HC Deb 08 July 1981 vol 8 cc502-13

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 1, line 8, after "(2)" insert "Subject to subsection (2A) below,"

10.13 pm.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Jerry Wiggin)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Speaker

I have accepted the amendments to Lords amendment No. 2 in the names of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) and others. Therefore, in discussing Lords amendment No. 1, we shall discuss with it Lords amendment No. 2 and the two amendments to that Lords amendment.

Mr. Wiggin

We have been over a good deal of the ground in this Bill many times, in this House and in the other place. Lords amendments Nos. 1 and 2 fulfil a Government undertaking on Report in another place and give statutory effect to assurances that were given at earlier stages of the Bill. The Government recognise that the Forest of Dean is unique and that its land should not be sold except in the circumstances for which the amendment provides. The amendment will, therefore, maintain the status quo in the forest as regards disposals. This means that surplus cottages, small areas of the Waste in the forest and the like will be sold as in the past, but there will be no power to sell significant areas of forest land.

The House will appreciate that the Forest of Dean was part of an old Royal forest. I have made clear on a number of occasions that there was never any intention by the Forestry Commission to sell this land. Thanks to the efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland), who represents the constituency, and the very substantial public feeling that wishes this amendment to be written into the legislation, we have agreed to do so. I will not comment in any great detail at this stage on the amendments of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). The hon. Gentleman will no doubt wish to make his own speech. I do not wish to preempt what he wishes to say. Since, however, he has already made clear his views on a number of occasions, I think I can guess to some extent what he has in mind.

I repeat the assurance that is already public knowledge in the context of the letter that Ministers have sent to the chairman of the Forestry Commission about disposals. The hon. Gentleman knows that the points that he tries to make in his amendments have already been the subject of considerable assurances by the Government.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

I beg to move, as an amendment to Lords amendment No. 2, after "Dean" insert: or the Dean Forest and Wye Valley Forest Park or Snowdonia Forest Park or the Border Forest Park or Galloway Forest Park or the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park or Argyll Forest Park or Glen More Forest Park or the New Forest".

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

There is no need for the hon. Gentleman to move the amendment. It is being taken with Lords amendment No. 1. The hon. Gentleman can speak to it, but he will move it formally when the time comes.

Mr. Canavan

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is not often that I welcome anything from the House of Lords, but I welcome this concession, minor though it is. Hon. Members who spent some time on the Standing Committee dealing with the Bill will know the difficulty we experienced in trying to wring even a minor concession from the Government. We got none. Now, when the Bill comes back from the House of Lords, we find this minor concession relating to the Forest of Dean. I am sure, of course, that the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland), in whose constituency the Forest of Dean lies, will claim that this is a major concession. So it is, I suppose, for his constituents. It is, perhaps, a major victory for them. I wish to ask why the concession cannot be extended. My two amendments propose an extension in two ways.

The first amendment standing in my name and the names of my hon. Friends would benefit even more the people living in the area of the Forest of Dean. If my second amendment were accepted, it would benefit many other people in different parts of the United Kingdom. Under the first Lords amendment, as it stands, the Minister may still sell off any land within the Forest of Dean if that land is not needed for forestry or for connected purposes.

I maintain that the purpose of the Forestry Commission is not solely related to forestry. There may be other purposes which, although not perhaps as important in the eyes of the Forestry Commission, are nevertheless equally important and possibly more important than forestry in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of people who want to get access to the countryside and use it for leisure and recreation purposes.

The Forestry Commission does not seem to contradict that view. I have a booklet published by the Forestry Commission which says: The Commission has a continuing policy of developing its forests for recreation, providing facilities for informal recreation and the enjoyment of quiet pursuits. This development conforms with the Commission's statutory powers and obligations, within the financial resources available and subject to the primary objective of timber production. In other words, although the prime purpose of the Commission is timber production, it has other purposes which, throughout the years, have provided valuable services to the wider community.

