I was just talking about the dedication scheme and the form of financial assistance under that scheme. I hope that the method proposed in the Report will be looked at before it is finally decided upon. My first reason for asking that is that the rate of the grant should be related to the cost of planting per acre. As the cost of planting and rates and taxes are variable figures and may change in the future, I hope that a good deal of care will be taken before that figure is finally fixed. As regards felling licences, I reluctantly have come to the conclusion that there is no alternative to their continuance at the present time, but I hope they will not be continued indefinitely and that their application will not be too rigid in certain respects. There are a number of points which ought to be watched, including the supply of timber for estate development, thinnings and small woods, which should not be treated too severely by this method.
My last point is in regard to the sylvicultural system and its development in this country. There is a great deal of tree felling going on, both for soft and hard woods, but I hope we shall develop a selective system of felling, and I ask the Government to consider the wisdom of any clear-cut hard-wood felling which involves the cutting down now of trees which are less than 10 or 12 inches quarter girth, which does not seem prudent or worth while.
The Report has shown us that, in spite of initial difficulties and political and financial insecurity, the Forestry Commission have, between the two wars, made a good start in building up a reserve of timber and have made some contribution to our war effort. If the nation learns its lesson—and we should remember that it is the second lesson—there is no doubt that the nation should embark upon a more substantial programme. Of the programmes which have been placed before us in the Report, the desirable and the intermediate, the desirable seems the obvious choice. There is small difference in the early difficult years after the war between the two programmes and by the time there is a substantial difference, our recovery should be such that we are able to take the desirable programme in our stride.
In sylviculture and in general administration, the Commission have a good story to tell, and the future problems are rather those of development than of change. If we are to embark during the first 20 postwar years on a programme which will be five times the achievement of the 20 years before the war, we must contrive that the Commission have a greater financial stability and greater political strength. As to how that can be achieved, I will have something to say later on. I would first of all say a word or two about some of the proposals in the Report.
If we undertake the desirable programme, I have some doubt that the Commission is not looking, at any rate in England, too much to the rough grazings for its afforestable area. There are approximately 4,000,000 acres of rough grazings which are afforestable, half of them in England and Wales and the other half in Scotland. If from those, 3,000,000 acres are to be taken, and if they were evenly divided between England and Scotland, it would mean that three-elevenths of the total, and probably more than half of the effective English and Welsh grazings, would be taken from sheep and cattle. With the increase in our tillage, with the decrease in our Lowland grass flocks and the consequent demand for hill sheep and the crossbreeds built upon them, it may well be that in the national interest we should look to a larger contribution to the necessary forest acreage by the co-ordination of marginal agricultural land in our existing woodlands and to a re-good demand on our lower hill grazings.
In considering this question, it seems to me that the Commission have ignored the progress made during the war in turning rough grazing to useful agricultural purposes. Account should be taken of this progress and its probable development, as also of the effect of marginal agricultural land upon the price structure necessary for a prosperous agriculture, and a balance should be struck between the interests of agriculture and of forestry. The need to strike such a balance shows that the question of the provision of afforestable land is intimately bound up with agriculture, and it seems to me that while the Commission should continue to be responsible for sylviculture and for general administration of our forests, the agricultural Ministers should be responsible for the provision of land.
I welcome what the right hon. Baronet had to say about small woods. The impression I gained from the Report was that the Commissioners were inclined to dismiss too readily this matter of the small woods, but what he said seemed somewhat to broaden what the Report actually proposes. The small woods have made a useful contribution to our war effort, and they may well again be a useful reserve, while at the same time they may meet the needs of shelter and amenity. I hope that the small woods will receive not only advice but, like the small woods in the dedicated scheme, will receive some measure of assistance. Such assistance need not be uneconomic, if it were given in the form of a loan on the security of the timber. Indeed, I am not sure that the assistance to the dedicated woods would not be better given in the form of a loan, perhaps interest free, until they are self-supporting. With grants, the State has no further financial interest in the timber and is able to cancel its grants in time of financial stringency. With loans the State has every inducement to see that the crop is properly managed, brought to maturity and properly harvested.
I am glad that- the Commission foreshadow being more actively concerned in the marketing of timber. Our heavy wartime timber fellings and the need to con- serve timber after the war will make it difficult to maintain an efficient home timber trade in this country, and there seem to be good grounds why the Commission should change their policy of selling timber in the round and join with landowners and timber merchants in cooperative facilities for marketing of timber and adequate research in its utilisation. I welcome the importance attached to research and the development of research as regards sylviculture and the utilisation of timber which are proposed, but is there adequate research in the substitution of other materials for timber in those industries which make a heavy drain upon our timber resources? Take the newsprint industry, which makes a very heavy drain upon the resources of timber in the Empire. It seems to me that here is a field for research which may well be investigated upon an Empire basis to see whether we can find some alternative to wood pulp for the newsprint industry and so restrict the drain which that industry makes upon our resources.
Mention of research leads me to comment on the proposal that there should be committees of the Commission for England and Wales and for Scotland. If the Forestry Commission is to be efficient and effective, it seems to me that it should cover the widest possible area, certainly an area not less than the whole of Great Britain, so that it may offer scope for the most highly qualified personnel and adequate marketing and research facilities. When that is secured, it does, however, seem desirable that the Commission should work in committees upon which those with special knowledge of English, Welsh and Scottish problems should be co-opted and that the main committee should co-ordinate the work as a whole and retain the benefits of a common staff and common marketing and research. Such an arrangement would fit in with what I have already said about the Ministers in charge of agriculture being responsible for the provision of land. If the Commission worked through sub-committees it would be easy for them to keep in touch with the Secretary of State for Scotland in Scotland, and the Minister of Agriculture in England and Wales.
But I would go further. I also think that these agricultural Ministers should be responsible for the representation of the Commission in Parliament and for the adequacy of the country's forestry pro- gramme. If we were to have direct Ministerial responsibility, I think there would be less chance that forestry would be sacrificed in time of financial stringency, than there would be if no Minister is responsible, as now, or if the Lord President assisted by two Ministers and one civil servant were responsible as is suggested in the Report. In conclusion, I would make a plea that there should not be too long a delay in announcing a decision upon our agricultural programme. The agricultural programme is so bound up with our forestry programme that the preparation of the latter cannot be proceeded with alone. If valuable years are not to be lost, it is essential that preparation should start soon, so that at the earliest date we may have a reserve of timber which may meet a substantial proportion of our home consumption and be a standby for any further national emergency.
I consider myself fortunate in being able to take part in this Debate on such an important subject as forestry. As one who has, along with the rest of the Commissioners, signed this Report, I make no apology for doing so and should like here to say that one must remember that, after all, this Report has been signed by men of every political complexion and even nationality. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) expressed surprise that the signatures of my hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) and myself should be attached to a document like this. I think if he had just looked through it, he would have discovered that, so far as we are concerned, we signed that document not as coming from ourselves alone but as a Report that embodied the best that all of us could give. The Report embodies the general principles of give-and-take to which, obviously, in a body such as this, we have to consent.
It has one reservation. No one has mentioned it because they do not think it important enough to merit attention or consideration in this matter. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery has, suddenly, in these later years, become a kind of revolutionary and would revolutionise and socialise everything—though one can remember the days when he was not helpful to those who professed such principles in this House. He criticised the set-up of the Commission. The Report is by no means, I suppose, the last word in this respect, but it is a Report which has been presented to the Government and the Committee for consideration, and if it requires certain amendments and perhaps deserves certain criticism, so far as they are directed towards making the Report better and strengthening its purpose—which is growing timber and the expansion of forestry in this country—they would be favourably considered by the Commission and, I suppose, by the Government to that extent. I do not know whether I am entitled to deal with the hon. and learned Member's statement that he would like to put this Commission under the Minister of Agriculture and to deprive the Minister of deep-sea fishing. I think, without exception, we part company with him in that respect.
All of us, that is to say the Commissioners. I was speaking of those who had signed the Commission's report. [Interruption.] I have no doubt my hon. Friend who interrupts will get his turn. If he will let me go on, I shall be obliged. So far as that Report is concerned, I say we accepted it unanimously, and as far as the set-up is concerned, again I think there cannot be very much complaint about it. There are four Scottish representatives who have signed this Report. [An HON. MEMBER: "Has any Scottish Socialist signed it?"] I cannot say what they are in Scotland. It is very difficult to decide in this House what they are. So far as the Members of the Commission are concerned, I am not in a position to say whether the Members are Socialists or not. In any case it is peculiar how some people are really revolutionary and yet when they come here, they want three Internationals instead of one in order to control forestry. This narrow-minded nationalism is a thing which I deplore and it is growing in some quarters where I never expected to see it develop.
