HC Deb 20 March 1963 vol 674 cc383-4
43. Mr. Godman Irvine

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is aware that the present trading position of the Forestry Commission shown by the recent Supplementary Estimates reveals an increase over the original estimates of £500,000 in respect of salaries and wages and a decrease of £110,000 in respect of timber sales during the current year; and what action is being taken to remedy this.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Christopher Soames)

Yes, Sir. The Supplementary Estimate was due partly to a salary award, which applied throughout the Civil Service, and a wage increase to forest workers during the year; and partly to a fall in prices obtained for softwood thinnings.

The Forestry Commission will continue its endeavours to meet rising costs by improved productivity, but it believes that the fall in the prices is a temporary phase.

Mr. Godman Irvine

Will my right hon. Friend have another look at the situation because in the last five years, during which wages have risen, the Forestry Commission has increased its sales from 5.3 million hoppus feet to 11.6 million hoppus feet? During the same period, the price which has been recovered has dropped from Is. 7.1d. to ls. 5.3d. per hoppus foot. Does not that reveal a situation which requires my right Friend's careful consideration?

Mr. Soames

The discrepancies in this estimate amount to £600,000 in all. They came about through an increase of £500,000 on wages and salaries, which could not be envisaged at the time that the estimate was put in and a discrepancy of £100,000 out of the total estimate of £2½ million on the likely receipts for the sale of timber during the current year. Since, obviously, the movement of market prices must have some effect on the total sum of money derived from sales, I think that my hon. Friend would agree that that was not a bad estimate.