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Lord Carver: My Lords, will the noble Lord explain what he means by "stable deterrence system"?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I take it that the noble and gallant Lord would accept that in Europe the deterrence between the two great powers has been stable for a number of years and will continue to be stable. I think any changes that we might make unilaterally as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, could endanger that stability. It would be unwise to do it unilaterally. It might be that we could work towards these things by means of further talks.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree with me that it is rather peculiar that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, should have put down this precise Question, since the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, of which he was an ornament, and perhaps still is (if the campaign exists—the noble Lord obviously does) used to urge upon us the fact that the nuclear weapons held by ourselves and our allies were terribly dangerous whereas the nuclear weapons held by the Soviet Union were, if anything, benign?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that intervention. Of course I cannot speculate on the motives which inspire the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, to put down his Questions and why he puts them down in a form which might even seem to imply that we should encourage other nations to acquire nuclear weapons. That is something that I would not agree with, and I presume that the noble Lord would not agree with it.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, will the Minister accept that we rather resent some comments from noble Lords on the other side of the House on the motives for putting down Questions? There is no doubt that my noble friend has put down this Question as a serious inquiry about the non-proliferation treaty. I am glad to see that the Minister, unlike some of his colleagues on those Benches, is treating it as such.

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The noble Lord said that there is a European deterrent system. Is it not the case that Trident and the Trident force is assigned to NATO and therefore that this is a NATO arrangement rather than a purely European arrangement? Is it not further the case, as I think the noble Lord himself has conceded, that, without a further definition of the purpose of NATO, it would be very difficult in the new conference which is to take place in New York in April/May to persuade those outside NATO that they should not have similar weapon systems to those which exist inside NATO?

Lord Henley: My Lords, as regards the first of the points which the noble Lord raised, as I made quite clear, I do not speculate on the motives of noble Lords in putting down Questions. Similarly, I do not speculate as to why my noble friends ask various supplementary questions.

As regards the conference on the next non-proliferation treaty I said, and I maintain, that I believe it will be of benefit to all parties, whether nuclear weapon states or non-nuclear weapon states, to see an extension of that treaty. As long as our security depends on the possession of nuclear weapons, we are committed to maintaining an effective and up-to-date minimum deterrent. That is perfectly consistent with our non-proliferation treaty obligations.

Turning to the final part of the noble Lord's question as to whether Trident is assigned entirely to NATO, the noble Lord is correct, in that it contributes to NATO's strategy in terms of war prevention but it is also the ultimate guarantee of our own national security.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, do Her Majesty's Government continue to believe that an air-portable and air-launched nuclear weapon capability is essential to maintaining the strategic deterrent credibility of our Trident system?

Lord Henley: No, my Lords. As the noble and gallant Lord will know, the number of WE 177 airborne free-fall bombs has been reduced and we have announced that we shall not be replacing them. Thereafter we shall depend entirely on Trident for both our strategic and non-strategic nuclear capability.

Lord Rea: My Lords, while I am sure that noble Lords on all sides of the House probably agree that the United Kingdom will use the power resulting from its possession of nuclear weapons responsibly, does the Minister agree that that view may not be held by the majority of non-nuclear signatories of the non-proliferation treaty? Does he not realise that they feel that we should comply with Clause 6 of that treaty by reducing our nuclear armaments rather than increasing them?

Lord Henley: My Lords, it may be that they will argue that particular case, but we shall strongly argue our case that it is to the benefit of all, both nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, to further the treaty.

As to whether we ourselves have made any progress, I can assure the noble Lord that, with the abandonment of our maritime surface tactical nuclear

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capability, our nuclear artillery and the Lance missiles, and the announcement that I have just repeated that we shall not be replacing the free-fall WE 177 bombs, by the time Trident is fully operational our nuclear arsenal will be some 25 per cent. less powerful than in 1990.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, can the noble Lord tell me whether it will be possible for Trident to be used without the consent and assistance of the United States? Further, can it be targeted independently of any advice and assistance which the United States may give?