If my first amendment were approved, purposes such as recreation would have to be considered by the Minister if he were contemplating the sale of land within the Forest of Dean or elsewhere. I understand that much of the pressure brought to bear on the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West came from those who were as concerned about leisure and recreation as about afforestation. It would be reasonable for the Government to accept my amendment to include in statute form the provision that the Minister would have to take into consideration other aspects in addition to forestry.

My second amendment refers to an extension of the concession given to the Forest of Dean to the other forest parks and one other area which, although not officially designated a forest park, is also an area of outstanding scenic beauty.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that the Forest of Dean is unique. It is not, and I hope to be able to show that the forest park that lies partly in my constituency is equally deserving of the special consideration that the Government are giving to their supporters and others in the Forest of Dean.

There are seven forest parks in the United Kingdom, including five in Scotland. I hope that even Scottish Tories will support my amendment. The Lords amendment: refers only to the Forest of Dean, but the forest park in that area—the Dean Forest and Wye Valley forest park—which must be of great concern to the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West, includes, as its name implies, both the Dean forest and the Wye Valley.

I have also included in my amendment the New Forest, which, although not officially termed a forest park, consists of 105 square miles of land that offers similar amenities to those found in many forest parks.

Five of the official forest parks are in Scotland and one in Wales. If I were as parochial as the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West, I would have provided for only the Queen Elizabeth forest park, which lies partly in my constituency. However, I included the Snowdonia forest park in Wales and the Border forest park, which is partly in England and partly in the constituency of the Leader of the Liberal Party. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will support my amendment, though he is not in the Chamber.

The Glen More forest park is in the constituency of another Liberal Member, the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), and the Galloway forest park is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Lang), who is not here for the debate. The hon. Gentleman is a typical Scottish Tory who always obeys the Whips and never bothers about the interests of his constituents. I should have thought that he would have been here to use not only his voice but his vote in support of me in trying to stop the Tory Government from being given the power to sell off Galloway forest park in his constituency.

The hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) is also a Tory Member who spends most of his time defending the hatchet job that the Tory Government are doing on the Scottish education service. He is not even here to defend his constituents against the hatchet job that the Government might do to the Argyll forest park.

Mr. Delwyn Williams (Montgomery)

The only hatchet job that I can remember my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) doing was that against Opposition Members in a previous debate in the House.

Mr. Canavan

The hon. Member for Argyll was not even here for the previous debate. Certainly he was not here when I was speaking on higher education. If he had contributed, in his own inimitable way, he would have been defending everything that the Government do in hatcheting the education system, because he is always jumping up to defend his pal the Minister responsible for education and industry in the Scottish Office, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher). He would be more appropriately named the "Minister for miseducation and de-industrialisation."

I turn to the forest park which lies partly in my constituency and partly in the constituency of Kinross and West Perthshire, which is represented by the Solicitor-General for Scotland, who is also conspicuous by his silence and absence. Perhaps he does not know that part of a forest park is in his constituency, because I understand that he is rarely there. I refer to the Queen Elizabeth forest park.

The Minister tried to justify the special case of the Forest of Dean by saying that it was former Crown property. I do not know whether the land around the Queen Elizabeth forest park was once Crown property, but it certainly bears the Queen's name. I wonder what the Queen would think of the Government if they started selling off to local Tory landlords forest lands which bear her name.

Let us examine some of the landlords. The Montrose estates belong to the family of the Duke of Montrose. We all know of his standards of loyalty to the Crown—he went off to support the Smith regime in Rhodesia. I believe that he is now back in the House of Lords and that he managed to take the Oath of Allegiance. I fail to understand that. His family's estates are in that area.

Not very far away is the family estate belonging to the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is also conspicuous by his absence; and yet he is responsible for forestry in Scotland. He will bear the responsibility for any forestry sales in Scotland.

The Queen Elizabeth forest park is in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Hon. Members are, perhaps, inclined to exaggerate the natural environment of their own constituencies. Hon. Members who have had the pleasure of visiting that part of Scotland will agree that it is an area of outstanding natural beauty compared not only with the rest of the United Kingdom but with the rest of the world. People visit it from all over the world and admire it.

