HL Deb 13 March 1967 vol 281 cc39-104

4.20 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Walston.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD STRANG in the Chair.]

Clause 51:

Control of afforestation

51.—(1) Subject to this section, no person shall plant land in the area of a Rural Development Board with trees except under the authority of a licence granted to him by the Board.

(2) Subsection (1) above shall not apply—

  1. (a) to planting by the Forestry Commission,
  2. (b) so long as the covenant, agreement or scheme in question continues in force, to land which is, on the establishment of a Rural Development Board, subject to a forestry dedication covenant or agreement as defined in the Forestry Act 1947, or the subject of an approved woodlands scheme made under the powers contained in the Forestry Act 1919.
  3. (c) to land which is, or at some time in the period of ten years before the planting has been, woodland,
  4. (d) to the planting of land of an area not exceeding ten acres, but not so as to permit more than ten acres of land in the ownership of any one person to be planted in any period of twelve months.

(4) The Board may in particular grant a licence subject to any condition—

  1. (a) governing the kinds of trees planted, or
  2. (b) where the licence authorises the planting of a short-term crop, requiring the use of the land for growing trees to be discontinued by the end of a specified period, and requiring before the end of that period the carrying out of such works for the clearing of the land as will make it suitable for agricultural purposes,
  3. (c) limiting the period within which the planting authorised by the licence is to be carried out,
  4. 40
  5. (d) requiring the planting to be carried out with such gaps as will prevent the planting from blocking access to some other land.

THE EARL OF DUNDEE moved in subsection (2)(c), to omit "in the period of ten years before the planting" and to insert instead "since 1st September 1939". The noble Earl said: The purpose of this Amendment is to exempt from planting licence old woodland which has not been planted since September 1, 1939—that is, at the beginning of the war. The Bill as it stands exempts anything which has been left ten years without being planted. My Amendment proposes to make it longer—back to September 1, 1939. The reason is that during the war a very great amount of land covered with trees, mature and immature, was, in order to meet our urgent needs, commandeered, and the trees compulsorily felled. In some cases where there were large areas of woods the wood cut was perhaps as much as it would take 20 years to plant if the wood and the forests had been run on lines of normal rotation.

When the war ended, it was for a very long time extremely difficult to get labour for replanting. If land is left too long without being replanted it becomes covered with shrub, which grows up and it becomes very much more expensive because the shrub has to be cleared. The weeding costs are then very high. As a result, some owners have not been able to replant as quickly as they would like to because of the increasing expense as time has gone on. I have no figures, of course, showing the amount, but there are still a good many pieces of ground, the trees on which were felled in the war, which have not yet been replanted, and I feel that they should not require a planting licence before being replanted. There may, of course, be cases where the land is owned by the same owner, who is intending ultimately to replant but has not been able to do it fast enough. Or there may be cases in which the owner, ten, fifteen or twenty years ago, was not as keen as he should have been on replanting, and it may be that his successor is being pressed to do a little more quickly what ought to have been done before.

It is one of the duties of the Forestry Commission to try, through their private woodlands officer or the Regional Boards, to persuade owners to do more planting; and sometimes, as we all know, it is very difficult. If a man's neighbour goes to see an owner and says, "Look here, this piece of land has not been planted since the war. Don't you think it time it was done?", the owner may say, "Well, I do not know. Uncle George never did it. Why should I?". His neighbour may perhaps say, "Well, you know, your old Uncle George was always an obstinate old cuss. If he had spent on replanting it half what he got for it in the war, it would have been a very good thing for you. Don't you feel you should do the same thing for your successors?".

Then the owner may reply—and a great many of them are naturally very reluctant to plant—"Uncle George's cash has gone in death duties on the estate. If I borrow money at the present rate of interest"—that is, 1 per cent. above bank rate in England or, in Scotland, where the banks are greedier, 2 per cent., making 8½ per cent.—"by the time the woods are ready, even for the first thinning, the accumulation at compound interest of my bank overdraft at this frightful Shylock rate will have bankrupted my estate; so I cannot do it". His friend may finally say, "Really, if you have any investment that you can manage to sell out, and if you can put the money into planting this ground, it will do your children and grandchildren far more good than if you keep the investment and try to hand the investment on to them", which is very often true.

It may be that the owner will at last be convinced, with some misgivings, that he should undertake the task of dealing with this land, the trees on which were felled in the war. Then he suddenly gets an intimation that he must apply for a licence from the Board, and that if he receives a licence the Board may make it subject to the condition that they decide what kind of trees he plants, and limiting the period within which the planting authorised by the licence is to be carried out. He may feel that this is just the last straw, and say, "I am not going to do the planting". The sad thing is that a great many people, including, perhaps, some members of the Board, may feel that he has taken the right decision. They may say, "Look at this piece of ground now, with its magnificent golden bloom of gorse and wind blossom in spring, and all the elder shrubs which have grown up, including lovely clusters of elderberries. It is far nicer for the tourists to look at than a young wood of rather ugly spruce trees." What I am trying to point out is that the pressure is always against planting, and not in favour of it; so we must do everything we can to remove any disincentive of this kind to plant, and must encourage the reluctant—who are, I am afraid, in the majority—to do more if we want, as I know we do, to get more done.

Before I sit down, I should like to add that the noble Lord's acceptance of my Amendment last week, No. 46, exempting all dedicated land from the need to get a licence, has, I think, removed perhaps 95 per cent., or even more, of the strength of my feelings about the present Amendment. After all, you can say to the planter, quite reasonably: "if you will only dedicate or undertake a private woodlands scheme, then you will not have to go through all the vexatious trouble and submit the meddlesome interference of a licence from the Board". That is a very strong argument which the noble Lord has now enabled everybody to give, provided only that the modifications which he indicated might have to be made on Report are not of such a nature (I am sure they will not be) as to add anything to the trouble, inconvenience and delay of getting a dedication agreement signed. But, of course, there may still be cases of difficulty.

I do not think the acceptance of this Amendment could do any harm, and it might do some good, because there may be cases in which there is some good reason against dedication and in which this Amendment would therefore be operative. But in moving the Amendment I think it only fair to point out that the real weight of my case for this Amendment has been taken away by the noble Lord's acceptance of my earlier Amendment, last week. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 61, line 1, leave out from ("time") to ("has") in line 2 and insert ("since 1st September 1939")—(The Earl of Dundee.)

4.30 p.m.


The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, almost makes me wish that I had adhered to my first intention to indicate that I was favourable to his Amendment in principle but would ask him to withdraw it until the next stage, because I do not seem yet to have convinced him that the Government are quite enthusiastic about the acceptance of his Amendment. He knows that I personally am as much in favour of forestry as he is, and before we have finished these series of Amendments, I hope he will be persuaded that the Government generally are as favourable to forestry as I am personally. The object of the Amendments is not in any way to place obstacles in the way of forestry, but to make sure that the purpose for which these Boards are set up is fulfilled, that forestry will play its part in the proper development of areas, and that it will receive fair consideration. I indicated last week that I thought to some extent that in some parts this may mean that forestry will be looked on more favourably than in the past.

Having said that, I do not think that any suitable purpose will be served by accepting this Amendment. As the noble Earl said, if an owner decides to dedicate he has no problem. I readily accept that there may be cases when there are reasons why an owner does not wish to dedicate or to make a woodland scheme. But the noble Earl's Amendment is dictated by fears that the Board are going to make it their main object in life to require, as part of a licence, that owners should have to plant some sort of trees which will be wholly uneconomic. At one stage it was suggested that they might be asked to plant maple rather than larch. If the Board were sufficiently silly they might ask owners to plant bananas. But we know that that is not what is going to be done.

The question of giving the right to the Board to suggest particular planting is one which is decreed solely by amenities, and it is virtually certain that any specified planting, other than conifers, would relate to the visual aspect as seen from roads by tourists and so on in particular areas. To come back to the purpose of the Amendment, to exempt land which has been planted at any time since September 1, 1939, is to go back well over a quarter of a century and, if we ignore the war-time years, it means to go back more than twenty years. if owners have not planted in that time (for whatever reasons may have seemed good to them or to their predecessors) I would suggest that there is no reason for continuing this in perpetuity. To put in a fixed date Of this kind at this stage is wrong, but it becomes more obviously wrong as the years go by. I would suggest that owners really have nothing to fear from the conditions which may be imposed by a Board granting a licence. After all, if they refuse to grant a licence or grant it subject to conditions, the Bill lays down that they should state their reasons. The matter can be appealed against in certain circumstances.

The Government have no ulterior motive in this matter. They are anxious to see forestry playing its proper part. but I must emphasise that, in the context of these Boards, the part which forestry (just as anything else in the area of a Board) would play is the proper part. I am certain that if, as I am asking, the noble Earl does not press his Amendment, he will have no cause to regret it in the future.


I am afraid that I did not fully understand the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, in the last words that he addressed to the Committee. Can the noble Lord indicate whether he is going to look at this again before Report stage or not?


I am sorry. I thought that I was making it clear that I saw no useful purpose in this Amendment being pressed at this stage or at another stage.


In that case, hope the noble Lord will bear with me because I think there is good reason to do so. What he was saying seems in no way to fit in with the words of the Bill. I am not for a moment supposing that there is any ulterior motive on the part of the Government or that the Government do not want forestry to play a full part. But if that is their simple wish and policy (with which we are in agreement) why on earth do they want to include all these meddlesome and detailed conditions in this clause instead of treating it very broadly, as I think would he acceptable to us all? The year 1939 was really an important turning point in the history of forestry in this country because from that date much private woodland came virtually under State control and was in many cases felled. But for some reason or another—and there may be good reasons—some of those areas have not been replanted. I thought this a much better date than the ten years in the Bill.

My last point is that although my noble friend stated that in many cases the tiresomeness of this can be got round by dedication covenants, the noble Lord opposite must remember that before any one can enter into a dedication covenant he must be in a position to see far enough ahead to be able to shoulder the commitments that the covenant implies. There are many elderly people, people perhaps without heirs, who would not wish to enter into a commitment which continues for so long. They would like to see planted some area in the middle of the farm—not the sort of area they can easily part with by sale. I would ask the noble Lord to look at this again. There are good reasons why I think he should appreciate that his concession on dedication (for which I am as grateful as any one) does not in fact meet the full case, and why the date 1939 has very great merits.


I hope the noble Lord may be willing to have a look at this again before Report stage. I entirely accept what he says about his own desire and, I am sure, that of the Department which he represents to get more planting done more quickly. That is my object. I am not going to ask him for a promise to do anything because I am sure he will see whether anything can be done. Although I regret that he could not see his way to meet us directly on this Amendment, I do not intend to press it, and I ask leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I think Amendment No. 48 is consequential to the Amendment which the noble Lord has accepted.


I thought that the acceptance of Amendment 46 clearly rendered No. 48 unnecessary.