Lord Henley: My Lords, as the noble Lord well knows, Trident is an independent deterrent which belongs to Her Majesty's Government.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, is not Trident assigned to NATO and therefore targeted according to NATO requirements?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I have already answered that question. It is the ultimate guarantee of the United Kingdom's own security.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I do not mind what the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, says? There are occasions when what he says is worth listening to.

Is it not the case that the Government and I share a common objective here? Both the Government and I are committed to the ultimate disappearance of the nuclear weapon. We may have different ideas as to the speed with which that is accomplished or as to the method which should be adopted, but, oddly enough—and some noble Lords may not appreciate the fact—our ultimate aim is the same. However, the Government do not mention as frequently as I do the necessity of getting rid of the nuclear weapon.

Having regard to the fact that we have that object in common, will the Government not consider the possibility that the notion which I believe will come up at the forthcoming conference that the West is on one side and everybody else is on the other is dangerous and one which they should do their best to avoid?

Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord may say that he and I are in agreement on a number of matters, but our disagreement on the question of timing is fairly crucial to the arguments here.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, perhaps I may clarify the answer which the noble Lord gave me. He said that the Trident weapon was independent. Can he then confirm that it can be used without the United States' consent and assistance and can be targeted independently of United States' assistance?

Lord Henley: My Lords, like its predecessor, Trident is an independent nuclear deterrent. That means exactly that. I can go no further.

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Building Societies (Joint Accounts) Bill [H.L.]

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to permit the distribution of funds by building societies to the second named holder of a joint account in the event of the first holder's death. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—(Lord Dubs.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Forestry

3.7 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe rose to call attention to the Government's Forestry Review of August 1994 and its impact on the future of forestry in the United Kingdom; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, before I deal with the substance of this Motion, I observe from the list of speakers that the reply to the debate will be made by the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay. I should like to congratulate the noble Earl on his promotion and wish him well in the duties that he now undertakes.

At the same time—and I mean no disrespect to the noble Earl—I deplore the absence of the Minister of State who is responsible for these matters in the Government. The fact that the Minister of State is absent and the most junior member of the Government Front Bench, however able—and I know that he is able in this regard—is to deal with the matter may be taken by industry and by Parliament (and I speak as the chairman of the all party parliamentary group of both Houses dealing with forestry) as indicating that the Government have a rather low estimate of the importance of forestry in this nation.

Having made my protest, I can now turn to the substance of the debate. It is almost two years since we had a debate in this House on forestry. At that time there were 25 speakers, who were allowed, I think, five minutes each. Today we have a rather more generous allocation. But the Government should be aware of the interest in this matter and its importance, indicated by the fact that again we have a fairly long list of speakers.

On the last occasion the Minister indicated that there were two important matters before him. First, he had just announced the appointment of a special inter-departmental committee to consider forestry—not only the incentives but also the ownership and management of the Forestry Commission estate. Some of us were nervous about that. However, on winding up on that occasion the Minister gave an assurance. He observed that the most important consensus reached is that in Britain we must continue to plant more trees. He said:


    "It continues to be our policy to encourage the expansion of woodland cover in Great Britain".—[Official Report, 14/4/93; col. 1143.]

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I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has just withdrawn from the Chamber. Two years previous to that debate he had said:


    "I have every confidence that the industry itself will increase the number of plantings".—[Official Report, 27/3/91; col. 1066.]

Two years before that his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland gave similar assurances. He stated:


    "It remains the government policy to expand forestry wherever possible".

Today in this debate we can measure those assurances against the record. I hope that we shall do so.

However, before I criticise the Government, perhaps I may reiterate some of the basic factors which justify an expanding forestry policy. First, apart from Ireland this country has the lowest forestry cover in Europe. Ten per cent. of our land area is under forestry as against 30 per cent. in Germany and 26 per cent. in France. That is despite the fact that in this country we have the land, the climate, the soil and certainly the expertise to take advantage of this important renewable resource.

Secondly, we are constantly reminded that this country has a serious balance of payments problem. The total consumption of wood and wood products in Britain has increased by more than 30 per cent. in the past 10 years. It will increase even more, and more rapidly, because of the devaluation of sterling. The present import bill for wood and wood products is £6.3 billion, which is a sizeable part of our balance of payments deficit. In this country I wish that we would spend more time talking not only about export promotion but about import substitution too. It is an area in which forestry can make some contribution.