One pleasing feature of the Commission's work has been the whole-hearted desire of Members of every differing political and national complexion, to produce this Report. The Commissioners, I think, feel very gratified, and ought to be very gratified, at the favourable reception which the Report has received from the
As hon. Members know from letters in the Press and other criticism, it is suggested that the period is too long; that a span of ten years is far too long to look ahead and that in 50 years some of us will not be here. I do not know who will be here. But I hope to be here for the period for which we are planning. Provision is made in this' Report for a period of, say, five, six or seven years, when the Government shall re-examine the whole problem, and in the light of experience see whether they will reconsider it and what kind of programme we should embark upon for the succeeding years. I think so far as timber is concerned, we should take the long view. At one time, I in common with many others shared the belief that we could not grow timber successfully in this country, but I have been privileged to see some of our forests, and I am bound to confess that I have had to modify my views in this respect. I have been using timber for many years, and for a long time was very much prejudiced against English timber. Now I have a feeling that if timber had been grown in sufficient quantities, where it could have been properly machined, seasoned and prepared even to its manufactured state, the prejudice in the trade which is the largest consumer of timber would have been dispelled long since. In common with the other Commissioners I have visited forests in various parts of the Kingdom where we are growing some of the finest timber that can be grown anywhere. I really believe that if arrangements could have been made for Members to have seen some of the forests I have seen, it would have been an education to them, as it has been to me, to see the wonderful timber which has been growing, some of it trees 60, 80, 100 and 120 feet in height. I consider that the very greatest credit is due to the Chairman of the Forestry Commission and his officials for the state our forests are now in and the wonderful timber we are growing in many parts of the country. I would like to see that work develop in areas like, say, Thetford, where we have a forest area of 52,000 acres. I think it is highly desirable to get on with the job. This is a great forest area in which there can be trees in almost every stage of development, where I believe myself that from the seeding to the planting stage, from the brashing to the thinning stage, continuous employment could be given for an entirely new village community, and it ought to be our aim to set up schemes in areas such as Thetford in Norfolk and similar areas where there is 40,000 or 50,000 acres of land, some of it planted, but a certain amount not planted. Plants should be established for processing, pulping, machining, etc., either by the setting up of a public corporation or, if it is preferable, by the State itself.
Criticisms may have been levelled at the Report in relation to private woodlands. I think the idea behind the minds of the Forestry Commission in considering the tremendous devastation of woodland that has taken place in this war is that, as soon as possible, everyone who can do so should be encouraged to make a contribution and should begin to plant trees. The object is the growing of timber and the only way in which we can do so is to get all people to cooperate. It is admitted that owing to the operation of taxation—Death Duties and the like—the private woodland owners or many of them could not afford to wait, because it was so long before they could hope to get a return on the outlay of their money. In some cases Death Duties have been difficult to meet, and immature wood has been cut.
Practically every Member whom I have heard to-day agrees that the system of felling licences must continue after the war, until we get a reserve of timber which will make the nation secure. The private owner comes along and says help must be given to him or he must cut the timber. It has been said that we were giving the private woodland owner 25 per cent. of the cost, on condition that he complied with the standard of forestry set out by the Forestry Commission itself. But the 25 per cent. is a percentage of the net cost, until such time as the forest itself, by thinnings and sales, becomes an economic proposition. Then the owner has still to afforest to the standard set by the Commission itself and submit to inspection by the Commission. It was a good compromise, which has been accepted by the Scottish Royal Forestry, the English Royal Forestry, the Central Landowners, and everyone with whom the Commission has discussed the matter. It is, to that extent, an agreed Report.
So far as we are concerned, it is not the last word. It may be that as a result of this Debate and of discussions with the Government, certain modifications will have to be made. It is in that spirit that we have approached the matter. I believe that it will improve the standard of forestry in this country. I have heard and read that there is a big demand for division of authority. Quite recently there was a meeting in Scotland of the people there who are growing timber. I should have thought that if there was opposition, it would have been more likely to come from them than from other sources, but at the meeting referred to only three votes were given for a separate authority for Scotland. That at any rate, has cooled down those who have been demanding a separate authority for Scotland. On the present authority there is Scottish representation. I do not know whether my hon. Friend is a Welshman, but he took a Welshman's place on the Commission at any rate; and he is not filling that place badly. In any case, no Commissioner looks upon himself as representing Scotland or England. He looks at the business side of it all, as part of the internal economy of the country. [An HON. MEMBER: "For English owners."] I am not an English owner.
I should like now to speak about unemployment. The. Report points out, in paragraph 225, that for our programme we desire 12,000 houses. It is a rather formidable programme, but an essential one. If we are to succeed, our workers must have decent homes, good wages, and regular employment. This they now have in most cases. We have bought some estates where, under existing circumstances certain people have to make the best of the houses that are there. I am riot proud of that, nor is the Commission, but we have taken preliminary advice on this matter. The houses, at least, must conform to the standard of those built for the working classes by urban and town councils. We shall require 2,000 miles of new roads, for the transport of timber, and water supplies and, for fire fighting. The only thing we are waiting for is the word "Go," and when we get the word we will go to it, although the programme is by no means small. Take the case of the Forest of Thetford, in East Anglia, which has been grown on bad sandy soil, not agricultural land by any means. If you put a crop of sugar beet there, you would find after a windy night that it was in the next field. The land never has grown anything but rabbits, gorse, bracken, and the like. It indirectly employed six to seven men. Now that forest land employs 107 men, and when it is fully developed, it will employ 200 men. Is not that a contribution?
The great difficulty at present is to obtain suitable labour. This is work of the highest importance, and it will make a great difference to post-war employment. It is work of this kind that will make the Beveridge schemes possible, and will help to maintain them. My experience, from a boy, of a forest just outside my own division was that it never grew anything. It was the very worst kind of land that one could visualise. The Commission leased it and planted it, and it now produces fine timber, spruce and pine, and other woods. Prior to the Commission taking it over it never employed anyone. Now it is employing numbers of men and women. We want homes built for those people. I believe that afforestation is going to make one of the biggest and most certain contributions to post-war employment. Figures relating to unemployment are given in pages 40 and 41 of the Report. Even in 1909, Keir Hardie, when giving evidence before the Commission, was looking ahead, and he visualised a
central authority and self-contained communities. It is interesting to read a resume of the evidence which he gave to the Commission then. It shows how little our people have travelled, and how far ahead of us he was, even in 1909. If we take the figures from "German Forestry" and apply them to the proposed programme of this Report, we shall be able to reckon on establishing at least 250,000 men in rural England, in healthy surroundings and regular employment, and I believe at good wages. The need for forestry authorities to be properly equipped is stated on page 11: quoting the Acland Report it says:
The first essential is a Forest Authority equipped with funds and powers to survey, purchase, lease and plant land, and generally to administer the areas acquired, with compulsory powers, to be exercised when needed, after due enquiry and the award of fair compensation. The care of forestry, now divided among several departments, should be centralised in this body.
Even the Acland Report emphasised the importance of the evidence given by Keir Hardie in 1909. Only 3,000,000 acres are required for the designated programme. Cannot we take this small area, which, when completed, would provide for 30 per cent. of our national needs? There is a considerable acreage, in addition, of marginal agricultural land, of a low quality, and it is doubtful whether, except in an emergency, that land can be used for crops. We know that under the stress of this war certain land has been cultivated because of national needs, and that some of that land will go out of cultivation after the war. We want power to get hold of such marginal land. If there is a farm or a patch of land which has a high agricultural value, the policy of the Commission has been, and I hope will be—because I am an agriculturist as well as a member of the Forestry Commission—to discuss the best use that can be made of the land.
It has been said that, in some cases, the Commission has taken land which it ought not to have taken. Let me tell of one case. In one area in Scotland the land was said to be a farm. It consisted of 7,000 acres, and the total rent was £80 a year, or 2s. 2¾d. per acre. I leave Members to consider whether that could be considered good agricultural land. It must have been of a very low quality, and it would bring infinitely better results if put into forestry. A lot of this land should be purchased and planted and by so doing it could make a profitable contribution to the rebuilding of the countryside.