Perhaps that is so. In that case I will not move it.

THE EARL OF DUNDEE had given Notice of his intention to move in subsection (2)(d), to leave out "ten" and to insert "one hundred" [acres]. The noble Earl said: I put down this Amendment because on many agricultural units, in the kind of areas which these Boards will have to look after, 100 acres is a very small proportion of what ought to be planted. But I consider that areas of this size ought to be dedicated and, therefore, since dedicated ground has already been exempted, I do not propose to move it.


I his Amendment is perfectly simple and easy to understand. The limit of exemption is for ten acres. It seems rather illogical that if one man owns, let us say, five agricultural units and wants to have a little planting scheme of ten acres on each of them, he should be forbidden to do so, because they are all owned by the same man. It seems to me more sensible that, if the owner of one agricultural unit is allowed to plant ten acres on it without a licence, the owner of, say, five adjoining agricultural units should be allowed to plant ten on each of them without a licence. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 61, line 5, leave out from ("in") to ("to") and insert ("any one agricultural unit").—(The Earl of Dundee.)


I do not find myself able to accept this Amendment, for purely technical reasons, but the noble Earl has tabled another Amendment, No. 51A, which accomplishes the same purpose in another form of wording. I should be happy to accept his second choice on this subject if he would care to withdraw this Amendment.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord for meeting us again on this point. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move Amendment No. 51A.

Amendment moved— Page 61, line 5, after ("person") insert ("or, where two or more agricultural units are in the same ownership, more than ten acres in each unit").—(The Earl of Dundee.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.42 p.m.

THE EARL OF DUNDEE moved, in subsection (2), to add to paragraph (d): Provided that if any person so elects and gives notice to the Board accordingly, the foregoing provisions of this paragraph shall have effect in relation to that person and to land in his ownership as if for the words 'ten acres' and 'twelve months' respectively there were substituted the words 'one hundred acres' and 'ten years'.

The noble Earl said: This Amendment is based on the economics of afforestation. Its purpose is to enable planting to be done more cheaply and conveniently. The effect of it would be that if a man wants to plant ten acres without a licence each year, say, for about ten years he may inform the Board that it is his intention to do so and that he prefers to spread the ten acres each year, totalling 100 acres, over, let us say, a ten-year period, not in exactly equal sections of ten acres each year but unevenly—perhaps 40 acres one year and then nothing for the next three years.

There are two reasons why that might be helpful. A man might be able to use his labour force more economically by getting one block of 40 acres established before he went on with the next section. Another reason might be that to plant a larger area of the same shape is much less expensive per acre than to plant a smaller area of the same proportion. It is, I think, not always understood that, the fencing costs, for example, do not increase in proportion to the area planted. An area of 10 acres if it is exactly square, is 220 yards each way. That means that the total perimeter of the square is 880 yards. If you multiply the area by four you make a square of 40 acres. The perimeter is 440 yards each way, a total of 1,760 yards, which is only twice 880, although the area is four times as much. Therefore, the fencing cost per acre is only half what it would be for a smaller area. That is the kind of consideration which might reasonably impel a forester not to plant one exactly equal area each year, but rather to plant a larger than average area one year and then concentrate on establishing and feeding up until he is ready for the next one. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 61, line 6, at end insert the said proviso.—(The Earl of Dundee.)


I wish to support this Amendment. As it stands the clause would seem to be an encouragement towards uneconomic forestry, which is surely undesirable. I understand that it does not apply to dedicated or approved estates. I am all in favour of incentives, even negative incentives, towards dedication and approved schemes; but many owners do not like dedication schemes, for conscientious or similar reasons, and it seems undesirable that they should be forced into practising uneconomic forestry. An area of 10 acres a year is completely penny-packet forestry and it seems to me that this Amendment is based not only on economics but on simple mathematics and common sense.

As the clause stands, an owner can plant 10 acres every year for 10 years, and it is surely much more desirable that he should plant larger areas in individual years, with the total effect being exactly the same. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has said that there is no wish on the part of the Government to put private forestry at any disadvantage compared with the Forestry Commission. Of course the Commission would not consider planting an area of 10 acres, and would regard even 100 acres as hardly economic. I should have thought that the Amendment made very good sense and was one which it would be easy for the Government to accept.


I should like to support my noble friend. Surely it must be wrong for the Government to encourage high-cost forestry even if the forestry is going to have a dual purpose, the production of timber and, as will be the case with many of these small woods, the provision of shelter for the adjoining agricultural land. At a time when the general trend is towards bigger units, and when there is, even in this Bill, a part authorising the expenditure of public money on encouraging small farmers to enlarge their farms, to put obstacles in the way of providing for sensible-sized planting areas on big hill farms would seem too stupid. Dedication is frequently quite inappropriate for these woods, which in many cases will be shelter belts on big hill farms.

I can see that the general idea of some control over planting is acceptable, but trying to make a limit of 10 acres in these circumstances seems to be totally unrealistic. I should like the noble Lord to consider what has been said by my noble friends to see whether at a later stage, if not to-day, we cannot get a figure in the Bill which we can all accept as fair. Frankly this figure of 10 acres looks to us not only unfair but just stupid.


If the object of the Government in putting this restriction in the Bill were to prevent economic planting of areas I should be the first to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, that it would be both stupid and unrealistic, but the Government are not saying that planting should be restricted to 10 acres. They are saying that planting without a licence should be limited to 10 acres within 12 months. There are two reasons for that. There will be quite a number of cases where a farmer wishes to plant as a windbreak a small area of land which may well be 10 acres or less. A Board need not be troubled with having to licence small areas of that kind. That is the first reason. Boards ought not to be cluttered up with applications relating to small areas which do not affect the policy in the slightest.

The second reason is, unless there is some limit to what may be done without a licence, decisions may well he taken which would be in complete conflict with a Board's duty to see that the land in its area is put to the best use, looked at from a co-ordinated point of view. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, postulated the case of an owner who might want to plant 100 acres. He might not wish to plant them all at once, but would be willing to plant, say, 40 acres; and, two or three years later, perhaps another 40 or 50 acres. If he had a limit of 100 acres without a licence over 10 years that would be exactly the same thing as planting 10 acres a year for 10 years. I must admit that his arithmetic is faultless, but that is not the point.

If an owner wishes to plant 100 acres, the planting will fall into two categories so far as the Boards are concerned. First, it can be desirable planting, in which case there will be no difficulty about granting a licence to enable the forester to plant 10, 40, 50, or all 100 acres, at one time whichever is most suitable to him. On the other hand, it might be a planting which the Board did not wish to encourage, and we ought not to encourage the granting of a licence that would enable the owner, if he wished to be awkward, to frustrate the wishes of the Board by planting 10 acres at a time. I cannot believe that any reasonable person, who knows that a Board do not wish him to plant 100 acres, will go to the expense of frustrating the Board by doing it in penny numbers.

These Amendments have some validity if noble Lords are right in their fears that the Boards regard it as their primary objective to refuse a licence or to grant one only with such conditions as would make it an uneconomic proposition. The Government wish the Boards to operate on the basis that forestry planting should be done in the most economic circumstances practicable in the area. The Boards will not import into their licences conditions which cannot be defended. As we see later on in the Bill, if a Board import conditions they have to say why and the owner has recourse to the Minister. If I were to accept anything along the lines of this Amendment, it would only he an encouragement to the individual who wished to be awkward, and would be no help to the genuine forester who wished to plant in an economic way. I hope, therefore, that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw this Amendment.


The noble Lord surely knows that nobody wants to frustrate the Board. What we want to ensure is that the Board do not want to frustrate individuals. The noble Lord speaks of the forester, but much of this planting will not be done by professional foresters but by farmers. Surely he will agree with me that many farmers in Scotland, if they have to go to a Board and through a lot of paper work before they can get permission to plant even a small area of 10 acres, and then with conditions and restrictions for the future, will think that it would be much better not to bother with it at all.


I am not worried about what foresters will do in Scotland, because neither at present nor in the foreseeable future are we going to have one of these Boards in Scotland. What I have been saying in relation to the Boards has been related to conditions South of the Border. We do not wish to frustrate the forester, and if a Board give a licence with conditions which the forester regards as frustrating, the Board will have to justify them. On the other hand, if this is put into the Bill, the individual who wished to be awkward would not need to give any reasons for seeking to frustrate the wishes of the Board, and would be given permission to do something which is against the public interest without asking anybody's consent at all. I suggest that a reasonable planter has nothing to fear from the Boards if he intends to plant 100 acres of trees over a reasonable period of years. He will get his licence, probably without conditions, and almost certainly, if the application were made in Scotland. without any conditions at all. Even then, such conditions as are imported the Board must be able to defend against appeal.


I sympathise very much with my noble friends behind me who are English. because they have the menace of these Boards hanging over their heads. One of them said the other day, "What has Scotland done to deserve this great favour of not having any Boards?". It makes us who are Scotsmen feel compunction that if we do not press this we are letting the English down, because we are not in any danger ourselves.

I think that the noble Lord is anxious for us to appreciate that the Boards are not being set up for the purpose of the frustration of forestry. Of course they are not. What I want the Government to appreciate is that, although I am glad to say there are some landowners who are keen on forestry and press on with schemes against all sorts of obstacles, there are many who are unconvinced, doubtful or full of misgivings about the real advantages from either the private or the public point of view. They are supported by large sections of public opinion, and the fact of having to get a licence and being subject to these restrictions, even if the Boards have the intention to promote and help forestry, will in itself be a handicap and deterrent. I find it difficult to imagine any case in which the powers which are being given to the Board to control private forestry could ever do any good, and I can think of many cases where it could do harm.

If my noble friends behind will not think I am failing to support them, my reason for not wishing to press this Amendment is that I think that most serious planting of over 10 acres ought to be dedicated. So far as my experience goes, the Forestry Commission will now accept even small lots of two or three acres for dedication, which at one time they would not do. But now they have modified the maximum size for which they will accept dedication. Therefore one can always say to a man who does not want to bother with applying for a licence, "If you want to plant more than ten acres. then dedicate.- It might even be a kind of negative inducement to dedication, which is usually of advantage to the owner, even if he does not think it. But it seems rather a roundabout way of persuading people to dedicate. If my noble friends behind me will give me leave, I would beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.0 p.m.

THE EARL OF DUNDEE moved in subsection (3) to leave out all words after "direct" and to insert: ( ) (a) The Board shall exercise their powers under this section as a means of meeting the problems and needs described in section 44 of this Act in relation to their area and in accordance with such exercise may, on any application for a licence under this section refuse it or grant it either with or without conditions. (b) In any case in which the Board refuse an application for a licence or grant it subject to conditions they shall pay to the person making the application compensation equal to the loss shown by the applicant to have been incurred by him in consequence of such refusal or the additional expenditure incurred by him in complying with such conditions, as the case may be: Provided that any claim for compensation under this subsection shall be made to the Board within three years of the date of the refusal of the application or of the grant of the application subject to conditions, as the case may be. (c) Any question arising between the Board and any person as to the amount of compensation payable under this subsection shall be determined by the Lands Tribunal.

