HC Deb 23 March 1994 vol 240 cc278-9
14. Mr. Ian Bruce

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the powers currently available to the Forestry Commission to ensure woodland sold by it retains public access rights; and what plans he has to extend public access rights to such land.

Sir Hector Monro

Before offering a woodland for sale, the Forestry Commission notifies the relevant local authority and offers to enter into an access agreement with it to provide for continued public access after sale. Public rights of way are not, of course, affected by changes of ownership.

Mr. Bruce

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. He will know that the Forestry Commission has been effective in providing more and greater access to forests, particularly those in my constituency of South Dorset. Most of my constituents are very keen that, following the Government's current review of forestry, they should continue to have access. When does my hon. Friend expect to be able to come forward with the Government's plans to get over some of the problems arising from the denial of access when the Forestry Commission sells land?

Sir Hector Monro

I note what my hon. Friend says. I am glad that he has had such a satisfactory relationship with the commission in Dorset. As he knows, we received the forestry review group's report at the end of last month. That is important and we must go through it in great detail with_ all the Ministers involved. We hope to come to conclusions fairly soon. I assure my hon. Friend that access is a high priority, especially given that a sub-committee, having looked into the question, was not too impressed with what had been happening.

Mr. Galbraith

Is the Minister aware that in Scotland there is widespread concern about access to the countryside and to the mountains, not just because of the privatisation of forests but because of clauses 52 and 53 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill? Will the hon. Gentleman try to ensure that those two clauses, which deal with aggravated trespass, do not apply to Scotland?

Sir Hector Monro

The hon. Gentleman knows that this question deals with the Forestry Commission and with access to forests. The House will have noted his remarks, but I think that he is misinformed as to the likely results of the two clauses to which he has referred.

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