§ 2.38 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (THE EARL OF HUNTINGDON)
My Lords, one of the major problems facing the people of this country is the very serious shortage of timber. Not only does the shortage threaten our building programme, but it affects other industries in a hundred different ways. During the last two wars enormous inroads were made into our forests, and this sacrifice of wood has not been made good. Indeed, so far as we can see, it will be many years before we have a chance of curing this shortage. 520 The position would become very much more serious if this country were ever threatened with a crisis or war. If our supply from abroad were cut off our position in regard to timber would be truly desperate.
For these reasons, apart from the programme of reafforestation envisaged by the Forestry Commission, His Majesty's Government have accepted the scheme of dedication which was published in the Supplementary Report of the Forestry Commissioners. In the past private owners of woodlands have contributed an enormous amount of timber for this country's needs, and I should like now to acknowledge the very great debt that we owe to them. Encouraged by this experience we are again hoping that owners of private woodlands will replant their woodlands so that we shall have a reserve of timber in this country. But I do not think that we can expect them to go forward with a programme on this scale without getting some assistance from the State. The scheme of dedication is designed for this special purpose. It is to enable a private owner of woodlands to dedicate his forest for the growing of timber, and in return, to receive from the State assistance both in the form of advice and in grants. This scheme has been set out very fully in the Supplementary Report of the Forestry Commissioners, and I am sure that all the noble Lords who are interested in this subject will be familiar with this Report.
The Bill before your Lordships for Second Reading is for the purpose of enabling these private owners to enter voluntarily into an agreement with the Forestry Commission so that they can obtain the necessary grants. The owner can choose between two forms of financial assistance. Under Basis I he would receive 25 per cent. of the approved net annual expenditure on the dedicated woodlands. This payment would stop when the woodlands were self-supporting. Under Basis 2 he would receive £10 per acre for every acre planted or replanted, whether with hardwoods or softwoods. This rate of grant for planting would come up for reconsideration in five years' time, according to the conditions then obtaining. In addition, under Basis 2 there would be a maintenance grant for fifteen years for new plantations. This would be at the rate of 3s. 4d. per acre per annum 521 for five years from now, and it would be reconsidered in the light of the circumstances then obtaining. Further, a similar maintenance grant will be payable from the date of dedication in respect of all productive woodlands other than new plantations already mentioned. For these schemes, of replanting a plan of operation would be drawn up by the owner and would be approved, if suitable, by the Forestry Commission. These plans would, of course, have to be followed. Loans can be made available on both bases up to an amount to be fixed with reference to individual circumstances. Each loan, with compound interest at 3 per cent. per annum, would be repayable by annual instalments over a fixed period.
The first thing that this Bill ensures is that once the land has been dedicated it shall remain so whether it changes hands or not. In other words, it provides that the dedication should "run with the land." This is obviously essential as the Government could not contribute sums of money unless they were certain that the object for which the money was given would be achieved. The growing of trees is a long-term business. There is, of course, a precedent for this in both the Town and Country Planning Act of 1944, Section 3 (4), and in the more recent Water Act of 1945, Section 15. Secondly, it is proposed in this Bill that certain classes of limited owners—tenants for life and statutory bodies such as the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in England and Wales, and in Scotland trustees and life-renters and heirs of entail—should be empowered to enter into dedication schemes which would be binding upon their successors.
Now to come to the Bill itself. Clause 1 defines the nature of the restrictive covenant which owners of land may enter into with the Forestry Commissioners: and subsection (2) of this clause enables the Forestry Commissioners to enforce the covenant not only against the covenantor himself but against all subsequent owners of the same land. Clause 2 allows tenants for life or trustees to enter into dedication covenants, and also universities and colleges. Clauses 3 and 4 provide for precisely the same needs in Scotland, where the difference of the law has necessitated rather different wording and arrangement of the clauses. Clause 5 provides that where the Forestry Commission 522 exercise their powers of compulsory purchase under the Forestry Act of 1945 deductions shall be made from any compensation payable equal to the amount of the grants which have been advanced, plus interest at 3 per cent. This also applies where grants have been made within the twelve months before the passing of this Act. Clause 6 authorizes officers of the Forestry Commission to sign documents on behalf of the Secretary of State for Scotland. This has been found necessary as an administrative convenience.
Finally, I should like to emphasize again the importance of the voluntary principle—that is, the voluntary nature of these schemes of dedication, in which the owner is entirely free to enter into an agreement with the Forestry Commissioners, and that once he has entered into this agreement and received grants, he must clearly be bound to carry out his side of the agreement and do his best to see that the woods are properly managed. The final result will be an addition to the woodlands of this country. For the scheme to work, this Bill is necessary. I understand that the interested parties have been consulted and have agreed to the general principle of the scheme; therefore I hope that your Lordships, in considering this Bill, will appreciate the necessity for it, will agree that it is a non-controversial measure, and will give it a speedy Second Reading. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Huntingdon.)
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, I should like, very briefly, to congratulate the noble Earl on the way in which he has moved the Second Reading of this Bill and to commend the principle of the Bill to the House. I expect that all of us would wish that we might have a little more legislation from that side of the House commended to us by Ministers as being entirely voluntary. I think that everyone who has studied the question of forestry will agree that this Bill is founded on a sound principle, and any comments that I venture to make I hope the noble Lord will take as being made in an attempt to improve the Bill. There certainly are a few points that I think concern certain noble Lords who sit on this side of the House. I hope that the noble Earl will 523 take good note of the views expressed, because, as he is aware, many noble Lords in this House really have studied this subject most deeply, and also because the Bill is founded on the principle of voluntaryism. I am afraid that the use of the dedication principle, which is now being put before us, will be only on a limited basis unless the Bill commands, in its details, the general confidence of those who are being asked to dedicate their woods.
There are only two main points which I would like to mention, though I believe there are many others that other noble Lords would wish to deal with. First, as far as I can see there is no right of appeal provided for in the Bill. That means that an owner might dedicate his land, and a few years later the Forestry Commission might say that he was not running his woods according to the rules of good husbandry and that, therefore, they were going to take them over. I can see no machinery laid down at all for an appeal to be made in such a case or for arbitration between the parties as to whether, in fact, the woods have been mismanaged. Nor is there any provision for arbitration to interpret the words "breach of the covenant". I should like to ask the noble Earl if he will give his mind to that particular point.
Then I think that perhaps there is even greater concern about a clause which the noble Lord passed over rather rapidly—Clause 5. As I read Clause 5, referring back, as it does, to the compulsory purchase powers under the Act of 1945, it appears at once that compulsory purchase is not limited to badly-managed woods. It is a quite general power of compulsory purchase. When that power is used, the owner, as the noble Earl has already told us, has not only to repay the grant that fie bas received but he has to do so with interest at the rate of 3 per cent. per annum. As the noble Earl has truly said, forestry is a long-term business, and it may well be that the sum in question will have mounted to almost more than the value of the plantations concerned, particularly if the plantation has not done well, if and when a time of repayment comes.
