HC Deb 24 April 1975 vol 890 c1723
4. Mr. Hicks

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proposals he intends introducing in order to restore confidence in forestry.

Mr. Strang

None, although my right hon. Friends will naturally keep under review the workings of the new Dedication Scheme and other provisions introduced last year, as well as the effects of the taxation relief recently given in Section 9 of this year's Finance Act.

Mr. Hicks

Is the Minister aware that there has been a 40 per cent. reduction in the acreage of new trees planted this winter compared with 12 months ago? How does he reconcile that with his pledge to expand home forestry, particularly in view of the implications of capital transfer tax?

Mr. Strang

I am not sure whether the 40 per cent. reduction refers to total planting or solely to the private sector. Figures for the year ending 31st March are not yet available, but my right hon. Friend introduced a specific concession for private forestry.

Mr. MacCormick

Is the Minister aware that on the west coast of Scotland ordinary working people will lose their jobs through the Government's inability to appreciate the importance of forestry?

Mr. Strang

I totally reject the suggestion that the Government did not appreciate the importance of forestry. We want to see a large planting programme and we want to reverse the sharp and continuing decline in planting by the Forestry Commission which occurred under the previous Conservative Government.