The noble Earl said: This, again, is a case of two Amendment, Nos. 53 and 54, which are really alternatives to each other, and I think your Lordships will probably agree to discuss them together, particularly since I think the moving of one (I am not sure about this) would probably block the other. The first Amendment, No. 53, provides that if the Board refuse an application they shall pay to the person making the application compensation equal to the loss which he incurs as a result of the conditions of the licence. Amendment No. 54 provides that the Board shall not make any conditions which would have the effect of causing him financial loss.

I think the difference between the two Amendments is that No. 53 would unquestionably be outside the terms of the House of Commons Financial Resolution: but whether that would apply to No. 54, I am not sure. However, I am putting forward these Amendments not in any polemical way. I want to try to persuade the Government what is good for the country and what is good for forestry. I think if they were to reflect upon this subject, and to decide that it was just and fair that compensation should be paid for the financial loss, they could probably introduce an amended Resolution in another place. If they did not come to this decision, the effect of your Lordships carrying this Amendment would not be that another place would discuss it, because, if it were rejected on grounds of privilege, it would, I believe, have to be done without debate. However, that may not apply to the second Amendment, No. 54.

I hope the Government will agree that it is both an injustice and a deterrent to forestry that conditions may be imposed with regard to planting which will inflict loss upon the planter. And, at least, as the second Amendment, No. 54, suggests, if the loss would not have been greater than would have been the case if the original application accorded with the rules of sound woodland management as recognised in dedicated or approved woodland schemes", again, there would be a satisfactory criterion in the public interest, by providing that the Board shall not act to this extent against the public interest by imposing on a planter uneconomic planting which brings in a smaller return to the nation as well as to the individual. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 61, line 23, leave out from ("direct") to end of line 27 and insert the said paragraph.—(The Earl of Dundee.)


I should like to support this Amendment. I would say that one or other of these Amendments is really essential in the Bill; not necessarily in this wording, because the wording is difficult to draft, but at least there should be acceptance of the thinking behind it. If I may express a personal preference, I should feel that the thinking behind Amendment No. 54 is to be preferred to No. 53, not least because it is simpler. Since things in this clause are so complicated already, any way whereby we can make them simpler deserves some support.

The noble Lord opposite, throughout these debates, has been playing down the comprehensive nature of these conditions which the Boards are going to be empowered to impose on planting, and playing up the sweet reasonableness of the Boards. He will agree with me, I am sure, when I say that there is nothing comparable in the normal powers of the Forestry Commission over private planting, outside the areas of Rural Development Boards, with the powers which the Government are taking under this Bill; and, furthermore, that by no stretch of the imagination can these Boards be described as a forestry authority, and forestry on them is never likely to have more than a small minority voice.

On Lord Hughes's left sits the noble Lord, Lord Walston, who I believe had great responsibility in the countryside of Germany at the end of the war. Germany is a country where forestry is far advanced; forestry has close relations with agriculture, and is understood throughout all the rural organisation. I imagine that the noble Lord, Lord Walston, is absolutely shuddering at the thought of these conditions. He would have shuddered if any British Government had suggested that anything of this sort should be imposed on the Germans immediately after the war. Yet here we have his colleague in the Government suggesting that they should be imposed—may we all know the joke noble Lords are sharing?


I did not know the noble Lord was joking. I thought he was being serious.


Perhaps I had better go over it again, in case the noble Lord did not hear.


I am sorry if I have missed the joke. As the noble Lord had referred to my noble friend Lord Walston's experience in Germany, it seemed to me that I should listen to him with one ear and find out if my noble friend's experience was relevant so that I could use it when I reply. If, however, the noble Lord does not wish me to do so, I will desist.


I should very much like the noble Lord to do so, because the responsibility of the noble Lord, Lord Walston, in Germany was extensive, and I gather that he was responsible for forestry and agriculture. It seems to me rather hard that these powers over us should be taken now by the British Government when it never entered the head of the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that they should be imposed on the Germans immediately after the war.

The conditions are really so comprehensive that I think we should consider them, and I think the noble Lord ought to tell us a little more of how he sees the whole thing working out. He says that nothing unreasonable will happen. But why is it necessary for the Board to have powers governing the kinds of trees to be planted? I do not think the Board are taking power to say what kind of sheep you should have on the hills, which seems to be comparable. Since forestry is a risky enterprise, and since the economic risks of forestry must be borne by the individual, in his own judgment, all these detailed conditions seem to me to be utterly impracticable and most unreasonable. I therefore hope that something on the lines of Amendment No. 54 may find its way into the Bill, because, if it does, I am sure it will make the working of this whole clause, if it must remain in the Bill, much easier.


I, too, wish to support my noble friend and to express a preference for Amendment No. 54 as against No. 53, mainly on the ground of simplicity. I think these Amendments are based on fairness to forestry. One of the main aims of Part III of the Bill is the integration of agriculture and forestry in hills and uplands. This is an admirable aim, and few, if any, would disagree with it. The White Paper which preceded the Bill, Development of Agriculture, lays stress on the need for integrating over a reasonably wide area the use of land for agriculture and forestry in the hills so that they are complementary and not antagonistic to each other. To this end, the Rural Development Boards are given powers of control over both in the public interest. I fully accept the need for this, but I think it is essential to be fair, and to be seen to be fair, to all the interests involved. Here, I think one must recognise that the hill and upland areas are those which offer most scope, if not the only scope, for an expansion of forestry; and, also, they are those in which forestry has particular significance in providing rural employment and some degree of prosperity. In fact, in this Bill, as it stands, the treatment is far from fair. Agriculture gets any number of quids for quo; forestry gets nothing in return for the controls and restrictions imposed on it.

There are many ways in which forestry could have been helped in the Bill, such as the inclusion in the grants of capital expenditure on roads and bridges, or mechanical equipment, in place of the investment allowances, which are now lost to it, or, as comes later, an amendment of assistance to co-operatives. In this clause even compensation for damage to forestry interests by decisions of the Board is not mentioned. If an owner is obliged to practise uneconomic forestry by reason of a decision of the Board it is only common justice that he should be compensated for this. Forestry is a marginally profitable business under ideal conditions, and foresters should not be obliged to operate at a loss.

This Amendment, No. 54, could be improved somewhat if at the end of the first line, the words "nor the conditions are expected" were deleted and the words "can be shown" were substituted. I think that would make it rather more definite in its application.

5.12 p.m.


I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, for dealing with Amendments 53 and 54 together because, as the Chairman has indicated, if 53 were carried 54 could not be called, so that 54 is an alternative proposal to 53. I do not know how another place would look at Amendment No. 54. It is quite definite, as the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, indicated, that No. 53 would require another Financial Resolution in another place and it might therefore be rejected on grounds of privilege without any discussion whatsoever. It may be that the second Amendment is in the same category, although I am rather inclined to the view that it is not.

However, the reasons why I am inviting your Lordships not to accept either Amendment are the same in each case. I will deal first with Amendment No. 53. In accepting the condition that there should be compensation we should be accepting a principle which has not hitherto been accepted by Parliament, and I think the best parallel is what is done under the planning Acts. With due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, I do not think his comparison between sheep and trees is a valid one, authough it is an interesting variation—


Why not? It seems particularly valid.


I do not propose to sit down immediately at this point, so the reason may emerge.

The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, proposed it the other way round when the Government were giving grants for fixed equipment. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, is suggesting that the treatment accorded to sheep is a suitable precedent for doing the same thing to trees. I would suggest that it is more reasonable to compare it with the planning procedure. Normally, with one or two exceptions—say a short-term crop—the planting of trees is for a fairly long-term period, and therefore it is much more comparable with the putting up of buildings, for which the obtaining of planning permission arises.

I would remind the Committee that under the planning legislation of 1948, apart from development claims which were registered in 1948, compensation is not payable. It is not payable where a person has been refused permission to carry out the most profitable form of development with a piece of land. It is true that if permission is refused to develop land which has no other beneficial use the planning authority can be required to buy the land, but this Bill exempts from the licensing procedure land which has no other beneficial use. Thus in those cases where a planting proposal is rejected an alternative form of development is available to the land- owner. I suggest to your Lordships that the question of compensation does not arise here, and therefore I am obliged to ask the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, not to press his Amendment.

May I now turn to his Amendment No. 54, which seeks to ensure that a Board do not refuse a licence or attach conditions to a licence where the refusal or the attachment of conditions could be expected to involve the applicant in financial loss or in greater financial expenditure than would be the case if the original application accorded with the rules of sound woodland management as recognised in dedicated or in approved woodland schemes. My objection to this Amendment is that it would prevent a Board from refusing a licence, or from attaching conditions to it, if the results postulated were likely to arise. It is likely that in a Board's area forestry will almost certainly be a major rural land use. Boards have been given powers over afforestation in their areas so that planting will not be at variance with their general development programme. Conditions may be attached to a planting licence, and subsection (4) gives examples of these conditions. These include, for instance, that land planted with a short-term crop is cleared ready for agricultural use by a specified time; that amenity interests can be considered; that planting is carried out within a stated period, and that new plantings do not block access to other land.

We are charging these Boards with the duty of watching over all the needs of the planting area, and applications for planting licences must be considered within the context of their general development programme. If, however, a planting proposal would be in conflict with their programme, the Board must be free to refuse a licence or to issue a licence with conditions. If we accepted Amendment No. 54 this could frustrate the Board's duty to think of other users of the hills and to include the development of agriculture and complementary uses of the land.

At first stating, the Amendments appear, on the one hand, to be fair to the forester and, on the other, innocuous so far as the development of the Board's area is concerned. I cannot accept that either is the case, and I must state quite specifically that it is the firm view of the Government that to accept even the second, regarded by noble Lords opposite as the lesser, in effect, of the Amendments, would be to cut completely across the powers of the Board. I regret that, for these reasons, the Government are not in a position to accept either of these Amendments.

5.18 p.m.


May I just put a further point to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, before we leave this Amendment? I noticed that he used the argument which was used with approval by Government speakers in another place: that a refusal by the Rural Development Board would be analogous to a planning refusal, for which, of course, there is no compensation. But I wonder whether this really is a good comparison? I gave some thought to it when I was studying the procedures in another place, and it seemed to me that it is not.

A planning application concerns the development of land either by building on it or, possibly, by mineral working, and of course these involve a change of use on a dramatic scale. A change of use is the very basis of a planning application, and where a refusal is made it is a refusal of action to which the applicant has not had a right, certainly not for the last half-century, whereas in this case the landowner has had a right to farm his land and plant his land in any way he wished, except in war time, when there were special emergency regulations. He has had this right from time immemorial; it attaches to the ownership of the property itself. It seems to me that there is no similarity in principle between the refusal of a Rural Development Board to plant and a planning authority's refusal to develop; they really are quite different.