As I read it, it is rather worse than that because if the woods are not under Schedule D this grant will have been 524 subject to Income Tax or Super Tax. Therefore, assuming that there is a profit on the woods it may well be that an owner having received something like £100 in grants, of which he may have paid £75 in Income Tax or Super Tax, will be called upon later to repay the £100. I admit that that is an extreme case. Perhaps I have exaggerated my figures, but I think it is best to do that in order to make clear the principle which I have in mind. I feel that I must give notice to the noble Earl that not only I but many other noble Lords also will want to deal with that question when the time comes for discussing this Bill in Committee. Those are the only two points which I would venture to raise now. I am quite sure that many other noble Lords in other parts of the House will seek a promise from the noble Earl of full consideration for these and other points which may be raised in the Committee stage, and I venture to commend this Bill as being certainly a Bill the principles of which your Lordships can approve.
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ LORD QUIBELL
My Lords, this is a very short Bill and one which is restricted in its scope; nevertheless, it is one that is necessary if we are to prevent delaying the implementation of the replanting policy of the Forestry Commission. Looking around the countryside, one finds large areas where the trees which once grew were felled as far back as during the period of the First World War, and which have remained unplanted to this day, the reason being—I think it will generally be admitted—that the owners in many cases had not the money to lay out in accordance with what has been rightly termed to-day a long-term policy. Under this policy, it may be necessary to wait for twenty years, forty years or even sixty years for a final crop of timber. Many owners, too, have been unable to replant, in the past, owing to the great cost involved. To-day it is a very different story, for I think that thanks to the policy that has been worked out by the Forestry Commission, finally accepted by the Government, and recommended to both Houses, substantial assistance and encouragement are being offered to landowners of this country to replant suitable timber-growing areas. These areas include thousands, even millions, of acres of waste land that ought to be an asset to the nation instead of being, as 525 they are, a standing disgrace in that they are growing nothing and are employing no labour. This little Bill is going to aid the private landowner to replant some of those large areas that would have been planted but for the fact of the exceptionally long periods that he has to wait before he can get a return on his outlay.
This Bill, I consider, ought to be very warmly welcomed. I have no doubt that some of your Lordships may fear certain of the powers which the Commission are seeking in this Bill, but I do not think there is any great reason for anyone to entertain such fears because I think it is true to say that, although the Forestry Commission have for many years possessed powers of compulsory purchase, they have never yet found it necessary to exercise them for afforestation. There seems to me to have been, on the part not only of the landowners but of the Commission and its servants, great common sense, patience, good will and co-operation. As a consequence, all the land that has been purchased and is now in the possession of the Commission, has been obtained by co-operative discussion and in a voluntary way between the landowner and the Commission. That good will has helped us on, until we are now in possession of something like 1,250,000 acres. I do not think, therefore, that there is any great fear so far as that side of the picture is concerned. Indeed, I think that we have been pretty generous in our planting grants. If—as some may fear—officers may call for a higher standard as a result of the grants, then that will be all to the good. Some of the private forests—not all—can well be improved, if we are not to fail lamentably.
So far as the grants are concerned, we have supported them on the ground that they make for better husbandry. If the grants which we are proposing to make under this little Bill do not achieve a higher standard, then to that extent we shall have failed. I hope everyone will realize that after two devastating wars, in which woodlands have been devastated to an extent none of us ever dreamt of, we must make a maximum contribution from these areas towards re-afforestation. There are millions of acres of land lying idle, which at present grow nothing but rabbits and rubbish. We want productive labour employed in replanting. It has been said before that we have something 526 like 300,000,000 trees to be planted. We have the trees; we have the skill in the directors and officers of the Forestry Commission; we have the land. What we want is the labour, and the passage of this little Bill as quickly as possible through this House, so that the Commission may be able to get on with the job of replanting the Waste lands of this country.
There is one other point I should like to mention. I am very sorry I am not a lawyer—his is a far more lucrative job than that of a bricklayer. The Minister referred to Clause 1, subsection (2) of the Bill. Being an ordinary bricklayer, I am rather puzzled by the language of this clause. If I wanted someone to read a clause and not to understand it, I think that this is the language I should adopt. We are asking the ordinary man to dedicate his lands; but permit me to say that when one reads this subsection he finds that if confusion were ever confounded it is in the language of this subsection (2). The subsection says:As regards the enforcement of a forestry dedication covenant against persons other than the covenantor the Commissioners shall have the like rights—what they are, I do not know—as if they had at all material times been the absolute owners in possession of ascertained land adjacent to the land in respect of which the covenant is sought to be enforced and capable of being benefited by the covenant, and the covenant had been expressed to be for the benefit of that adjacent land.For heaven's sake, will someone get up and explain what that means, for I can make neither my head nor my elbow of it? The more I read it, the more confused I am about it. I would be very delighted if the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, would tell us, some time during the debate, what this means, so that I may go to some of those landowners who are asking me what this means. It ought not to be beyond the wit of some of the legal gentlemen of this House to find words that would express the meaning of the subsection in a little more plain and understandable language. I support this measure.
§ 2.56 p.m.
§ LORD COURTHOPE
My Lords, I had not expected to speak in this debate quite so soon, but the noble Lord who should have followed is not in his place, so perhaps I may be allowed to speak 527 now. Before saying what I have to say, I must admit to your Lordships that I am one of the Forestry Commissioners and, consequently, am not an impartial person in dealing with this Bill. I may have to share in the duty of administering it when it becomes an Act of Parliament. Having said that, I want to emphasize that I am addressing your Lordships' House today not so much as a Commissioner, but as a woodland owner. For nearly forty years one of my principal interests has been the sylviculture of my own woods, having studied them pretty carefully, though not by any means extravagantly, nor, I think, with anything like the success of some of your Lordships. (I see the noble Duke beside me, whose woods are famous and whose management is famous.) I cannot claim anything like that distinction, but I can assure your Lordships—particularly those who are woodland owners—that there is nothing to be afraid of in this scheme of dedication.
I would emphasize and support the words of my noble friend who has just spoken, that it is very desirable that anything difficult of interpretation should be cleared up. I think I know what Clause 1 (2) means, but I am not going to try to explain it. I hope that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will do that before the debate comes to an end, because we do not want anything left in doubt.
There is one point I want to make at once. This Bill—I think successfully—deals with the permanent dedication, or the power to dedicate permanently, in the case of tenants for life, and other limited owners, in England and Scotland; with one exception. The noble Earl who moved the Second Reading specifically mentioned that the Bill covers the Ecclesiastical Commission. I believe that it does, but the Ecclesiastical Commission are satisfied that it does not cover glebe, and that it does not cover ecclesiastical corporations, such as the Deans and Chapters who, in some cases—not many—own woodlands which might be, and I think ought to be, subject to dedication. I mention this, because I was present at a meeting of the Estates Committee of the Ecclesiastical Commission last Thursday, and we were very surprised to find that the clause which had been drawn to deal 528 with glebe and ecclesiastical corporations, which I understood had been agreed and submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture, had not been printed in the Bill. I am not making a criticism now but I ask the noble Earl if that may be looked into, because if it is an omission which should be looked into I am sure that he would wish to deal with it.
