HC Deb 31 March 1981 vol 2 cc176-212
Mr. Paul Marland (Gloucestershire, West)

I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 9, after 'section', insert `with the exception of the Royal Forest of Dean'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

With this we may discuss amendment No. 6, in page 1, line 9, at end insert `except for Woodlands containing Crown Woods.'.

Mr. Marland

I assure the Minister that in principle I am in favour of the Bill. It is absurd that an organisation with nearly £2 billion worth of assets should need a subsidy from the taxpayer of about £35 million a year in order to make ends meet. I am assured by officers of the Forestry Commission that that need is only temporary and that in seven years it is scheduled to break even. It is absurd that an organisation with such assets should be unable to stand on its own feet from the word "go".

I regard the possible sale of the Royal Forest of Dean and other Crown forests to faceless investors as a national disaster. The Royal Forest of Dean is steeped in ancient history and tradition. Today's forester is of the same independent mind and rugged character as were his forefathers. It is our duty to preserve his ancient rights and traditions.

Mr. John Home Robertson (Berwick and East Lothian)

Will the hon. Gentleman explain why it is all right for forests in other parts of the country to be sold to faceless investors but not the Forest of Dean?

Mr. Marland

The ancient traditions exist in the Royal Forest of Dean. It is a national asset and in some ways a national monument. Hundreds of thousands of people go there every year either for the day or for their holidays. They go there to examine the national heritage of the Royal Forest of Dean. They go walking, riding, swimming, picnicking and caravanning. They walk unrestricted through the trees.

The Forestry Commission has done much to encourage such tourism, and locally it has a good reputation. The commission has laid out the forest trails, established picnic spots and camping grounds, and allowed the visitors and local people to enjoy the freedom of the forest whenever they choose. However, such privileges have no legal status. If the forest were sold to faceless investors those rights could be snuffed out and people would be denied rights of access.

For centuries forest sheep have grazed there. The graziers are well aware that their sheep cause problems in some areas. If one goes down Cinderford High Street on a hot afternoon and one's way is barred by 25 sheep sunbathing, one can see that the people have a point.

The graziers, through their commoners' association, have co-operated with the commission in the restriction of numbers of sheep that they graze in the forest. Each sheep has to be clearly marked and flocks in the Cinderford area are hefted elsewhere on ground provided by the commission. It is easy to understand why the graziers believe it to be their right to graze their sheep in the Forest of Dean. This belief in their ancient rights and customs is reinforced by the fact that, although in 1808, under the Dean and New Forest Act, the foresters were discharged from all rights of common and from all manners of rights, claims and privileges to the Forest of Dean, they continued to enjoy those rights and privileges at the discretion of the Forestry Commission.

Then, in 1965, according to the Forest of Dean district council's legal department, under the provisions of the Commons Registration Act, local inhabitants were prevented from registering their interest and their rights of way in this common. It seems, therefore, that the Crown took away the statutory right of common and rights of way in 1808, and that local people have not been allowed to register their common rights since then.

If the Forest of Dean is sold there will be no forest trails, no picnic sites and no sheep, because they do not enjoy legal status. In their place will be high fences and "keep out" notices, if the new owner of the Forest is so inclined. The smoothly reassuring words of the Parliamentary Secretary and the equally reassuring commitment by Forestry Commission officials that the Forest of Dean would never be sold off, coupled with the assertion that if the forest were offered for sale no one would buy it because too many local interests would prevent people from buying it, are not enough. If the land were cheap enough, someone would buy it. If the Forestry Commission decided that it wanted money at a later date, it might well sell the forest.

We want more than a gentleman's agreement that the Forest of Dean will not be sold off. It is a sad fact that Ministers of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food come and go, Forestry Commission officials come and go, and Members of Parliament for Gloucestershire, West undoubtedly come and go, so more than a gentleman's agreement is needed to ensure the freedom of the Forest of Dean for future generations.

It is not true to say that we cannot make exceptions. Under the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946 an exception was made for small coal mining operations such as those which abound in the Forest of Dean. I believe that the Royal Forest of Dean is a special case, and I therefore hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will accept my amendment.

Mr. Mark Hughes

I note that with this amendment is coupled amendment No. 6, standing in the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends. The Forest of Dean is an exemplar of many forests where the historic position of Crown land and Crown forests with all the rights of soc and coke, ingang feoff and outgang feoff have been exercised for centuries. Those rights are at the heart of the matter.

