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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?