The mechanisation of farming operations alone makes the subject of employment in the rural areas one of very great importance and I believe that forestry provides the answer to what we can do about it. Mechanisation is being carried on to such an extent in this war that many men who come back may be out of work in consequence. I believe that in rural England we can help to meet the problem of employment in the countryside and, if for no other reason than that of dealing with the employment problem, we should be allowed to get on with our job at once. I express the earnest hope that this Debate will show that in all parts of the Committee there is a real desire to achieve the object at which we are aiming. In spite of the little difficulties we may have in Debate, the object should be to build up the countryside and to provide employment for these men. Our sole aim has been and should be to concentrate on the task dealt with in this Report, the one object of which is to further the practice of afforestation in this country and the industrial welfare of our land.
Although I have been a Member of this House for 14 years I did not think that I would live to see the day when an hon. Friend of mine, a Member of the once great Liberal party, would be advocating the nationalisation of land and a Member of the Labour party would be taking up the challenge. I do not intend to detain the Committee as there are a number of other hon. Members who wish to speak. I would like to congratulate the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Commissioners on the work they are doing, and have done, with very little political or public encouragement. We are a very curious country in regard to our attitude between wars. We have been fighting wars for 500 years and have the peculiar felicity of not contemplating the possibility of our being engaged in another war so long as we have successfully emerged from one. One can realise what actually happened, when in the year 1922, four years after the greatest war in which this country had ever been engaged, during which we had been hard pressed for timber, a Committee appointed by this House actually recommended the abolition of the Commissioners and also of the work they were doing. I hope that that sort of lunacy will not happen again.
I am going to pass over a number of things I wished to bring to the attention of the Committee and confine myself to two aspects only. On the question of the administration of the Commission, the Commission has advocated that in the event of a Minister being recommended by this House to take charge of forestry, it should be the Lord President of the Council. He seems to be the Minister nominated to look after all oddments. I am not in any doubt as to what Minister should do it. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) thought that that Minister had too little to do, but my view is that the Lord President of the Council is a very hard-worked Minister. Anyone who realised the amount of work which is really added on to the office of the Lord President of the Council at the present moment would be amazed to find the diversity and the importance of the work he has to do, scientific and otherwise. I, personally, would be in favour of transferring the functions of the Commission to the Ministry of Agriculture. I have no hesitation at all in coming to that conclusion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Palmer) hoped that if that happened it would not combine the administration of forestry in Scotland. I cannot sec what harm there would be in that. Agriculture has been very well looked after in this country in England, Scotland and Wales—and I do not see why the Minister of Agriculture should not be capable of doing this work. It has to deal with land. The main purpose of the Forestry Commission is to grow trees, which must be grown on land. It is clear that any Minister of Agriculture appointed to take charge of forestry must carry out the policy of the House on it; and he could reconcile the clash of interests better. Moreover, the Forestry Commission are themselves considerable agricultural owners. They have 1,500 holdings of agricultural land and, from that point of view also, much can be said for the Ministry of Agriculture taking over. We do not know how long the present Minister of Agriculture may remain in office and I do not know what promotion could be given to him. He certainly has earned it. But I do not visualise any office in the Administration where he could do better work for the country than he is doing now and which will be needed in the post-war years in his Department.
Forestry is a matter which certainly interests the country from which I come, namely, the Principality of Wales. I make no apology whatever for bringing it to the notice of the Committee. I want to call attention to the fact that, although Wales is responsible for between one-quarter and one-third of the acreage of the Forestry Commission in England and Wales and employs between one-quarter and one-third of its personnel, and has very special characteristics of its own, there is not a word in this Report about Wales as such. It is "England and Wales." I should be very sorry to quarrel with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, for whom I have such a great regard personally, but I have to be very critical of him and his colleagues on this particular aspect. In the list of members of this Commission there is not a single Welsh individual. The Report mentioned that all parties should be on the Commission. I see no representative of either section of the Liberal Party. There are two Conservative and two Labour members but there is no Liberal member, although there are 50 or 60 Liberal Members in this House, but that is by the way.
I want to press on the Committee the fact that Wales feels this matter very keenly and strongly and to say that we do not intend to go on indefinitely as a Principality without our complaints being redressed. Wales has etymological, geological, and geographical characteristics, and Wales ought to be represented on a body which deals specially with forestry. I had occasion in this House a year ago, on behalf of all the Members of Parliament for Wales—of all Parties at that time—I was Chairman of the committee—to call the attention of the Government to the fact that we had a definite promise given by the Deputy-Prime Minister of the day that in future Wales would be given adequate representation on every occasion and on every Departmental inquiry and Commission which concerned this country. The hon. Member who spoke last, rather deprecated the development of these national characteristics. Why, the very strength of Great Britain is in its national characteristics; England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland have each made a special contribution to the whole. If you want to develop a country to its greatest extent, you must develop all the characteristics of each nation within it. I am sure that if we do not do that, we shall lose something in the process. We have been for long the patient ox. We have been the ally of England for 400 years and longer than Scotland; we are useful for the prosecution of wars, but not useful even to be considered when it comes to representation on these matters. I should like to develop another aspect of forestry but in deference to the general feeling of the Committee that there are other Members who wish to be called, I conclude my remarks
It is a privilege to a back bencher to take any part in a Debate such as this. What is done in afforestation will affect many things, our climate, our agriculture and perhaps one of the future great industries in England. With regard to the Report itself, I must add a word of congratulation and praise to the paean of praise which has already gone forth. The Report is informative, instructive and constructive. The Report looks a long way into the future, but I would ask whether we have really considered what it is driving at. In the Report various figures of importation are given, and I would draw the Committee's attention to the figures for wood pulp. I beg to suggest to the Committee that timber is grown for several reasons, largely for building purposes, perhaps for pit props and thirdly as a raw material for manufacture. Wood pulp is used in the manufacture of paper, plastics, artificial silk and so-called dope for motor car finishes.
I would stress the point that here is a Forestry Commission embarking on a policy which lies long years ahead, but immediately the war is over the country will want raw materials, and I suggest one of these is cellulose. It must therefore be decided which is the best way to produce this material, and I think the best way is not by planting forests, but by using the straw produced by agriculture. I am officially informed that in the year before the war we wasted or misused 1,000,000 tons of straw, and to-day we are misusing 2,500,000 tons of straw or 1,250,000 tons of cellulose, which could be used to feed cattle or could be used for the production of other goods. The four-yearly average importation of wood pulp was 2,000,000 tons. If these figures had been put in year by year, the Committee might have found that the imports of wood pulp were 3,500,000 tons. The hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) talked about the employment of labour, but far more employment could be found by the utilisation of forest or straw products or cellulose.
I wish some further mention had been made of research work, not merely the growing of trees but of using them. From my own knowledge, one firm in America is to-day employing 400 research chemists on the utilisation of cellulose. It is said that in the first phase of Hitler's campaign the first thing he did was to get control of cellulose supplies. His war economy has been largely based on cellulose, whether from wood or coal. Therefore, I suggest that if I have made out a case for cellulose at all, it should not be left entirely in the hands of the Forestry Commission. The Ministry of Agriculture can give you a crop of 2,500,000 tons of straw a year or 1,250,000 tons of pure cellulose, which can be used for cattle food and on the production of artificial silk, plastics, alcohol, yeast and the like. There has been a coal age, there is now an oil age, and many think there will be a cellulose age. Cellulose is a compound from which thousands of things can be made and in my view is one of the future industries after the war. For that reason I plead that all the things that grow out of the ground should be under the responsibility of one Minister, who, I suggest, should be the Minister of Agriculture.
There is one other matter to which I want to refer, and that is hill land. I think the Report ignores what has been done by Sir George Stapledon, who has shown what can be done with these hill lands. I would like to give a personal experience. I am farming at least 300 acres of land between 1,200 feet and 1,375 feet above sea level. When I took my land it was supposed to carry one sheep per acre, but in my first experience of farming it nearly killed one sheep per acre. But I ploughed, limed and slagged, and although it is true it is not keeping 300 breeding ewes, but 175 breeding ewes, when the year finishes in September by the grace of God I shall have produced 12,000 gallons of milk and, I hope, 125 tons of oats and barley. What have I done? I have merely followed the banner of the Minister of Agriculture. In the Report all this data about mutton and wool from hill farms is out of date. You have to revise your ideas. Go to Russia and see the crops they have grown in the Arctic Circle. What has been done there can be done here. But do not let us kill the goose that lays the golden egg. This hill land is most important for breeding good and sound stock, just as a hard life and conditions and good, wholesome food are important for breeding good men and women. Without these hill lands the lowland farms simply could not exist. I view with alarm the proposal that this land of ours, which is limited in size but which is fair land and most of which can be cultivated, shall be divorced from the man who should certainly be responsible for the things that grow out of it, namely, the Minister of Agriculture.
