HC Deb 05 February 1957 vol 564 cc215-7
7. Mr. Hannan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the decline in acreage of plantable land acquired by the Forestry Commission, and the consequent reduction in their reserves of such land; if he will state the reasons for this decline; and what are the difficulties.

Lord John Hope

The area of plantable land annually acquired by the Forestry Commission fluctuates from year to year and the rate of acquisition in Scotland cannot be described as declining.

Mr. Hannan

Surely the Joint Under-Secretary is aware that the past three annual reports of the Forestry Commissioners make clear that the acquisition of land is declining, which, in turn, will affect the rate of planting? Will the hon. Gentleman please read the reports and become conversant with the facts?

Lord John Hope

Yes, I have done so. But the hon. Gentleman asked me about the rate of acquisition and the answer I gave is correct. For instance, the amount acquired last year was the second highest amount during the last five years. It fluctuates; sometimes it is down and sometimes it is up. It is now up.

Sir W. Anstruther-Gray

Will my hon. Friend make sure that in its search for plantable land the Forestry Commission does not take too much land which should be kept for sheep?

Mr. Hannan

Is not the Joint Under-Secretary aware that the Scottish Land Owners Federation estimates that a million acres of land is lying derelict and that it has asked the Scottish Office to take some action to see that such a potential is not left indefinitely in a nonproductive condition?

Mr. Woodburn

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that much of this land in Scotland is still an eyesore and should be replanted? Is not the Department a little too tender about making compulsory orders where landowners are unwilling to co-operate and it would appear that there is delay in getting ahead with this planting in Scotland?

Lord John Hope

The supplementary questions appear to refer more to Question No. 8, but I will try to cut short the time by answering the last supplementary question. The Commission is not at all anxious that there should be compulsory acquisition if that can be avoided.

8. Mr. Hannan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what assistance he proposes to give to the Forestry Commission to maintain an expanding programme.

Lord John Hope

In conjunction with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and with the Commission, my right hon. Friend is considering measures by which the rate of acquisition could be accelerated.

Captain Duncan

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Forestry Commission owns over a million acres in Scotland more than half of which it regards as unplantable or not to be planted? Would not it increase the Commission's reserves if same of the land were planted which at the moment the Commission states that it does not intend to plant?

Lord John Hope

I should like to look into that matter.