HC Deb 01 May 1996 vol 276 cc1134-5
6. Mr. Pawsey

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many staff in his Department are involved in the administration of forestry, and at what cost. [26055]

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

The Forestry Commission currently employs 3, 600 staff throughout Britain, at an annual cost of £66 million.

Mr. Pawsey

I thank my hon. Friend for his typically helpful, detailed and comprehensive reply. Given the amount of resources being made available within the Scottish Office for United Kingdom forestry, does my hon. Friend feel that it might be wise to transfer those responsibilities to the Department of the Environment?

Mr. Kynoch

I am not sure that I heard my hon. Friend correctly. My hon. Friend's interest in forestry matters is well logged. Under Scottish Office guidance, forestry is faring exceedingly well. The Forestry Commission is looking for significant efficiency improvements in its manpower and expects to achieve a reduction of about 10 per cent. in staffing over the three years from 1994. Perhaps Labour-controlled local authorities in Scotland could learn from that.

Ms Roseanna Cunningham

What effect will the right of pre-emption have on the Government's plans for forestry in Scotland, given that it is likely to cause great difficulties in the transfer of crofting estates? Do the Government intend to introduce legislation to remove that feudal remnant from our past?

Mr. Kynoch

The hon. Lady will be aware that a consultation document on crofting has been issued. All the matters will be raised when the results of that consultation are known.