HC Deb 23 June 1953 vol 516 cc1656-8
11. Sir D. Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that Sections 2 and 3 of the Forestry Act, 1951, contain no reference to windblown timber; and, in view of the illegal action of the Forestry Commission in requiring conditions for removing windblown timber in reliance upon these provisions, if he will now instruct the Commission to issue unconditional licences forthwith.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

The Forestry Commissioners are proceeding on the view that windblown trees in general can properly be dealt with as growing trees under the statutory provisions in question, and representatives of woodland owners have accepted that the Commission should proceed in this manner. My right hon. Friend does not propose to ask the Commissioners to alter their existing practice.

Sir D. Robertson

Is it not a fact that my Question deals with the law, and not with the view of officials of any Government Department? Is my hon. Friend prepared to spend the taxpayers' money in legal proceedings against patriotic woodland growers, who for generations have served their country so well, at a time of financial disaster for them? Is it not the duty of the Government to secure their voluntary co-operation instead of trying to bounce them by compulsion?

Mr. Stewart

What is the law is not for me or my hon. Friend to declare. That is a matter for the courts. This is not really so much a matter of law as a matter of practice. It is essential to get this blown timber cut. We and the Forestry Commission are putting up no obstacle to this, but it is essential that the ground, when cleared, should be replanted, and the owners have agreed with the Forestry Commission in the steps they are now taking.

Sir J. Barlow

Is my hon. Friend aware that owing to the fact that this timber has been blown down some of the land is not suitable for replanting? It is utterly wrong, surely, that provision should be made under this Act for dealing with blown timber when only growing timber is mentioned?

Mr. Stewart

I hope that my hon. Friend will not be too theoretical about this. In any case where the owner is asked to fulfil conditions about replanting which appear to him to be unreasonable he has the right of appeal. There is machinery by which his appeal can be heard. The owners now have agreed to the Forestry Commission's present plans on the assumption that the conditions they ask for are reasonable. Therefore, I have every reason myself to think that they will be reasonable.

Mr. T. Fraser

Is it not disgraceful that the Secretary of State should support the Forestry Commission in saying to the woodland owners in the North of Scotland that they must go to the courts if they want to prove that blown timber is not growing timber? Surely there is all the difference in the world? Why should he take advantage of the provisions of the statute and accept blown timber as growing timber?

Mr. Stewart

There is no practical point in that. The owners have met the Forestry Commission and they have agreed with the Commission that they should interpret the Act as they are doing, for the purpose of getting the felled trees out of the way and getting the land replanted as soon as possible. These are two national projects that everybody should surely support.