I would ask the noble Lord to look at this again because it amounts to a direct deprivation of a certain right that the property owner has had up till now. I entirely accept the noble Lord's argument that if Parliament is to set up Rural Development Boards they must have power to do the things that Parliament wants them to do, and they must not be frustrated by individual property owners who do not wish, for one reason or another, to co-operate. That is fair enough, and I would support it. But if the Boards wish to require the property owner not to plant or to plant something special which he feels is not worth while to do or wishes to do otherwise, it seems to me that the Board are taking away from him part of his rights up to date, and compensation is really no more than justice.

I ask the noble Lord to look at this in terms of the comparable position of the farmer who might be asked to farm his land in this way or that, grow this crop or that, have grassland or grow roots—they are not very likely to grow corn in these areas. Nevertheless, when noble Lords compare the position of the farmer who is left completely free to farm his land how he likes, it is clear that the landowner who wishes to plant trees is being put at a singular disadvantage. I do not think this is fair. It is not the kind of fairness to which British farmers are accustomed. I would ask the noble Lord to look at this again. It is absolutely right that the noble Lord should say that Rural Development Boards should have the powers, but it is not fair to take away rights and give no compensation.


Before the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, replies, may I ask whether I heard him correctly when he said that there was never any compensation paid for refusal of planning permission? I will not go into the merits or otherwise of the analogy, but he is quite wrong. If he looks at Schedule 3 to the Town and Country Planning Act 1962, he will see that where the local planning authority wishes to prevent someone doing the things set out in that Schedule—in other words, refuse planning permission to do those things—they can do so only on payment of compensation. One might think that some of these things were certinly interfering if a local planning authority sought to prevent them. The same criticism might be made about some decisions which might be raised under this Amendment, in which case perhaps the analogy is more the other way round.


I do not claim to be an expert in planning laws. All I can rest on is the brief with which I have been provided.


It is inaccurate.


It may be, but it says here quite specifically that if a permission is refused to develop land which has no other beneficial use, it is true that the planning authority could be required to buy that land.


That is perfectly right. But the brief leaves out Schedule 3, which is what I was talking about.

5.25 p.m.


We might come back to that point at the next stage. At the present moment, in my state of comparative ignorance of Schedule 3, I would not necessarily back my advisers against the noble Viscount. He may well be wrong, but he may equally be right.

I should like to come to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and this is where I rely not on knowledge of the law but on common sense, with which I came equipped. I think he helped rather than hindered me when he suggested that it was unfair to deprive the landowner without compensating him for deprivation of his right to plant trees, which he has always had. After all, the planning legislation did exactly the same thing. There was a time when a landowner could put up any kind of building he wanted where he wanted, without regard to the public interest, having regard only to the fact that he had always had the right to do so. Parliament decided that this was a right which landowners should not be allowed to continue to exercise, and they imposed restrictions. Subject to the correctness or otherwise of what the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, has said, they agreed to do so, with or without the right to compensation, except in particular circumstances.

In this case the Government are saying that the planting of trees is much more comparable to the sort of things which require planning consent than ordinary agricultural considerations. After all, trees are not a crop which can be changed from one year to another over a period of years if the public interest requires it. From what happens in Price Reviews from year to year we know how the Government can influence agricultural development along the lines they wish by giving incentives or putting disincentives in the way of one form of agriculture or another. But once a man has planted an area with trees, the Government cannot say the next year, "It is not in the public interest that you should have trees; will you clear the crop and put in something else".

This is one of the reasons why these Boards are being set up, to consider the long term interests of an area. In many cases it will be obvious that the long term interests will require forestry to be permitted and encouraged, and where that is the case a licence will be given. But if it is obviously in the long term interest of the area, or the immediate interests of the area, that forestry should not be allowed, Parliament is perfectly within its rights, and acting perfectly in accordance with parallels set in these other directions, in saying that the general interest requires the taking away from the individual of a right he may have had from time immemorial. What may have been perfectly proper in the 15th, 16th, 18th or 19th centuries has in many cases no validity in the 20th century. This is what the Government are suggesting in this case. In permitting the Boards to act in the public interest in this direction Parliament will not be doing anything which is radically different from what has been done in the past. I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, that the parallel with the planning Acts is in fact merely extending into the long term field of forestry the principle which has been accepted over many years in planning affairs.


I do not want to spend any more time in comparisons between forestry and town planning. It seems to me that perhaps the most essential difference is that before the war some owners used to obtain large sums of money by selling building land in undesirable places, such as ribbon development, whereas with forestry what we are asking landowners to do is to deprive themselves of large sums of money in the uncertain hope that their grandchildren may benefit, which is really a different matter. I am afraid that putting powers in the hands of these Boards can do nothing to improve afforestation and may do much to restrict and retard it.

I do not wish to persecute the noble Lord on this matter, and it might be better if we thought about it and returned to it again on Report. It might perhaps be more useful, and less controversial to insert some phrases, having due regard to economic considerations, in an earlier clause which deals with matters other than economic. In the meantime, I should like the Government to consider this point very seriously, because it is one to which we attach great importance. In the meanwhile, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.31 p.m.

THE EARL OF DUNDEE moved, in subsection (4), to leave out paragraph (a). The noble Earl said: We now come to the subsection dealing with all the powers of the Boards, but we have already discussed these powers so frequently that I do not think it is necessary to go over all the arguments again. I would suggest that we discuss all the Amendments on this clause together. The only other one besides those in my name is, I think, a purely drafting one in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Walston.

My feeling about this clause is unchanged. I cannot see that it is likely to be used to the benefit of tourism, or to the benefit of any other interest, whereas it may be used to the detriment of forestry, due to the fact that the Boards, which have to control a very large area, and will consist of not less than 6 and not more than 12 persons, are not often likely to contain a majority who will fully understand the business of forestry. To be quite honest, I think that forestry could get on far better if we left things as they are under the Highlands and Islands Development Board, in which the judge of whether land should be planted or not may be either the private owner, or the Forestry Commission, or both.

I think it is particularly ridiculous that the Board should have powers to dictate what kind of trees are planted, even if the Board should happen to contain one or two people who know more about forestry than the owner does—which I think is rather unlikely. I think it is a totally unjustifiable power to put in. The argument that it might be used in order to compel people to plant trees which in future generations would attract tourists, is a very far-fetched one indeed. The noble Lord is no doubt aware that I should have pressed this Amendment and the previous Amendments very strongly indeed if he had not been good enough to accept the exemption for dedicated land, which is a way out. I still do not see that it does any particular good to leave this clause as it is. I beg to move Amendment No. 55, which I understand will not block anything else at the moment.

Amendment moved— Page 61, line 30, leave out paragraph (a).—(The Earl of Dundee.)


As the noble Earl, Lord Dundee has stated, Amendments 55, 57, 58 and 59 are all on similar lines. They are successively to leave out the particular conditions which Boards might attach to a licence. I had not intended to say what I am going to say, but in view of the way in which the noble Earl has moved this Amendment, I think it is perhaps the simplest way of putting the Government's objection. If we were to accede to what the noble Earl requests, it would not help private foresters in the slightest. These are particular conditions which may be imposed, and it is helpful to foresters to see in the Bill the sort of thing which the Board may do. If the Government were to accept all of these Amendments, it would not in any way prevent the Board from imposing any one of these conditions in granting a licence, for the simple reason that we must give the Board the power to grant licences, and in giving them power to grant licences we must give them power to impose conditions. If they could grant only unconditional licences, that would be exactly the same thing as allowing people to proceed without a licence.

In subsection (3) it is laid down that the Board may refuse or grant a licence either with or without conditions. If we were to delete subsection (4) in its entirety, and take out paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d), it would not in any way prevent the Board from imposing in a licence a condition that a fringe of trees fronting a road should be of hardwood. It would not prevent a Board from authorising a short-term crop. It would not prevent the Board from putting into the licence a condition that the planting would have to be carried out within a certain time. It would not prevent the Board from saying that it should be carried out with such gaps. It is, therefore, I suggest, helpful that there is being placed in the Bill an indication of the sort of conditions which a Board might impose. I have so often in your Lordships' House heard noble Lords opposite asking for just this sort of thing to be done. The specific should be put in. I find myself in the surprising position of defending the specific, when more frequently the argument from the Government is that it is unnecessary to specify because the general power is there.

I am quite willing to look at the desirability of taking out these conditions if, on reflection, noble Lords think that it will help their case in the slightest. But I wish to be quite honest, and I would point out to your Lordships that it will not in any way prevent these conditions from being imposed in a licence because of the general authority to impose conditions, which is given in subsection (3), and which must inevitably be in a Bill once it is accepted that a Board must be in a position to issue a licence. For these reasons, I hope that the noble Lord will accept my assurances that we are intending to set up these Boards in the best interests of the area; that we regard forestry as the natural use of the land in the area, and that where a natural use of the land is a particular subject, the Board will encourage it to be done in the best interests of the area.

One of the conditions which the Board must take into account is that it will be done economically. It will not be their objective to say: "Yes, we will encourage forestry. Yes, we will allow you to plant trees in this area", and then go on to impose such conditions that the owner will never undertake planting. They would be frustrating their own objectives if they did such a thing. Therefore, for all of these reasons, I do not consider that the noble Lord will be doing private forestry any disservice if he decides not to press any of these four Amendments.


It is evident from what the noble Lord has said—and I am inclined to agree with him—that the only real way to achieve what I want would be to take away from the Boards altogether the power to license planting. It would be an enormous improvement, and would bring England up to the level of Scotland.


With respect to the noble Earl, he could not possibly set up Boards and deprive them of the power to do anything. He would have to carry the thing to its logical conclusion, and say that there are not going to be any Boards.


The Boards have other functions besides not licensing forestry. It is only their powers with regard to licensing of planting which seem to me likely to do harm and which I am trying to restrict. The noble Lord has agreed to remove those powers in regard to dedicated land, which is what is most necessary in the public interest. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment and I shall not move the other three.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move this Amendment, which is purely drafting. One "or" too many has crept into the clause.

