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—
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?
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.
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.
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?