Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:12 pm on 22nd February 1995.

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Photo of Mr Barry Field Mr Barry Field , Isle of Wight 2:12 pm, 22nd February 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to ensure that the Forestry Commission grows timber suitable for the United Kingdom furniture industry; and what is his policy on import substitution for timber products.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

The Forestry Commission grows timber for a wide range of markets, including the furniture industry. The Government are committed to expanding the woodland area in Britain, thereby reducing our dependence on timber imports.

Photo of Mr Barry Field Mr Barry Field , Isle of Wight

I thank my hon. Friend. Does he agree that it takes hours of careful craftsmanship to create a beautiful piece of furniture and just moments of vandalism to smash it to pieces? Is there not an analogy here with the centuries of statesmanship that have created the United Kingdom and the vandals on the Opposition Benches who want to destroy it with the hammer of devolution?

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

That is an original thought. The trees of the United Kingdom are a fine asset and I am glad that our hardwoods are manufactured into the finest furniture in the world. Quality has always been the watchword of the United Kingdom. It would be a crime to destroy it by going down the route towards independence.

Photo of Mr Jimmy Dunnachie Mr Jimmy Dunnachie , Glasgow Pollok

Does the Minister agree that the best place to plant trees would be in the Pollok estate in my constituency where hundred of trees have been vandalised and destroyed to make way for a road that endangers the health and lives of the people of my constituency? It has destroyed one of the greatest beauty spots in the south side. Does the Minister agree that work on that obnoxious road should stop and that the Eaglestone bypass should be considered?

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

That is rather far removed from furniture. I understand that the road is supported by a Labour council and by Labour Members of Parliament. When the route is completed, I hope that there will be excellent landscaping and that a large number of trees will be planted to replace those that have been felled.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

Is not the Minister concerned at the poor take-up of grants for broadleaf trees and the relatively disappointing results of the Government's change of policy towards the support of those who wish to grow hardwood?

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. Of the 34,000 hectares planted in the United Kingdom last year, 16,000 hectares were hardwood. That is a big improvement on anything that has happened recently. I believe that our increased grants for hardwood are working and I hope that that will continue in the future.

Mr. John D. Taylor:

In view of the revised and improved grants for tree planting in Scotland over the past few years, can the Minister confirm that there has been an increase in tree planting in Scotland?

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

About 1 million hectares are owned by the Forestry Commission and a substantial number of hectares by private forestry owners. The level is about the same, but as our timber is maturing, more felling is taking place. All felling licences are matched to replanting licences.