Thirdly, we have had many debates in this House stressing the importance of Britain's manufacturing industry and its decline. In the past eight years the wood processing industry in this country has invested more than £1 billion in new plant and equipment. That has all been done on the assumption that there would be a continuing supply of home-grown timber to meet its needs. In Scotland alone the Caledonian Paper Mill invested some £215 million in the past few years in new plant and equipment. Those companies require long-term contracts providing continuing supply of home-grown timber. While the private estates will play some part, only the Forestry Commission can supply the bulk and the continued supply of timber to those new industries.

At present the Forestry Commission is meeting its commitments to the pulp mills and wood processing factories. However, that is being done only because people planted trees 20 and 30 years ago. Twenty years ago the Forestry Commission planted 20,000 to 30,000 hectares a year. I refer to the Forestry Commission Corporate Agenda which was recently published. It makes this sad announcement:


    "Because of financial constraints our new planting programme ... has shrunk below 1,000 hectares this year. Our planned programme this year is 824 hectares, the lowest [planting programme] in the 75 years history of the Forestry Commission".

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I wonder how the investors in the wood processing industry who have been given the assurances that the Government are committed to an expanding forestry policy will consider those figures.

Another aspect which justifies an expanding forestry policy has been discussed in this House on various occasions. It is the importance of forestry in catering for the growing leisure industry. Last year the Forestry Commission welcomed 50 million day visitors into its woodlands. Those are not people just passing through; they visit for at least three hours on each occasion. I am quite sure that the urban population is becoming tired of the faxes, the mobile telephones, the trivia on television and the dullness and pollution of urban life. It will require more and more availability of access to woodlands. I am happy to say that not only is the Forestry Commission pioneering that but the private sector is also responding. I was delighted to read recently in The Times that the noble Duke, the Duke of Buccleuch, one of our most enthusiastic foresters and one of the largest landowners in this country, has joined the Ramblers Association. It is not that the noble Duke is able to take full advantage, I regret to say, of the trekking in which ramblers engage, but it was an indication by the noble Duke that he was anxious to encourage public access to private woodlands; and I commend him for that.

Similarly over the new year I walked in the woodlands above Dunkeld and Pitlochry in Scotland—a beautiful area. The sun was shining and snow was on the hilltops. The local authority had combined with the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, and the Forestry Commission to plan a great network of the most interesting and beautiful walks in that area. The Forestry Commission pioneered that, but the combination of the private sector working in partnership with the commission is opening up the country.

Having established, I hope, that there is a basic case for forestry I should now like to examine the Government's attitude to the Forestry Commission. This year is the commission's 75th anniversary and we all welcomed the recommendation in the report now before us that the commission should remain in public ownership. That was a great relief not only to people like myself who are anxious to encourage that view but to landowners, environmentalists, trade unionists and ramblers who all pressed the Government to ensure that the Forestry Commission remained public property. We are delighted that it will be so. However, I notice in the commission's annual report that while it will remain in public hands, the Government are allowing that important organisation to decline quite dramatically.

More than 20 years ago when I was chairman of the commission, we planted about 23,000 hectares per annum. That has decreased to about 800 hectares this year. The majority of that will be in broadleaves which make some contribution to the environment but none whatever to the economic necessity of supplying our wood-using industries. The commission's annual report for this year states that—I am sure that there will be rejoicing in the Treasury—this year the Forestry Commission will be self-financing. How is that possible? It is quite easy: all you do is to sell off your

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existing stock on which you have incurred costs in the past and on which you have accepted the charges in your past accounts and you then enhance your income. That is running down a business. At the same time as you are selling off your stock you are not replacing it, so it may cause rejoicing in the Treasury that the Forestry Commission is self-financing but there is no rejoicing in the wood-processing industries, which assume that they will have a continuing supply of stock.

Another aspect which indicates the Government's declining interest in the Forestry Commission is the disposals programme. A few years ago the Government said that they would have one or two tidying-up operations in selling off bits of the forestry estate. The tidying-up operation has now exceeded 187,000 hectares of public land which has been sold at a depressed price because there has been a poor market for land in the past few years.