There are other things which I could mention about this Report, but I will mention only one—transport. While I agree that we should have these reserves of timber in this country, if it is only for insurance and nothing else, we must consider what effect this will have on our trade. It has been our habit to send coal to Scandinavia and bring back wood. It is a very dangerous thing to upset this balance, and I suggest that the freight on any timber carried in England would, on the average, probably be greater than carriage from Scandinavia to this country. To the points I have made I hope some reply will be made by the Minister.
I can well imagine that there are a large number of hon. Members who still wish to make their contribution to this Debate and therefore I shall make mine as short as possible by confining my remarks to the relationship between afforestation and hill farming so far as England and Wales are concerned, leaving the Scottish side of the problem to those more able to deal with it. I listened with great interest to the speech of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope) and I trust he will understand that the disagreement I intend to express has nothing personal in it. Indeed, I have the highest admiration for his knowledge of the subject, and as a countryman I am deeply thankful for all he has done for forestry and for agriculture in the past. I would also like to congratulate the authors of this Report. They have brought together a vast amount of information and have made thereby a real contribution to the future. But I cannot help feeling very sorry indeed that its birth has been premature. After all, forestry is the little sister of agriculture, and in the best regulated families it is customary to arrange the marriage settlement of the elder daughter before concerning oneself with the younger member of the family. But for some reason, perhaps best known to themselves, His Majesty's Government have decided to allow publication of this Report. In other words, they have put the cart before the horse, a rather wooden cart before the horse of flesh and blood and quite candidly, I find it extremely difficult to think of the place of forestry in the rural economy of the future without knowing something of the place that agriculture will fill.
I would ask the Committee to turn their attention for a moment to that part of the Report which deals with this question of mutton and wool production from the hills and the effect that forestry has upon that. On pages 39 and 40 a lot of detailed figures given. I do not intend to challenge those figures to-day because time does not allow. I believe they can be challenged but I am prepared at the moment to accept them for what they are worth. I say that advisedly, because they give only a part of the picture; they do not give any picture at all with regard to the potential value of the hills and the cumulative effect of hill production. The parts missing in the picture are twofold. Firstly, there is the question of the potential value of hill lambs. These are not generally removed from the hills for immediate slaughter; on the contrary, the wether lambs are bought by low-country farmers for fattening, and the surplus ewe lambs are sold to those who buy them for breeding purposes. The most important part of this picture which is missing however is the question of the draft ewe. Perhaps a word of explanation may be necessary for the benefit of hon. Members who are not aware of hill-farming practice. The hill ewe, be it black-face, Cheviot or any other hill breed serves for a number of years in the rough-and-tumble life of the hill and at the age of five or six, its usefulness in that sphere of activity being exhausted, it is moved to another place in order to produce cross-bred lambs. I can see that there is some sort of analogy between that procedure and the careers of certain politicians, but I will not follow it. It is very difficult to visualise the number of ewes which would be displaced from the hills should the recommendations of this Report be followed in full, but I would remind hon. Members that, at least, one-fifth of the ewes on the hill mountains and fells are brought into the low countries every year. They are crossed with other rams and their progeny are used for breeding cross-bred lambs. Thus the real importance of the hill sheep is not so much up there, but down in the low country.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) emphasised, there will be terrific demands for this class of hill stock and the progeny of hill stock before the war is finished and long after. If we are to meet all the demands of the new and improved pastures, I think we must be very careful indeed how we deal with the mountain and fell land of the country which, after all, is the only reservoir of healthy foundation stock. Just a word or two about shelter. I think anybody who knows anything of hill farming will recognise at once that there is great need for planting strategic shelter belts on the hills, shelter for protection against wind, snow and driving rain. Over and over again, hill shepherds have told me that a good "bield" as we call it in the North, a good shelter, is as good as a full belly to the ewe, and its usefulness is particularly important during the lambing time. This shelter question enters largely into the question of reintroducing cattle into the hills. In the past the Forestry Commission has not normally planted shelter belts for the very good reason that it is not the most economic form of afforestation but surely the time has come when we must take the long view and realise that forestry and agriculture are inter-related, that one is the complement to the other. We have to realise that the time has arrived when the decision as to where to plant and where not and how to plant must rest with one central authority. If we could only get hold of those ideas I see no reason why a vast acreage should not be planted. I admit that there is still an enormous number of acres which might be planted in blocks—areas of worn-out bracken-covered and disease- ridden land. The trouble has been in the past that they have been planted in the valleys and on the lower slopes of the hill, because it was the best land, and our hill tops have been immobilised. After all it is the intermediate and lowish land which is most capable of improvement.
I hope that in my hurried remarks I have helped hon. Members to make some sort of case for the undivided control over land which is going to be used for afforestation. It is only the Department, seeing the whole of the picture and knowing the whole of the facts, which can fairly assess the relative merits of forestry on the one hand, and agriculture on the other. Surely, the fit and proper person to hold the balance between these two not conflicting but inter-related interests, is the Minister of Agriculture of the day. We have heard a good deal about consultation but consultation is not enough. I have seen a dog consulting with a cat over a juicy bone and I repeat that consultation is not enough. I should like to ask the Committee to remember that, while dual control may have worked reasonably well in the past, it may not work so well in the future when, please Heaven, the land of the country will really come back into its own.
I think there has been general support for the Report and, with the exception of the hon. Member for Heywood (Mr. Wootton-Davies), a general backing for a forward policy. It is not too much to say that many would have liked the Report to go a little further as to what it is hoped to do in regard to afforestation in the coming years. Criticism has been advanced by people like the hon. Member for Heywood which is a little difficult to appreciate. He indicated opposition to increasing timber production on the ground that it might interfere with our foreign trade. I should have thought that any increase in timber production would be of a gradual character and that foreign trade would definitely adapt itself to that increase.
I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. Member, but I was taking the view that, on the whole, he repre- sented the views put forward in "The Times" on behalf of certain members of the timber trade who rather deprecated any interference with imports from Scandinavia and other countries. I take the view that any decrease would be gradual and that, from the national point of view, it is desirable to build up assets in the way of timber, because in the years to come we shall have a growing world shortage with increasing demands everywhere for its use. Therefore, from a national point of view, we should be increasing our assets by building up a reserve, and I hope and trust that we shall hear some definite pronouncement as to what the Government propose to do about the Report. Now is the time when we should be told whether the Government accept the Commission's main proposals or not, and I hope it will be the larger programme which the Government will accept rather than the more limited one.
There has been a good deal of criticism advanced on behalf of the hill farmers against the idea of further afforestation. I think it is a very unfortunate controversy. It seems to me that the acreage which the Forestry Commission propose to take for further afforestation is a very small part of all the land in the country, and surely we can maintain, and even increase, our mutton production by better use of the hill pastures, which are not going to be afforested, as well as carry out the moderate programme put forward by the Commission. Surely we can have an answer, if not to-day at least when the Committee going into it reports as to what increase in mutton production we can have as the result of better hill pastures following on the work of Sir George Stapledon related to the planting programme put forward by the Forestry Commission. This controversy should be avoided, and we should try to go ahead with both schemes. There is really no contradiction between trying to carry out the two policies of more afforestation and an increase in our mutton production.
I should like to go in some detail into the question whether there ought to be more than one Forestry Commission in this Island. I deprecate very strongly the idea that we should have a separate Forestry Commission for Scotland and possibly later one for Wales. The suggestion of devolution giving a good deal of authority to people in Wales and Scotland to do the job is the best way to deal with it, but we must have a unified service and unified plans for developing forestry in this Island. It is a very small Island, and I do not think there is room for a number of different separate services. There is first the point of view of personnel. If we are to train the personnel that we require, there must be the possibility of their getting full experience which they can only get in the whole of the Island, and there must be reasonable opportunities for advancement which only the whole Island can provide.
But there are other points. Scotland is not the wealthiest part of this Island. But there is the larger part of the land which can be used for afforestation. This work will necessarily require to be financed from the resources of the whole Island. There is not going to be a full opportunity for development of forestry in Scotland unless the financing of it can come from the resources of the whole Island, which means substantially a good deal from taxation or loans which will be raised in the southern part of the Island. That is the solid financial basis of the matter. Up to now 40 per cent. of the land which has been planted is in Scotland, and perhaps in future 50 per cent. may be. But I take the view strongly that if that is to be done, the finance must come from the finances of the whole Island.