Having mentioned that one particular point, I should like to touch on one or two others which I think need looking into. There is some doubt as to the operation of Clause 5. The noble Earl who spoke first from these Benches mentioned it. Again I think that I can interpret Clause 5, but some people are in doubt about it. Is the value at which the planted land is to be taken over, in the case of failure of a dedication scheme, to be the 1939 value, or is it to be cost or the current market value? It makes a great deal of difference. If, for instance, it is the full market value of the day, I do not see that there is any particular hardship in the proposal to take into account interest on the advances that were made, but, if it is the 1939 value, or cost, it would be sheer robbery. Those are points which I think want looking into and made quite clear. I hope that I have made my meaning clear to the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of this Bill. I would admit at once—and I think everybody would—that all the appropriate expenditure, whether in the case of a subsidy or grant, or whatever it is, should be taken into account, and I personally should think the Bill would be very much better if the clause were drawn in such a way as to say it should be taken into account, rather than to lay down definitely that a rate of interest had got to be recovered and repaid as far as the dedicating owner is concerned on all the grant and maintenance payments which have been made in the past.
Another point which I have had brought to my notice is that some people are in doubt as to whether the word "timber," which is used in two clauses, has in this Bill the limited application or definition which used to be common in the old Statute laws, or whether it has the wider and more modern meaning which it holds, I believe, in the other Forestry Bills. I have, myself, little doubt it has the more modern meaning, but that is a doubt that is felt in some Quarters, and it is one 529 that ought to be cleared up in the interests of the smooth working of the Bill when it becomes an Act.
Further, questions have been raised by a number of people which, as a Forestry Commissioner, I have not been able to answer, and which I think I ought to be able to answer. These questions relate to the liability to Income Tax of the planting grants. So far as I can understand the law myself, I think if the woods are assessed under Schedule B, the planting grant will have a capital effect and not in any case be subject to Income Tax; but if the woods are assessed under Schedule D, the amount of the planting grant will come in either for assessment for Income Tax if the total amount, the Schedule D amount, shows a profit, or as a diminution, a claim for rebate, of Income Tax if the Schedule D amount shows a loss. I ask the noble Earl to be so good, in the general interest of his Bill, and of those of us who will have to administer it, to get that point cleared up before the Bill reaches the Statute Book, because there is grave doubt about it.
May I revert to the point which I mentioned first—namely, my contention that the woodland owner need have no fear of dedication. The Forestry Commission, and, of course, the Ministries behind them, have no desire to do anything but help. The Commissioners will have their hands more than full in dealing with the estate plantings. I would recall to your Lordships' minds the fact that the scheme which has been adopted for postwar planning places an obligation upon the Commissioners to add three million acres of bare land to the forest area in a period of time. That is a very big undertaking indeed, and I think that those of us who have got to struggle with that great problem must, in order to succeed in carrying it out, not be embarrassed by a lot of dedicated land coming into our hands, or of dedication failing. The last thing we want is to have land which has been dedicated, or ought to be dedicated, to be taken over by us to be planted by the effort of the Forestry Commission and their staff. It would be a very serious embarrassment, and I hope that the woodland owners will remember that. What the Forestry Commission want to do is to make it easy for them, the woodland owners, to produce a reasonable crop on their woodland area so as not to 530 compel the Commissioners to step in and take the area over themselves.
There is only one other point which I want to raise. Some people have been frightened by the condition of dedication that the land dedicated must be maintained for the production of timber. That is the main purpose. It is not the least inconsistent with sporting rights or the maintenance of game. Before the war a good deal of importance and a good deal of value were attached to sporting rights, and I can only quote my own experience as a small example. Since I started nearly forty years ago trying to put my woodlands—which were in very bad condition indeed—into a proper sylvicultural condition, I have enormously increased their carrying capacity for pheasants. I do not know whether I can expect His Majesty's Government to attach very great importance to that, but the sporting rights have become a very material point in the value of my property, and that was not diminished but was very greatly augmented by the fact that woods were properly planted out and properly maintained. There is nothing in sound sylviculture which is inconsistent either with sport or with amenity if they are properly handled. I hope that fear will not deter anybody.
Some people, too, may think they do not know what a working plan is. I wonder how many landowners do know what a working plan is. I did not. Although I did not, as a Forestry Commissioner, almost since the beginning, I have been running my woodlands on what I hoped was a sound principle. All I had to do was this. I wrote down on paper the methods upon which I ran my woodlands and submitted the statement which was accepted without demur. It is a working plan, although I did not know it. I am certain that all of us who are woodland owners are doing our best and have been doing our best to produce timber and to run our woods on sound sylvicultural lines. I believe all they will have to do is to put their plans on paper and submit them. With a little advice and a little friendly amendment I think they will find no particular difficulty in satisfying the Commissioners and their officers on that subject. The same thing applies to the very simple accounts which will be required.
There is one other point which I ought to have mentioned sooner, but which I 531 forgot. I was talking about Clause 5, and the point that slipped my memory was with regard to the possible claim not only for repayment of grants but of interest at 3 per cent. It has been pointed out that there would be a special unfairness in that point, because the owner who is having to pay it would have had no opportunity to bring it into his accounts as a relief from Income Tax in the past. In effect, he would have paid Income Tax already on the amount of money that was claimed from him as the 3 per cent. interest on the grants which he is called upon to repay. I hope I have made that point clear. I do not want your Lordships to think that I have raised all these points contumatiously. They are points about which I have been asked by a great many people who are interested in forestry, and I have mentioned them now in the hope that, so far as they exist, they may be cleared up before the Bill reaches the Statute Book so as to give it the best possible chance of rendering the service which we all hope it will render.
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ LORD HARLECH
My Lords, as a considerable woodland owner on the Welsh border I would like to say a word or two on this Bill. One naturally welcomes it as freeing one legally to take advantage or not of the dedication scheme, which is one of the methods whereby the Government seek to reafforest the devastated woodland areas of this country. Undoubtedly the position of tenants for life, various corporations, trustees and the like—in fact our whole system of land law and land legislation of the past is out of date. In so far as the Bill alters that, and enables the tenant for life to enter into long-term commitments, I think it is wholly to be welcomed. But I am faced with the fact that my seat is on property where a great deal of forestry has been carried out, at any rate for the last two years, continuously by successive owners on the same property.
