HC Deb 18 February 1970 vol 796 cc393-4
11. Mr. Noble

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the total number of employees of the Forestry Commission in the crofter counties and in Scotland, respectively, in 1960 and at the latest convenient dat.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

At 31st December, 1969, the Forestry Commission had 3,864 employees in Scotland of which 1,667 were employed in the crofter counties, The corresponding numbers for 1960 were 4,925 and 2,154.

Mr. Noble

Does the Minister of State not think that this is a rather depressing result, because part of the importance of the Forestry Commission, particularly in the Highland area, is the provision of labour? Will he discuss in detail with the Forestry Commission at an early stage whether something cannot be done to attract people who live in the Highlands to work in the forests rather than operate through contracting firms on a different basis coming in?

Dr. Mabon

That certainly is a matter which the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to have considered by us, and I give him an assurance to that effect. I should like to make the point that of the well over 1,000 employees who have left the Forestry Commission, only 45 were discharged under the redundancy procedure. The rest was achieved, to the credit of the Commission, by what might be called natural wastage. The right hon. Gentleman is also keenly interested in the economics of the Forestry Commission. He would, I think, be the first to recognise that these improved working methods and techniques help to make the Commission a viable undertaking.

Mr. Manuel

Is my right hon. Friend aware that what the right hon. Member or Argyll (Mr. Noble) is advocating, much to my surprise and pleasure, is that more direct labour should operate throughout forestry? I have been trying to do this for many years. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I deplore the growth in sub-contracting.

Dr. Mabon

This is a case where the right hon. Gentleman has become a Conservatocialist.