The area stretches from Loch Lomond-side and takes in Ben Lomond and the forests of Rowardennan, Buchanan and Loch Ard across to the Trossachs. Unlike most other forest parks, it is within reasonable proximity to the densely populated central belt of Scotland. As the crow flies, it is less than 20 miles from the centre of Glasgow. Depending on the traffic, it can be less than half an hour's drive from the centre of Glasgow. The park is like a lung to the industrialised central belt and still densely populated part of Scotland. It is also an area steeped in history, immortalised in the literature of Sir Walter Scott in his poem "The Lady of the Lake" and in his historical novel "Rob Roy", which is about Rob Roy MacGregor. It was a famous hunting ground of Rob Roy and his family and supporters.

10.30 pm

Nowadays, the forest park offers a range of activities that it would be difficult to equal anywhere in the United Kingdom: forest walks, hill walks, serious mountaineering—Ben lomond, for example, is over 3,000 feet high—water sports, angling, aquatic studies, and the biological study of the flora and fauna. A very wide range of educational and recreational opportunities is available to young and old alike.

Can the Forest of Dean beat that? If the Forest of Dean can be given a special concession, why should not the Queen Elizabeth forest park and the other forest parks be given a similar concession? The Queen Elizabeth forest park is in every way comparable to the Forest of Dean and in some ways surpasses it. I await with interest hearing from the hon. Members for Galloway and for Argyll and all those other hon. Members with forest parks in their constituencies about the equal merits of places within their own patches.

It would be an unforgivable act of desecration if any Minister sold off such an important part of our natural heritage. I therefore ask the Minister to consider extending the minor concession that was given in the House of Lords to other forest parks, many of which are in constituencies represented by Tory Members. I am sure that many Tory supporters will be angry with this Tory Government if the forest parks in Scotland are treated in an inferior way compared with the forest land in the Forest of Dean.

It is an absolute disgrace that it was a Scottish Office Minister who dealt with the amendment in the House of Lords. That Minister, Lord Mansfield, is himself a big Scottish landowner. He is prepared to give a concession to the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland), representing the Forest of Dean, yet he is ignoring the similar wishes of my constituents and other people in the beautiful forest lands and forest parks of Scotland.

Mr. Paul Marland (Gloucestershire, West)

As the Member for the constituency in whose boundaries the Forest of Dean lies, I am pleased to speak in support of the Lords amendments. During the Bill's passage through this House I moved an amendment to exclude the Royal Forest of Dean from the blanket provision on sale originally provided by the Bill. My hon. Friend the Minister was unable to accept the amendment, and even after a Division the forest remained prey to faceless investors, who, if they chose, could fence off the land that they bought and deny access, thereby ending the foresters' ancient tradition of grazing and access to the grounds, on the basis that they were not legally recognised.

The right of access to the Forest of Dean is vital, for the forest is becoming more and more widely recognised as a national forest park, where people come to seek rest and relaxation. As the price of petrol rises, more and more people are tending to come from the Midlands with their cars and caravans rather than continue their journey to Devon and Cornwall.

The trails and forest walks enjoyed by those visitors are not legally recognised but are permitted and established due to the understanding nature of the Forestry Commission. Because of the lack of legally recognised rights of common, of access and of forest trails and footpaths, it was vital that the forest be excluded from the Bill. I am pleased to tell the House that Lord McNair recognised our plight in another place and undertook to move his own amendment to recognise the special difficulties facing the Forest of Dean. Happily, not only the Gloucestershire peers but many others in that place saw the validity of the case and prevailed upon the Government to reconsider and to amend the Bill to its present form. I am grateful to the Ministers concerned, and especially to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who was not at all agreeable in the early stages. Getting the Government to change their mind is no easy task. I thank all those who contributed so much to the crusade, for a crusade was how we saw it. I am happy to say that it was one that transcended all political differences.