Whether this Act will succeed in reafforesting areas that have been cut down during this war is not merely a legal arrangement, not merely a permissive thing, but also a very practical problem. I am earnestly in doubt as to whether the dedication scheme will in effect do it, or at any rate do it now, for quite practical 532 reasons. A large number of my woodlands were cut down early in the war, having been requisitioned by the Ministry of Supply. During the war there has not been the labour, the young trees or the wire to keep the vermin and the rabbits out or to prevent every kind of weed, bramble and scrub growing up. And the way they were cut down by the Canadians and others left great stumps everywhere.
I am in doubt as to whether as an economic or as a practical proposition it is possible to go in for the dedication scheme covered by this Bill unless the Government can assure us that we shall be given the same priority as the Forestry Commission will get themselves for the necessary materials. These materials, as I see it, are threefold. The first thing is the fencing, because during the war most of us have abolished gamekeepers; there are no more gamekeepers and there will not be game-rearing again. The farmers in the farm areas have done their best to keep down the rabbits, and organizations have got busy there; but in these derelict woodlands on the hillsides the rabbit menace is worse now than it ever was, and on top of that we have got an increasing number of grey squirrels. If you are going to plant conifers, which I believe is what the Forestry Commission want, then the grey squirrel prefers the young conifers, and the leading shoots of the young conifers, which is the important thing. Who is going to deal with the animal pests? Are we going to get the wire? At present you have to fill up endless forms and permits and invariably other people get the priority. The Government will get the first priority, and the dedicating woodland owner will probably come off second, third, fourth or fifth best.
Then there are the young trees to be planted. I have been endeavouring to get some young trees. We had a nursery before the war, but that nursery was given up. It was put under potatoes and all the things which the Ministry of Food rightly wanted, and there are no more young trees. Am I to start up a new nursery? Shall I get the stock? The noble Lord who has just spoken runs an admirable organization from which I bought trees in the past. I applied last year for a few thousand larch and other trees, and there was a long queue waiting.
533 Much the most serious thing is the labour. Really the bottle-neck with labour for forestry, agriculture and everything else is housing. We shall not get the woods tidied up and replanted, and still less new areas planted, unless we have the labour. My property straddles King Offa's Dyke and lies between 1,400 feet at the top and 300 feet above sea level. It is ideal for growing timber and it has in the past grown magnificent timber. But such cottages as are there are now, because of the war, still occupied by refugees from the bombed cities and by people who work in the towns, and one cannot turn them out. When we come to try to get labour to work in the upland areas where the much needed conifers are wanted, we find there are no houses. What chance have we, if we go in for a dedication scheme, of getting any new foresters' cottages built? We shall have to go to the local authority and we shall have to get a permit from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of Works, and the Ministry of Education. And we shall have to apply not to London, where one knows there are human beings, but to the Regional Offices of these people!
The biggest snag of all in this matter of rural housing is the Ministry of Education. I can only give you my most recent experience. It does not relate to my own building, although I am most anxious to build agricultural labourers' cottages not only to cope with the increase in arable land and the increase in agricultural production (which at present depends entirely for its continuance upon prisoner-of-war labour), but also to help to put my devastated woodland areas in order. What is our recent experience? The local rural district council made an assessment of the area where there was the greatest urgency for new farm labour and they fixed upon a site for a group of cottages which was conveniently situated with regard to the most progressive and developing farms.
It was an ideal site; it was on a bus route and everything was perfect. The Ministry of Health approved, the Minister of Agriculture approved—in fact nearly everybody approved. But then came down the Ministry of Education, who said, "Oh, this group of cottages"—the only one planned by the rural district council in that part of the area—"is too 534 far from the school." The result was that they scrapped it, and now there is no scheme for building rural cottages. What has happened since? There has been a review under the new Education Act, and under that review the county authorities have said, quite rightly, that the school in that particular area cannot be added to. It is in a bad site, it is remote from the bulk of the population, it is an old school built before 1870, and it must be scrapped. They have selected for the new school they are going to put up—the only one they recognize—the site on which the local rural district council wanted to build these cottages! That sort of thing is happening up and down the country. That is only one example of the number of cooks who are endeavouring to cook this rural housing pudding.
The local representative of the Forestry Commission came to see me quite recently about my woodlands, about an upland area not hitherto planted and which will be under the 999 years' scheme. I said to him: "Your difficulty will be labour and housing," but he replied: "That does not worry us because we have not got to go to the local authority, or to the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Education. We, the Forestry Commission, have merely got to tell the Office of Works where we want our cottages and they will put them up for us." That is being done by the State for the State forests but what hope, under the dedication scheme, has the private landlord got of getting new cottages for new forest labour? I can see no hope for him until he has freedom to build, and to build where he likes. By all means let us maintain and improve the standards, but even when you have agreed upon the standards, what are you up against? I have got two cottages which were started under the old Act, and which are completed up to the roof; the roof timbers and all the rest of it are erected. We were told to design them for local slates, because we are in a slate country. The walls were standing, the waterpipes are in and the drains are finished. I am told I must not have slates from North Wales, and that I must apply to South Wales, but they have not got any slates for me. I am told I must apply to Cornwall, but Cornwall has not any slates for me. The last suggestion is that I should apply to Sweden to get the slates to finish these houses which are finished but for the 535 slates. And this when we have slate quarries near by! There are endless forms and endless correspondence.
What hope is there, if we adopt the dedication scheme, of getting our woods cleared, wired and replanted unless we can get the necessary housing in the appropriate areas? It is quite hopeless. I am sure this is not because of ill will on the part of the Government; they do not mean it. They want to see the woodlands cleared, cleaned, and afforested; they want to see the rabbits exterminated—and so do we. But at every turn we are clogged by the control of this and the control of that, and by the vast number of officials of the various Ministries. You get a thing back, you write to Whitehall, you get an acknowledgment from the Private Secretary to a Minister, the matter goes to the Region, and an inspector comes down. We are being clogged; we are prevented from doing anything—and in the meantime the woods get worse, the vermin gets worse and nothing gets planted.
When we come to dedication and the working out of the policy of this Bill, I hope that the Forestry Commissioners will decentralize from London more effectively than they did before the war. I think that is most important. After all, this is, geologically and climatically, a most varied country. A policy for East Anglia, for the Thetford area, will not apply in Wales. A North Welsh policy may be suitable for the Conway Valley, where the Forestry Commission have done magnificent work, but it will not necessarily apply on the Border or elsewhere. My property is not large, but across it there run from the north-east to the south-west three geological formations, with utterly different soils, utterly different rock formations and utterly different conditions. You can see that in the timber and in the varieties of timber that succeed.
