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Tree Planting

Volume 705: debated on Thursday 9 December 2021

We are committed to increasing tree planting to 30,000 hectares per year across the United Kingdom by the end of this Parliament. We are spending £750 million through the nature for climate fund on trees, woodland and peat restoration in England.

The UK and Ireland’s “sourced and grown” standard preserves the biosecurity of our woodland, as it ensures that trees are sourced and grown solely within the UK and Ireland for their entire lifespan. Following the Government’s biosecurity consultation, can the Minister please reassure the House that the tree sourcing standard will allow these future projects to be eligible for Government funding?

I thank my hon. Friend for asking that important question. The plant health management standard will be the future baseline biosecurity standard for Government grants and contracts. That comprehensive standard, with 23 robust biosecurity requirements, covers the domestic production and international supply of all plants. I know that this is important to my hon. Friend, because the Colne Valley Tree Society is doing outstanding work.

I strongly support the provision of new trees, not only in woodland and beyond but in urban and suburban settings. Will my hon. Friend join me in praising the Trees for Streets project, which is working across urban settings to encourage the provision of trees in streets where residents can get involved not only in planting trees but in nourishing them?

I join my hon. Friend in congratulating Harrow Council on being one of the first councils in the country to join the Trees for Streets project, which is funded by the green recovery challenge fund. It aims to support the planting of 250,000 street trees over the next 10 years, transforming our urban environment. The national planning policy framework supports that; it promotes street planting and makes clear the expectation that trees should be incorporated into new developments, making our environment better for us all.

The Woodland Trust Northern Ireland has encouraged all local councils to adopt a tree strategy in order to adopt ambitious tree planting targets. Will the Minister introduce a similar scheme here on the UK mainland to encourage the idea of localised tree planting in communities?

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave a few moments ago, but I would be happy to talk to him further about what is happening in Northern Ireland to see whether there are lessons to be learned.

Given that forestry is devolved, is not that 30,000 hectare target a bit of a con trick? Scotland’s target is 18,000 hectares, so the actual UK target is closer to 10,000 hectares. Why does the UK Government not step up, learn from Scotland and put forward an ambitious tree planting target?

I am slightly surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not laud the ambition to plant those 30,000 hectares. Having spoken to those in Scotland, I would encourage the Scottish Government to get on and grant people the permission to plant those trees.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Minister was before the Select Committee last week saying that 7,000 hectares of trees would be planted in England by 2024. When planting those trees, we want native trees that have been grown in this country so as not to import disease. It takes three years to grow a tree, so we need the nurseries to be told exactly what we need for 2024.

We are working hard to ensure that my hon. Friend has that clarity and that we have that understanding in the area of biosecurity. We want to ensure that everybody knows what the rules are so that we can get on with improving the environment and planting those trees.