Lord McNair, who is now quite obviously the toast of the Forest of Dean and who I am glad to see in the Gallery, is the person to whom I pay especial tribute for what he has done and for leading the campaign.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

I am following the hon. Gentleman's understandable remarks of satisfaction about the Government's concession. Will he address his remarks at some stage to the difficulties of the other forest parks which have a similar case? Will he be supporting the same exception for them, especially as he was educated in Scotland at Gordonstoun and knows the country well?

Mr. Marland

The Minister has recognised the unique qualities of the Forest of Dean, to which I referred at the beginning of my speech. I said that for the lack of rights of common, rights of access and recognised footpaths, it was essential that the Forest of Dean should be recognised as a special case. I am glad that the Minister has seen fit to do that. It is worth remembering, too, the substantial contribution that has been made in the battle by the Forest of Dean district legal department and its chief executive, Mr. Leslie Packer, without whose personal determination our task would have been very different.

My constituents and I are secure in the knowledge that after the passage of the Bill the Royal Forest of Dean cannot be sold and fall prey to maurauding investors or future Governments' greed, which I suggest is far more likely. For if we had an extreme Left-wing Government who required funds to pursue and finance one of their more madcap schemes—a Government of whom, the hon. Member for Stirlingshire, West (Mr. Canavan) could be a member—there would be nothing to prevent them from selling off the forest if the Bill were in its unamended form. The forest has now been protected from future Governments' greed. I suggest that an extreme Left-wing Government of the future might see fit to sell off the forest, despite the protestations of Labour Members now.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

Surely the hon. Gentleman must be labouring under a savage Left-wing Government. The present Government are proposing to sell off half a dozen forests.

Mr. Marland

If the hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to consider the facts, he would realise that the Forestry Commission owns £3 billion worth of assets and that the Administration are considering selling off only £10 million-worth of Forestry Commission property this year. It is absurd—

Mr. John Home Robertson (Berwick and East Lothian)

The hon. Gentleman is right.

Mr. Marland

—that the taxpayers should be asked to underwrite the efforts of the commission, which has £3 billion worth of assets, by putting nearly £40 million into the commission every year to make ends meet. Extreme Left-wing politicians may approve of economics of that sort, but my right hon. and hon. Friends do not.

Mr. Home Robertson

Except for the Forest of Dean.

Mr. Marland

In the eyes of the foresters there was never a more convincing argument than the passage of the amendments for the preservation of the House of Lords in its present form. They have seen their ancient rights preserved by that noble institution.

There now remains only one blot on the horizon—the threat of opencast coal mining in the Forest of Dean. The county structure plan for Gloucestershire was clear in its presumption against any such operations in the Forest of Dean, but the Department of the Environment has seen fit to ignore that and to lay down conditions for the extraction of coal by opencast mining. It seems illogical that the Government should seek on the one hand to preserve ancient traditions and develop a national park and, on the other hand, to allow opencast mining in the same area.

I should like it to be widely known that my constituents and I are 100 per cent. opposed to opencast coal mining in the Forest of Dean without local and county consent. Without that permission, we shall do all we can to prevent opencast coal mining. However, tonight is a different occasion and it is with great pleasure and some pride that I speak in support of the Lords amendments.

Mr. Home Robertson

That was about the most contemptibly selfish speech that I have ever heard delivered in the House. The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland) has made it clear that he is happy to see any part of Forestry Commission ground sold off anywhere else in the country as long as it is not in his constituency. If that is the sort of performance which he will treat us to in the House and which he will give in his constituency, I am sure that John Watkinson will be back in the House before long—and a good thing it will be, too.

Mr. Marland

You obviously were not listening to what I was saying, because I sought to explain to you the unique character of the Forest of Dean. and it is in recognition of that—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I was listening carefully.

Mr. Marland

The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) was not listening carefully enough. It is the unique character of the Forest of Dean that the Minister has recognised. I am speaking in support of that.