Along most of the Welsh border the country is, of course, typical oak country. From Hawarden to the Valley of the Wye the finest oaks in Britain, or indeed in Europe, have grown for centuries. The Welsh border country is the ideal country for growing oak. The oak, however, is a slow-growing tree. I believe the great Powis Castle oaks near me are at least a thousand years old, and they are flourishing till this day. They are the finest trees, not merely in 536 Britain but in the world. I have, on my own property, oaks, without a dead branch on them, that are certainly five hundred years old. But we want conifers; that is agreed. By experiment we have found out the very limited range of conifers which will succeed, particularly on the old silurian system with high rainfall and heavy clay. Therefore it is absolutely vital that there should be effective co-operation between those of us who have had experience of this matter and the Forestry Commissioners as to what you should, or should not, plant.
My forebears made experiments with Japanese larch, but we find the old Alpine larch does very much better. We find that the Douglass grows magnificently, but under our particular conditions the number that do not have their heads lopped off in the winter gales is few and far between. The Sitka would seem a more reliable tree as far as our conditions are concerned. All that kind of thing is what we have found by experience. If, under the dedication scheme, all that experience is going to be collected and adapted to the various regions, well and good, but if the whole business is going to be run by saying, "Oh, no, we want x standards of this particular variety of tree or timber," then there will be economic loss and economic failure. The only thing is constant adaptation to circumstances.
May I put in one more plea as against the short view? I agree we want pit props, and I agree we want soft woods, but do let us, in the interests of our countryside and tradition, have some deciduous timber. Of course it is a much longer range, it is a 200-year rotation as opposed to 80- or 100-year rotation, but it does make the whole difference to the tradition and aspect of our countryside, particularly on the Welsh border with our magnificent deciduous timber. I do not want to see the whole area like one Black Forest. Who knows whether in two hundred years' time oak will not be as much wanted as soft woods? I do appeal to those who are going to carry out this Act under the dedication scheme, with the control that it gives to the State—and nowadays the State inevitably has got to take control to a very large extent; it has got to pay part of the business and therefore it has a right of control—to take the long view. Do let us bear that in mind and take the long view.
537 I conclude by saying that the success of this Bill we are dealing with today depends upon administration. Nothing else matters, whatever is in the Act of Parliament. Whether the scheme is operated successfully or not, whether by the Forestry Commission or by woodland owners, depends upon the practical working out of the scheme, the provision of methods of keeping out and destroying vermin, the provision of labour, the education of labour and, above all, the housing of labour in the forest areas. It is quite useless to say that your forester shall live in the town and cycle out or go by a bus to his forest areas—it is quite impossible. He has got to live on the job, watching for protection against fire, keeping down the pests and really getting to know his job on the spot. We in Wales have not lived in towns and in villages but have always lived scattered. If the policy of the Government housing scheme, that they have got to live in satellite towns and not be scattered in the country or else be concentrated in growing villages, is carried out, I am quite sure the only result will be that you will get bad woodlands, derelict woodlands. You will not get the job done as it ought to be done; and the job wants doing very badly.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ LORD GLENTANAR
My Lords, we have heard most eloquent and interesting speeches from members of your Lordships' House from England and Wales, and I will now try to put some points before your Lordships which are particularly relevant to Scotland. As a member of one of the Regional Advisory Committees appointed by the Forestry Commission, I am constantly being asked questions about the dedication scheme. I am sure we are all very sympathetic with the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of this Bill in his endeavour, and in the Government's endeavour, to set going a scheme along the lines proposed in order to get the much-needed afforestation carried out. I believe that it is hoped by the Forestry Commissioners that some forty per cent. of the total area to be re-afforested may be carried out by means of this scheme. I must say that I am a little disappointed by some of the terms of this Bill, because I feel that if this dedication scheme is to be adopted it must be sufficiently attractive and, above all, it must get over the fears which are in the minds of many 538 owners as regards the possible repercussions in the future.
I sometimes feel that the Forestry Commission do not altogether appreciate what effects there may be in such a long-term policy as is envisaged. The noble Earl has made it clear that it is intended, once this scheme is adopted, that there shall be no getting out of it. Now I think many owners and many trustee feel that in a contract of this kind—and this is a contract between the landowner and his successors and the Commissioners, who are the Government representatives, and their successors—which is a contract for perpetuity, there should be a method of contracting out, possibly for both parties. The only method of contracting out which exists, as far as I can see, is by the Minister or Commissioners carrying out a compulsory purchase of the land. I do not know if it would be possible at this stage, but I am quite sure that if the Bill could be adjusted so that either party could, in suitable circumstances, contract out, that would remove a great many fears which now exist. Naturally, it would have to be very carefully controlled. It might be only after a certain period of years, or it might be dependent upon a succession from one owner to another.
But if such a scheme could be worked out it might be on the basis that an independent assessor would take into consideration what both parties had spent in operating the scheme up to the point at which the contract was ended. He would also take into consideration the value of the woodlands at the time the contract was ended as compared with the time the contract was entered upon. And from that an equitable financial adjustment could be made. Both parties would then be free, and if the Forestry Commissioners or the Minister then wished to acquire the land compulsorily all the adjustments would be made. It occurs to me that it is possible that the Forestry Commissioners would not want always to acquire compulsorily in such circumstances. It is possible that, should there be a break-down in the scheme for one reason or another, they may be confronted with having to buy an enormous amount of property, some of which they might not wish to acquire. I think it would not impair the prospects of the scheme if the scheme could be made in such a way that either party could contract out, providing sufficient safeguards were introduced. At 539 the same time great apprehension would be removed.
I would like to support all that the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, said about the importance of an independent arbiter. It seems to me quite wrong that in any contract between two parties one of the contracting parties should be the judge as to what is right and what is wrong. It is against the whole principle of contract, and if an independent arbiter were provided I think that would increase the popularity of the scheme. If we follow this point which I am trying to make of the necessity of equality of obligation and of opportunity, we must consider whether, under a likely future or in any circumstances, it is possible for succeeding owners to continue and implement their part of the bargain. Much timber has been felled during the war, and the capital which has been realized by these fellings ought to be used for replanting. I feel sure that the Forestry Commissioners and His Majesty's Government would like to ensure that it is used for the purpose of reafforestation.
We have heard the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, who pointed out that for soft woods one must give a period of rotation of eighty to one hundred years, and in cases of hard woods one must give double that time. During that period it is likely there will be two, or possibly more, deaths among the landowners, and that money will be subject to Estate Duty. By the time the third owner comes and tries to do his part of the bargain he will not have my money with which to do it. I would ask my noble friend who is occupied with this Bill if it would be possible for His Majesty's Government to consider the issue of a special series of bonds which would be available to dedicators under this scheme, these bonds to be free of Estate Duty and issued at a very low rate of interest. They would be redeemable in exact proportion to the grants made under the scheme, and they would be limited to the size of the scheme approved by the Forestry Commission. Such provisions would prevent the possibility of these bonds being used in any other way except for the purposes of carrying on this dedication scheme, but the bonds would have the two-fold effect of ensuring, firstly, that the landowner, looking to the future, would know that he had a certain amount of money ready to carry out his part of 540 the bargain over a long period, and, conversely, the Government would know that, in respect of that dedication, failure through lack of funds could be ruled out. I would ask my noble friend who is promoting this Bill if he will turn his mind to such a possibility.