Crown woodlands are present in the New Forest South-East England conservancy, where there is perhaps the most extreme pressure of alternate land use and misuse. We have a Crown woodland in the Alice Holt, Hampshire, West Sussex, and Surrey—a forest of about 3,200 hectares. We have the Bedgebury forest, in Kent and East Sussex, of 3,900 hectares. There are 27,000 hectares in the New Forest, and approximately 3,400 acres in the Isle of Wight. I am pleased to see that the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) is in his place. I shall surprise him by telling him that that is the sort of woodland that amendment No. 6 seeks to exclude from these sales.

I take nothing away from the special pleading of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland), in whose constituency lies the Forest of Dean, but there is a small group of forests and woodlands in England, Wales and Scotland which, by accident or design, contain Crown woods. The Parliamentary Secretary said in Committee that the Forestry Commission had given him verbal undertakings that they would not be high on any list of priorities, and would not be excluded.

We are not asking for something that the Forestry Commission wants to be excluded. We are asking that the undertakings given to the Parliamentary Secretary and relayed by him in Committee should be put into statutory form.

5.15 pm

I shall give a list of the woodlands that are involved. In Wales there are Beddgelert and Tintern. Anyone who knows North and South Wales knows that those are areas of particular beauty. If those woodlands which contain Crown woods were sold and eroded or destroyed by inadequate planning control—there is nothing in the Bill to ensure adequate planning control—great tracts of beauty would be lost for ever.

In my part of the North-East we have Chopwell wood, near Tyneside, which is much used by the inhabitants of Tyne and Wear, Newcastle and Blaydon. In those woods there is a symbiosis between the woodland of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and the Forestry Commission land of Chopwell. The two can exist only if they are run together. If the Forestry Commission sold off Chopwell, mischief would be done to the management and maintenance of the nearby woodlands of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne.

In Cheshire we have Delamere. In the West of England, there is the Forest of Dean. In the South of England there is the New Forest, the Isle of Wight, Alice Holt, Bedgebury, and so on. In Scotland there is Inverliever—the only one there. All those woodlands contain Crown land. Why must we have this specific reservation? Between 1922 and 1927, a number of small parcels of woodland were transferred by the Crown to the Forestry Commission under restricted covenant.

As we said in Committee, the Forestry Commission accountants have a problem. If the land is sold the Forestry Commission has a highly specific liability to pay the original donors. Many of the woodlands were acquired under now obsolete legislation. A condition was that if they were sold the Forestry Commission would have to reimburse the original gurantee—in this case the Crown. If Crown woodlands are sold in the Forest of Dean, the New Forest or the Isle of Wight, the Treasury does not benefit. The proceeds have to be transferred to the Crown Commissioners.

By extending the Forest of Dean argument to all Crown estate woodlands we seek to protect some of our most beautiful woodlands. To demonstrate our position, we shall support the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West in the Lobby on amendment No. 2.

Mr. Geraint Howells

We are uncomfortable about the wide-reaching implications of the Bill, which follow from the sweeping powers granted to Ministers in clause 1. I support the amendments that exclude woodlands such as the Forest of Dean.

I gladly support the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland). The Forest of Dean is one of our most beautiful forests, but we have others. In my constituency of Cardigan we have a narrow-gauge line from Aberystwyth to Devil's Bridge, which travels for 12 miles through a beautiful valley and through forestry land. It would be a shame if that forest were sold to a private individual and the trees demolished.

Express restrictions on Ministers' power to sell such woodlands to the private sector to the detriment of the public are much needed. In Committee the Parliamentary Secretary assured us that Ministers and the Forestry Commission would exercise common sense and good management. I am not convinced that we can rely absolutely on that. Different Governments have different ideas about common sense and good management. The objective of this Government is to reduce Exchequer liability. When such objectives become of overwhelming significance to them a Government can easily lose sight of the social consequences of their decision and may damage the quality of life for the public, who enjoy the recreational and sporting amenities in our forests. A Government must not be insensitive to the public desire and right to enjoy our beautiful forests.