Amendment moved— Page 61, line 30, leave out ("or").—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The purpose of this Amendment is to enable a Board to attach a condition to a planting licence to ensure that neither the planting nor any fencing erected in connection with it shall prevent access to other land. This is the fulfilment of an undertaking which was given in another place to look at this clause. It was pointed out there that it is usually fencing which prevents access to other land rather than the way in which the planting is done. The effect of this Amendment is to ensure that where fencing is carried out in connection with planting, neither the planting nor the fencing shall prevent access to other land, for instance, by providing for gates in the fencing and a way through the plantation. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 61, line 39, leave out from ("planting") to end of line 41 and insert ("and any fencing in connection therewith, to be carried out in such a way that access to other land will not be blocked").—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


Amendment No. 61 seeks to achieve the same purpose as Amendment No. 62 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, and the Government prefer this one. Your Lordships may recollect that when Amendment No. 44 was discussed last week we spoke to the principle of this Amendment. Amendment No. 44 arose in consequence of Amendment No. 61, which is this Amendment. The noble Earl indicated at that time that he was happy with the Amendment, the purpose of which, broadly speaking, is allow a licence to be transferred to a new owner. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 61, line 42, leave out from ("shall") to end of line 44 and insert ("name the person to whom it is granted, and shall authorise planting by that person only unless it is endorsed by the Board in favour of another; and—

  1. (a) the Board shall not endorse a licence in favour of any person except with the consent in writing of the person for the time being entitled to its benefit,
  2. (b) subject to the foregoing paragraph, it shall be the duty of the Board to endorse a licence on the application in writing of a person owning for the time being the same estate or interest in the land to which the licence relates as that owned by the grantee of the licence at the time when it was granted or (by virtue of subsection (12) below) is deemed to have been granted,
  3. (c) subject to that paragraph, in any other case the Board may grant or refuse an application for endorsement as they think fit.")—(Lord Hughes.)


This is the third time that the noble Lord has been good enough to meet me by accepting, in substance, the Amendment I have put down, and I am grateful to him for his attitude in this matter. I am glad to agree to the longer Amendment which he has moved, and therefore I shall not move the following Amendment on the Order Paper, that having the same purpose.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

5.45 p.m.


This Amendment would reduce from two months to one month the period in which the Board is allowed to give notice to other people having an interest in the estate. It seems to me desirable that this should be done as promptly as possible, and I thought that I would at least give the noble Lord and the Government an opportunity of explaining why it should be so long as two months. I hope that the noble Lord will make clear that that is the maximum period, and I hope he will also make it clear that it is not likely to be usual. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 61, line 45, leave out ("two") and insert ("one").—(The Earl of Dundee.)


The arguments in relation to this Amendment are the same as those which I put forward on Amendment No. 41, where the noble Earl similarly suggested that the period should be reduced from two months to one month. I then stated that the two months period would be a maximum period, that we had to put in a period of this kind to cover the complex sort of case which might arise from time to time, but that the normal case would be dealt with in less than this period. So far as the normal case is concerned, the period which the noble Earl suggests, of one month, is probably much more likely, but it would be unwise to assume that every case is going to be straightforward, only to find that rushed and ill-considered decisions have to be arrived at because we had put into the Bill an unnecessarily short period.


I thank the noble Lord for that explanation, which I am glad to have on the Record. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE EARL OF DUNDEE moved in subsection (6), to leave out "five" [years] and insert "ten". The noble Earl said: This is a paving Amendment to Amendment No. 67. I do not know why the period of five years has been put in. It seems to me that there might be many reasons why it would be desirable, or even necessary, for a longer period to be allowed before the planting is carried out. One of the obvious ones, of which we are all conscious at the moment, is the credit squeeze and the bank rate in Scotland, which was 9 per cent. and which, I am sorry to say, is still to-day 8½ per cent., because it goes 2 per cent. above the English bank rate. This is an almost impossible, prohibitive condition for anybody who is trying to plant on credit, not having the actual cash to do it. I think that a little longer than five years should be allowed. Here again, as the noble Lord said in another context just now, I think the normal period certainly should not be more than five years, but in certain circumstances, such as a credit squeeze, it might be necessary to allow longer. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 62, line 7 leave out ("five") and insert ("ten").—(The Earl of Dundee.)


Having a part interest in an overdraft in Scotland, I wish that the noble Earl would not find it necessary so frequently to remind me of the difficulties which apparently I share with him. It hurts me to have this repeated reference to the high rate of interest. However, so far as this Amendment is concerned, while a higher rate of interest and the credit squeeze might well alter the period during which planting might take place and might change the landowner's ideas in the matter—he might well be obliged to spread it over a longer period than he originally contemplated—I would not think that this would present any problem at all. It seemed to the Government that it was reasonable that some limit should be placed on a planting licence in the ordinary way. Once you decide on a period it is obviously capable of being attacked as being too short a period or too long a period.

What I am obliged to point out is that this is a normal period which would be put in a licence in the ordinary way. In one case I think that the noble Earl seemed to indicate that it would be perfectly reasonable. People would normally be applying for a licence to plant when their plans are pretty well worked out. They are not asking for a licence in the expectation that they are going to begin three or four years hence; they are asking for a licence in the expectation that they will be going to commence fairly soon. I accept that these plans could be frustrated through conditions which they do not foresee—for instance, a plan undertaken last March might have been completely altered by the events of last July. So I accept that point as quite valid. But I would wish to go on to point out that, if a landowner is applying for a licence and he has any reason to believe that the period during which he would be expecting to plant would be over a period of five years, there is nothing at all to prevent him from asking for a longer period than five years to be specified in his licence. There is nothing at all in the provisions in this clause to prevent the Board from giving a longer period.

This is a matter which was discussed at some length in another place, and it was decided that in these circumstances five years was reasonable. I am quite certain that I will not be doing the landowner an injustice or placing any difficulties in the way of a Board when I say that this is merely a convenient figure which can be inserted in the Bill and it places no obstacle in the way of a board in suitable cases in granting a licence for another period altogether. Each application could in that respect be considered on its merits. I hope therefore that the noble Earl will find it possible to withdraw the Amendment.


I do not think I have read the discussion in another place on this particular point, but I am glad to hear what the noble Lord has said because, of course, in some cases you might want a very much longer period than five years. If you were undertaking a big scheme involving, say, 50 acres a year covering 1,000 acres, you would want 20 years in which to carry it out. You have to make your plans for planting often fully five years before you actually plant in the way of making arrangements for the hill farming lease to be modified, or in some cases terminated; there is part of the sheep stock to be disposed of and there is the question of getting the nursery ready, and it may take five years before the seeds you put in your nursery are ready to plant. I gather from what the noble Lord has said—I hope I am right—that there would be nothing whatever to prevent a licence being given covering a period of more than 10 years, even 20 years, if there were circumstances of that kind. Is that right?


The noble Earl mentioned that there might be circumstances where a period of 20 years for a licence to run would be desired in respect of a large area of planting. I accept that that is quite a possibility. If the Amendment were inserted substituting "ten" for "five" that particular owner would be in no better position. I think that the noble Earl's point will have been met in that there is written into the Record a clear undertaking that the five years is merely a normal figure which is to be put in and that the Board are perfectly free to incorporate into a licence such longer period—ten, twenty years or whatever may be valid—which seems to them proper. It would be equally proper for a landowner in making his application to suggest the period of years for which his licence should be valid.


I am glad to have that assurance, which I entirely accept. Of course, it was not uppermost in my mind because the large long-term scheme would quite certainly be dedicated, so as to be exempt from the licence. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE EARL OF DUNDEE moved, in subsection (8), to leave out "two hundred" and insert "fifty" [pounds]. The noble Earl said: This is an Amendment relating to fines to which I refer with some little feeling, because, as I told the noble Lord on Second Reading, some years ago I took action which if it had been taken under this Bill would have rendered me liable for this fine of £200. We all recognise that if there is to be a law there must be some sanction of some kind. All I say is that it seems to me that £200 is a very heavy amount to fine somebody for doing good. I maintain that anybody who plants is doing good. I know, of course, that the noble Lord will say that if a person plants contrary to the decision of the Board he is doing harm, but I still feel that he is probably doing what is best in the national interest and that the Board are probably wrong, as they were in my case—but that was a long time ago.

I consider that £200 is a savage penalty. After all, what has a man to gain by planting if he does not think he is doing good? He is not going to get anything from it himself. He will lose a lot of money for the rest of his life, although his descendants may possibly benefit. It would be a good thing if these maximum penalties could be reduced. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 62, line 31, leave out ("two hundred") and insert ("fifty").—(The Earl of Dundee.)


I do not agree that the sum referred to by Amendment No. 65, and if I might say so the daily figure to which Amendment No. 66 relates, are necessarily excessive. After all, these are maximum penalties, and recently in legislation we have been concerned to bring up to date permitted maximum penalties in fines which with the passage of time have become completely out of date. We must in the first instance give the court adequate powers. There may be some cases where the court might feel that a fine of £200, even for a first offence, is not enough. There would be other cases where the court would not consider it necessary to impose the maximum penalty. I am aware of the fact that there is a later Amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, on the subject of penalties, where for giving false information he seeks to do it the other way round, for he wishes to increase the penalties from £100 to £300.


Would the noble Lord accept my Amendment if I support the other one?


No. What I am willing to do is this. I am afraid I am not completely free from the feeling that there is some inconsistency between the two lots of penalties. In this case we have gone up in comparison with other legislation, and in the other case, to which the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, is directing attention, we have come down from the penalty which is imposed in the other legislation. I suggest that if the noble Earl will withdraw this Amendment, I should like to look at the particular figures again and come back to the matter at the next stage. I am not prepared to die in the last ditch for £200 as against £100. I may be influenced by the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, and come back with the suggestion that in this case also the figure should be £300.


All I am suggesting is that the existence of this fine, to which I cannot imagine anybody rendering himself liable, may be a deterrent to planting. It will do no good to forestry, and it may do harm. However, in view of what the noble Lord has said, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


This Amendment is necessary to delete the references to the Minister of Land and Natural Resources in so far as they relate to the Board's powers in respect of the control of afforestation in England. These powers will now rest with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in England, and with that Minister and the Secretary of State for Wales acting jointly, in Wales. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 63, line 42, leave out from ("to") to end of line 46 and insert ("Wales, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Wales acting jointly").—(Lord Hilton of Upton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

6.0 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 51, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


As a critic of this clause throughout, it would be wrong of me not to pay tribute to the Amendments which have been accepted by the noble Lord opposite. I hope he does not think that they make a bad clause into a good one; they do not. All they do is to make a bad clause rather less bad. I would say again that throughout these debates I have heard no good reason why, under this Bill, forestry in the areas under discussion, areas where planting on a smaller and on a larger scale ought to be encouraged, is to be made subject to conditions far more detailed and far more strict than is the case in other parts of the country, where, in fact, its sponsoring body is at least a national forestry authority, with which those concerned with forestry have good relations and for whom they have the greatest respect.

The same thing cannot be said about Rural Development Boards. Among many people in the countryside there is a feeling that the powers which noble Lords opposite are taking, and the special conditions they are imposing, may one day be extended to other areas, because all the arguments which they have used this afternoon could apply equally well to other areas where forestry might not be expected to develop on the same scale. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, appreciates this.

