HC Deb 27 March 1996 vol 274 cc1016-7
4. Sir Thomas Arnold

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the new framework document for forestry policy. [21322]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Kynoch)

The framework document for the new Forest Enterprise Agency was published yesterday. There has been no change in forestry policy.

Sir Thomas Arnold

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the removal of tax reliefs and their replacement by a variety of grants has had the beneficial effect of removing the stigma of a tax haven and encouraged the implementation of new planting techniques?

Mr. Kynoch

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The intention of the package of incentives introduced in 1994 was to raise planting levels across the board, to increase the potential timber quality of broad-leafed woodlands and to help to improve the environmental and recreational value of forests. The total area of woodland planted last year, including restocking, was more than 33,000 hectares, so I believe that we are moving in the right direction.

Sir David Steel

Is the Minister aware that some of us are concerned about the gap that seems to be growing between the Government's declared policy in relation to the sale of forestry land and practice on the ground? Can he say what proportion of sales are going through without the public access agreements to which the Government are supposed to be committed?

Mr. Kynoch

Every effort is made to secure access agreements, which guarantee access for the public on foot. Following the forestry review, the Forestry Commission has encouraged local authorities to respond positively when offered access agreements; it has allowed them more time to consider the agreements and has offered to meet their reasonable legal costs.