§ Mr. Dalyell
To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to the letter of the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) of 28 July, what assessment he has made of the environmental impact of coppicing as an integral part in Her Majesty Government's on-going programmes in renewable energy; what engineering assessment he has made of the development of suitable machinery for the harvesting of short-rotation coppice by Loughry college in County Tyrone; and what action he is taking to support its commercialisation in the marketplace.
§ The Prime Minister
The environmental impact of coppicing was studied by the energy technology support unit in 1988, in its report, "Energy Forestry in Britain: Environmental issues"—ETSU B 1166.
Its main conclusion was that such environmental impacts should be no more severe than those associated with other forms of arable farming. Nevertheless, further, more detailed, work continues, with advice from, among others, the Countryside Commission, the Countryside Council for Rural Wales, English Nature, the Game Conservancy Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Forestry Authority.
An assessment of the original version of the Loughry college harvester was reported in ETSU B 1382. A new, simpler, version developed with funding from the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland, is now being assessed. This newer machine is not yet at a stage where commercial development would be appropriate.
Copies of the reports have been placed in the Library of the House.