Although they have given repeated assurances that they believe in an expanding forestry policy, the situation is that the Government are constantly and steadily running down the operations of the Forestry Commission, which is the dynamic sector of the whole forestry industry. That would not be so bad if the private sector were planting and expanding to compensate for the decline in the public sector. But that is not so.

I have a paper before me from the Forestry Industry Committee of Great Britain which states:


    "We continue to express our disappointment over the Review of Incentives for Forestry Investment promised",

by the Government. We have a situation where there may be increased applications for grants at the moment because they have been held up until the review took place, but there is a constant decline in new planting and expansion of forestry. I ask the Government to tell us how they see the future of the Forestry Commission in the light of the facts that I have reported. I ask them too whether their incentive programmes are working in relation to private sector forestry. I await their assurances with great interest. I beg to move for Papers.

3.25 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, first I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, for having initiated this debate. Yesterday he kindly said that he was pleased that I was taking part in it and I was so disorientated, first, by jet lag and, secondly, by your Lordships' deliberations on the European Communities (Finance) Bill, that I asked whether he would be making a speech. He kindly refrained from laughing outright and I am delighted to have been able to hear the trenchant speech which he has just made.

Secondly, I wish to welcome the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, to the Front Bench to reply to the debate. We shall miss him very much from the Committee on Sustainable Development in which he has played such an active part over the past few months. Without in any way dissociating myself from the comment about the absence of the Minister of State, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that if the Government were to choose a Whip to answer on this subject they have chosen the best possible person, not just the most junior.

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Thirdly, I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, were here to speak from these Benches with his great personal and practical knowledge. However, I shall talk on a rather wider scale about my overall ecological anxieties. I find that the review seems to lack an overall dimension, along with, it seems, the whole of the forestry set-up in the country today.

There are many aspects of forestry but there are three major ones. The first is the effect it has on the ecological system, both globally and nationally, and the micro-effect of that on the biodiversity of the animals and plants which live in the forests and on the habitat. There are great doubts in the review as to whether the arrangements for the care of biodiversity are properly looked after. Secondly, there is the aesthetic side, which is not to be underrated. A certain amount of attention has been paid to it over recent years, but it is important that this beautiful country of ours should have the right kind of forestry in the right places. Thirdly, there is the economic side, with the question of renewable resources.

There appears to have been a certain muddle about consultation on the matter and I have received brief after brief complaining about lack of consultation. One brief went so far as to suggest that the Government were in breach of Agenda 21, in which the relevant part on forestry states:


    "Governments should promote and provide opportunities for the participation of interested parties, including local communities ... industries ... in the development, implementation and planning of national forest policies".

The consultation has been less than it should have been. As I have already suggested, there is uncertainty about the amount of care that is applied to conservation matters. The Friends of the Earth state:


    "We are particularly concerned over the implications for the management of the many areas of importance for wildlife and biodiversity over which the Forestry Enterprise is currently custodian".

There appear to be huge areas of uncertainty as to how, in practice, this role will be transferred to the new body. For example, paragraph 3.26 of Our Forests—The Way Ahead states:


    "Provision will be made for direct expenditure on recreation, conservation and heritage activities".

But no indication is given as to what will be the extent of this provision nor as to how it will be determined.

Similarly, it is stated that further consideration will be given to arrangements for the provision of non-market benefits. But there is no indication as to how that will occur or by whom it will be given; nor is there any commitment to implementing any findings of these considerations. It is particularly worrying that the new trading body is to work to "demanding, but achievable" financial targets, but nowhere can we find any commitment set down for the trading body to work to equivalent environmental targets. That is particularly worrying given the commission's role as the manager of several hundred sites of special scientific interest, some of which also have other designations as recognition of their international importance.

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As if those two problems were not enough, the third one is that the sustainable economy, to which we and the Minister are committed and in which we are both intensely interested, demands that we should move towards less consumption of the world's forests and more consumption—or rather a larger percentage consumption—of our own. In a country where the consumption of newspapers and their contents reminds one rather of drug addiction, there should be some governmental guidance or control on the management of demand. Worldwatch paper No. 117, states:


    "Per capita paper consumption is soaring worldwide, a disheartening trend for the environment because the pulp and paper sector is the biggest polluter among wood products industries".

