Timber Production

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th December 1969.

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Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth 12:00 am, 10th December 1969

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will give details of plans for the expansion of timber output in the Kielder Forest in the 1970s; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr John Mackie Mr John Mackie , Enfield East

The output of timber from the Commission's Northumberland forests is expected to increase from the present level of about 50,000 tons a year to about 200,000 tons by 1980. I expect all but a small proportion of this increased output to be taken up by existing industries.

Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth

I thank my hon. Friend very warmly for his reply as it represents a considerable expansion which will be to the benefit of Northumberland in which the Kielder Forest will play an increasingly central part.

Earl of Dalkeith:

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage of the total acreage of productive woodlands in the United Kingdom is in State ownership; and how this figure compares with France, West Germany and Sweden, respectively, on the basis of information available to him from international sources.

Photo of Mr John Mackie Mr John Mackie , Enfield East

The Forestry Commission manages about 51 per cent. of the total area of the productive woodlands in Great Britain. I understand that the corresponding percentages in State ownership in the countries named by the noble Lord are:

Per cent.
France14
Federal Republic of Germany31
Sweden20

Earl of Dalkeith:

Does the hon. Gentleman think that this is the right proportion for the conditions existing in our country? Is it his intention to aim to maintain this balance for the next 50 years?

Photo of Mr John Mackie Mr John Mackie , Enfield East

The three countries which the noble Lord mentioned in his Question, of course, have large areas of natural forest, and it is not easy to make a comparison between those countries and ours. After the 1914–18 war the Forestry Commission was set up, and it has planted about 2 million acres in this country. I do not know what the exact balance should be.

Photo of Mr David Gibson-Watt Mr David Gibson-Watt , Hereford

Can the hon. Gentleman give the House the comparative figures for Wales?

Earl of Dalkeith:

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, what estimate he has made of the United Kingdom's self sufficiency in timber supplies in every form including pulp and paper in the year 2010, based on the acreage of afforestation over the next five years and a projection of the present rising consumption trend.

Photo of Mr John Mackie Mr John Mackie , Enfield East

No estimate has been made as far ahead as the year 2010.

Earl of Dalkeith:

Does not the hon. Gentleman think it reasonable to assume that the figure will probably be about 10 per cent. and that with timber imports at present running at a level of over £640 million a year, this means that the necessity to boost forestry in order to save imports over the next few years is very great indeed?

Photo of Mr John Mackie Mr John Mackie , Enfield East

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. We are aware of the huge figure of timber imports into this country, but I do not know whether the noble Lord would like to estimate what will be the demand 40 or 50 years hence, in view of the use of plastics and other similar materials. It is very difficult to estimate as far a head as that.

Photo of Mr John Hill Mr John Hill , South Norfolk

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the time factor has been extended from the 20 years which the Treasury took as being the limit of its vision with regard to timber in the debates some years ago? Twenty years only covers the growth of poplar and willow trees, and is it not much better, therefore, to look 40 years ahead?

Photo of Mr John Mackie Mr John Mackie , Enfield East

We were looking at the question of the production of Kielder Forest a few months ago. The estimates that we looked at were 40 to 45 years for soft wood for pulp, and I presume that the Treasury will have to fall in with that estimate.

Earl of Dalkeith:

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I wish to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment.