HC Deb 01 March 1989 vol 148 cc262-3
4. Mr. Soames

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many conservation projects are currently being promoted by the Forestry Commission.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)

The Forestry Commission is currently promoting more than 170 major conservation projects on its own land. In addition, each of the 65 forest districts has a conservation plan which tyically indentifies a wide range of sites where smaller conservation projects are in hand.

Mr. Soames

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Forestry Commission plays a vital role in the conservation of our wildlife and should be wholeheartedly encouraged in that role?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. He may be interested to know that projects which the Forestry Commission is currently supporting include regenerating native pine woods, constructing ponds, erecting bat boxes, managing rides for butterflies, creating clearings for lizards, planting broad-leaves for diversification and even building homes for otters.

Mr. Kirkwood

If a mere commoner may be allowed to interpose himself in this somewhat aristocratic exchange, may I ask the Minister to give the House a categorical assurance that the Government have no plans to privatise the Forestry Commission during this Parliament?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The Government have no plans to privatise the Forestry Commission.

Mr. Adley

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Forestry Commission owns large tracts of land in my constituency, much of which is in an area constantly eyed by property developers who seem to have cash registers in place of eyes? Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that in future when the Forestry Commission is approached directly by property developers seeking to buy land he will instruct the Forestry Commission to make the relevant local authority aware of the approach and give it the opportunity to acquire the land in the first instance?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Sales of Forestry Commission land are governed by guidelines laid down by the Secretary of State in a letter to the chairman of the Forestry Commission on 28 May 1981. That letter was published in the Forestry Commission annual report, which is available in the Library. Planting must be carried out in an environmentally sensitive way. Contentious planning cases are ultimately referred to Ministers for decision.

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