I have recently been to Eire, and I understand from what has been said there during the election that every political party preached the need for more afforestation and has preached it ever since independence came to the country, but a very small amount of afforestation is taking place, although there is much land suitable for it. The answer is that there are not the financial resources in the country, allowing for the other claims on the Government, to have a big afforestation scheme. Our Scottish friends could learn from the experience of Eire when discussing whether there should be a separate authority for Scotland. When we are discussing economic planning we might learn from the experience of the Soviet Union. In that country each area has cultural autonomy and so on, but so far as economic plans are concerned, the whole Union is taken as one unit, although people in different parts of it are expected to put up their suggestions to the centre. Finally, however, there is one plan. In this Island there should be one central plan in economic matters but with the greatest possible devolution. Any action we now take with regard to forestry will have bearings upon and be a guide to any other forms of planning economically which may have to follow afterwards.
I would like to say a word about employment. I think that the Commission, a little more than in the past, should try to draw on local labour in staffing its forests. There was strong pressure exercised in the past to draw on the unemployed in different parts of the country and to recruit forest workers from them. That is an understandable policy, but I take the view now that it would be wiser if the Commission drew more on local labour, because some of the opposition to the activities of the Commission has arisen because local people have felt that the employees of the Commission were people from outside and not from the locality. If the Commission were to draw on local labour, a good deal of the opposition would break down. We have to remember that hill farmers and other people who indulge in agricultural operations are people who live on the spot. When the Commission starts its activities it only gradually builds up its labour, and there is no vested interest of the local people in forestry. Therefore, in the initial stages the local people are against it. To overcome that difficulty the Commission should draw from local labour.
In developing small holdings, greater assistance might be given to the owners of the holdings by the development of a co-operative organisation among them. Just before the war I was in Sweden and found that there was a good deal of agitation about the bad conditions among the workers in the forest. It was alleged that some of the workers were the worst fed sections of the whole population. To overcome that difficulty the Government were creating small holdings, so that the workers in the forest would have a certain amount of work to do in the summer months and also that they could grow food and vegetables, support themselves, get the nutrition and food, which it was often difficult for them to get in isolated places, and give them a more balanced all round livelihood. The Government assists them to create co-operative organisations through which to buy things for themselves and sell their surpluses. The same thing might be done with the development of afforestation in this country.
With regard to housing, I have seen some of the houses built by the Commission in the early days, and they were far from being desirable residences. Some were converted old cottages, and others were of the bungaloid type. Nowadays the buildings are of a much better quality. I would suggest that the Commission should try to carry out a policy of using local material when possible on its buildings and of putting them up in a local style and making them up-to-date erections. I would also suggest that experiments might be made with wooden buildings as the timber supplies become available. Standard types in a variety of styles of wooden buildings which are efficient and cheap can be got, and they would suit the areas in which they were erected. In the architecture of the buildings the Commission might show a little more imagination, because a large building programme will be required if anything like the forestry programme envisaged in the Report is carried out.
The hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) emphasised earlier that the Report was an agreed Report and that people approached the problem with many different views. I do not think that that makes the Report any the worse. If we are to have the present National Government carrying out a report it must be a compromise between different points of view. I would like from this side of the Committee to emphasise that most of us dislike the idea of sinking public funds in private property and, as is suggested in this case, sinking public funds in private woodlands. If anything like that, however, will enable us to get the Report carried through, many of us will be prepared to accept a compromise of this kind. It is essential, however, that when public money is given to private persons there must be full public control—and that is provided for in this Report—and the public must be able to keep a watch on how the money is spent and see that there is no misuse of it. It is not an ideal policy. I take the view that the sooner we can get the land nationally owned the better. With the war we are having a big increase in the value of land. There is a great deal of what I would call "funk money" going into land. Rent has risen only a small amount. There has been a big increase in the profits of farming and in agricultural wages, but the value of land has about doubled since the beginning of the war, though there has not been a corresponding increase of rent. That is primarily due to the fact that some people fear inflation and put money in land, feeling that, at any rate, the land will be there after the war is over. Much of that money will come out of the land in the four or five years following the war if there is still adequate control of rents. I would like to ask whether this rise in the value of land during the war will affect the proposed programme of the Forestry Commission. Will it make it more difficult for the Commission to acquire the land immediately after the war? It seems to me an important point, and it may be that if there is a big increase in the prices charged for the land the Commission want, they may have to use the compulsory powers mentioned earlier. I would like some comment from the Commission or the Government on that point, because it is an important one in discussing the future of their programme. I hope that the Government will be able to make some definite statement to-day and that it will be one promising to carry out the proposals of the Report. I am sure that the Committee as a whole will support them if they make such a statement.
I wish to put forward the position of the owners of small woodlands. In talking of forestry one gets the impression that we are concerned only with big blocks of woodlands, but there must be in England a very large number of small woodlands, and we should not forget that "mony a mickle maks a muckle." I do not know the actual acreage of these small woodlands and how it compares with the acreage of the larger woodlands, but I think these small woodlands cover a great number of acres. They are not always maintained with a commercial end in view. There are a number of reasons for their existence. One, which has already been mentioned, is that they provide shelter; secondly, the timber may be grown for estate purposes; and, thirdly, the woods may be maintained in order to improve the aspect of the countryside by blocking out ugly views. All these small woodlands have had to pay their quota towards the war effort and many trees have been felled. The position now on small estates is that there is not sufficient labour to keep down the undergrowth in the woodlands, in order that they may be ready for replanting, and the longer replanting is delayed the more expensive it will be. I have wondered whether the price that one gets for the trees will eventually pay for the cost of replanting. The Government offer a grant, but that grant, I am afraid, will be too small to give any real encouragement to replanting. The Forestry Commission would naturally pay more attention to the larger estates, and I ask the Government to reconsider the question of the grant in order to see whether they can increase it to a certain extent.
On the question of control, much as one dislikes control I presume that after the war there will be a certain amount of control over the land by the Government, both agricultural and woodland. If that be so it seems to me the Forestry Commissioners should be in very close touch with the Board of Agriculture. It strikes me that the whole business should be under the Board of Agriculture, with the Forestry Commission as a special Department of that Ministry. If there is to be another Ministry there will be great confusion, because there may be differences of opinion between one Ministry and the other, and I do not know how owners of estates will get on if they are told to do one thing by one Ministry and another thing by another Ministry. The third point I wish to make is that I hope the beauty of the countryside will not be destroyed. During the last decade or so many large estates have been broken up, and smaller estates will be broken up if Death Duties continue as they are. Then what happens? The land speculator comes along and acquires the land, and the first thing he does is to clear the timber and turn as much of it as he can into gold. The old squires did not turn all their trees into gold. They kept them for the sake of the beauty of the countryside. I do hope this aspect of the situation will be borne in mind. The hard wood trees, the oak, the elm and the ash, ought to be preserved. Coming back to this country from abroad, and looking out sof the train windows, one always says, "What a beautiful country this is," and its beauty is largely due to the number of fine trees which are to be seen and what our ancestors have done. Therefore, if we really want to build Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land we must maintain the arboreal beauty of the country.
Time is short, and there are many other hon. Members who wish to speak, and therefore I will cut down my remarks and make one or two points only upon forestry as it concerns Scotland. An hon. Member opposite maintained that there is a controversy between the forestry interests and the hill sheep farming interests in regard to the future planting policy of the Forestry Commission. I think that is presenting the position in a very depressing light. The point is that we in Scotland—and I think I am speaking for the majority of people in Scotland—would welcome. planting-up by the Forestry Commission in post-war years. There is a great future for forestry in many parts of Scotland, in particular in the Highlands. What we do feel about the matter is that there has not been sufficient discussion of or attention paid to the more technical aspects of the hill sheep industry, and we also think that the figures presented by the Commission in this most interesting Report are not as correct as they might be. For instance, the comparison between the return to be got from an acre planted with trees and the return from it if it carried sheep is not quite fair, because the Report refers only to the plantable acreage and does not refer to the thousands, indeed, I might say tens of thousands, of acres of derelict hill land above the woods which at present carry or in the past have carried quite a number of sheep. I agree most sincerely with the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) that a great deal could be done on these hill grazings by way of improving the grass, so making them still more valuable to the hill sheep farmer; in other words, the same development has to be carried out in regard to the hill sheep farming industry as by the Forestry Commission; but we admit and welcome the fact that there are vast areas, particularly in the remoter parts of Scotland, where planting could be most effectively carried out. We find, or we suspect, that those are not the areas which the Forestry Commission propose to plant, because they are difficult of access and because there are difficulties of transport, housing and the other ancillary services in connection with forestry. I would therefore ask Members to put it out of their heads that there is any controversy or dislike by the hill sheep farming industry of afforestation as such.
