HC Deb 13 March 1958 vol 584 cc596-7
34. Mr. Skeffington

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is now in a position to say when the Government will implement the recommendations of the Committee on Hedgerow and Farm Timber.

Mr. John Hare

The Committee reached the conclusion that more trees should be planted in hedgerows and on farms, to improve the supply of homegrown timber, to provide shade and shelter for stock, and to maintain the beauty of the countryside; and that encouragement to do so should be given to all those who own or manage land. Most of the recommendations do not call for legislative action.

The Government accept the general view of the Committee on these matters and in particular the emphasis on voluntary action. We propose to take such steps as may be appropriate on the detailed recommendations. But we cannot accept the Committee's recommendation that, where his landlord disagrees, the tenant farmer should be given the statutory right to plant trees, subject to the consent of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland or myself. Nor do we consider it appropriate to introduce a new grant to encourage tree planting on farms. The Forestry Commission has, however, decided to reduce to one acre the minimum area on which it will pay a planting grant, and shelter belts are among the items which qualify for grant under the Farm Improvements Scheme.

Mr. Skeffington

May I thank the Minister for that Answer, which was promised by his predecessor in July of last year, and ask whether he is aware that, because there has been some delay in the decision of the Government, a good deal of hedge timber has been cleared, in fact a good deal of hedgerow has been lost as an amenity? Is the Minister aware that there is some danger to soil conservation, particularly in the Home Counties, because of this delay, and will he use every means at his disposal to see that these recommendations are carried out?

Mr. Hare

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's Question and my reply will receive publicity. I will certainly consider every means of making the information known.