It is for this country to play its part in world sustainable development. This appears to be another area of the whole industry on which the Government, in the particular paper that we are considering today, do not really seem to have set their mind. We produce more and more wood—of which we consume more and more. Recently the Government, in their transport policy, abandoned the idea that we can go on building more and more roads for more and more cars. The time has come for them to consider not only whether or not they should produce more and more wood, but to do something about stemming the consumption of the wood that we have.

3.34 p.m.

Lord Rees: My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, for having provided the opportunity for this long overdue debate on forestry. The noble Lord was able to set a particular tone for the debate. He has a unique combination of experience in forestry in both the public and private sectors. We are much in his debt. I should also like to add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Lindsay who will reply to the debate. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, should make any stricture on the noble Earl's first appearance on the Front Bench. I know that with his particular experience of Scotland, and indeed of South Wales, he will have a notable contribution to make, not only to this debate but to other debates in which he will be called upon to answer for the Government.

It is singularly appropriate that we should at last have an opportunity to debate forestry in the aftermath of the Statement by the Secretary of State for Scotland on 19th July. In the time that is available to me I shall have to limit my remarks. I shall not attempt to cross swords (in, I hope, a gentlemanly way) with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, about the Forestry Commission and the way that it has been treated, except to say that I certainly accept that it continues to have a special position both in its regulatory role and in its research role. I also accept—and this is where I part company from the noble Lord—that there is quite a case for sharpening both its commercial management and the disposal, at least in part, of some of its assets. I can only speak, for example, of South Wales, which I perhaps know a little better than does the noble Lord. There are still many pocket

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handkerchiefs of forest land owned by the Forestry Commission which I do not believe add substantially to its commercial, regulatory or research role.

Nor shall I touch on the national forest, which was mentioned in the Secretary of State's Statement, or on the environmental and recreational aspects of forestry. All those can be approved provided they are not supported and sustained at the expense of the private landowner, who has a difficult enough time in the present climate.

I turn briefly to commercial forestry. I may be proved wrong in the course of the debate, but I assume that no one in the House this afternoon, at least in this context, adopts the Manchester liberal approach that there is no call for any kind of government intervention or support in the management of this national resource. Were it necessary to debate the point, I would merely draw attention to the investment, quite a lot of which has recently come from abroad, in the wood processing industry which has been made on the assurance of a secure supply of native timber, in particular of native softwoods. I draw attention to the impact on employment in many parts of the United Kingdom where there are limited alternative job opportunities. That aspect can never be ignored.

It has been the continued policy of all post-war administrations that there should be a sustained and encouraged policy of fresh planting, particularly of softwoods. Indeed, we were assured that government policy was that planting levels should be sustained at about 33,000 hectares almost immediately before the new regime was introduced by the Finance Bill 1988. As noble Lords will recall, that regime deprived forestry of all the income tax and corporation tax reliefs that were then available. As was forecast by many people, and on a modest scale by myself, as a consequence of those measures there has inevitably been a dramatic and evident reduction in planting levels. By 1993-94 only 16,000 hectares were planted, of which 5,000 hectares were conifers. I am extremely sorry that my noble friend Lord Lawson of Blaby did not remain in his seat. I would have been very happy to debate the unwisdom of the measures contained in the 1988 Finance Bill which, I am bound to say, I feel were introduced without proper consultation. Certainly, I was unaware of any widespread consultation before those measures were introduced.

I feel that it is a rather shabby and lame excuse to say that where budgetary matters are concerned they have to be sprung on an unsuspecting public. Certainly, I and my noble friend Lord Lawson in earlier years always forecast measures which had such wide policy implications, not least by publishing a Green Paper or some draft clauses, so that the world could be apprised of what was in train and those matters could be properly debated. However, it is perhaps a little late to return to 1988. I hope that we shall be able to continue to keep under close review this area of public policy.