I was not here last week for the earlier stage of these debates, because I was in a country on the other side of the Iron Curtain taking part in certain agricultural discussions. If you substitute the expression "co-operative ventures" for "private ventures", which we have been talking about here to-day, the arguments which the noble Lord has been using are exactly the same as the arguments which I heard the bureaucracy over there using time and time again; always with the same encouraging tone of voice and smile, saying that it was for the good of the public and that the public authorities must not be frustrated, et cetera. It all had a most ominous ring. I look forward to the time, which I hope will not be too far distant, when we shall have different Ministers on the Benches opposite introducing an amending Bill which will put some sense into this whole business.


I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, that the Amendments do not make a bad clause into a good one. I am in complete agreement with him on that point. But what I suggest we have done is to make a good clause into a better one. In relation to what he has said about being behind the Iron Curtain, I hope that in your Lordships' House we will never be placed in the position where we will be deprived of the use of any particular form of language, because people on the other side of the Iron Curtain can use the same sort of language suitably translated for their own purposes. I do not have the slightest doubt that there will be many times when other noble Lords who venture on the other side of the Iron Curtain will find being said there the sort of expression which the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, would find it suitable to use in your Lordships' House.

What is important is not the language which is used by an individual or a Minister, but what is intended to lie behind it. I am quite certain that, anxious as the noble Lord is to see a change of Government, he is not suggesting that there is any real similarity between the Government of the country which he favoured with his presence, and the Government which he is favouring with his presence to-day. The noble Lord has left me in no doubt that he does not like this clause, as he has left me in no doubt that he does not like this Government. It is my wish that he will have to put up with both for a very long time.


Whether we are making a bad clause a little less bad, or a good clause a little better, I should like to thank the noble Lord for the very large and valuable concessions which he has made in accepting three of my Amendments, one of which is a really key Amendment and which has altered very much my mitigated opposition to the rest of the clause.

Clause 51, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 52 agreed to.

Clause 53 [Directions to Boards by appropriate Minister]:


This Amendment is similar to the last one, No. 68, and is necessary to delete references to the Minister of Land and Natural Resources, in so far as they relate to the powers of giving directions to Boards in England. These powers will now rest with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in England, and with that Minister acting jointly with the Secretary of State for Wales in Wales. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 64, line 41, leave out from ("to") to end of line 44 and insert ("Wales, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Wales acting jointly").—(Lord Hilton of Upton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 53, as amended, agreed to.

6.6 p.m.

LORD MOLSON moved, after Clause 53, to insert the following new clause:

Conditions for exercise of functions of Rural Development Board

". In formulating or considering any proposals relating to its functions, a Rural Development Board and the appropriate Minister shall take into account any effect which the proposals would have on the flora, fauna, physiological features, buildings, antiquities and natural beauty of the countryside."

The noble Lord said: I move this proposed new clause with a certain hopefulness that it may be accepted by the Government. It has come to be regarded as something like common form in a number of Bills which have given to statutory and other authorities powers to acquire and to develop and to carry out works in rural districts. In amenity circles it has come to be known as the "Hurcomb clause". It was originally introduced into the Electricity Act 1957, where it appears as Section 37. After wards, it was adopted as Section 3 in the Opencast Coal Act 1958. It appears as Section 43 in the Pipe-lines Act 1962, and also as Section 101 in the Water Resources Act 1963.

The purpose of the clause must surely be agreeable to the present Government. They have recently issued a White Paper dealing with recreation and leisure in the countryside, in which they indicate that they are anxious that everything that can be done shall be done to preserve the amenities of the countryside for the benefit of holidaymakers and other people. They have also indicated that they are going to change the name of the National Parks Commission to the Countryside Commission. I have specially in mind the National Parks when moving this clause, but it is of course of wider scope and will apply everywhere.

It may be argued by the Government that the matter is already adequately covered by Clause 44 of the Bill. But we who are concerned with amenities view the Rural Development Boards with some slight suspicion, because they are being set up for the purpose, mainly, of improving, increasing and developing agriculture and forestry. I am a farmer myself, and therefore I am entirely in favour of that; but I am also very much interested in the preservation of amenities, especially in those parts of the country which are not really suitable for agriculture. Normally, it is the wildest and most barren parts of the country which are the most beautiful and most suitable for leisure and recreation. But if I have read Clause 44 aright, there is no obligation upon the Rural Development Boards to take into account the importance of the preservation of the charm and beauty of rural areas of that kind.

Perhaps I might mention one case in point where amenity considerations are directly opposed by agricultural development. It is where the Ministry of Agriculture, in places like Exmoor, are giving grants to encourage the enclosure of moorland and its improvement as arable land. That, in our view, is very destructive of the charm, the loneliness and the beauty of places of that kind. This new clause does not impose a complete bar upon the extension of agriculture and forestry, but it calls upon the Rural Development Boards to take these matters into account. In view of the fact that this has become almost common form in Bills of this kind, I hope that the Government will be willing to accept the insertion of this new clause into the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 53, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Molson.)


I should like very strongly to support this new clause, which was originally accepted by the noble Viscount, Lord Mills, not only with acquiescence but with approbation, and which, as has been said, has been inserted into many other Bills. I hope that it will not be argued that Clause 44 already covers the ground. The wording of Clause 44 is somewhat curious. It says that account is to be taken or regard is to be had for the need for preserving and taking full advantage of the amenities and scenery in those areas where development is undertaken. That language is appropriate enough if one is thinking in terms of landscape architecture; and the great exponents of that architecture, like Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton, whose efforts adorn the seats of many Members of this House, naturally took advantage of the scenery. But when one thinks of the phrase "taking advantage of" in relation to the fauna and flora, it is a very different story. I think that if the noble Lord in charge of the. Bill were to look up his dictionaries, he would find that the lexicographers say that the phrase "take advantage of" is generally used in a bad sense, and the last thing we want to do is to see someone taking advantage of the fauna and flora by clearing them all out. Clause 44 also talks about historic and scientific features, and I do not myself quite see what is meant by the word "scientific" in that connection.

I therefore hope that no objection will be raised on behalf of Her Majesty's Government to incorporating what has now become the standard clause, though on looking at the Amendment it seems to me that "physiological" ought to read "physiographical". I am speaking from memory here, but I do not see any great meaning to "physiological" in this connection. As I say, Clause 44, though useful and apt in regard to the actual moulding of the landscape, is not quite suitable in relation to the fauna and flora or the physiography of the countryside. The clause which is now being proposed follows many recent precedents, and it is completely in line with the general policy of the Government in relation to the countryside. On all those grounds, I hope that it will be adopted. If it needs any modification in wording in relation to Clause 44, which is already in the Bill, then perhaps that could be agreed and considered in detail at the next stage of the Bill.


I do not think it needs any further speech in support of this clause to induce the Committee to accept it, but I think it is right that it should be known that we on this side, equally with noble Lords opposite and on the Cross-Benches, support this clause. I should have thought that it was completely unobjectionable, even if one were not enthusiastic about it, because it does not ask that these questions should dominate or determine the decision of the Rural Development Board. It merely asks that they should take these questions into account; and "taking into account" merely means weighing up the questions that they have before them, and as set out in the Amendment, and deciding how much weight should be given to them. I hope that a great deal of weight will be given to them, but they are really only a pointer to a Rural Development Board that, in giving consideration to any proposals, and in making their decisions, they should consider the matters set out in the new clause. I therefore hope that no objection will be taken to this new clause, and that it will be readily accepted.


I should like to add a brief word of support to the cogent case which has been made out by my noble friend Lord Molson and by the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb. I rather suspect that noble Lords opposite intend that Clause 44 should cover this, but Lord Hurcomb has very adroitly picked a hole in it by referring to the normal meaning of the words "take advantage of", which clearly imply exploiting in a bad sense. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is right in saying that this new clause is unobjectionable in every way; and it certainly makes quite plain what I am sure all noble Lords wish to see done by Rural Development Boards. I therefore hope that the Government will be good enough to accept this Amendment now, if possible; but, if they do not, I hope they will consider, before the next stage, how they wish to handle it, with a view to putting something in this sense in the Bill at the next stage.


May I clear up the small point which the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, made about "physiological" or "physiographical"? It is perfectly true that in the Third Marshalled List of Amendment it is shown as "physiological", but I believe (although I have not got it with me) that in the original List it was shown correctly as "physiographical". On behalf of whoever it is who is responsible for the actual typography here, I apologise; and I can assure noble Lords that "physiographical" is the word on which I think all of us are speaking.

I can also assure the noble Lord, Lord Molson, that the purpose of his Amendment is entirely agreeable. There is no quarrel about that whatsoever. The only question, in fact, is whether it is necessary; because, in spite of what my noble friend Lord Silkin has said, I do not think there is any justification for putting in an already somewhat lengthy Bill a further clause, or even a paragraph or a subsection, which is unnecessary. In my view, the correct method of presenting a Bill before your Lordships is in such a way that it will fulfil its purpose with the least amount of verbiage. My own contention is that, as this Bill is drafted at the present time, it amply covers these points, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, has said—and I speak with great deference in view of his great knowledge and experience on these matters. I can certainly make it abundantly clear to him, if that is needed, that when this Bill speaks of "taking advantage of" it is in no sense in a derogatory manner but in the literal, and I would suggest correct, sense that the greatest advantage to the community is obtained by all these natural resources whatever they may be.

Clause 44 has been quoted in part. Perhaps I may read certain parts of it again to support my contention that it fulfils all the desires of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, and his friends. Clause 44(2) says: Those special problems and needs"— those which the Rural Development Boards are to take into account— include the special difficulties in the formation of commercial units of agricultural land"; in other words, the agricultural aspects of the area. They also include: the need for an overall programme for guidance in making decisions as to the use of land in such areas for agriculture and forestry", and so on. They also include: the need for improved public services", and they further include: the need for preserving and taking full advantage of the amenities and scenery in those areas". That in itself I should have thought would be sufficient.


May I interrupt? The noble Lord said in his quotation: taking full advantage of the amenities and scenery in those areas", but he stopped at that point. The wording goes on, in the course of their development for those purposes". Those purposes, I think, are agriculture and forestry. In cases where there is a conflict between amenity interests and agricultural and forestry interests there is no instruction to the Board to take account of amenity interests.


I must confess to the noble Lord that that is my understanding of this. It would not be my desire that it should be interpreted in another way. I should like time to consider that somewhat further; but I would go on to point out that in subsection (3) of Clause 44 (as it were, to give special importance to the amenity aspect of this) the amenities are singled out in a way in which agriculture, public services and other things are not singled out. They are underlined to the extent of saying that the amenities shall include"— it does not rule out others— any feature of scientific or historic interest in those areas I feel myself that that includes all those matters that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has raised.

6.24 p.m.


