Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th January 1976.

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Photo of Mr David James Mr David James , North Dorset 12:00 am, 29th January 1976

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many trees were planted in 1973, 1974 and 1975.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

Precise figures are not available, but it is estimated that 113½ million, 106½ million and 103 million trees were planted in Great Britain in the years ended 31st March 1973, 1974 and 1975 respectively.

Photo of Mr David James Mr David James , North Dorset

As we spend £2,000 million a year on importing timber, is not that a singularly disgraceful Answer? Is it not a fact that the fall in the planting of timber has been largely due to uncertainty in the private sector following the removal of tax incentives for the planting of trees, the private sector being responsible for nearly 50 per cent. of total plantings? Furthermore, a doctrinaire refusal—

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. This is getting very near a speech.

Photo of Mr David James Mr David James , North Dorset

I shall put a brief question. Will the hon. Gentleman reconsider his refusal to consider the proposed legislation in Command 5999 of 1974, which would have helped private growers from EEC sources? Finally, what will the hon. Gentleman do with the 6½ million elm trees that have died, the loss of which will make the South of England look like a graveyard in 12 years' time?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

I shall confine myself to the hon. Gentleman's main points. First, I cannot agree that it was a disgraceful Answer. If he considers the figures that I have given, I think that he will find that they are not as disappointing as he suggests. Secondly, he must recognise that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has indicated the importance that we attach to private planting by affording relief to private woodland owners in the capital transfer tax.

Photo of Sir John Langford-Holt Sir John Langford-Holt , Shrewsbury

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House briefly whether the tree population is increasing or decreasing and by how much?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

The problem with all these figures is that it takes some time before they are compiled. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have noticed that the latest figures reach only 31st March 1975. I think that he will recognise that a considerable number of factors have affected the recent planting in the private sector, not just the depressed state of the economy. A general factor has been the poor prices for timber throughout Europe.

Photo of Mr Hamish Watt Mr Hamish Watt , Banffshire

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the £162½ million recently granted to save Chrysler would have planted nearly a million acres of timber? Does he not agree that there is an urgent need for a rethinking of our entire economic policy?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

No, I cannot confirm the hon. Gentleman's first point. I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman, coming from an agricultural constituency, would recognise that we always have to strike a balance between farming and forestry.

Photo of Mr David James Mr David James , North Dorset

As the Minister has answered only one of my three supplementary question, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.