HC Deb 12 February 1987 vol 110 c443
2. Sir John Farr

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is his policy on the expansion of forestry in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Viggers

Our forestry policy is to promote the establishment of state and privately owned forests on land for which forestry is the most appropriate long-term use.

Sir John Farr

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his reply, but is he aware that a recent survey shows that Ulster is climatically better favoured than any other part of the United Kingdom for the growing of forestry products? As there is a high rate of unemployment in the Province and a surplus of milk and beef products. will my hon. Friend assure the House that he will encourage forestry as much as possible in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Viggers

My hon. Friend makes some helpful points. We do, indeed, encourage forestry. Expansion of forestry within the state sector depends on the availability of suitable land and public finance, while in the private sector grant schemes similar to those in Great Britain encourage the planting of woodlands.

Mr. Hume

I agree with the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr). Is the Minister aware that many experts believe that the counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh are the most ideal locations in western Europe in terms of climate and soil for the fast-growing willow tree, a source of ethanol, which separates lead from petrol? Does he agree that a major effort towards that alternative use of land by small farmers could transform the economy of the area, and will he support my request to the European Commission for a feasibility study?

Mr. Viggers

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will pursue his campaign in his own constructive way. I repeat that the Government's policy is to encourage forestry. We are considering various areas and other schemes. There has been some success in privatising tree-felling, and we can claim some credit for that.