Unless we restrict Ministers' power to dispose of this land, this or a future Government, when pursuing objectives that have nothing to do with preserving our forestry industry, may forget the promise to the public that forest parks will not be sold to the private sector. I hope that in common sense the House will vote to safeguard our forests.

Mr. Cormack

I was greatly moved by the splendid eloquence of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland). His constituents should acknowledge what he has done today. He spoke with vigour and determination on their behalf. They have every right to be proud of him. However, he was perhaps a little over-parochial. I am sorry that we may be voting on amendment No. 6 instead of amendment No. 2. We should deal with Crown woodlands generally.

My hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes) raised a significant and important point. I cannot share the strictures that they would heap on possible buyers, but certain woodlands are so beautiful and so important to our heritage that they should not be put at risk.

It appears that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary accepted that argument in Committee. No one who knows him could doubt his abilities or sympathies, but he will not hold that office for ever. If Ministers do not intend to oblige the Forestry Commission to get rid of the woodlands, or if the Forestry Commission has no intention of putting them up for sale and there is unanimity between Government and Commission, why not write that into the Bill to ensure that no trigger-happy Minister or careless Forestry Commission will dispose of priceless national assets?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on being the first hon. Member I have heard in 11 years to admit to be speaking for sheep. It was a brave admission. In speaking for sheep in the Forest of Dean he demonstrated his deep love and knowledge of the area and recognised that wild life and livestock are important to our woodland heritage.

I shall be inclined to support his amendment in the Lobby, but I hope that it will not be necessary. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary shows his sympathy for the cause. I hope that he will tell us that in another place a suitable amendment will be inserted to make it impossible for the woodlands to be disposed of.

5.30 pm
Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

I had not intended to speak on the amendment until I heard the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland). The hon. Gentleman reminded me that when I entered this place one of the first Standing Committees on which I served considered a Bill to consolidate or remove forest law. The House made special arrangements for the Forest of Dean. I hope that other special arrangements will be made by the Government in response to the hon. Gentleman.

Some time ago a group of hon. Members, including myself, who have an interest in forestry visited the Forest of Dean. We well understood why there is a tradition in the area for the Member of Parliament to be especially interested in forestry. At one time, before certain protective arrangements applied, the hon. Member who represented the Forest of Dean was a Forestry Commissioner. The hon. Gentleman's predecessor, John Watkinson, is extremely interested in forestry.

I hope briefly to take part in the debate on Third Reading. If I catch the eye of the Chair, I shall refer to a report on forestry that I took through the Council of Europe two years ago. The report was originated by John Watkinson. He follows a line of involvement and interest which the House should commend.

I agree with the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West that he should respond to anxiety in his constituency and try to ensure that the historic legacy of the Forest of Dean is preserved. However, there are parts of England where the forests and woodlands may not be quite so historic, so well-known or so attractive as the Forest of Dean. It may be that they occupy a small part of the surface of such other districts and regions. Nevertheless, they are extremely important to their localities from the points of view of amenity, environment and conservation. I am concerned that these small areas could be put at risk by the Bill. I hope that in extending protection to the Forest of Dean the Minister will ensure that the Forestry Commission's interests in other areas, small though they may be, are not dismantled.

It is important that there is a local structure and relationship involving the Forestry Commission in any and every part of the British Isles. That is important in cooperating with large landowners, with local authorities and with other forestry interests. If the commission disposes of its holdings in a given area it could make its regional or local presence that much more economic.

The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) held out for me the rather attractive prospect of the Minister's departure to other areas. However, another Minister may take a particularly harsh view of these matters. The present Minister is not incapable of taking a harsh view. I should hate the hon. Gentleman or his successor to decide that because there is only a small commission involvement in a region it should be removed or dismantled. On the grounds of viability and the commission's national responsibilities I hope that the approach adopted by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West, which many others on both sides of the House commend, will prove to be acceptable to the House.

Sir Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)

My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland) spoke with his customary eloquence and with the care for the interests and enthusiasms of his constituents that we and they have come to expect. However, I wonder whether his misgivings are entirely well-founded. It would be a historic act of vandalism for Crown lands in the Forest of Dean, that have existed for 800 years to be sold off in some spasm of commercialisation if the Bill becomes law. I cannot believe that that would happen. I do not need the assurance—which I am nevertheless glad to accept—of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to find it almost unbelievable that the Forest of Dean would be treated in such a way.