Mr. Home Robertson

The Forest of Dean may be unique, but I am sure that it is nowhere near as unique as the hon. Member. The Minister, in his introductory remarks, said that we debated clause 1 of the Bill over and over. Indeed we have. How true that is. He and his colleagues have made it clear over and again that they are totally hostile to the successful public enterprise of the Forestry Commission. I suspect that they are hostile to it precisely because it is such a successful public enterprise and that that success is distasteful to doctrinaire Tories such as the Minister.

I want to spend only one or two minutes supporting my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). He was right to table his amendments to the Lords amendments, because if we cannot save the forestry enterprise of the Forestry Commission, which we must accept is now in grave danger as a result of the provisions of the Bill, we should at least endeavour, by supporting the amendments, to save the amenity, environmental and heritage aspects of the work of the Forestry Commission.

I am sure that it is right that we should seek to protect the Forest of Dean from the depredations of the speculators, about whom the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West spoke so eloquently. I congratulate the hon. Member on his achievement in wringing this concession out of the driest of dry Ministers in this monetarist Government. I wonder whether that concession might have more to do with the fact that the hon. Member holds a marginal Conservative seat than with any genuine forestry or environmental consideration. It is cynical to single out one forest in the entire United Kingdom for protection. The hon. Member said that it was vital, but he never explained why any of the other forest parks described by my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire are any less vital.

I conclude by repeating my warm support for my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire in his effort to protect all the forest parks in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

The amendment moved by the Minister is welcome, but it is a small concession. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) has argued, even if the Government were to concede his amendment and extend the exemption to the other forest parks, the total exclusion would still fall a long way short of the sort of changes which many people and employees in the Forestry Commission would have liked to see in the Bill. My hon. Friend has made many powerful and eloquent speeches in Committee and on the Floor of the House against this draconian and doctrinaire piece of legislation, and no one could suggest that his arguments in relation to the forest parks, about which he is particularly knowledgeable, are other than convincing to any open-minded and reasonable Member.

10.45 pm

But the main issue is the lack of any attempt by the Government, during the passage of this legislation, to allay the fears and concern of many people—not all of them direct supporters of the commission—as to the intentions of the Government. The fears and concern were well illustrated by some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland), who talked about money being pumped into the Forestry Commission. The Forestry Commission is the forest authority. It administers the large panoply of grants to the private sector. Is it supposed to do that for nothing? The Forestry Commission carries out research on behalf of the whole industry. It is very valuable and important resarch, and tribute is paid to the commission by the whole of the private sector. Indeed, it has a high international reputation.

Only yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting the Forestry Commission's stand at the Royal Agricultural Show at Stoneleigh. It is a splendid example of what a public enterprise is able to put forward on such occasions. The Forestry Commission is a good example of public investment, public ownership and public enterprise, and only an extreme, doctrinaire Government such as the present one would contemplate a measure of this nature.

How can the Government expect to sustain support for an overall forestry policy with a policy and an approach based on the Bill? When the Labour Government were in office we used to have representations for a bipartisan forestry policy. My reaction was that the people who made the representations were looking for something that would be even more favourable to the private sector. There was a fairly broad bipartisan approach to forestry for many years and through many Governments.

The Labour Government made massive concessions to the private sector. After the application of capital transfer tax, there were considerable representations and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) said on Second Reading, the real concession to private forestry comes through the tax concession on earned income where people are able to switch to schedule D. [Interruption.] There was a fall in the level of private planting, I agree, but it was largely a reflection of the general commercial downturn in the wood sector. My belief is that our concessions did not have a major impact on the increase in private planting, although there was an increase. What was more important to the level of private planting was the general outlook for sales of wood and wood products at that time.

I hope that people will no longer make representations to the Labour Party about a bipartisan policy on forestry, because all that is finished. When this legislation goes on to the statute book it will destroy for a very long time any proposition that the two main parties can go forward together with some broad general approach to forestry. A heavy price will be paid as a result of the Bill. That is why many of the private owners and many of the private foresters have made representations—unsuccessfully—to the Government to pull back from the massive cutbacks in the Forestry Commission which can be seen in the Bill. It will, of course, depend on the application of this legislation. It will depend on the extent to which the Treasury and the Government as a whole are determined to pursue a policy of asset stripping and sell off some of the great national assets created by people in the Forestry Commission as a consequence of public investment over the years.