Certainly, by the summer of last year—in July—the time had come to review the impact of those particular measures to see what had been the consequences. It was self-evident that there had been a dramatic and unattractive decline in planting levels. So the question

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must have arisen, even in Whitehall, of how much and in what form assistance was necessary to restore forestry commercial planting to the kind of levels that the Government had proclaimed to be necessary and advisable in 1988.

The Secretary of State has made modest increases in the grant regime—I believe about 14 per cent. overall—offset, I have to say, by a rather unattractive reduction in the restocking grant, the reason for which entirely escapes me. It may well have been that in exchanges in the other place that was fully explained, but I see no very real justification for the reduction in the restocking grant. I am sure that it will have a damaging effect on forestry practice.

At this early stage, it is perhaps churlish to be so critical of the proposals contained in the Statement of July. However, I must ask the noble Earl what the Government's response would be if, in a few years' time, there proved to be no increase or no substantial increase in planting, particularly coniferous planting. If I may coin a phrase, will the Government be prepared to go "back to basics"?

Will the Government compare the cost of grants with the cost of tax reliefs, if tax reliefs can be regarded as a cost by government? Will they reflect, consider and compare whether the system of mixed grants and tax reliefs has produced more planting than the pure system of grants, bearing in mind that a system of "pure" grants will always be under constant and relentless pressure from the Treasury to be maintained at the lowest possible level?

There has been much ill-considered criticism of the system of tax reliefs. I merely remark that Schedule B was perhaps a hangover from an earlier regime; but the Schedule D reliefs were precisely the same as those available to any other business. It is ridiculous to regard that particular regime as the basis for large schemes of tax avoidance.

So it is time to look at the whole question with a much more open mind; it is time to compare the support for forestry given in this country with that given to our competitors in France and Germany, as the noble Lord pointed out; and it is time to consider whether a reversion to a combined system of tax reliefs and grants might not at last provide the planting levels for commercial woodlands that the country needs. I hope that when he winds up, the noble Earl will give some encouragement to forestry and persuade us that the Government will preserve an open mind on this very sensitive issue.

3.43 p.m.

Lord Barber of Tewkesbury: My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, for initiating this debate. I have to declare an interest. As I have no intention of sailing under false colours, I want to make clear that it is a considerable interest. I am chairman of a company which has a forestry division that looks after 150,000 hectares—something like 12 per cent. of all the private woodlands in the United Kingdom. I have a nursery business here and in the Republic of Ireland

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which produces something like 40 million trees a year. So the interest is considerable and I want to make that absolutely clear.

My contribution to the debate—which I must make in seven minutes—is to offer your Lordships five particular points. My first, tedious though it is, is something of a repetition of what the noble Lord, Lord Rees, said. It is an inescapable thought, which to me has always been a historical question: would forestry have been taken out of the taxation system in the 1988 Finance Act had it not been for the juxtaposition of bitter and wholly justified critical publicity about the ravaging of the flow country and the equally bitter front pages of the tabloids castigating richly endowed entertainment figures for becoming yet richer through the taxpayer?

But whatever the fiscal and ethical issues, the pre-1988 years delivered a very satisfactory deal for the taxpayer. There can be no doubt—this is fact and not just supposition—that fiscal encouragement for new planting was and is much cheaper per hectare than grant aid, probably by a factor of three. One wonders, too, whether at the time any consideration was given to bringing forestry fully into the taxation system—at both ends, akin to any other industry and in particular common treatment with agriculture —rather than pushing it into unknown waters and, as some would say, delivering a grievous wound, from which the forestry industry has not yet recovered. Also, let us not forget the employment part of that wound. There has been widespread redundancy on private woodlands as the transitional period from 1988 to 1993 ended. One forestry contracting company had to lose a third of a labour force which was several hundred strong and would have lost even more had there not been success in finding export markets for the nurseries.

Secondly, it is worth recalling that against the background of failure to achieve annual planting targets, depletion of the national conifer forest has been growing apace. The figures are interesting. In 1981 to 1989 conifer plantings were 93 per cent. of the total trees planted during those years; but in 1992 to 1993 they had dropped to 33 per cent. and were only 24 per cent. of the level attained under the last two years of taxation relief. Yet, there we have the long fibre material required as a feedstock for the UK processing industry which we can grow faster than our competitor supplying countries. I do wish that that point could be emphasised more. We can all derive satisfaction from the environmental enhancements that have come through the expansion of hardwoods. But it is the softwoods' commercial engine that generates the money and justifies the processing investment of recent times. So there is a pressing need to keep things in desirable balance and to aim for the right kind of equilibrium.