A word or two should be said regarding the slur that seems to be cast upon the part played by the privately owned woods. I would recall to the minds of the Committee the fact that 80 per cent. of the timber supplied in this country for war needs is supplied by private owners and that very little has been supplied by the Forestry Commission. It is necessary to encourage private woodlands. I have heard on one or two occasions the astounding statement that forestry is divorced from agriculture. I must confess that I simply cannot understand such a statement. Surely most owners of woodlands are also farmers or they have farms on their estates, and all those whom I know have to balance their forestry planning and their agricultural planning. I cannot see how those two subjects can possibly be divorced one from the other.
As regards the activities of the Forestry Commission, there are a few points to which I would like to draw the attention of the Committee. I speak from personal experience as I happen to represent a constituency in which there are 210,000 acres owned by the Forestry Commission, including the first and original national park, so I do know something about what is going on. I was astonished one day not very long ago to find the Forestry Commission planting trees in standing oats. That seemed to be a complete disregard for the agricultural value of the land. How it came about I do not know. I reported the matter, and I was assured that I must have been mistaken as it could not have been so. As a matter of fact, I had witnesses, who saw the oats standing there and the foresters planting tree by tree in the middle. Again we question very much the ability of the Forestry Commission to keep down vermin in the areas they have planted. The vermin in Argyllshire which emanates from the Forestry Commission's area is something in the nature of a plague. I have been assured by members of the Forestry Com- mission that they offer rewards for the killing of vermin, but the trouble is that keepers, the vermin trappers if you like to call them such, employed by the Forestry Commission are almost always men in the neighbourhood of 80 years of age. I hope that may be only a war-time situation. Close to my home there is a forestry plantation, where one elderly keeper cannot get up to the top of the hill or the top of the plantation. On one occasion we solicited the aid of Forestry Commission workers to help us in a fox drive, owing to the serious depredations on our lands by foxes coming out of the plantations. We could not get the assistance. There are all kinds of complaints of that nature which show that there is not sufficient co-operation between the Forestry Commission, with their activities, and our hill sheep farming industry in Scotland.
I would now like to tell the Committee how I view the future control of forestry in Scotland. I speak advisedly for Scotland only. I have heard hon. Members give their opinions as to what should be done in England and Wales. I feel most seriously that as forestry is a matter of long-term planning carrying with it such matters as housing, education, health, drainage and the like, it ought to be carried out from now onwards, or at the end of the war, as part of the post-war planning of our country. I cannot see how that can be carried out by a separate organisation from our own Minister of Planning for Scotland, who is the Secretary of State for Scotland. Many of us feel that while forestry is an industry which requires a very long-term policy, so also is agriculture. Nobody can say that agriculture has not played its part in the national crisis up to now, and I do not see any reason why forestry, which must march with agriculture, should not be brought under the same control as agriculture in Scotland. At St. Andrew's House in Edinburgh I would like to see a Department of Forestry established, not under the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, but both under the Secretary of State for Scotland. He should decide what land should be handed over for afforestation and what land is required for agriculture. Machinery might be arranged so as to have a united forestry service, in so far as it is concerned with the promotions of experienced personnel, between England, Wales and Scotland. As regards education and research, I feel that these should be combined for the two countries, but the actual carrying out and planning of post-war policy in afforestation in Scotland should be a matter over which the Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible and to whom we can apply when we are not satisfied with the conditions. A moment ago an hon. Member opposite said that we were being too nationalistic and not national enough. In Scotland we feel it is rather curious that on the Forestry Commission all the Members of this House sit for English constituencies and not one for Scottish, while the greater part of the forestry area is in Scotland and not in England. We feel also that it would be much better—I am not saying this wishing to be personal in any way to hon. Members who have done good work on the Forestry Commission—if the Commission were composed either entirely of Members of this House or of none at all. The responsibility for the Commission in this House should be on the Secretary of State for Scotland.
I obviously must not detain the Committee and the Minister, whom we are all anxious to hear, so perhaps the right hon. and gallant Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope) will pardon me if my congratulations to him are necessarily as telescoped as my argument. I should almost like to take off where the last speaker has concluded, in regard to the relationship between the Report and Scotland. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether he is satisfied that Scottish interests and Scottish problems have been fully considered and whether the Scottish branches of the National Farmers' Union were invited to give evidence or were consulted. Will he tell us whether evidence was given? Perhaps he will also tell us in what form approaches were made to the interested local authorities in Scotland and whether their opinions were consulted. There is something which worries hon. Members a good deal. I wonder whether the Minister would assure the Committee that the technical officers and divisional officers of the Commission were invited to offer their conclusions and their evidence. Perhape he will also assure the Committee that there is no separate report from the technical officers of the Commission, or no memorandum of any kind. I think it most essential that the Committee should know that, though I am very optimistic that my right hon. Friend will have the good sense to tell the Committee that the Government will take a little time to make up their mind. [Interruption.] In reply to my noble Friend's interruption, I could put it this way, that we have become so accustomed to the Government saying that they need a little time that we will be very glad to applaud in this case, because I think the Report, with all its virtues, is rather hurried, and I think that fairly large holes have been picked in it to-day. One of the most successful and grievous holes was the arithmetical bit of picking from the hon. Member for West Renfrewshire (Mr. Wedderburn). It is rather sharp criticism of a body when they offer a Report to this Committee that their arithmetic in acreage is incorrect.
The Scottish Members are particularly concerned, because there is inside the Report itself abundant evidence that Scotland has suffered heavily under the scheme of administration of the Forestry Commission. The hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) rather twitted us about our narrow nationalism, and quoted to us Keir Hardie giving evidence in 1909, and said that Keir Hardie was for a single, unified service. I am afraid that the appropriate reply to that is that unfortunately we in Scotland have had an experience which Keir Hardie was spared. We have had 24 years of the Forestry Commissioners, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) has pointed to some of the grave deficiencies. The evidence is here in abundance. Look at paragraph 155. you will find that although we have previously been told that half the soft wood growing area is inside Scotland, under the 1924 census analysis in that paragraph only one-third of the country's soft wood was at that time being grown in Scotland. If you look at paragraph 219 you will find that there are 1,500 forest workers, almost, in the country, of whom only 24 per cent. are in Scotland, despite the fact that half the potential area in the Kingdom is in Scotland—[Interruption]—26 per cent. If you look at paragraph 212, you will find that our forest workers in Scotland are being housed in bothies. If you look at paragraph 162, to which the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll referred, you will find there a statement about sparsity of population, about the young people drifting away, about bad transport. There is not an hon. Member on this side of the Committee who has not said that with all the sincerity he can command to Government after Government here, including the Government, I am afraid, from my own party.
Surely that is not a reason why the Commissioners should run away from this problem, but a reason why they should get to work in those areas. It is the only economic proposition we can make to those areas. In a most excellent speech the hon. Member for West Renfrewshire stated his alarm about hill sheep and rather came into conflict with the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan). I do not think there is any reason to conclude that there is a conflict between getting these 3,000,000 acres, and, if not extending our hill sheep farming, maintaining it at its war-time level. We can complain of the niggardly research that has been done in so far as the Commission have been responsible In their peak year not £16,000 was spent in research, which is just a dreadful criticism of ourselves.
There is no reference to the possible treatment of bracken land. I am told by every forester I know that it is axiomatic to say that if bracken grows there, timber could grow there. Here again is a huge area for research, and here is an area in which we may solve this arithmetical problem of how to find more sheep land and timber land. Perhaps I might be permitted to say that I am not, even as a very junior Member of this Committee, very much impressed by the proposed administration. I think it is hardly in the best practices of this Committee that if we are to spend £47,000,000 in 10 years even such a distinguished non-Governmental Member as has presented the Report to us should reply to our questions. There has been a fairly hefty body of opinion displayed in the Committee putting forward a similar argument, and I certainly say that, so far as Scotland is concerned, we are gravely concerned by the present administration, and rather gravely disturbed about the untimely presentation of this Report.
