HC Deb 31 January 1996 vol 270 cc988-9
6. Sir Thomas Arnold

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about forestry policy. [10790]

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson

The main aims of our forestry policy are the sustainable management of our existing woods and forests and the steady expansion of tree cover to increase the many, diverse benefits that forests provide.

Sir Thomas Arnold

Has the framework document for the new forest enterprise agency been agreed, and is there a problem with defining the specific rate of return that the agency will be expected to achieve?

Mr. Robertson

The framework document is actively under consideration by Ministers at the moment, and my noble Friend the Minister with responsibility for agriculture, forestry and the environment, who is responsible for that matter, will bring forward a statement in the near future.

Mr. Foulkes

Is the Minister aware that vast areas of forest in my constituency in south Ayrshire would have to be destroyed if the electricity interconnector with Northern Ireland went ahead? In view of the alarm caused by the laying of the gas pipeline and the threat to the forest, as well as to the people on the south-west coast from the explosives in Beaufort's dyke, does he agree that there should be a third public inquiry into the undersea section of that interconnector before it is allowed to go ahead?

Mr. Robertson

I commend the hon. Gentleman for getting a question about Beaufort's dyke into a question about forestry. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) was shaking his head in complete disbelief and I think that he summed up the feeling of the House.

Mr. William Ross

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that electricity lines need poles, can the Minister give the House any indication of what tonnages of softwood the Government would like to see produced in this country in 35 years hence, which is the length of time it takes a Sitka spruce tree to grow to available size? What quantities and tonnages of hardwoods will we need 100 years hence?

Mr. Robertson

Softwood is a particular concern of my noble Friend the Minister with responsibility for forestry, and I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman receives a full reply from him as soon as possible.