The other day I was pained to find a press release from one of the conservation lobbies. It deplored the new incentives for conifers, minuscule though they may be. Incidentally, can we not strive in the whole environmental field for a better rapprochement and acceptance of balance by all with an interest, for the drip

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drip of criticism has had a profound effect on public opinion, which has never had the opportunity of hearing the drip drip from the other side?

Thirdly, in reading the back history, one is struck by the expectations that the policy review engendered. The private forestry side had truly believed that the Government had committed themselves to considering all the incentives for encouraging investment. Bold steps were confidently anticipated. Instead, in the event, there came a review which was mainly concerned with amending the woodland grant scheme. Instead of something dramatic and exciting, there was a reshuffling, part of which was to reduce seriously the restocking grants. That is most unhelpful to the serious long-term owner and unlikely to spur the incorporation of environmental features in the subsequent rotation. Many voices—I do not associate myself wholly with them—have referred to tinkering and reshuffling, with a smidgen of icing on the cake.

One is struck by the unanimity of the view that the measures will not put fresh life into the industry on the scale needed. The Forestry Industry Committee of Great Britain, the Timber Growers' Association, the Country Landowners' Association and the forestry companies all seem to be in accord and agree that new commercial planting needs new investment. It will not be done on any significant scale by existing landowners as, on average, planting by volume and parcel size will usually be low. Again, it must be emphasised that new non-landowning investors are much less interested in grant handouts than in reliefs; and, more importantly, their advisers—the trustees, lawyers and accountants—will see little in the outcome of the review to justify investment diversification.

Fourthly—I have one eye on the clock—in the interests of bringing in new investment, can we look forward to the time when middle-sized shareholders can buy into collective forestry investment schemes? Can we look forward to a more flexible, "loosened up" Securities and Investments Board approach to encouraging those schemes which cannot at present be openly marketed? Have not HMG ignored something which is wholly in accord with their policy of widening the investment base?

Lower down the scale from the medium-sized investor, there must be large numbers of people who would like to have a positive stake in our forests and woodlands. We underestimate the vicarious pleasures which people have in being part of something which is attractive, desirable and interesting. We have seen the astonishing success of the Woodland Trust in attracting funds from 200,000 members, many of whom go nowhere near the forests they buy. In my time as chairman of the RSPB I was staggered to learn that only a minute proportion of our members went anywhere near the bird reserves; they gave money because they wanted to keep the avocets or whatever flying.

Why can members of the public not have it made easier for them on various levels to hold a more direct personal stake in our forests by some bold, imaginative plan or plans to enable them to subscribe? Why can we not introduce a forestry owning democracy? As I said

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earlier, it is no good saying that the investor can currently invest in forestry via a broad spread property unit trust. That is not what we are talking about at all.

My fifth and concluding point will perhaps seem a strange one to the Front Bench. It concerns my real sympathy for Ministers. I am even more sympathetic today when I see the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, who was my former colleague on the Sustainable Development Committee. Poor things! They are forever beleaguered by demands, entreaties and supplications from all and sundry for infinite amounts of money to come from finite resources. Often, having delivered, they are then reviled by churlish and ungrateful voices telling them that it is not enough. In many instances—and this is one of them—tinkering merely prolongs the problem. What is required is an analysis of where the threshold point is which, once breached, allows the whole flood to arrive and resolve the problem. Moreover, in this instance a great volume of informed opinion is saying that if fiscal reliefs were reintroduced there would be remarkable cost benefits.

In relation to what the noble Lord, Lord Rees, said, there would be no satisfaction at all on the doubters' side to be able to say in two or three years' time, "We told you so". I hope that we are all wrong. However, I hope that in two years' time—that is all we need to find out how satisfactory the scheme is—the Government will look at the body of the forestry industry and, if it is ailing, will give it the required shot in the arm to keep it going.


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