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Volume 130: debated on Thursday 31 March 1988

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a further statement on measures to stimulate tree planting.

On 23 March we announced details of a new forestry grant scheme, to be known as the woodland grant scheme, which is to be introduced on 5 April. Copies of a Forestry Commission leaflet on the scheme have been placed in the Library of the House. We also intend to introduce the farm woodland scheme later this year.

How will the new planting grants impact on the existing farm woodland scheme, about which the Conservative party is so enthusiastic?

The farm woodland scheme, as my hon. Friend knows, is a mixture of two parts. There are the planting grants, which come from the Forestry Commission, and there are annual income grants to farmers to make up for the income that they have forgone by using that land for planting. Therefore, the farmers will benefit from the new planting grants that the Forestry Commission has announced, although we have interpreted them in such a way as to be of particular advantage for the planting of broadleaves and of rather less advantage for the planting of conifers.

Can my right hon. Friend give the House an estimate of what effect the farm woodland scheme and set-aside are likely to have on land use and the countryside over the next decade?

My hon. Friend expects me to have a crystal ball of a kind that I would not claim to have. We believe that there is a considerable opportunity for farmers to use land in both these ways. We are trying to combine a regime of stricter price control with alternative uses. The advantage of the farm woodland scheme, which has been strongly welcomed by the Opposition—[Interruption.]—except, it seems by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will be seen quickly and clearly by farmers.