HC Deb 26 January 1954 vol 522 cc1593-4
27. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that the imminence of spring and of necessary seasonal farm work makes urgent the clearance of fallen timber from Aberdeenshire farms; and if he will now make a further statement on the progress of this work.

29. Mr. Woodburn

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has any further report to give of the progress in regard to the clearance of wind-blown timber as a result of last year's storms.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. McNair Snadden)

As my right hon. Friend informed the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) on 20th October last, the need for the speedy clearance of the wind-blown timber is fully realised and everything possible is being done to this end. With permission, I shall circulate in the Official Report a full statement of the progress made, but the House may be interested to know that about two million cubic feet of timber is being cleared each month, and if this rate can be maintained the bulk of the timber will be cleared within the estimated period of two years.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Minister aware that under the cover of this fallen timber have developed large colonies of rabbits which sally forth and damage the growing crops, and what does he intend to do to protect those crops?

Mr. Snadden

That is really a separate question. The obvious answer is to get the timber out of the way so as to get at the rabbits.

Lady Tweedsmuir

Does the Minister know that a great many smaller areas and estates are finding it impossible to get contractors to undertake clearance of the timber because the contractors prefer to go to the large areas where there is steadier work? What is the policy of his Department in this matter?

Mr. Snadden

We are doing our best to group the smaller estates together so as to provide units more attractive to the merchants, but I agree that there are still isolated areas—some inaccessible—where we find a satisfactory solution difficult.

Mr. Assheton

Has my hon. Friend any information as to the truth of the statement in the Question that spring is imminent in Aberdeenshire?

Following is the statement: The most up-to-date estimate of the volume blown is 47¾ million cubic feet. Arrangements for working all except l½ million cubic feet have been made. A part of the balance is in small lots, difficult to work, and of indifferent quality. The volume of blown limber already felled and extracted to roadside is approximately 20 million cubic feet. The favourable weather experienced has enabled the rate of felling and extraction to be maintained during the winter months at approximately 2 million cubic feet per month. Mills within the blown area are working to capacity. Approximately 2 million cubic feet of round logs have been transported to mills outside the affected area under the transport assistance arrangements made by the Government. The transport assistance rates have now been increased in order further to encourage the movement of logs. The movement to England and Wales of mining timber surplus to the requirements of the Scottish coalfield is proceeding, also under freight assistance arrangements made by the Government, and to date orders have been placed for the movement of some 2 million cubic feet in this way. Also owing to favourable weather the position regarding deterioration of the timber still remaining to fell and extract is better than had been considered probable. Although in the case of some estates work is behindhand, I feel that viewed as a whole progress is as great as could reasonably have been expected and reflects credit on those engaged in the operation.
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