HC Deb 21 January 1970 vol 794 cc499-501
20. Mrs. Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why the number of workers directly employed by the Forestry Commission in Scotland has fallen each year from 1965 to 1969.

Mr. Buchan

The fall in the number of workers despite the expanding programme of work is due to the introduction of improved working methods and management techniques.

Mrs. Ewing

Does the Minister not agree that allowing manpower to decline in the forestry industry while much Scottish land stands unproductive as grouse moors and deer forests is an economic waste of Scotland's natural resources, particularly in view of the contribution which could be made by the forestry industry to exports and import savings and as a source of employment?

Mr. Buchan

Because we recognise the matters involved in the last part of the hon. Lady's question, we have developed an increasing planting programme. On the other matter, of course, we recognise that there are unused resources and are trying to develop them, but we also have agriculture to consider. We cannot do both, as I think the hon. Lady's colleagues have suggested.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the Minister aware that the Land Commission made an exhaustive investigation into the possibility of using these deer forests for forestry and agricultural purposes, but that there is a severe limit to any economic possibility of making proper use of them?

Mr. Buchan

The task is to make the right kind of analysis and the right kind of plan and integrated programme in relation to both agriculture and forestry, with consideration being given to the possible return for the resources which are put in.

Earl of Dalkeith

Is not part of the decrease accounted for by the fact that greater ease of outside contractors is being made by the Forestry Commission?

Mr. Buchan

Yes. This does not affect the total number of jobs. There is the fact tint indirect labour has increased. If outside contractors are used to fell timber, the total number of jobs may be the same, although there is an apparent decrease in the Forestry Commission's work.