Clause 1. — (Machinery and Plant.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Industrial Development Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th August 1966.

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Photo of Mr William Worsley Mr William Worsley , Chelsea 12:00 am, 11th August 1966

I do not think that many of us on this side of the House were very optimistic, when we saw this Amendment, that the Government were likely to accept it. But I must say, with respect to the Minister of State, that I do not think that the words he used were those which would most encourage the private forestry industry. Perhaps in this context I should declare an interest, for I am a timber grower.

The right hon. Gentleman said that this was not an industry that demanded the highest priority of attention from the Government. I think that he has used most ill-chosen words and I invite him to make it clear that it is part of Government policy to support the forestry industry. I hope that he will. What the Government do not always appreciate is the importance of confidence to an industry. A moment ago we had a debate on the hotel industry. What happened to that industry was a crisis of confidence in the Government's intention to support it. This resulted from an accumulation of different measures.

There is a risk of something very similar happening in the timber industry. I am sure that the House will realise that the decision to plant a wood is immensely long term. There is no other industry where confidence matters more, for the simple reason that there is no prospect of a quick return from the planting of a tree. There is no other industry to which support over a long period is more important. It is most important for the Government therefore to measure their words in speaking about this industry. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will show that the Government are behind it.

Secondly, I believe that the Minister is wrong not only in the way he set it out but in what he said—that it is not an important industry at this moment in the context of the balance of payments. I shall not repeat the figures about imports and exports but will merely underline what has been said in terms of the balance of payments.