Might I just say a word about Clause 5? Clause 5 as it stands will frighten a great many people because, although one would never imagine that the Forestry Commissioners would wish to put this clause to any nefarious purpose, it could be used for a measure of buccaneering. If compulsory purchase by the Forestry Commission is not limited to cases where the scheme is being badly carried out and where reafforestation is being badly done, it is possible for the Commissioners to take over after sixty years, shall we say, and to get the very nearly matured timber at its full worth and, at the same time, get their part of the contribution back again. This would be unfair.
I have only one small matter I would like to bring to the notice of my noble friend in connexion with the Scottish Clauses. On first reading Clause 4, subsection (1), a certain amount of apprehension was felt, even by legal authorities, as to the possibility that the word "liferenter" might cover all liferenters. Some of your Lordships will be aware of the fact that in Scotland we have two kinds of liferenters. There is what is known as the proper liferenter, and there is the beneficiary liferenter. The proper liferenter is one who is not under any trust and who is virtually the owner of the land. I believe this clause refers to him, and not to the beneficiary liferenter. I believe that the governing words are the words "in possession of any land." The beneficiary liferenter, being under a trust, is never in possession of any land, but I should be glad if my noble friend could make it quite clear that the words in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) refer to what is known in Scotland as the proper liferenter.
I am afraid that I have been wearying your Lordships with some rather trying matter, but I would assure you that I, for one, hope to see this scheme properly launched and taken full advantage of. It is purely because of my desire that there may be no apprehensions in the minds of those who are now considering this scheme that I would strongly urge 541 that all the points which are being brought to the notice of His Majesty's Government by your Lordships to-day should be very carefully weighed. So far as possible, every step should be taken to remove apprehensions which are very rightly and properly felt by those who have to think not only of their position and interests, but of those who will come after them, and who may not be in such a good position to carry on the scheme as they themselves now are.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH AND QUEENSBERRY
My Lords, the success of these proposals will depend almost more than anything else upon the spirit in which they are administered. The Minister responsible for forestry and the Secretary of State for Scotland, in another place, made a tremendous appeal for co-operation by the owners of woodlands, and also gave an assurance of generous co-operation on the part of the Government. I feel sure that the noble Lord who represents the Government here, in this matter, will be ready to give a similar assurance. I am sure that it will also be agreed that this subject of forestry should be kept as far as possible out of politics, and I think credit is due to the Government for bringing forward a measure calculated to be as free from controversy as possible.
I would like to support what my noble friend Lord Courthope said to the effect that owners entering into dedication ought not to be alarmed. But I feel also that it should be clearly understood that a very serious obligation is being placed on any who do dedicate. It does mean that the management of woodlands, from start to finish, must be very efficient and, generally speaking, of a high order. Also it means that very high costs will be involved, to ensure that the standard which will be necessary is reached. It is important that this should be understood on the Governmental and Parliamentary side generally. It is also important to try to express this without, at the same time, alarming growers of timber and giving them the impression that their task is too great. The task before them is not insuperable, but it is a very big one, and in return, and in consideration of what is to be done by them, the reward is not likely to be very great, nor is the assistance which is to be given really very much. On the economic side, it will be a very good bargain for the State, just as it was during the war 542 when very large supplies of home-grown timber were made available to the Government at moderate prices, and when, at the same time, they recovered millions of pounds in taxation on timber converted by timber merchants.
I think it would surprise noble Lords and the members of the Government to know how very small, really, the total cost in grants towards the growing of timber under private enterprise has been in this country during the twenty-six years which have elapsed since the grants first started, and how great, in contrast, has been the amount which the Government have obtained in taxation. These proposals were discussed and agreement was reached in 1943. Since that time, the expenses of afforestation have risen very steeply. But it should be borne in mind that timber prices—maximum controlled prices for standing timber—are still at the 1939 level. The Government are wise to increase the planting grant to £10 per acre and the annual maintenance grant to 3s. 4d. per acre. If they are successful in getting a large acreage of well grown timber at that price, it will be a very good bargain for them.
There is one point about the grant which I might perhaps mention. I do not intend, by anything I say, not to give full credit for what has been done. I feel it right on behalf of tree-growers to thank the Government and the Commission for the grant of £10 per acre and the 3s. 4d. maintenance grant. But I think all those who are concerned would like to know when the maintenance grant comes into operation. It was discussed in 1943, and I suggest that it should come into operation in 1946, or, at the very latest, in 1947. I hope that information will soon be forthcoming about that. I think it is not unfair to say that while the maintenance grant of 3s. 4d. is welcome, a figure higher than that was advocated by the industry. The present figure is not an agreed figure and I think it must have been by accident that it was stated that it was, in another place.
The terms of the actual dedication agreement are not yet known. Until they are known it is very difficult to say whether the proposals in the agreement are acceptable. The cause of the delay is unavoidable—I understand that it is due mainly to the Forestry Commission's shortage of staff. That is quite understandable, especially as the Commission have to send 543 so many of their best men to Germany. I do feel that a cautionary note should be sounded in regard to the rate of progress that can be anticipated during the first few years. My noble friend Lord Harlech has put before us, very ably, the difficulties relating to labour, plants, and housing. I would like to ask the Minister to express his recognition of the fact that slow progress will be unavoidable on many woodland estates during the first few years. It is absolutely clear that that must be the case. I hope that he will recognize that many woodland owners are not only worried about it, but that, in consequence, they may feel obliged to decline to enter into dedication, simply because at present no ways are visible of implementing it.
The Secretary of State for Scotland, in another place, urged the vital necessity for replanting cleared, felled areas as soon as possible. I think there will be general agreement that this should be done without any delay and before taking fresh areas which may have to be cleared of stock. If this is to be done, the closest possible combination between the Forestry Commission and their officers and the owners of private woodlands will be called for, especially in the case of the smaller woodland owners. It is satisfactory that, in principle, the Forestry Commission do allow the use, when convenient, of their staffs for replanting, and I hope that whenever it is convenient, where there are these small areas urgently needing replanting, they will be as sympathetic as possible.
Housing has been mentioned, and I would like to ask the Government—and in particular the Minister responsible for forestry and the Secretary of State for Scotland—to use their influence about housing, in order to secure that there is at least equal priority for rural employees, for the rural population, and (in this particular case) for woodmen. Unless that influence is used, the situation for some years must be very serious. It is bad enough for the Forestry Commission, but it is far worse for others. As the noble Earl realizes—and as is well known—the Forestry Commission are at present arranging to build large numbers of tied houses. That is recognized by the Government as being a fact, and it cannot be contradicted. In view of this, I hope 544 that the Government will make some concession on principle about tied houses, and will realize that it is necessary for private enterprise—as it is for the Government—to have woodmen in houses on the spot. May I add one further word? I would repeat again, that I am confident that if the good relationship now existing between the Forestry Commission and the private woodland owners is continued—as I am sure it will be—and if the proposals are administered in a practical, sympathetic and proper spirit, we shall be successful as a result of this Bill.
