HC Deb 04 June 1984 vol 61 cc7-8
5. Mr. Hooson

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is his evaluation of the prospects for further sales of Welsh Forestry Commission land in the course of the present Parliament.

The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. John Stradling Thomas)

The Forestry Commission has been asked to raise £82.1 million from property ales in Great Britain over the six-year period to 31 March 1987, but no specific share of the sales programme has been allocated to Wales.

However, between the passing of the Forestry Act 1981 and 21 April 1984 receipts from disposals in Wales amounted to £6.8 million and further properties to the value of some £5.5 million were in the process of being sold at that date. It is not possible at this stage to give any firm indication of the further properties that might be identified by the commission for sale or their value.

Mr. Hooson

Does my hon. Friend agree that private capital to create and maintain jobs is just as welcome in rural as in industrial Wales? Does he further agree that too little has so far been done to promote the realisation of forestry's considerable potential contribution to the Welsh countryside, jobs in rural Wales and the balance of payments?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. We want to see a flourishing public sector and a flourishing private sector, for the reasons which my hon. Friend has so well stated.

Mr. Rogers

Will the Minister ensure that purchasers of Forestry Commission land, especially in the south Wales mining valleys, fulfil their obligations towards the community? The Forestry Commission has clearly not been doing that and in areas such as the Rhondda the vandalism of the encroaching green forests has created enormous run-off and flooding problems, which have led in turn to excessive flooding at the top end of the valley. The Minister's colleague has refused to do anything about it or to convene a meeting of the interested parties, including the Welsh water authority, the Forestry Commission, and the county and district councils. When will the Welsh Office accept responsibility for the flooding of homes in the Rhondda?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

I should be most interested if the hon. Gentleman would provide me personally with evidence for those allegations. He must be aware that I pay great attention to forestry policy and its relationship to the countryside in both industrial and rural areas.

Sir Raymond Gower

Will my hon. Friend do all in his power to ensure that when forestry houses are sold their occupiers are given special consideration?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

I have noted that point and will give it further consideration.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Is the Minister aware of the concern expressed by the planning authorities, particularly in national parks, about the effect of sales on the environment? Will he ensure that no sales take place without prior consultation with the national park committees?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

The Forestry Commission certainly takes that into account in its disposals policy for national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Mr. Soames

Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the method of sale and the realisation of those forestry assets when they are sold on the open market?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

Yes, I am satisfied that good management considerations are fully taken into account by the commissioners.