There are at least six conflicting machines operating in Scotland just now. We have hill sheep, we have a Committee sitting on the utilisation of land, we have two Committees sitting on the implica- tions of the Uthwatt and Scott Reports, and we have had this dreadful experience that where the exploitation of timber was most needed there, for a variety of reasons, the Commissioners have done least. There is a rather naive paragraph which suggests that if there is a Minister, there may be changes of policy. It is rather naive, because we have had no Minister in the last 24 years, and as the right hon. and gallant Member for Rye had to point out to the Committee in presenting his Report, we have had three bad and perhaps necessary—but bad and sudden—changes of policy. One cannot reason that because a change of Minister may mean a change of policy, to have no Minister means continuity of policy. Certainly in Scotland, which represents about half of the potential growing area in this country, we are firm in saying that the results cannot be much worse under any other system of administration, and we are very keen that co-ordination shall be possible under a single Ministerial head, answerable at any rate from that bench for his faults or misdemeanours.
I have listened throughout this Debate, and have not attempted to catch your eye, Mr. Williams, until now because I have no definite pronouncement to make on behalf of the Government to-day in regard to the specific proposals which have been put forward. I should like to point out, particularly to the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil), that this Report is the Report of the Commission and in no sense the Report of the Government. When he asks me whether or not, before making this Report, they had taken the opinion of this person or that person, consulted this authority or that authority, or got some special paper from some other body, I can only say that I have not the least idea. This is a Report of the Forestry Commission, and, even if there had been a specific reference to the Forestry Commission the Government would in no sense have been committed. But this Report is merely made by the Forestry Commission as part of their general duty to do what they can to promote the interests of forestry.
This is a point of some constitutional importance. I have been listening to the right hon. and learned Gentleman with the greatest interest, and I think he is getting into some sort of dilemma. Does he suggest that it is the duty of the Forestry Commission, at a time when everybody is talking about afforestation in every country, to formulate proposals, and that it is not the duty of the Government? I say that without in any way criticising the Commission. We ought to know the constitutional position.
The powers of the Commission are set out in the Act of 1919. Their duties are to do all things to promote the interests of forestry, and in particular to publish such papers as shall be necessary to promote that end. Therefore, they are clearly acting within their right and within their duty.
I was present in the House, and asked a question, when this was discussed. We asked at the time whether that meant that it was the duty of the Forestry Commission to suggest or to bring in legislation, and we were told "No," that that was the duty of the Government. This proposal would necessitate legislation.
Of course, it is the duty of the Government to promote legislation. This is a suggestion which we may or may not accept. All I am suggesting is that it is our duty to take this Report into consideration. We are not committed to any single line of it We shall examine the Report, and see on what lines legislation shall be promoted. But I was pointing out to the Committee that I did not think it right for us to indicate to-day what that legislation should be; and that is so for several reasons. We have given the plainest promise that before we promote legislation we will give an opportunity for representations to be made to us by all the interests concerned, including the landowning interest. It is true that some of these interests have put in their observations to the Forestry Commission. That was before they had seen this Report. It is right that before we make proposals to this House we should give all those interests the chance of making all the representations they want to make. I understand that arrangements are already being made for the Forestry Commission to meet these interests, to see if they can hammer out some policy on which all agree. That will carry considerable weight in our view on policy.
There is another reason why we should not attempt to make any pronouncement to-day. As the hon. Member for Greenock said, we are waiting to receive reports on the hill sheep industry. We realise that there may be some conflicts of interest between those concerned in the hill sheep industry and those concerned in the problem of forestry. The hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. D. Scott) has gone, but I would like to say, in answer to his speech, that you cannot resolve that problem merely by considering the value of the respective products of the two industries or the amount of employment they give. Generally speaking, the hill sheep industry has been in equipoise with the requirements of the upland breeders of cross lambs and those of lowland feeders. We should not think of making a definite pronouncement on this matter until we have given a reasonable opportunity for these reports to be received. Also, quite frankly, the Government want to have the benefit of this Debate, to enable us to make tip our mind. Then, we cannot consider forestry in isolation, apart from our post-war commitments as a whole. Therefore, I do not propose to make any definite announcement to-day, on behalf of the Government, as to details of policy.
Having said that, let me say that I am anxious not to leave the Committee under the impression that we think this matter can be delayed for a long time. The Government realise that that cannot be done. In December last, long before this Report was published, I was authorised to announce to the House that we intended to pursue a vigorous forestry policy after the war. I need hardly say that the conclusion I then announced has been confirmed and strengthened by this Report of the Forestry Commission. I might take this opportunity of expressing, I am sure on behalf of all Members of the Committee, those who agree with the Report and those who dissent from it, our gratitude to the Forestry Commission for the very great amount of work they must have put into the matter and for the excellent Report which they have presented to us. In particular, my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope), who has been a Member of the Commission since 1927, has given, as we all know, most ungrudging service to the interests of the Forestry Commission, and it is about time that he received his due measure of thanks. Of course, in regard to technical questions, he would be the first to say that even now he does not possess all the technical qualifications which a highly-trained forestry officer would possess. The success of the Commission—and the Commission has been a very great success—has been, as he said, in no small measure due to the chairman, Sir Roy Robinson.
I have had an opportunity of seeing a great deal of the work of the Commission. I cannot hope to acquire expert knowledge, but I have talked to a number of people who have expert knowledge and who are quite independent of the Commission, and I would say that by far the greatest service the Commission has rendered to us is that it has established in this country a. school and a technique of forestry which I am informed is second to none in the world. That is a very remarkable achievement, and it is a fact which we should take into consideration in formulating our policy, although its actual achievements in planting have been on a comparatively small scale, for reasons which I will discuss presently. The hon. Member for Greenock has the gift of youth on his side. I do not know how far he has made himself familiar with the history of this matter. He will remember that before 1919, in the days of the Acland Committee, forestry was, of course, a mere side-show of the Ministry of Agriculture. We must keep a sense of proportion about forestry and realise that forestry, compared with agriculture as a whole, is obviously a comparatively unimportant thing. In those far-off days the fact that forestry was a mere side-show of the Agricultural Department resulted in the almost total neglect of forestry.
After the Report of the Wimborne Commission in 1909, the hight hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), in his famous Budget, put aside the sum of £2,000,000 for purposes especially including forestry, and all that forestry in England, Scotland and Wales got out of that was something like £40,000, so that it is obvious that in those days forestry was wholly neglected. Then came the Acland Committee, which had on it a very fine representative Scotsman, the late Lord Lovat. He was the first Chairman of the Commission. He knew Scotland, knew forestry and knew what he was talking about. He thought it his duty to insist, with perhaps more emphasis than his colleagues, on the importance of a single forestry authority for Great Britain. This he thought necessary for several reasons, first, to keep it out of the welter of conflicting authorities and to escape from the rancour of party politics, Royal Commissions and amateur inquiries; secondly, to make it possible for an accredited authority to draw up a definite forestry policy for the British Isles, and, thirdly, to conceive a body which would view the forestry situation in Great Britain as a whole and decide, on purely forestry grounds, the conflicting claims of the various countries unbiassed by local or political pressure. That was the view of Lord Lovat.
As far as the area of planting is concerned, it has been small. In the 20 years of the Forestry Commission, it has been something of the order of 400,000 acres; quality very good, quantity small. The reason for that is—it is not fair to blame the Forestry Commission—that the Forestry Commission have been gravely handicapped by the fact that the various grants made to them have hopped about from year to year. They varied from £200,000 in one year to as high as £900,000 in another year, and there has been no sort of continuity of finance. Continuity of finance is one of the essentials referred to in the Report—the second essential. I think they might very well have put it as the first essential. I have discussed this with my colleagues, and in particular the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I have this to say to the Committee. We realise that it is impossible to achieve a satisfactory programme unless there is a continuity of finance, and therefore in whatever plans we finally announce to the House we shall provide for that continuity.