§ 4.02 p.m.
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
My Lords, I intend to detain you for only a very few minutes, but being the chairman of a Regional Advisory Committee in Scotland I am naturally brought into contact with a variety of woodland owners, and I hope that you will bear with the few remarks which I wish to make. I have no criticisms of this Bill, which I think is an excellent Bill. It merely provides machinery, I understand, for carrying out the proposals of the previous Foresty Act, and as such it will have, I hope, the full support of your Lordships' House. I wish to remain as relevant as I possibly can to the terms of this Bill, which are concerned purely with the dedication of woodland, but I would like to say that in Scotland—with which I am concerned—I believe that we have always been forestry-minded. I think that we are becoming more forestry-minded every day; we realize the vital importance of conserving and augmenting our timber resources. When you remember that one acre of woodland can produce one hundred tons of timber, then its vital importance to our security, in the unhappy event of another war taking place, is clearly demonstrated.
Much of the initial apprehension which existed concerning the dedication of the woodlands has, I think, been allayed, and I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Courthope, say the same thing. We now understand that provided a woodland owner will carry out the four obligations which are inherent in dedication—to devote his land to the production of timber, to work according to plan, to provide proper supervision for his woodlands, and to maintain adequate accounts—then he will find the minimum of interference from Forestry Commission officials. It is very gratifying to know 545 that, and I feel that it will greatly allay any fear which there has been with regard to the dedication scheme. I think the original committees will be able to help more and more in this respect as soon as the actual covenant of dedication becomes known. I would very much press the noble Earl who is to reply to tell us when this covenant—the actual document of dedication—is to be made available. Surely, it is in the interests of both the Forestry Commission, who want to know which woods are to be dedicated and which are not, and of the woodland owners themselves, to have this information as soon as possible. Might I also put one other question to the noble Earl? That is, on the subject of the loans. I am glad that he has announced the percentage of the loans—three per cent., I think he said. Are they to be made available as soon as the land is dedicated, and as soon as the deed of covenant is signed? I should be grateful if in his reply the noble Earl would answer that question.
As regards dedication, the case of the large woodland owner does not cause me very much concern, because I feel that his case is pretty well cut and dried. When he has studied the matter, he will decide whether he can afford to dedicate or not. If he does not, I presume that his woodlands will be taken over by the State. It is the small woodland owner for whom I am concerned. Many of these woods are not suitable for dedication. They are too small, or they are scattered about the country in little groups, and the Forestry Commission do not want them. The Commission will not be able to acquire small blocks—perhaps twenty acres, or 100 acres, or 200 acres—which are far from their own forests. The Commission would be unable to manage them. What is to happen to these small woodland owners? Let me remind your Lordships of the importance of the small woodlands. Out of 3,000,000 acres of afforested woodlands in this country in 1944, 1,000,000 acres or one-third—consisted of small woodlands. And do not forget that some of the very best timber in the country comes from the small woodlands, because these woods are often planted in good agricultural country. The trees are growing in good soil, and they produced the finest hardwood timber ever felled during the war. They provide shelter for man and beast, and are therefore of infinite value to the farmer.
546 Finally, let us not forget the æsthetic contribution which these small woodlands make to the countryside. For that reason I think the small woodlands deserve the maximum of consideration from His Majesty's Government. Remember, too, that these owners are in great difficulties, because in many cases, they are farmers, with little knowledge of woodland practice. It is not their business; their business is farming. They will not know what species to plant. They will not know at what distance apart to plant their trees. They will want advice. That is where I would ask if the Forestry Commissioners can help as much as possible by giving sympathy, advice and assistance. If they can do that, I am sure that it will be very much appreciated.
§ 4.10 p.m.
My Lords, before the noble Earl replies, I should like to support what the noble Earl, Lord Haddington, has said. The small woodland owner is very much given the "go-by." He is in a much more difficult position than the man with, say, ten thousand or twenty thousand acres of forest with which to deal, which is an easy thing for the Government to take over. It is extremely difficult for a man with small areas of, say, twenty, thirty or forty acres to undertake the necessary expense, to acquire the labour or even to employ a proper forester. I hope that the Government will give consideration to what the noble Earl has said.
§ 4.11 p.m.
THE EARL OF RADNOR
My Lords, I do not propose to detain your Lordships for very long. The one major point on which I wish to lay a certain amount of stress, and to which emphasis has been given in the speeches by the noble Earl, Lord Haddington, and the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, is that in this country, particularly in the more thickly populated parts of the country, woodlands are small and scattered. It is essential in the interests of the nation that these small and scattered woodlands, and in fact all woodlands, should be maintained in their full productive use as forest land. To do that, it is absolutely essential to get the good will of the owners of these forest lands. The noble Earl, Lord Haddington, has already given your Lordships certain figures about these small woodlands. I have no means of checking his figures, but 547 undoubtedly the area is very considerable. The whole forestry scheme will fall down, and the nation will suffer very seriously, if these woodlands are not brought into, or maintained in, full production so far as is reasonable and possible. It is quite impossible, as has been said (and I speak as a Forestry Commissioner) for the Forestry Commission to deal with all these small areas. In hardly any case are they suitable for anything in the nature of State afforestation. Not only that, but, speaking as an agriculturist, I say that it would be disastrous from the point of view of the countryside if these small woodlands were divorced from the agriculture alongside them.
This debate, as sometimes happens in your Lordships' House, has strayed a little wide of the rather narrow terms of the Bill under discussion. The point that I wish to make is that even regarding the terms of the Bill now before the House, certain doubts and possible criticisms have been expressed, and I hope that His Majesty's Government will be able as far as possible to meet these doubts and these criticisms either by clarifying the Bill or by altering the Bill by agreement at a later stage, in order to assure woodland owners that their interests are being looked after by His Majesty's Government, and that their co-operation is really being sought. It would be worth a great deal to the Government, and to the Forestry Commission, if we carry woodland owners with us all the way. We had their agreement to the principle of dedication. We want now to get their full and hearty agreement with the details, of which this particular Bill is perhaps a small and rather technical instalment.
There are two other points to which I should like to refer. The first is the question of the right of appeal, which has been mentioned by more than one noble Lord. I think I am right when I say that, so far as the dedication proposals are concerned, there is provision in the 1945 Act for arbitration over the terms and the administration of the dedication, but in any case those provisions will be re-enacted in the dedication deeds so as to make quite certain that there is, and will be, arbitration in cases of doubt or controversy over actions by the present Forestry Commission or the future 548 Forestry Commission. Might I say, in passing, that I hope that His Majesty's Government will not fall back on an argument which I have heard used over legislation, that "surely you believe the Ministry is reasonable" or, as in this case, "the Forestry Commission are reasonable." I am prepared to believe that the present Ministry or the present Forestry Commission are reasonable, but I will not accept that all Forestry Commissions or all Ministries are likely to be reasonable until the end of time.
