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Tree Planting

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 9th December 2010.

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Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West 10:30 am, 9th December 2010

What representations she has received on her Department's plans for its project to plant 1 million trees in the next four years.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thus far, DEFRA has received around 100 e-mails from local authorities and community groups seeking information on or expressing an interest in the big tree plant campaign and a small number of letters from other individuals and organisations.

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West

How much of the money received through privatisation will be spent in the areas of planted trees? How much of it will be spent north of the border, particularly in Glasgow?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

With respect, the question is about the big tree plant campaign, a partnership campaign that DEFRA will support with £4 million of public money. The campaign is being run in conjunction with a large number of partners and charities, including Groundwork, Keep Britain Tidy, the Tree Council and the National Forest Company. In every sense, it is a big society campaign.

Photo of Peter Soulsby Peter Soulsby Labour, Leicester South

Two hundred and fifty thousand a year sounds like a lot of trees, but not when compared with the estimated 250 million trees-1,000 times as many-owned by the Forestry Commission in England, much of which the Government are intent on selling off and putting at risk. Will the Secretary of State tell us what she will say to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who is actively campaigning against proposals to dispose of a similar proportion of Forestry Commission land in Scotland-a sale of trees that Lib Dems have described as "hugely flawed" and as a "money-making scam"?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Let me say a couple of things in response to that. With the 250,000 trees a year planted as part of the big tree plant campaign, the challenge is that the majority will be in urban areas, particularly in deprived communities, so significant plantings in those areas will benefit those communities. As for the Forestry Commission, I suggest that the hon. Gentleman, rather than reading the newspapers as a guide to Government policy, should adopt the better-informed approach of waiting for the launch of the consultation proposals, which I have discussed closely and successfully with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.