Apart from the scenic beauty of the Forest of Dean and the undesirability of splitting it up or cutting it down, surely we know that an organisaton such as the Forestry Commission, which never dies and has no cause to wonder about its heirs, or anything like that, has no reason to sell except for the purpose of good forest management. Private estates often have to be split up for such reasons but the commission need have no such fears. I cannot believe that there is the slightest danger of that happening. If it were to happen we would have not only the Minister's assurance but the record of what has been said on the Floor of the House and in Committee. I am sure that the commission will be watchful of its public image and will be aware that it should not do anything that will be regarded with horror by every thinking person who has good forestry at heart.

In spite of the cares and anxieties of my hon. Friend I contend that the Bill is not the measure in which to insert the restrictions that he wishes to introduce. I cannot remember the constituency of the Labour Member who preceded me——

Mr. Hardy

It is Rother Valley.

Sir Anthony Kershaw

It is a pretty low sort of place. The hon. Gentleman indicated the anxieties that I have in mind. He implied that no one could possibly think of selling off chunks of the Forest of Dean but that there are some other rather unattractive places that could quite easily be sold off. If that is so, let us make different rules for different places. The special pleading of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West, which is perfectly justified from his constituency's point of view, should be dealt with in some other way. The Forest of Dean is unique, and I am sure that it will not be sold off. If there is anxiety, or if there is a problem, the right way to deal with it will be for the Gloucestershire county council or a private Member to introduce a Bill.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)

It may surprise hon. Members to know that they do not have to go very far to see one of the most beautiful forests in Britain that was under Royal patronage, namely, Epping Forest. It is no longer under Royal patronage. It is the only open-air lung that the East Enders of London have the opportunity of opening and breathing through. It is a marvellous forest.

The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland) mentioned sheep. The cattle of Epping Forest come up to the railway lines. That goes one better than the hon. Gentleman. I often receive complaints from my constituents about cows eating roses in the gardens. This is Epping Forest, which extends to the borders of London. Conservative Members will cheer when I say that it is looked after by the City fathers—the City of London corporation—to which I pay a 100 per cent. tribute.

One of the first battles that I fought in the House took place 36 years ago, when the then West Ham council wanted to purloin part of Epping Forest and to build flats on it. I had to fight my local authority and my local party. First, there would have been flats. There would have followed shops, garages and other buildings. We would have lost part of the forest.

It is right that Ministers, political parties and civil servants come and go. They forget the promises that have been made. It is easy for them to find good excuses. The hon. Member for Stroud (Sir A. Kershaw) knows that one of the largest and most heavily financed lobbies is the road lobby. The road lobby is always trying to drive roads through here and there. The City of London corporation has had a heck of a job trying to preserve Epping Forest from the incursions by the Department of Transport. We must fight like Kilkenny cats to prevent that from happening. The day may come when some bright spark thinks that it would be good to have a double, treble or quadruple motorway going through the centre. All sorts of excuses will be made for extra bits to be added on.

Unless one puts up a strong fight, excuses will be found to choose the easiest answer. If one wants a road to go from the City of London to the East End, why go through the industrial area when one can go straight through the forest? It will be said that it is easy to cut down a few trees and that it is cheaper and quicker. Thank goodness there is the City of London corporation, the City fathers, vergers and local people, who say that that cannot be done. There is a private Act which prevents the Government—the last Government or the next Government—from doing so. I hope that the Minister will either give a promise to the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West that the matter will be put right or, if the amendment is not legally in order, that the principle will be accepted and that it will be dealt with in another place.

So often we take away our limited good environment. Any person or organisation taking action to try to prevent the despoliation of our countryside should be supported. Therefore, I support the amendment.

Mr. Wiggin

I take it that in amendment No. 6, the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes) means by "Crown Woods" the woodlands that were transferred to the Forestry Commission by the Commissioners of Woods under the Forestry (Transfer of Woods) Act 1923. Those include the Forest of Dean and the New Forest. The New Forest and the Forest of Dean were the major tracts of land concerned in that transfer.

