Orders of the Day — FORESTRY BILL [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th July 1951.

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Photo of Mr Morgan Price Mr Morgan Price , Gloucestershire West 12:00 am, 6th July 1951

Yes, indeed. I hope the noble Lord did not think that I wished to indicate any criticism of the Forestry Commission about this. I merely wished to point out—I am sure the Forestry Commission will appreciate it—that those owners who have dedicated and are carrying put the approved plan should be specially considered.

I know that under Clause 10 (2) there must be over-riding security for the State and that in the event of some really serious national crisis or act of God it may be necesasry for even the dedicated woodlands to cease cutting—I think we all accept that—but there is a somewhat obscure passage in Clause 2 that I should like cleared up. It was mentioned in the discussion in another place. I do not quite understand it.

There are owners who have not dedicated and yet are working to a plan approved by the Commissioners. That is a very good thing, but it looks to me as if they will be treated in just the same way as the owners of dedicated woodlands. The Joint Under-Secretary said that they will get "nearly all the benefits described in the Bill." One does not want to discourage private woodland owners from getting plans of operation approved by the Commissioners, but one also does not want to discourage dedication. The dedicated woodland owner is liable to sanctions and has burdens imposed on him and may have his woodlands requisitioned if he does not carry out the plans, and I believe that he should be put in a better position compared with the owner who has not dedicated but only works to a plan.

Will those who have not dedicated but nevertheless work to a plan get the same advantages in being able to demand that the Forestry Commission buy their trees if they are refused a licence? In what way will they be put at any disadvantage as compared with the dedicated woodland owner? If we are to encourage dedication, as we should as much as we can, there should be some advantage under all these Measures to the prospective woodland owner who dedicates his trees.

The Government have been almost generous in that part of the Bill in which they allow the dedicated woodland owner, and presumably the other types I have mentioned, if they are included, to sell their standing timber to the Commission if they are refused a licence. That should be a great encouragement to all woodland owners who dedicate, and I hope that they will not now hold back. Perhaps there was some reason for them to hold back a few years ago owing to the very high costs of wages and materials, and when the prices of timber were still controlled at very low levels, but now control of that kind is off and we have the provisions in Clause 10 there is no reason for holding off.

It seems that there may be some dissatisfaction about compensation under Clause 5. Owners who have not dedicated and who cannot sell compulsorily to the Commission will be compensated in a way which will not give them anything for any loss they may incur through postponement of sale if the market goes against them, and they will only get the value by which their timber has deteriorated. The hon. and gallant Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Dugdale) said that he would like to know more about how it is proposed to estimate the loss in value, and he expressed the fear, as I do, that it may be very difficult to estimate.

I am very glad to note that under another Clause amenities will be preserved and that the tree preservation orders of the Ministry of Local Government and Planning will be linked up with the control of felling by the Forestry Commissioners, but I am not clear who will have the last word on this. Will it rest with the Minister of Local Government and Planning, or will it be a joint responsibility between him and the Minister of Agriculture? Naturally there will have to be consultations between the two Departments, and presumably in nearly every case they will agree about something or other, but we ought to know who will be the final arbiter if for some extraordinary reason they do not agree.

I hope that National Trust property will come under this part of the Clause and that the National Trust will be protected from compulsory felling orders to which I suppose it might be subjected. The National Trust owns all its property for the purpose of maintaining the amenities upon it. I know that it is not always easy to balance amenity preservation with good forestry, and yet it should be possible in the long run. The public in England—not Scotland—have been rather ignorant about forestry. In this respect the Scots are very much better, for they understand forestry better than the English, but I hope that the education of the English in this matter will proceed.

At the Royal Agricultural Show at Cambridge yesterday I was very glad to see that the Forestry Commission had an excellent exhibit which should go a long way towards removing the prejudice which still exists in the English mind about forestry, and particularly about conifers. The Commission is often very unfairly attacked for planting conifers on land where only conifers can possibly grow. I know that in their young stages conifer plantations are not very beautiful. Still, trees have a habit of growing, and some of the public do not seem to realise that. I believe that in 30 or 40 years the people who have been objecting to the planting of conifers will be objecting to the Forestry Commission cutting down the "beautiful conifer forests." I hope that the process of education will continue.

The Bill will do a lot to preserve our national heritage, in spite of what the hon. and learned Member has to say about totalitarianism. It will serve to remind us of one of the great truths, which is the motto of the Royal English Forestry Society, "Serit arbores, quae alteri saeculo prosint," which means: "It will be the trees that go down to another generation."