It is a sad day for forestry when the Government are not motivated by the future development of the commission or the best interests of forestry but see the Forestry Commission purely as a national asset to be plundered. We shall reverse that policy as soon as we have the opportunity to do so.

Mr. Wiggin

By leave of the House, perhaps I may deal with some of the points that have been raised.

It is a matter of regret, certainly for his information, that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) was not a member of the Standing Committee which dealt with the Bill, nor, if I recall correctly, was he able to contribute to our debates on Report. Otherwise, he would not have sought to repeat continually the same mythology that he produced on Second Reading when the Bill was first debated in the House.

The Forestry Commission has built up at the expense of the public purse over some 60 years a substantial asset, the ownership of which is relatively unimportant. In protecting the taxpayers' interests, I can see no possible disadvantage in the transfer of some part of those vast assets, probably amounting to some £1½ billion, from the public purse to the private investor. The forests will not get up and disappear, vanish or evaporate. They will stay here as a national asset. It is entirely a matter of political dogma that the hon. Gentleman makes the accusations that he has made when we are seeking to reduce public expenditure. There is no other motive or philosophy behind the sale of any State assets, not just those of the Forestry Commission.

Mr. Esmond Bulmer (Kidderminster)

My hon. Friend referred to a private investor. Is it not more probable that it would be a corporate investor, probably a pension fund and perhaps even a pension fund representing a trade union?

Mr. Wiggin

I entirely accept my hon. Friend's point. It is well known that some pension funds are already seeking to invest in forestry and, due to the lack of opportunities in the United Kingdom, are investing British pension funds in America and elsewhere. I believe that that is a great pity.

As the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East well knows, the Forestry Commission's operations as a forestry authority are in no way affected by the Bill. The subvention from the Treasury for that part of its activities will continue precisely as before. He claims that some mysterious malaise allowed the rate of planting in the year after the introduction of capital transfer tax to drop so dramatically that the Government of which he was a member were forced to set up an internal committee in order subsequently to increase private planting grants and concessions because they were worried that the effect of capital transfer tax would have been to eliminate private forestry altogether. To try to draw a veil over that kind of episode seens to me to be to try to turn the truth on its head.

Of course, the hon. Gentleman is right to say that much private planting is the result of income tax concessions. That is why the Government have confirmed that those concessions will continue, in order to increase and continue forestry as a whole in this nation, whether in the public sector or the private sector.

I am sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman make aggravating remarks about whether forestry should be an all-party matter. We are writing into the Bill, and on a future amendment we shall be discussing, a commitment that in considering how funds raised by sales should be used we are committed to the expansion of the British forestry industry. That is the issue on which the two sides of the House should be at one, not the precise administrative operations of the Forestry Commission.

I was asked why the Forest of Dean should be exempted. The fact that persuaded the Government to make this special provision was that there is an absence of common rights and special privileges in this ancient Royal forest of a kind that exist in the New Forest, another Royal forest. It is because the existing rights in the Forest of Dean—which, incidentally, has been the subject of much former legislation over many years—are enjoyed only on Crown sufferance, and could be extinguished by a new owner, that we felt it right and proper to include the Forest of Dean in the Bill. No such consideration applies to forest parks, because that is a name given by the Forestry Commission to certain of its forests with special scenic or other attractions. They do not have the ancient statutory backing that the Forest of Dean has.

The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) talked about predecessors. On occasions, I wish we could have his predecessor here. He mentioned the success of the Forestry Commission. I am not certain how he would measure that, but it strikes me that, as a substantial annual cost to the Treasury, the enterprise side of the Forestry Commission should start to realise some of its assets and to pay back to the long-suffering taxpayer some part of the investment that has been going on over 60 years.