May I ask what the noble Lord really means by "scientific" in this connection? In the past it has been considered that the various factors should be spelled out as in the standard clause, which makes it clear that they include flora, fauna and physiographical interests—a point which arose, for example, very controversially at Dungeness. All these things were to be taken into account and the Minister and the authorities who had to consider these matters were told clearly what were covered. I submit, with deference, that an ill-defined word like "scientific" will mean nothing to one of these Rural Development Boards. If the noble Lord would be good enough to consider that carefully and ask his advisers why they have departed from the standard clause and would discuss it further with us on Report stage, then I hope we shall be able to convince him that the standard clause is the one to adopt in this connection. "Historic" and "scientific" are very vague words and I would, again with great deference, suggest that the fuller wording is much to be preferred.


I personally have a preference for the vaguer words in this because it seems to me that they are more all-embracing. Once you start defining such matters as flora and fauna, physiographical features, buildings and antiquities and natural beauty, it implies that something left out has been specifially left out. If you use simply the word "scientific" then ordinary people know what is meant by that. It is always possible that new disciplines can arise under the general heading of science. For instance, "physiographical" is a relatively new word. I see that the noble Lord is not agreeing with me. I would not like to say when "physiographical" first came into use, but I imagine it would be much later than "flora" and "fauna".

If this clause had been drafted at some time in the last century when "flora" and "fauna" were accepted words and "physiographical" was not a word in common use, that word might have been left out and physiographical features thus excluded. I do not want to labour this point, because I am certain that all of us on all sides agree with the objectives of this Amendment. I will gladly con- sider this matter further and can assure all noble Lords that at the Report stage, if it is clear that this point has not been adequately covered in the Bill as drafted, some further Amendment will be proposed to meet these points.


May I say a word in favour of "physiographical". It is a fairly respectable word. It has been used for practically the whole of this century, if not the last century. It is a delightfully vague term in this particular connection. It is not precise and I should have thought it would commend itself to the noble Lord, Lord Walston, in that respect.


Before the noble Lord decides what he is going to do, may I just make this suggestion?—that it is advantageous to have this particular provision in one separate clause rather than as a subsection of some other clause which deals with a variety of things. When the noble Lord considers this I should hope that he will agree that this provision, which is already in other Acts, as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, told us, should be dealt with separately even if it is amended in some way.


I am much obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for both his interventions. I think there is no possible argument against what he has just said. Where you have a certain kind of matter dealt with and where it has been dealt with in four important Statutes in a clause that has become common form, it is advantageous to use the same form again and set it out as an individual clause. Naturally I entirely accept the Parliamentary Secretary's undertaking to look at this matter again. Perhaps he would consult me about it before the Report stage. I will gladly withdraw my Amendment in consideration of the undertaking he has given. I should like also to express my gratitude to him for what he said about the original form of the Amendment and how it came to be altered in the Marshalled List. I had thought for a time that I had been guilty of a clerical malapropism.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 54 to 56 agreed to.

Clause 57:

The Central Council for Agricultural and Horticultural Co-operation

57.—(1) There shall be established a body to be called the Central Council for Agricultural and Horticultural Co-operation (in this Part of this Act referred to as "the Council").

6.30 p.m.

The Earl of DUNDEE moved, in subsection (1), after "Agricultural" to insert, "Forestry". The noble Earl said: We now come to Part IV which I think one of the best Parts of a Bill which in general we heartily support. I have always thought it a pity, indeed I feel it to be a blemish in the Bill, that Part IV should apply only to agriculture and horticulture, and that forestry is not included in the scope of the councils and co-operative schemes provided for in this Part of the Bill. I think that all the nine Amendments in my name could be discussed together; that is, this Amendment, the remaining Amendments to this clause, and Amendments Nos. 77, 78 and 80 to Clause 60. That would be all the remaining Amendments in my name except the last one.

I would ask the Government to look again at this matter carefully before the Report stage to see whether it is possible to bring in forestry. The point of agricultural co-operative schemes is to encourage small farmers, small owners and crofters to come together to improve their property and enable their way of life to be carried on by co-operation, since it is quite impossible in present economic conditions to carry it on without co-operation—and we are not in this country always very good about co-operation. We welcome this Part of the Bill because it helps small farmers to do that. There are, I think, a good many small farming communities, particularly crofting communities, whose survival might depend not so much on co-operative schemes for agriculture as on co-operative forestry schemes. There are parts of this country where farming on a small scale will be unable to continue unless there is some substantial kind of subsidiary employment brought into the district. If it be not possible or convenient to bring in industrial employment to a sufficient extent to keep the small farmers going, forestry is often the only answer.

I have no direct experience of crofting communities in Scotland because I have no crofting tenants, but I am told that when a forestry scheme is proposed in the Scottish Highlands the younger and progressive crofters are often apt to be in favour of it, but that opposition is more apt to come from the older crofters; and the scheme is held up because usually you have to have unanimous or near unanimous agreement. One can well understand that people who are getting near to the end of their lives will not benefit as much from co-operative planting schemes as will the younger people as they grow up. But might it not make all the difference between agreement and failure to get agreement for a co-operative forestry scheme in that sort of area if the advantages of Part IV of this Bill were available?

In the words of the Explanatory Memorandum, Clause 60 enables Ministers to pay grants for organising, promoting, encouraging, developing or co-ordinating co-operation in agriculture or horticulture. Grants may be paid on proposals submitted to and recommended by the Council and approved by Ministers, being proposals so submitted within ten years of the coming into force of the clause.

I think it regrettable (although I am sure it is not the case so far as the noble Lord is concerned) that the impression should be given that forestry is regarded as a secondary, inferior kind of occupation, and that it should not be brought into this Part of the Bill. I would ask the Government to consider this again, and I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 67, line 7, after ("Agriculture") insert ("Forestry").—(The Earl of Dundee).


Spokesmen on private forestry in your Lordships' House have generally been drawn from among the owners of the rather larger woodland estates, which may give the impression that in private forestry such estates are in the majority. In fact that is far from the case. There is a predominence of smaller owners, just as there is among the occupiers and owners of agricultural land. In this Bill there are incentives for the amalgamation into economic units of the smaller units of agriculture. No such incentives are provided for forestry; nor I think, is there a potentiality for that sort of thing. Yet small units in forestry are possibly even less economic than those in agriculture.

There are a good many reasons for this, but one, particularly, is that wood-land produce goes largely to either monopoly or near-monopoly buyers—for example, the National Coal Board, British Rail, the General Post Office and so on. State forests can deal with these buyers on an equal footing, but so far as the private side is concerned it is only by joining forces in some way—in cooperative societies for example—that the small owner has any chance to sell his produce economically. By joining a cooperative he can also obtain not only skilled management for his woodlands but also essential advice and help in marketing his produce.

The co-operative societies need considerable capital to start, and they are expensive to run. The need for help for agricultural societies is recognised in this Bill, but the need for forestry cooperatives is at least equally urgent. The Forestry Commission used to give grants for their formation and also grants towards running expenses. These ceased when the woodland owners' organisations were set up, following the recommendations in the Watson Report. Several societies have recently been forced to close down for lack of finance, and others are in danger of having to do the same thing. There is an urgent need for help, and I find it very difficult to see why there should be this differentiation between agriculture and forestry. I had hoped that any extension of the cooperative principle would be very acceptable to noble Lords opposite.

6.38 p.m.


The noble Earls, Lord Dundee and Lord Bradford, have spoken in favour of extending the cooperative principle from agriculture and horticulture to forestry, and I agree with them about the desirability of having cooperation in that field. The only reason why the Government do not have a provision of this kind in the Bill at the present time is that this is an Agriculture Bill. Forestry comes into it in the previous Part, because the Rural Development Boards have powers over their areas, including forestry. But there is a secondary and much more important reason why we do not include forestry in these co-operative principles. It is that the powers already in the Forestry Acts provide for financial assistance to forestry, including forestry co-operatives. We feel that the question of the extent to which these powers should be used is a matter which must be considered as a forestry issue and not as a side issue of agriculture, and that it is not appropriate for consideration under an Agriculture Bill.

It is true that the Forestry Commission have no specific powers for giving financial aid to forestry—which is rather interesting, because earlier I was arguing, as I admitted quite frankly, against the general Government line that we rely on general powers rather than specific powers. In view of what I have said to the noble Earl, I am glad that I put it in that way. Though the Forestry Commission have no specific power to do this, this does not prevent them from being able to do it. Their general powers enable them to assist the planting and management of woodlands, and this power could be exercised to support forestry co-operatives by way of grants, loans or guarantees against loss. The relevant provisions are in the Forestry Act 1919, Section 3(1)(3)(e) and (3)(f).

In view of what the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has said more than once, that he regrets the extent to which forestry has suffered from the lack of enthusiasm on the part of successive Governments, it is interesting to know that one of the times when the Government were enthusiastic about forestry was immediately after the First World War. The present Government believe that the powers given in the 1919 Act are adequate to meet this situation. There have been some activities of a co-operative nature under these powers, though perhaps not so much as noble Lords would like. The Scottish Woodlands Owners' Association and the Timber Growers' Association were set up in 1958 with the aid of grants from the Forestry Commission, and part of the responsibilities which these two organisations assumed was for supporting forestry co-operatives. The Government are convinced that aid to forestry co-operatives can best be given under the Forestry Acts rather than as a side issue under the Agriculture Acts.

The noble Earl's Amendments might well serve a useful purpose in reminding those interested in forestry co-operatives that these powers are in existence. I hope that the noble Earl will accept the Government's view. It may be that the inclusion of these powers in this Bill will have less than a satisfactory effect. Sometimes when people have a choice of action under two provisions, they finish up by doing nothing under either. I hope that the noble Earl will allow the Committee to make rapid progress by withdrawing these nine Amendments in one go.


The noble Lord ended by saying that it would be a disadvantage generally to deal with something under two Acts, and that we are considering an Agriculture Bill. But we have spent one-third of the Committee stage dealing with forestry, and it is rather difficult to say that it is so minor an issue in this Bill that it can be brushed aside by saying that the Forestry Act 1919, which most of us who have been closely connected with forestry for a long time know already, contains the necessary powers. That Act gave the Forestry Commission wide powers to deal with the production and marketing of timber. In point of fact, those powers have not worked out so satisfactorily as the noble Lord asked us to believe.

The great effort of the Forestry Commission in its early days was to encourage planting—first and foremost, its own. It must be borne in mind that any increase in the support of the private side of the industry, which still represents a half—even more—of the industry, must be subtracted from the funds available for the Commission. That has always been a most unsatisfactory factor in working out ventures under Section 3 of the 1919 Act. Further, many of us, in our time in Parliament, have tried to get agriculture and forestry treated as equal partners in the countryside. I am sorry to say that this Bill again makes the division wider.

I should have thought there was a great deal to be said for including the word "Forestry" here and for bringing under the Central Council for Co-operation many of the co-operative schemes we have in mind. Many of us consider that this is a much better way of doing it than doing it under the 1919 Act, which has not proved as satisfactory as no doubt its authors thought. It would also be a great saving, because much of the work of the co-operative councils for agriculture and horticulture has a forestry application; and surely we ought not to overlook that. Therefore, I would ask the noble Lord to look at this matter again.