The Forestry Commissioners fully recognise the special status of the Forest of Dean and the New Forest. It is not in their minds to make substantial sales in either of those areas. However, there is a problem. In the day-to-day management and under the existing legislation a considerable transfer of properties takes place in those areas. In the Forest of Dean there are frequently sales of what is known as forest waste. I understand that some of the hon. Member's constituents believe that even that should be prevented. In the management of the forest there are sales of open land and of cottage properties. In the New Forest some houses are also for sale. An amendment of this order would preclude those sales, which have taken place over the years as part of the ordinary management of the estate.

5.45 pm

There are some smaller and insignificant Crown woodlands scattered around the country which were transferred under the 1923 Act, which would be regarded as part of the normal forest estate and would be disposed of if considered appropriate, subject to the ordinary criteria.

I shall refer in particular to the New Forest and the Forest of Dean, concentrating on the Forest of Dean, which is mentioned in the amendment. I had the privilege and pleasure of visiting that part of the world the other day with my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland). We discussed his fears. During that visit I made it clear in public that the Forestry Commission had no intention of selling the Forest of Dean. It is the least attractive of the 1,200,000 hectares owned by the commission, from the point of view of investment. For that reason alone it is unlikely to be considered.

Mr. Marland

Surely whether it is an attractive investment depends on the price. If there are local interests, surely id would be offered at a lower price.

Mr. Wiggin

It is not going to be offered for sale. When I said "least attractive," I meant from the point of view of investment, because in most part the woodlands are not in particularly good order. They are hardwood. I do not believe that there is the slightest danger of anyone seeking to buy the Forest of Dean, let alone of the Forestry Commissioners wishing to sell it.

Mr. Cormack

My hon. Friend will know that National Trust land is inalienable. Parliament has made it so. Why cannot we extend that principal and build on that precedent?

Mr. Wiggin

I am trying to explain that if that is done it is stultifying the ordinary operations of estate management.

Mr. Mark Hughes

That is not true.

Mr. Wiggin

It is true. I have already been involved in the sale of a large number of properties in the New Forest which are surplus to commission requirements. That is a complicated operation. If the hon. Gentleman cares to go and look for himself I am sure that the commission will show him the complexities of that operation. They amount to far more than just running the forest. There are many ramifications. Therefore, it would be wrong to ossify the situation in such a way that the commission cannot use its discretion, as it has done in the past.

In fairness, my hon. Friend will agree that the commission has been a good steward of the Forest of Dean so far. The Bill is necessary only on a legal technicality.

Mr. Hughes


Mr. Wiggin

Yes, it is. If they had wished, the Forestry Commissioners could have abused their position over that time. They have not done so. The Bill in no way alters their intention towards the Forest of Dean. There is no intention of disposing of large tracts of land there or in the New Forest. I hope that my assurance will be accepted.

Mr. Geraint Howells

One thing is certain. If it is the wish of the Forestry Commission to sell the Forest of Dean, it will have the right to do so once the Bill has had its Third Reading.

Mr. Wiggin

It will have a better right. It will have a clear legal right. The Bill was introduced because the previous right to sell land, which is there in black and white, as the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) knows, was under question by the lawyers. the commission did not use that previous position to sell off the Forest of Dean; nor will it do so in the future.

Mr. Marland

I listened carefully to what my hon. Friend said. I agree with much of what he said about the outstanding stewardship of the commission in looking after the Royal Forest of Dean and other Royal Forests. However, he is still asking us to accept a gentleman's agreement from himself and the commission that they will not sell off the Forest of Dean. I am afraid that to me., on behalf of my constituents, that is unacceptable.

Question put,That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 212, Noes 267.