The only other point I want to mention is a small detail. The noble Lord, Lord Harlech, seemed to indicate that in Wales an official of the Forestry Commission had assured him that, so far as the Commission was concerned, it was quite easy for them to get houses built by the local authority and they did not care—
THE EARL OF RADNOR
Well, the Office of Works—I am sorry; that the Office of Works could build houses for the Forestry Commission, and the implication was that the Forestry Commission were going to get houses without a great deal of difficulty, and did not much care what happened to the private landowner. May I assure him, first of all, that the Commission do care a great deal about what happens to the private landowner? They appreciate the difficulty that the private landowner has in getting the necessary housing, and they appreciate that houses are the key to increased afforestation. They do have their own very grave difficulties about getting houses for themselves, whether they be tied or otherwise, and to feel that the Forestry Commission are better off than the private landowner is perhaps rather an exaggerated point of view. I have not said all that I might have said, because I feel that the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, can reply to the other points. Once more I express the hope that His Majesty's Government will meet all reasonable requests for clarification or simplification of legislation which affects the private landowner, and I hope, too, that every private woodland owner will realize the truth of what my noble friend Lord Courthope has already said, which is that the man who manages his woodlands properly need have nothing to fear from any dedication scheme or anything done by the Forestry Commission.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF HUNTINGDON
My Lords, on behalf of my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, who is also responsible for the Forestry Commission, I should like to say I am very glad that this debate has been conducted in such a friendly atmosphere, and that, on the whole, this Bill has been received by your Lordships in the spirit in which it was intended. As it has been pointed out, it is a voluntary measure. It lays emphasis on the voluntary principle, and its whole object is to allow owners to enter into agreements under which they will get compensation from the State. As the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, has pointed out, the debate has ranged over rather a wide field and covered a great deal of ground which perhaps is not absolutely relevant to the Bill.
I will try to answer one or two of the questions which noble Lords have raised and to satisfy them as to the intention which lies behind the Bill. In the first place I should like to assure the noble Duke, the Duke of Buccleuch, that certainly both the Forestry Commissioners and His Majesty's Government will do all they can to co-operate with the private owner. It is not at all our idea to get him out of the way. We want him to replant and build up his woodlands, and any help and advice we can give will obviously be forthcoming. Several questions were raised by noble Lords on the subject of arbitration or appeal, and I would like to reinforce the noble Earl, Lord Radnor's remarks, that in the actual dedication deed provision is made for arbitration on the question when the Forestry Commission might acquire woodlands compulsorily. I am sorry that these deeds are not yet available, but I do assure the noble Earl, Lord Haddington, that they will shortly be ready; and I hope that they will meet all the different points that have been raised about them.
The second question which seemed to exercise the minds of many of your Lordships concerned Clause 5, dealing with the compulsory taking over of land. I should like to say very clearly, in case it has been misunderstood, that this compulsory acquisition of land is in no way meant to be a sanction, or a method of trying to force the woodland owner into dedicating his land; in fact, I think the Forestry Commission would be extremely reluctant to take over these small wood- 550 lands, since they have more than enough on their hands. In the event of land being taken over which has been dedicated it would only be in cases where the owner had neglected his woodlands to a very considerable extent; and it is considered only fair that in such cases grants should be deducted from the compensation paid for the land, plus, as your Lordships notice, 3 per cent. interest. That has given rise to rather complicated issues regarding Income Tax. I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Courthope, and other noble Lords who raised this point, that this will be seriously considered before the Committee stage of the Bill. As the noble Lord did ask the question, I would say that under Schedule B these grants would not be subject to tax; but under Schedule D they would. On the other hand, of course, under Schedule D the owner would be entitled to charge expenses against Income Tax. But these are difficult points which will need further consideration. The other point the noble Lord, Lord Courthope, raised was that of the Ecclesiastical Corporations. There is a clause under discussion in this respect and it will be inserted in the Bill if agreement is reached and it is satisfactory. With regard to the meaning of "timber," this has the meaning defined in the Act of 1919.
The noble Lord, Lord Quibell, seemed to find some difficulty in the interpretation of Clause 1, subsection (2), and I think other noble Lords sympathized with him in his difficulty. Not being a learned Lord, I should hesitate to go deeply into it, but as the noble Lord asked me the question, the purpose of the clause is, of course, to give the Commissioners the right to sue against the heir or successor of the covenantor. That is the purpose of this particular subsection, but I do not propose at this stage to explain the legal terminology. The noble Lord, Lord Harlech, brought up various subjects, but one point on which I agree with him very much is the importance of planting hardwood and deciduous trees. I think both the Forestry Commission and the Government do now realize the necessity for planting hardwoods as well as conifers, although conifers are in greatest demand and are the most important from the immediate point of view.
The noble Lord, Lord Glentanar, raised some very interesting points. With regard to the question of the bond, he will not 551 I think expect me to give him an answer immediately, as it will need a good deal of consideration. I should like to say, however, in regard to his proposal about contracting-out that that would obviously go against the purpose of the Bill. What we are trying to establish are permanent woodlands, and if we allowed people to contract out of their obligation, we might lose a good deal of woodland to our grave disadvantage. Another question asked was when would loans become available. As soon as the dedication covenant was entered into this question could be raised and considered. It would not be a certain amount of so much per acre; the loan would vary according to individual circumstances.
I should like to say that I was very pleased with the extremely helpful speech of the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, who explained many things, particularly the position of the small woodland owners. That is a very difficult point. Obviously I would like to be helpful and to give them every consideration, but there are masses of small woodlands which it would be difficult for the Forestry Commission to deal with satisfactorily. I would, however, like to point out that there is available for the small woodland owner, even with woods which are not suitable for dedication, a £10 per acre grant. There is not, however, any grant for maintenance. We have been able to concede that particular point which I hope will be a help to the small woodland owner.
I think I have dealt with most of the questions, but there is the question relating to the Scottish liferenter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Glentanar. This is a very technical point, but if the question is whether the term "liferenter" includes a beneficiary who enjoys for the period of his life the occupation of property vested in trustees as well as the person to whom property is conveyed directly without the interposition of a trust for a period of his life, the answer is that it does not. "Liferenter" in its proper and technical sense means only the latter person, that is the one who has a feudal life-rent: he has a title to the property, albeit only for his life-time. In the case of the beneficiary, the title to the property is vested in the trustees and they alone would have the right 552 under Clause 4 (2) to enter into a dedication agreement.
I do not want to keep your Lordships any longer. I do hope, in view of the intention of the Government to be as helpful as they possibly can to the private woodland owner, that your Lordships will recognize that this Bill allows him to obtain grants for that purpose, and you will give it a speedy Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.