HC Deb 04 February 1988 vol 126 c1143
4. Mr. Bellingham

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what further steps he plans to take to encourage tree planting.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Donald Thompson)

There are existing grants available for tree planting and we shall also be introducing a farm woodland scheme later this year following the passage of the Farm Land and Rural Development Bill. In addition, the Community set-aside scheme, on which discussions are continuing in the Council of Ministers, is expected to include provision for woodlands on arable land.

Mr. Bellingham

Does my hon. Friend agree that, at a time of very large surpluses, it is ironic and regrettable that such a large percentage of our timber requirements are still imported? I welcome the new schemes, but does my hon. Friend agree that it is imperative to examine ways of improving the management of the existing 270,000 hectares of farm woodland? What measures does he propose to increase farm woodland management schemes of existing woodlands?

Mr. Thompson

I agree with my hon. Friend that we should do all that we can to grow more trees, and the schemes that I outlined in my initial reply will largely cover that. Advice from ADAS is always available on all aspects of management, and I am sure that that will be taken up more and more as the importance of trees becomes known to farmers.

Ms. Quin

In view of the concern that has been expressed about tree planting in the wrong places—for example, the large numbers of conifer plantations in many of our beautiful upland areas—will the Minister consult his hon. Friend the Chancellor and urge that the tax concessions made available for this activity be reduced or eliminated?

Mr. Thompson

Taxation is strictly a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I do not intend to wander down that path. Forestry, such as that described by the hon. Lady, is the province of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Miss Emma Nicholson

In support of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham), may I ask the Minister to look carefully at the scheme being put forward by Dartington Trust to help farmers manage existing small woodlands more effectively for commercial purposes?

Mr. Thompson

I will do as my hon. Friend asks.