HL Deb 30 July 1998 vol 592 cc245-6WA
Lord Hughes of Woodside

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What effects the Comprehensive Spending Review has had on the Forestry Commission. [HL3142]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel)

Following the Comprehensive Spending Review, we have allocated an additional £94½ million to the Forestry Commission over the next three years. This has enabled us to put an end to the programme of large scale sales of Forestry Commission woods and forests, as promised in our manifesto. If we had merely rolled forward the budgets set by the previous government, the commission would have had to sell about 80,000 hectares, or 10 per cent., of our forests. The commission will now be able to safeguard public access to these woods for walkers, cyclists, horseriders and many others who use the commission's forests for recreation and enjoyment.

The Forestry Commission will also develop and increase the opportunities for woodland recreation in our forests, entering into partnerships with the private sector where this is appropriate. For example, the commission's holiday cabins will be refurbished and expanded in association with the private sector, so that more people can enjoy holidays in the forests.

The Forestry Commission will also continue to enhance the economic value of our forests, while at the same time conserving and improving their biodiversity, landscape and cultural heritage. In addition, the commission will work to increase public understanding and community participation, and will target its support for the private forestry sector to secure a wide range of public benefits.

The Forestry Commission manages over 800,000 hectares of woods and forests—about 4 per cent. of the land in Britain. This is a valuable resource, and the Comprehensive Spending Review has ensured that the commission can continue to manage these woods and forests sustainably, for the benefit of future generations and in line with our international commitments.