HC Deb 30 March 1983 vol 40 cc333-4
10. Mr. Corrie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what acreage of forestry has been planted in Scotland by the Forestry Commission and by private forestry groups over the past two years where figures are available.

Mr. Younger

In the year ended 31 March 1981, 10,481 hectares were planted by the Forestry Commission and 7,074 hectares by private growers. In the year ended 31 March 1982, 10,094 hectares were planted by the commission and 10,743 hectares by private growers. These figures are for new planting only and do not include restocking. Separate records are not held centrally of the planting undertaken by the forestry groups.

Mr. Corrie

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, which vindicates Government policy. To make absolutely sure that jobs are kept in this country, and to make use of all the timber grown both now and in the future, will he ensure that any major developments for the processing of timber will be located in Scotland, so that jobs can be developed there to support this vital industry?

Mr. Younger

I fully appreciate my hon. Friend's concern, although the interesting new development at Shotton in north Wales is of considerable benefit to the general timber market and should have beneficial effects on the market in Scotland. It is good to report that Messrs. Caberboard Ltd. is running its timber-using plant near Stirling well and has also reconstructed the firm in Irvine—previously Scotboard—which is now making a useful contribution to the use of timber in Scotland.

Mr. Maclennan

Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that there is a future for a pulp industry in Scotland?

Mr. Younger

There is a great future for a timber-using industry in Scotland. The Government are doing a great deal—including the commissioning of the Arthur D. Little study through the SDA—to make sure that Scotland is ready to take full advantage of that.

Mr. Home Robertson

What area of forestry land has been sold off by the Forestry Commission in Scotland since the Forestry Act 1981 came into force? How much money has consequently been siphoned out of Scottish forestry and into the coffers of the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Younger

Between the passing of the Act in 1981 and 21 February 1983, approximately 1,034 hectares—775 hectares in Scotland—of land awaiting planting were sold by the commission, and the total amount of land that has so far been sold is about 90,000 hectares—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Let me correct that figure. The total is 9,300 hectares being planted for the current year, with more than 8,000 hectares being planted in Scotland. It is expected that in future the private sector will do considerably more planting than the public sector. As the hon. Gentleman knows, all the money is ploughed back into the forestry industry.

Sir Russell Fairgrieve

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that, at about £10 million a day, timber and timber imports have virtually become the United Kingdom's largest import bill? As Scotland can make a major contribution, will he do everything to ensure a far greater planting effort in both the private and public sectors in Scotland?

Mr. Younger

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. It is for that reason that the Arthur D. Little study has been put into effect. As a result of that, the Scottish Forest Products Development Group has been established to seek and encourage investment in future forest products in Scotland. That is exactly in line with what my hon. Friend suggested.

Mr. O'Neill

How much in excess of the undertakings given at the time of the 1981 Act are the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman? Are they not greatly in excess of what we were led to believe would be the maximum level of privatisation of forestry land?

Mr. Younger

Not at all. The figures are pretty well on target with the undertakings given to the House when the sales programme went ahead. I am confident that that will continué over the rest of the programme.