Could the noble Lord specifically say whether the powers he referred to in the Forestry Act are as extensive as the powers under Clause 60 of this Bill? And can he assure us that if advantage was taken of those powers, the grants payable to cooperative schemes would not be deducted by the Treasury from some other grant to forestry?


I must say frankly that I envy the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, the facility he has of hearing only the things he wants to hear and even of hearing things that have not been said. I did not say that the Bill had nothing to do with forestry. I said that it was an Agriculture Bill and forestry had arisen in the previous clause because the Rural Development Boards would have to exercise their powers in relation to forestry as well as to other uses of land. The fact that we have been spending a considerable time this afternoon in discussing forestry still leaves forestry a relatively small part of the Bill.

The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has asked if the powers under the 1919 Act would enable grants to be given as under Clause 60. I think that I cannot do better than repeat what I said. These are general powers, which can be used to assist the planting and management of woodland, including the supporting of forestry co-operatives by way of grants, loans or guarantees. The advice which I have been given is not that the Commission can give grants up to a certain amount, loans at a particular rate or guarantees to a certain amount. I assume—and I will check this before the next stage—that the generality of this reference is exactly as it is intended. I think that we should do better to rely on how the Forestry Commission will use these powers. Since this Bill was introduced, there have been a number of suggestions made to the Minister of Agriculture by private forestry interests in relation to the Bill and in relation to forestry generally. These are being studied, and it may be that further representations may be made.

So, on this matter of co-operation, I can give the undertaking that forestry Ministers are very willing to look at it in the widest possible terms, although noble Lords will not expect me to anticipate the conclusions at which they may arrive. I do not think I should have been encouraged to draw your Lordships' attention to the wide powers which exist under the 1919 Act if it were not that the Government intended that noble Lords should know that the powers they are seeking to import into this Bill substantially exist in the general form in the 1919 Act.

If they have not been used during the years perhaps to the extent that some noble Lords opposite would like, I do not think it can be taken as a criticism of the powers which exist, but rather as a criticism of the attitude which Governments have adopted from time to time in the past in relation to forestry. As the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has pointed out more than once in debates on forestry in your Lordships' House, this support has fluctuated: at times Governments have been keen on forestry, and have been helpful, but at other times they have not been so enthusiastic. They did not withdraw the powers; they just did not use them. But the fact remains that they are still there, and can be used, and if noble Lords with forestry interests wish to make representations for the use of these powers in the co-operative field, I can assure the Committee that forestry Ministers will be very willing to look at such representations and give them serious consideration. Therefore, I hope that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw Amendment No. 71.


In view of the noble Lord's explanation, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 57 agreed to.

Clauses 58 and 59 agreed to.

Clause 60 [Grants for purposes connected with co-operative activities]:


This is purely a drafting Amendment, which is designed to rectify the unintentional omission of a standard provision relating to schemes of grants, which already appears in Clauses 26, 30 and 40 of the Bill. As amended, the clause would permit authority to be given for work to be started, without prejudicing subsequent payment of grant, on proposals that had been submitted to the Central Council but had not yet received their recommendation or approval by Ministers. This sort of arrangement is provided for in many grant schemes to avoid unnecessary delays in allowing work to start on proposals. The issue of an authority to start work does not, of course, commit Ministers to pay grant if the proposals are not subsequently recommended and approved. I feel sure the Committee will agree with me that this is a worthwhile Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 70, line 15, at end insert ("which recommendation and approval may be given before or, in such classes of cases as the Minister may direct, after the carrying out of the proposals").—(Lord Walston.)


This is a useful, practical Amendment, which all experience has shown to be necessary, and I am happy to support it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 60, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 61 to 66 agreed to.

Clause 67 [False statements to obtain grants]:

6.56 p.m.

LORD BALERNO moved, in subsection (1)(i), to leave out "one" and insert "three" [hundred pounds]. The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment, I should like to refer first of all to the suggested similarity between this Amendment and the one moved by my noble friend Lord Dundee. In point of fact, there is a substantial difference. Amendment No. 65, moved by my noble friend Lord Dundee, referred to cases where there was a contravention of the Rural Development Board's instructions, or as it says: failure to get a licence from the Rural Development Board. I protested at an earlier stage in the Bill about the lack of information being given of the existence of a Rural Development Board. As a contravention in the earlier case might be due to lack of knowledge of the existence of a Board, or of the necessity to obtain a licence for forestry, it is quite different from the purpose of Amendment No. 65, where the contravention, or the fault, is that of a farmer who knows of the existence of the regulation, because he is applying, and must therefore know all about it. So there is every reason why the fine should be lighter in the case put forward by my noble friend Lord Dundee, and why it should be more severe in the case which I now put forward. But the main purpose of my Amendment is to draw attention to the importance of speedy action in dealing with applications for grants under this Bill.

This clause deals with a farmer who makes statements known to be false, or recklessly makes false statements, in order to obtain a grant. On summary conviction, he is liable to a fine not exceeding £100, or imprisonment for not more than three months. I am emphasising the careless nature, not the wilful nature. The farmer who wilfully makes a mistake can be caught up on indictment, and there is no limit to the fine that he may suffer. I am considering the case of the farmer who makes a careless statement; perhaps he is hasty in putting in his application, and that is carelessness. I submit that a maximum fine of £100 is not much of a deterrent to a farmer who is somewhat careless by nature, and who would know that for his first conviction it would be most unlikely that the whole £100 fine would be imposed. If a high proportion of farmers are careless, then those responsible for administering the scheme will have to spend far more time checking the statements of the farmers, and arguing with them. If the immediate penalties for a false statement are stepped up sharply, far fewer careless farmers will put forward applications. They will take good care that their applications are exact before they submit them.

In the past, many applications have been promptly dealt with. One would like to pay tribute to the work of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, of which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, was in charge, for the great promptitude and courtesy with which, by and large, these applications have been dealt; and I understand that the same holds good at the Ministry in the adjacent Kingdom. But there are cases where, for one reason or another, undue delay has occurred, particularly in looking into the bona fides of a farmer and having discussion with him, especially when it comes to calculating such things as acreages.

I submit that the farmer will have to wait a long time before he can get his application through under this Bill, and before he can even decide to go ahead with an improvement. He has to get expert advice; he has to weigh up the pros and cons; he has to count the cost, and he has to have an interview with his bank manager to ascertain whether his overdraft can be enlarged. Therefore, by the time he gets his application in the months are slipping by, and it is important that the application should be examined and that the work should be started as soon as possible. The need for speed in the administration of these schemes has been fully recognisd by the Government. At the Committee stage in another place the Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary, talking of the new incentives in the Bill, said that the aim was to provide incentives which were more selective, more certain, and more speedily paid; and on the Third Reading the Minister is reported as having said that the Government had decided to replace investment allowances by cash grants, which would be more selective, more speedy and more certain.

The purpose of this Amendment is to assist the Government in ensuring speed in dealing with applications by honest and careful farmers, and to make certain that the small proportion of malefactors among them do not "get away with it", for if they do it may mean that the honest farmers will get a smaller slice of the cake in future. That is why I suggest that the maximum fine should be raised from £100 to £300. If this Amendment is adopted it will give the farmer a positive incentive to exercise care in making an application for a grant. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 79, line 17, leave out ("one") and insert ("three").—(Lord Balerno.)


I am glad that in spite of the awkwardness of the fact that your Lordships' Committee are sitting on a Monday the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, has been able to attend and give us, as always, the benefit of his great experience. I am also rather glad that, as I gather from the newspapers, the Price Review has now been completed, otherwise perhaps his remarks might have had some effect on it, when he told us that, at any rate in Scotland, £100 is not much of a deterrent to the average farmer. They seem to have plenty of them to hand out. The noble Lord must live in a different part of Scotland from that with which the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, is familiar. In spite of that. I have some sympathy with what the noble Lord is trying to achieve. Of course we do not want to have fraudulent applications made; nor do we want to have careless or frivolous applications. The question is how best these can be prevented.

The noble Lord has rightly said that where there is a question of fraud, or where the case appears to be a serious one, there are various legal methods by which the culprit can have imposed upon him a larger penalty than that which the magistrates' court—or the Sheriff court, in Scotland—can impose. But he is dealing solely with the careless farmer. Apart from the fact that it seems to me that for most careless farmers a possible fine of £100 is a considerable deterrent, I would point out to noble Lords that this maximum fine of £100 is, in fact, the normal provision for offences of this kind, and increasing this figure to £300 for this particular group of offences would take it out of the normal range of magistrates' court fines and therefore invest it with a degree of seriousness that would exalt it above other offences which might well be just as serious, if not more serious.

What I am really saying is that as this clause stands at the moment it is in line with other offences of a similar nature and I should have thought that if it were right to increase the maximum fine for an offence of this sort it should be looked at not in the somewhat narrow context of an Agriculture Bill but in the far wider context of all those other offences which are roughly similar. Therefore, provided that the noble Lord is satisfied and realises, as I know he does from what he said, that in bad cases of fraud, or even persistent carelessness, it is quite possible to impose a heavier fine on farmers, I hope that he will see fit to withdraw his Amendment.


The reason I wished to increase the fine was that it was quite simple for the careless farmer, by a rather careless misrepresentation of the facts, to increase the grant that he would get from the Government by an order of £200 or £300. Therefore the possibility of a first offender's fine, with a maximum of £100, would be about £25, and that would be practically nothing in order to bring in a couple of hundred pounds. Perhaps that sort of thing does not happen in England, and probably it does not happen often in Scotland; but the intention of the Amendment was to prevent that. However, the main purpose of the Amendment was to draw attention, not necessarily only of the Government, to the importance of the fact that these grants, if they are to be effective, must be paid speedily. It is possible for hope to be deferred to such an extent that the subsequent crop is missed, the cattle are not housed for the next winter, the implements are not there for the cultivation of the ground in the spring or the harvesting later on. Speed will be an essential point in the operation of these grants. But having, as it were, rubbed Her Majesty's Government's nose in this particular point, I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 67 agreed to.

Clauses 68 to 70 agreed to.

Clause 71 [Disqualification for House of Commons, etc.]:


The effect of this Amendment would be to disqualify a Member of the Northern Irish Parliament only from taking an appointment as a member of a Rural Development Board in that country. He could, however, accept an appointment to a Board in Great Britain. I think it would be preferable to make this clear in the Bill, rather than by an Order in Council setting up a Board in Northern Ireland. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 81, line 22, after ("Board") add ("in Northern Ireland").—(Lord Hilton of Upton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 71, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 72 and 73 agreed to.

Schedule 1:

The Meat and Livestock Commission

  1. PART III 2,193 words
  3. PART II
  4. cc101-4
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