HC Deb 01 March 1984 vol 55 cc374-5
2. Mr. Fisher

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what expenditure he made in 1983 in England under the forestry grant scheme; and what percentage of this was allocated to the planting of small woods and broadleaved species.

Mrs. Fenner

Expenditure in England under the forestry grant scheme for the year ended 31 March 1983—the most recent date for which information is readily available—was £593,000. Of this, £332,000, or 56 per cent., relates to broadleaved planting. The records held centrally do not differentiate between the sizes of the woodlands involved and this information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Fisher

Does the Parliamentary Secretary agree that the grants, although welcome, barely address the scale of the problem bearing in mind that since the second world war we have lost between 30 and 50 per cent. of our ancient woodlands? Were any of the ancient woodlands which are recipients of the grant included in the 956 woods which the Forestry Commission recently announced would be sold?

Mrs. Fenner

Any woods sold under the programme of disposals, if subject to sites of special scientific interest status, must, in consultation with the Nature Conservancy Council, be used in the same manner as all sites of special scientific interest. The recently published "Forestry Commission Census of Woodlands and Trees for England and Wales" — the most detailed survey since 1947 — reveals that in neither of those two aspects has there been a reduction in the total area of broadleaved cover. There have been some changes in the species.

Mr. Farr

Can my hon. Friend say what has been the net loss or gain of woodlands in recent years? For example, in the last year for which figures are available, was there a net loss or gain of woodlands nationally?

Mrs. Fenner

The figure of £332,000 which I gave for broadleaved planting represents 662 hectares, compared with 583 hectares of broadleaved planting grant-aided under the dedication scheme, which is now closed to applicants, so this is an improvement.

Sir Paul Hawkins

Will my hon. Friend pay a visit to Thetford forest in the eastern conservancy area and see what a marvellous job is being done there in felling and then replanting, with many hardwoods, in an area which previously was Scots pine and Corsican?

Mrs. Fenner

I am sure that I should be unable to resist such an invitation.