Division No. 127] [5.49
Adams, Allen Graham, Ted
Allaun, Frank Grant, George(Morpeth)
Alton, David Grant, John(Islington C)
Anderson, Donald Grimond, Rt Hon J.
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Hamilton, James(Bothwell)
Ashton, Joe Hamilton, W. W.(C'tral Fife)
Atkinson, N.(H'gey,) Hardy, Peter
Bagier, Gordon A.T. Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Barnett, Guy(Greenwich) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Bidwell, Sydney Haynes, Frank
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Bottomley, Rt Hon A..(M'b'ro) Heffer, Eric S.
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Hogg, N.(E Dunb't'nshire)
Brown, Hugh D.(Provan) Holland, S.(L'b'th, Vauxh'll)
Brown, R. C.(N'castle W) Home Robertson, John
Brown, Ron(E'burgh, Leith) Homewood, William
Brown, Ronald W.(H'ckn'yS) Hooley, Frank
Callaghan, Jim(Midd'fn & P) Howell, Rt Hon D.
Campbell, lan Howells, Geraint
Campbell-Savours, Dale Huckfield, Les
Cant, R. B. Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.
Carmichael, Neil Hughes, Mark(Durham)
Cocks, Rt Hon M.(B'stol S) Hughes, Robert(Aberdeen N)
Coleman, Donald Hughes, Roy(Newport)
Cook, Robin F. Janner, Hon Greville
Cormack, Patrick Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Cowans, Harry John, Brynmor
Cox, T.(W'dsw'th, Toofg) Johnson, James(Hull West)
Crowther, J. S. Jones, Rt Hon Alec(Rh'dda)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jones, Barry(East Flint)
Cunningham, Dr J.(W'h'n) Jones, Dan(Burnley)
Dalyell, Tam Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davidson, Arthur Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil(L'lli) Lamond, James
Davies, Ifor(Gower) Leadbitter, Ted
Davis, T.(B'ham, Stechfd) Leighton, Ronald
Deakins, Eric Lewis, Arthur(N'ham NW)
Dean, Joseph(Leeds West) Lewis, Ron(Carlisle)
Dempsey, James Litherland, Robert
Dewar, Donald Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Dickens, Geoffrey Lyon, Alexander(York)
Dixon, Donald Lyons, Edward(Bradfd W)
Dobson, Frank Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Dormand, Jack McCartney, Hugh
Douglas, Dick McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Dubs, Alfred McElhone, Frank
Duffy, A. E. P. McGuire, Michael(Ince)
Dunn, James A. McKay, Allen(Penistone)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. McKelvey, William
Eastham, Ken MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Edwards, R.(Whampfn S E) McNally, Thomas
Ellis, R.(NE D'bysh're) McNamara, Kevin
Ellis, Tom(Wrexham) McTaggart, Robert
English, Michael McWilliam, John
Ennals, Rt Hon David Magee, Bryan
Evans, Ioan(Aberdare) Marland, Paul
Evans, John(Newton) Marshall,D(G'gow S'ton)
Field, Frank Marshall, Dr Edmund(Goole)
Flannery, Martin Marshall, Jim(Leicester S)
Fletcher, Ted(Darlington) Martin,M(G'gow S'burn)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Ford, Ben Maxton, John
Forrester, John Meacher, Michael
Foster, Derek Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Foulkes, George Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Fraser, J.(Lamb'th, N'w'd) Mitchell, R. C.(Soton Itchen)
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Morris, Rt Hon C.(shaw)
Freud, Clement Morris, Rt Hon J.(Aberavon)
Garrett, John(Norwich S) Morton, George
George, Bruce Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Ginsburg, David Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Golding, John O'Halloran, Michael
Gourlay, Harry O'Neill, Martin
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Stoddart, David
Parker, John Stott, Roger
Pavitt, Laurie Strang, Gavin
Pendry, Tom Straw, Jack
Penhaligon, David Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Powell, Raymond(Ogmore) Taylor, Mrs Ann(Bolton W)
Prescott, John Thomas, Dafydd(Merioneth)
Price, C.(Lewisham W) Thomas, Dr R.(Carmarthen)
Race, Reg Thorne, Stan(Preston South)
Rees, Rt Hon M(Leeds S) Tilley, John
Richardson, Jo Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Roberts, Albert(Normanton) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Roberts, Ernest(Hackney N) Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)
Roberts, Gwilym(Cannock) Wainwright, R.(Colne V)