I am grateful for the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland). We listened carefully to his representations. While he was graceful enough to acknowledge that Lord McNair moved the amendments, it was as a result of many meetings with my hon. Friend and others from his constituency that forestry Ministers were persuaded that his view should prevail.

I am unable to accept the amendments of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). He knows very well why. We have debated the general principle with him on at least three occasions during the passage of the Bill. The concept of the forest park is quite different from the ancient Royal forest, and I am therefore unable to accept the amendments.

Mr. Canavan

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. Gentleman have the leave of the House? [HON. MEMBERS: "No".] I am sorry, but there was at least one dissentient voice, and therefore the hon. Gentleman does not have the leave of the House.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 2, in page I, line 9, at end insert— (2A) Subsection (2) above shall not apply in relation to land acquired under this section which is in the Forest of Dean; but the Minister may sell any such land if in his opinion it is not needed, or ought not to be used, for the purpose of afforestation or any purpose connected with forestry, and may exchange any such land for other land more suitable for either of the said purposes and may pay or receive money for equality of exchange.

Read a Second time.

Amendment to the Lords amendment proposed, after 'Dean', insert 'or the Dean Forest and Wye Valley Forest Park or Snowdonia Forest Park or the Border Forest Park or Galloway Forest Park or the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park or Argyll Forest Park or Glen More Forest Park or the New Forest'.—[Mr. Canavan.]

Question put, That the amendment to the Lords amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 26, Noes 110.

Division No. 259] [11 pm.
Alton, David Howells, Geraint
Beith, A. J. Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N) Leighton, Ronald
Campbell-Savours, Dale Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Cryer, Bob Maynard, Miss Joan
Dalyell, Tam Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Davidson, Arthur Palmer, Arthur
Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd) Penhaligon, David
Dixon, Donald Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Radice, Giles
Evans, John (Newton) Spearing, Nigel
Ewing, Harry
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Tellers for the Ayes:
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Mr. Dennis Canavan and
George, Bruce Mr. John Home Robertson.
Alexander, Richard Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Ancram, Michael Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th.E) Clegg, Sir Walter
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Colvin, Michael
Banks, Robert Cope, John
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Cranborne, Viscount
Best, Keith Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Bevan, David Gilroy Dover, Denshore
Biggs-Davison, John Dykes, Hugh
Blackburn, John Eggar, Tim
Brinton, Tim Faith, Mrs Sheila
Brooke, Hon Peter Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Brotherton, Michael Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n) Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles
Bruce-Gardyne, John Goodhart, Philip
Cadbury, Jocelyn Gower, Sir Raymond
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Gummer, John Selwyn
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Hampson, Dr Keith
Hannam, John Osborn, John
Hawksley, Warren Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Patten, John (Oxford)
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Porter, Barry
Hooson, Tom Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Proctor, K. Harvey
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Renton, Tim
Kershaw, Anthony Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Kitson, Sir Timothy Rossi, Hugh
Knight, Mrs Jill Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Le Marchant, Spencer Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Silvester, Fred
Loveridge, John Sims, Roger
Luce, Richard Skeet, T. H. H.
Lyell, Nicholas Speller, Tony
MacGregor, John Sproat, Iain
MacKay, John (Argyll) Stainton, Keith
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Stanbrook, Ivor
Major, John Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)
Marland, Paul Stradling Thomas, J.
Marlow, Tony Tebbit, Norman
Mather, Carol Thompson, Donald
Mawby, Ray Thorne, Neil (llford South)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin van Straubenzee, W. R.
Mayhew, Patrick Waddington, David
Mellor, David Wakeham, John
Meyer, Sir Anthony Ward, John
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Wells, Bowen
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Wheeler, John
Moate, Roger Wiggin, Jerry
Morris, M. (N'hampton S) Wilkinson, John
Murphy, Christopher Williams, D. (Montgomery)
Myles, David Wolfson, Mark
Neale, Gerrard
Needham, Richard Tellers for the Noes:
Neubert, Michael Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Newton, Tony Mr. Alastair Goodlad.

Question accordingly negatived.

Lords amendment No. 2 agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 3 and 4 agreed to.

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