HC Deb 20 October 1953 vol 518 cc1798-800
39. Captain Duncan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made in the extraction and sale of blown timber in the North-East of Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

40. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made to date in the removal and disposal of the timber blown down in and around Aberdeenshire during the storm of 31st January, 1953.

Mr. J. Stuart

Arrangements have now been made between owners and timber merchants for disposal of all but about 5 per cent. of the timber involved, and it is expected that this figure will be further reduced. About 28 per cent. of the total blown has been felled and brought to the roadside, and much of this has been converted. The work is proceeding rapidly and I consider that progress to date is as great as could reasonably have been expected. The arrangements for the various forms of transport assistance are working satisfactorily.

On the marketing side, the arrangements for supply to the Railway Executive have proceeded well; and the Scottish coalfield is taking about 90 per cent. of its pitwood requirements from home-grown sources—mainly from the windblown area. The movement of surplus pitwood to England and Wales has greatly accelerated in recent weeks.

Mr. Hughes

Has the Minister visited this area recently, and does he realise that the progress made is quite disproportionate to the time which has elapsed and that it is interfering with progress in farming and thus with the food supply of the country?

Mr. Stuart

It was a very regrettable disaster, as we all know, but I do not think that the progress is bad, and I hope that within about two years, as we originally stated, it will be possible to complete the operation.

Major McCallum

Are my right hon. Friend's advisers of the opinion that it will be two years or four years before this blown timber is not just sold but actually disposed of and cleared?

Mr. Stuart

As I have said on several occasions, we hope to complete the operation in two years.

Mr. Woodburn

While congratulating the right hon. Gentleman's Department on the progress they have so far made in regard to this timber, may I ask whether he is aware that the preparations for the eventual replanting of these areas may take a long time? Are the Forestry Commission keeping abreast with the problem of whether private owners will be prepared to replant when the time comes?

Mr. Stuart

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we have that in mind, and I will make a statement in due course.

41. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that one of the results of the non-disposal and non-removal of timber blown down in Aberdeenshire by the storm of 31st January, 1953, is a large increase in the number of rabbits, which cannot be destroyed where fallen timber still lies; that damage is thereby done to crops; that, as a consequence, trapping is being done in an illegal way; and what steps he is taking to rectify these conditions.

Mr. J. Stuart

I am aware that windblown timber increases the difficulties of trapping rabbits but, while I am most anxious to facilitate and accelerate the clearance of this timber, the task is one which unfortunately takes time. Assistance is being given to enable owners to clear timber and considerable progress has been made.

Mr. Hughes

Does the answer that the Minister gave to the former Question in regard to two years apply to this Question also? If so, does he not think that it is disgraceful that the food supply of the country should have to wait for two years to have this timber cleared away?

Mr. Stuart

Unfortunately we cannot clear this timber in a matter of weeks, but we are doing our best.

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