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Woodlands (Taxation)

Volume 885: debated on Thursday 30 January 1975

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has had from forestry interests about the likely effects of his proposals for the tax treatment for woodlands on the capital transfer tax.

My right hon. Friend has had representations on this matter from a number of sources. Possible effects of the tax on woodlands will depend on the final form of the provisions in the Finance Bill.

In the light of those representations, does the Treasury recognise the genuine concern about the effect of this tax? Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind in Committee the damage which will be caused by premature felling to pay the tax? Is he aware that that will lead in turn to increased timber imports and to unemployment? If he can do nothing else, can he make a distinction between softwood and hardwood when he considers taxation rates?

Only a week ago my right hon. Friend said that he had received many representations on this point and that he intended to take them very seriously. We hope to bring forward proposals later in Committee.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many Labour Members believe that there is an element of over-kill in the proposal, which could have serious repercussions on many aspects of our national life?

I note what my hon. Friend has said. Representations have been made to my right hon. Friend from representatives of all six parties in the House.

Will the hon. Gentleman pay particular regard to representations from national park areas such as the Lake District National Park, where the effect of premature felling and the abandonment of woodland would gravely damage the landscape and the environment which is so much enjoyed by so many?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising that point. I certainly assure him that amenity considerations weigh strongly with my right hon. Friend.

If there is any danger of forestry workers losing their jobs as a result of these taxation measures, will my hon. Friend consult his colleagues about the possibility of the Forestry Commission, for example, taking over the management, or even the ownership, of privately-owned forestry to conserve employment and the environment?

That question goes rather wider than my responsibility. I will see that my hon. Friend's comments are conveyed to my right hon. Friends.