CLIFTON BROWN

This new Clause is in answer to a discussion which I raised in Committee and we are very grateful to the Minister for his attempt to meet us, but I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Rye (Sir Q. Courthope) that it is very hard that we have seen this Clause for the first time to-day. I think we should have some little time to consider this new Clause. The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Rhys) has pointed out the serious effect it may have. The expression "timber" is to include all forest products. I do not know what that means. It might fulfil the intention of the Minister, and as long as it leaves the management of forestry operations on big estates in the hands of the owners that is what we want, because we believe that they can deal with these matters better than a local authority. Nor do we object to an umpire like the Forestry Commissioners, who have great knowledge in these matters from the business point of view as well as from the point of view of beauty. At the same time we must reserve any judgment on the Clause until we have thoroughly considered it, and it may be necessary to move Amendments in another place. With the hon. and gallant Member for Rye I agree that it does meet the difficulty to some extent, and if we find that this is the best way of dealing with the matter we shall be quite content; but if on further consideration we find that it is necessary to move some Amendments I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not refuse to consider them.

Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE

While I have not had time to consider the effect of the Clause I should like to thank the Minister of Health for having moved it. As I understand it, if a man requires to cut down timber on his estate to pay Death Duties he will be allowed to do so; but he will have to replant. No doubt he will replant; but if he has been mulcted in heavy Death Duties he may not have the money to replant at once and, therefore, I think be should be allowed in such circumstances to cut down timber without being forced to replant.


I hope the Minister of Health will consider carefully Sub-section (4) where we find that the expression "timber" includes all forest products. I am informed that "forest products" includes doors and anything which is made of wood. I am sure that it is not the intention of the Minister to include such things, and that it only means standing timber.


The answer to the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Rhys) is that under the Bill such persons will have the right to claim compensation within 12 months. As regards the other points that have been raised my right hon. Friend will be willing to consider any Amendments that may be considered necessary. His intention is to meet the difficulties mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown). With regard to the point of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont), I do not think the hon. Member is correct, but the right hon. Gentleman will look into it.


I must ask the Parliamentary Secretary for a somewhat clearer explanation. He says that an owner can claim compensation within 12 months. Can he claim compensation up to the amount for which he would have been able to sell the timber?


The position is this. The Clause only applies to woods which are actually under control. That is the first thing to realise. In the case of controlled woods where the heir on the death of the owner proposes to cut down timber in order to pay Death Duties and the local authority says "no", he might say that it is the prudent and obvious thing to realise this asset. He goes to the Forestry Commissioners and they decide that it is in accordance with the principles of good husbandry that he should be allowed to cut down the timber. That disposes of two of the cases. There remains, therefore, only the case in which woods are controlled and where the Forestry Commissioners say that they should not be cut because they are not ripe for cutting. If in that case there is any damage or loss to the owner by a refusal to allow him to cut his woods he can claim compensation within 12 months.

Question, "That Clause be read a Second time", put and agreed to.

Clause added to the Bill.


The new Clauses in the name of the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Craven-Ellis)—, Obligation to purchase where land is reserved for public open space"; and— As to land reserved for private open space". are not; in order, as they increase the charge.


I submit respectfully with regard to the Clause dealing with the obligation to purchase where land is reserved for open spaces, that in Clause 26 of the Bill specific provision is made for the expenditure of money for this purpose and that all that the new Clause does is to regulate the way in which that expenditure shall be made.


No doubt provision is made in Clause 26 for the expenditure of money for this purpose, but the new Clause may increase the charge under Clause 26.

Marquess of HARTINGTON

May I with the greatest respect put this aspect of the matter to you? Assuming that the further large powers which are given to local authorities are in the public interests and will increase the value of property in an area, therefore the power which is given to local authorities to purchase these open spaces would actually add to the value of the property owned by a community and would not therefore create a charge on the community.


That may be so, but, on the other hand, it might create a charge.