HC Deb 16 November 1971 vol 826 cc203-4
21. Mr. David Clark

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to make an announcement about his review of the functions of the Forestry Commission.

38. Sir Clive Bossom

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on forestry policy.

41. Mr. James Johnson

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his policy regarding forestry development; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

The Government's review of forestry policy is now nearing completion and an announcement will be made as soon as practicable.

Mr. Clark

Will the Minister give the House an assurance that he recognises that the Forestry Commission has environmental as well as commercial responsibilities? Will he also give an assurance that he will help the Forestry Commission to continue to pursue environmental policies by giving special financial help?

Mr. Stodart

I think that both those matters have been the subject of consideration in the report.

Sir Clive Bossom

Could my hon. Friend set up an independent inquiry in the meantime to look into the whole of forestry policy, to see whether broad-leafed trees can be preserved and planted in order to beautify the countryside, and will the Government encourage more integration between farming and forestry to help stem rural depopulation?

Mr. Stodart

With respect to my hon. Friend, until we see the result of this report I do not think we had better set up another inquiry just yet. I take my hon. Friend's point about deciduous trees. I think the Forestry Commission is well aware of this. In reply to the question about forestry and farming integration, I can assure my hon. Friend that he is preaching to the converted.

Mr. Johnson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that those who love the countryside—and I hope that he includes himself in that category—feel that we have planted far too many conifers in the past and that they march along the hillsides like battalions of soldiers? Does he appreciate that he should use all the influence he possesses to persuade the Forestry Commission to plant far more deciduous trees?

Mr. Stodart

This is a case in which one has to ask the Commission—and I think it has responded to the request—to take a balanced outlook at the economic and environmental issues. Undoubtedly from the point of view of the economics, softwood is well ahead. However, the Commission is very well aware of this point because I have been in touch with the Commission about the felling of deciduous trees.