HC Deb 12 December 1990 vol 182 cc433-4W
Sir Hector Monro

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether the Government have any plans to review the rates of grant for forestry planting.

Mr. Lang

The Government considered the rates of grant for broadleaved planting as part of their recent review of broadleaves policy, the outcome of which was announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) in reply to a question from my hon. Friend on 23 July,Official Report, columns 6–11.

We concluded that against the background of the considerable expansion in broadleaved planting that had taken place since we introduced our new broadleaves policy in 1985, and given the substantial rise in grant rates which accompanied the introduction of the woodland grant scheme in 1988, there was no evidence that the planting grants on offer were inadequate. At the same time, however, we were able to announce that woodland management grants would be introduced under the woodland grant scheme for both broadleaved and conifer woodlands from 1 April 1992, with enhanced rates of grant for woodlands of special environmental value. This move has been widely welcomed.

We have also received the rates of grant for conifer planting and, as with broadleaves, we have concluded that there is no convincing case at present for general increases under the Forestry Commission's grant schemes. There has been a drop in conifer planting, but it is our view that this has been due not to any inadequacy in grant rates as such but to a combination of factors, including the price and availability of suitable land and the general economic situation.

Nevertheless, it remains an important part of our forestry policy that a higher proportion of planting should take place on low ground of better quality than hitherto. We have therefore decided to increase the better land supplement of £200 per hectare, which is available as a top-up grant under the woodland grant scheme for planting on arable land or grassland which has been cultivated and improved within the previous ten years. The new rates will be £400 per hectare for conifer planting and £600 per hectare for planting with broadleaves, and will apply to any eligible planting done under the scheme on or after 1 October 1990. The supplement is not available under the farm woodland scheme, for which special annual payments are made by the agriculture departments.

The cost of the higher supplements will be in the region of £1 million per annum; this will be met from within existing resources.

I am sure that these increases in the better land supplement will lead to considerably more planting on better land "down the hill" and that they will be welcomed by landowning and environmental interests alike.