There is one other matter. In regard to private owners and the assistance the Forestry Commission have given to them, let me add that there has been a feeling—.whether right or wrong I have no means of knowing—that the interests of private owners have been rather neglected by the Forestry Commission, who have been too immersed and too much occupied in State forestry and unable therefore to spare sufficient time to give attention to the needs and interests of private owners. I am glad to notice in this Report that the Forestry Commission are suggesting there is to be a special private woodlands committee and that the function of that committee will be entirely devoted to the giving of advice and attention to the private owners and seeing that the private woods are developed as they should be. I am not going to discuss—it would be inappropriate to do so—the point which the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) raised of whether we ought or ought not to nationalise all land in the country. If it is decided to nationalise all land in the country no doubt you will not have to consider the case of the private owner because there will be no private owners. Private owners have played a distinguished part in the past. If it had not been for the private owner at the present time, we should indeed be in a nasty position. Though the general standard of forestry has not, taken on the whole, been high yet there have been some very notable exceptions. We certainly want to encourage the private owner and it would be a good thing if he and experts of the Forestry Commission can get together in order that they may pool their knowledge and resources and that the very best may be done all over the country alike for State forest and private forest.
Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman rather sweeping in his praise for private owners? Should he not say "some private owners"? Some private owners have denuded land of trees in order to make profit, and many others have not done their duty in this connection.
I said that the general standard had not been high, but there had been some very notable exceptions. I do not think that to-day or in the near future the Government need necessarily take the final decision on the whole 50-year programme, but we must very soon take a decision upon the programme for the next decade, the ro post-war years. In the Report of the Forestry Commis sion they themselves suggest that we should decide on some policy, and that policy can be reviewed at the end of the seventh or eighth year. It is to that that I desire to address myself. They propose that during the next 10 years, which is in fact the maximum programme that they think can efficiently be carried out, 500,000 acres should be afforested and 600,000 acres replanted, of which they hope that 200,000 will be done by private owners.
The Commission. They are proposing that 1, 100,000 acres should be replanted or afforested during the first decade at a net cost of £41,000,000. That is a pretty big proposition. It means planting substantially three times as much as has already been planted by the Forestry Commission, and planting that much larger area in half the time. I want to say frankly to the Committee the lines upon which we view this matter. We certainly cannot neglect the lessons we have learnt in the last war and in this war once more. We all devoutly hope that this country will never again find itself at war, but he would be a very bold man who at the present time would contemplate that, after this war, we should dispense with all our means of defence. If you cannot dispense with all your means of defence, then you must take such other steps as are necessary for your security. In normal peace times we imported something like 96 per cent. of our requirements of timber, amounting to something over 12,000,000 tons a year. At the present time we have been forced to obtain something like half our very reduced supplies from our homegrown timber. This, coupled with the fact that during the last war we were equally obliged to cut much more drastically than we should have desired and that the replanting of the areas cut in the last war was not on anything like a large enough scale, has resulted, as the Committee must realise, in this: We shall finish this war with a negligible reserve of timber. If, heaven forbid, we do find ourselves in, say, 50 years' time engaged in another war, we shall find ourselves with practically nothing. Therefore, it is a matter of great importance that we should now, as soon as possible, within 10 years after this war, plant to a very considerable extent. In the case I am putting of another war coming in 50 years' time—and please do not think that I contemplate hat as a likelihood—it would be the trees planted in the first 10 years after this war which would be the backbone on which we should have to rely.
But there is another and perhaps more compelling reason which makes it obvious that we must tackle this subject with great vigour. The Forestry Commission have shown by their work that we can in this country, thanks to our climate and our soil conditions, grow timber which is, on the whole, better than that of any other country in the world. Look at the rate of growth of Scots pine here in Great Britain compared with its rate of growth in Prussia, Sweden or Southern Finland as set out on page 99 of the Report.
It is a remarkable fact. Similar figures can be given with regard to Norwegian spruce. Can we, with those natural conditions strongly in our favour, afford to rely almost exclusively upon imports? Or is there a danger of a possible world shortage so that those imports either dry up or become very much more expensive? I want to put this frankly to the Committee. I do not think anybody can prophesy what the position will be in 50 years' time; indeed, I do not think anybody with any sense of responsibility would attempt to prophesy, but I know this, that in 1917 the Acland Committee gave us a very clear warning of the danger of a shortage; that in 1926 the Forestry Sub-committee of the Imperial Conference reported that they anticipated a serious shortage of soft woods by 1956 and that the Economic Committee of the League of Nations estimated in 1932 that world consumption was 5o per cent. greater than the annual growth. Professor Troup, a Fellow of the Royal Society, holding the Chair of Forestry at Oxford, a man of the greatest distinction, said in a book he published in 1938 that he anticipated a timber shortage and went on:
The anticipated timber shortage is not likely to descend on the world with the suddenness of a famine. As timber supplies continue to diminish less wood per head of the population will be used. The methods of preserving timber will be increasingly employed to prolong its life and substitutes will be found to a larger extent but the demand for wood for everyday use is likely to continue. Consequently, a serious shortage will soon be felt and in those countries where home supplies are deficient and this may cause serious distress in the timber using industries.
Those being the plain warnings we have had, the Government, having been ad-
vised by their expert advisers that such warnings cannot be lightly disregarded, say that we must go in for a really vigorous, bold forestry policy. I would add one thing more if I may. The chemical side of this should not be lost sight of. The forest crop produces more per acre of carbo-hydrates than any other field of crops, and we are living in a carbo-hydrate age. I will not bore the Committee with details of what is being done abroad, but in Germany at the present moment and in other countries they are making large quantities of sugar from sawdust, and the possibilities of further use are enormous.
While I cannot accept to-day the programme of 1,1000 acres, I do say that even though it becomes necessary to scale that down in view of our other commitments, the policy we have to adopt is far greater than anything we envisaged in the past. The Forestry Commission have asked for an answer now as to what steps they should take, and I want to say, on behalf of the Government, that they should take all steps that are now open to them to prepare for a great expansion of their efforts. In particular, the Government want them to take steps to acquire land, even although it need not be diverted from its present use for some years. Here, I need hardly say that it must be acquired in the fullest consultation with the agricultural Departments. Surveys should be made and plants should be raised on a larger scale, and such preliminary steps as are possible with a view to increased training and education should be taken now. We want them to get ready to go full speed ahead when peace comes.
I am very sorry, but I want to conclude one or two other observations, and I must pass on. It is obvious that, whatever policy the Government may decide to adopt, the carrying out of that policy must be entrusted to an ad hoc forestry authority. I do not propose to discuss in this Debate—and I doubt whether it would be technically in Order; at any rate, it is not settled yet—what the relationship between the forestry authority and the responsible Minister should be. But that matter will be taken into consideration in the light of this Debate. However independent an ad hoc forestry authority may be—and it is quite clear that they must have a large measure of independence—the closer the collaboration of the agricultural interests and the less antagonism there may be between the interests of forestry and agriculture the better it will be for everyone concerned. There are obvious advantages in having one authority, a unified forest service for the whole of the United Kingdom. No one, for instance, would doubt the value that comes from a common research and a common interchange of staff.
It is a fact that the Royal Scottish Forestry Society have recently reported in favour of a single forest authority for the whole of great Britain, with adequate representation for Scotland and with a branch or department charged with the direction of executive work in Scotland, and the Scottish Land and Property Federation concur in that recommendation. I anticipate no difficulty whatever in seeing that arrangements are made upon those lines, which will give complete satisfaction to all the interests concerned. I need hardly say that, if that is done, the same principle would apply to Wales, and may I add also to England. Those are the third and fourth conditions. The necessity for greatly extending research work, which is the fifth condition, is also accepted by the Government. With regard to the scheme of dedication, I do not, for reasons that I have already given, propose to pronounce any opinion upon it. It would be quite unfair to pronounce an opinion until all views have been tendered and everyone has been given an opportunity of saying what they want. I am glad to know that the Forestry Commission are already taking steps to that end, and I am ready, on behalf of the Government, to receive any representations which anyone may desire to make. Equally I do not propose to discuss any amendment of our taxation system which, of course, is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and equally the continuance of felling licences is a matter which we shall have to look into. We must not, of course, neglect the question of amenities and beauty—I do not regard that as a trivial matter at all—but the Forestry Commission is now in the closest touch with the bodies particularly concerned with those matters.
There is one other matter that I want to deal with. I was more impressed by this than by anything else. When I went to Rendlesham and saw that forest, it was not so much the people but the atmosphere of the place that impressed me. I saw a large number of very brown, healthy looking children running wild in these forest clearings, and when one asked them, as one does on these occasions, "What are you going to be?" they looked as me as if they thought me mad and said, "A forester, of course." It seemed to me that that is the sort of way in which tradition is built up and that, altogether apart from the numbers employed, which are very considerable—124 instead of 7—we are bringing up a lot of healthy, happy, contented people who will give us a dividend perhaps even greater than that which we shall get from our trees.