HC Deb 23 March 1971 vol 814 cc226-8
4. Mr. Hardy

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many acres of good agricultural land have been acquired for private afforestation in each of the last three years.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

Statistics of land acquired for private afforestation are not available, but almost all such planting takes place on land of relatively low agricultural value.

Mr. Hardy

Would not the Minister agree that this seems to be a rather inequitable situation, since it is possible for private forestry concerns to plant on good agricultural land whilst the Forestry Commission is not easily or generally able to plant on land of that quality? Would he, therefore, reconsider and review the whole situation?

Mr. Stodart

On 8th December I said that the Government were undertaking a review of various aspects of forestry policy. This is one of the matters that would be considered.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Is it not a fact that 95 per cent. of our timber requirements are imported, at great expense, and that, therefore, all afforestation of land, good and bad, should be encouraged, whether it is private or public?

Mr. Stodart

There is a considerable import-saving potential here. I am a very strong believer in an integration of forestry with agriculture for the benefit of each.

5. Mr. Hardy

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will seek to effect a change in the taxation arrangements for private forestry, particularly where this activity prohibits public access or makes no provision for amenity or conservation.

Mr. Stodart

Taxation arrangements are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Hardy

Is the Minister aware of recent studies of the possibility that in a few years' time we may find that the greatest value from British woodland will lie in the amenity and capacity for recreation which it may provide? If that is the case, would he not, therefore, recommend to his right hon. Friend that tax concessions should be reviewed so that the possibility of providing for the nation's future needs is at least allowed?

Mr. Stodart

I agree that amenity is an extremely important consideration. I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to what the hon. Gentleman has said. It may be of assistance to the hon. Gentleman to know that all private schemes which are submitted to the Forestry Commission for grant aid are scrutinised for the effects which they may have on the landscape. If the Commission thinks that amenity will suffer, applications are not accepted without amendment.

Mr. Evelyn King

Is the Minister aware that, beautiful though trees may be to look at, they are also a crop, just like wheat, barley or oats? Would he have regard to that fact and so increase taxation concessions that there may be, in the national interest, a growth of this industry and crop to the benefit of everybody?

Mr. Stodart

My hon. Friend will not be in the least surprised to know that I have no responsibility for tax concessions.

Mr. David Clark

I associate myself completely with the need for more timber. Is the Minister aware that in many parts of the country, especially in the Yorkshire Dales, there is increasing disappointment and disillusionment about the amount of private forestry which is taking place in areas to which the public are being denied access.

Mr. Stodart

I repeat that both private and Forestry Commission plantings have a great deal to contribute to our economy.