HC Deb 06 August 1980 vol 990 cc507-9
9. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many acres of forestry in Scotland have been felled to make way for (a) housing and (b) road building so far in 1980.

Mr. Rifkind

I regret that this information is not held centrally and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Winterton

Does my hon. Friend agree that forestry and the allied paper and board industry are important to the economy of Scotland? Will he bear that in mind when any planning matters come before his Department? Will his Department review the situation relating to the paper and board industry, particularly the unfair competition that it faces at present?

Mr. Rifkind

I take the points that my hon. Friend has made. He will be pleased to know that the Forestry Commission considers that relatively small areas of land will have been affected by developments of the kind indicated in his original question.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Hugh Robertson. I am sorry; I meant Mr. Hugh Brown.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

I have suspected for the past year, Mr. Speaker, that you have forgotten my name.

Now that there is recognition of the importance of forestry in the economy of Scotland, will a consultative document be issued, and will all the interested parties—unions as well as the private forestry interests, which do not want any further selling off of public assets—be consulted?

Mr. Rifkind

My right hon. Friends are engaged in a review of forestry policy, and they will make a statement on that policy when they have concluded the review.

Mr. Pollock

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Government remain committed to a prosperous long-term future for the forestry industry, and that when the statement is made it will confirm the Government's support for the industry?

Mr. Rifkind

I can confirm that.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Who gave the Minister the information that on such an important matter the information required was too costly to procure?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman should appreciate that collecting statistics of this kind involves considerable manpower. Over the years—not simply in recent weeks—successive Governments have not considered it appropriate to devote that amount of manpower to collecting the statistics.