Robertson, George Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Robinson, G.(Coventry NW) Watkins, David
Rooker, J. W. Weetch, Ken
Ross, Ernest(Dundee West) Welsh, Michael
Ross, Stephen(Isle of Wight) White, Frank R.
Rowlands, Ted White, J.(G'gow Pollok)
Ryman, John Whitehead, Phillip
Sandelson, Neville Whitlock, William
Sever, John Wigley, Dafydd
Sheerman, Barry Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Sheldon, Rt Hon R. Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wilson, William(C'try SE)
Silkin, Rt Hon J.(Deptford) Winnick, David
Silverman, Julius Woodall, Alec
Skinner, Dennis Woolmer, Kenneth
Snape, Peter Young, David(Bolton E)
Soley, Clive
Spearing, Nigel Tellers for the Ayes:
Spriggs, Leslie Mr. Walter Hanrison and Mr. James Tinn
Stallard, A. W.
Steel, Rt Hon David
Adley, Robert Clark, Sir W.(Croydon S)
Aitken, Jonathan Clarke, Kenneth(Rushcliffe)
Alexander, Richard Clegg, Sir Walter
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Cockeram, Eric
Ancram, Michael Cope, John
Arnold, Tom Corrie, John
Aspinwall, Jack Costain, Sir Albert
Atkins, Robert(Preston N) Cranborne, Viscount
Baker, Nicholas(N Dorset) Critchley, Julian
Banks, Robert Crouch, David
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Dean, Paul(North Somerset)
Bell, Sir Ronald Dorrell, Stephen
Bendall, Vivian Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Benyon, Thomas(A'don) Dover, Denshore
Benyon, W.(Buckingham) du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Best, Keith Dunn, Robert(Dartford)
Bevan, David Gilroy Durant, Tony
Biggs-Davison, John Dykes, Hugh
Blackburn, John Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Blaker, Peter Eggar, Tim
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Eyre, Reginald
Bottomley, Peter(W'wich W) Fairbairn, Nicholas
Bowden, Andrew Fairgrieve, Russell
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Faith, Mrs Sheila
Bright, Graham Farr, John
Brinton, Tim Fisher, Sir Nigel
Brooke, Hon Peter Fletcher, A.(Ed'nb'gh N)
Brotherton, Michael Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles
Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n) Fookes, Miss Janet
Bruce-Gardyne, John Forman, Nigel
Bryan, Sir Paul Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Buck, Antony Fox, Marcus
Budgen, Nick Fraser, Peter(South Angus)
Bulmer, Esmond Fry, Peter
Burden, Sir Frederick Gardiner, George(Reigate)
Butcher, John Gardner, Edward(S Fylde)
Cadbury, Jocelyn Garel-Jones, Tristan
Carlisle, John(Luton West) Goodhart, Philip
Carlisle, Kenneth(Lincoln) Goodlad, Alastair
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Gorst, John
Chapman, Sydney Gow, Ian
Churchill, W. S. Gower, Sir Raymond
Clark, Hon A.(Plym'th, S'n) Grant, Anthony(Harrow C)
Gray, Hamish Monro, Hector
Greenway, Harry Montgomery, Fergus
Grieve, Percy Moore, John
Griffiths, E,(B'ySt. Edm'ds) Morgan, Geraint
Griffiths, PeterPortsm'th N) Morris, M.(N'hampton S)
Grist, Ian Morrison, Hon C.(Devizes)
Grylls, Michael Morrison, Hon P.(Chester)
Gummer, John Selwyn Mudd, David
Hamilton, Hon A. Murphy, Christopher
Hamilton, Michael(Salisbury) Neale, Gerrard
Hampson, Dr Keith Needham, Richard
Hannam, John Nelson, Anthony
Haselhurst, Alan Neubert, Michael
Hastings, Stephen Newton, Tony
Hawkins, Paul Normanton, Tom
Hawksley, Warren Onslow, Cranley
Hayhoe, Barney Osborn, John
Heddle, John Page, John(Harrow, West)
Henderson, Barry Page, Rt Hon Sir G.(Crosby)
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Page, Richard(SW Herts)
Hill, James Parris, Matthew
Hogg, Hon Douglas(Gr'th'm) Patten, Christopher(Bath)
Holland, Philip(Carlton) Patten, John(Oxford)
Hooson, Tom Pawsey, James
Hordern, Peter Percival, Sir Ian
Howell, Ralph(N Norfolk) Peyton, Rt Hon John
Hunt, David(Wirral) Pollock, Alexander
Hunt, John(Ravensbourne) Porter, Barry
Hurd, Hon Douglas Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Irving, Charles(Cheltenham) Price, Sir David(Eastleigh)
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Prior, Rt Hon James
Jessel, Toby Proctor, K. Harvey
Jopling, Rt Hon Michaei Raison, Timothy
Kaberry, Sir Donald Rathbone, Tim
Kershaw, Anthony Rees, Peter(Dover and Deal)
Kimball, Marcus Rees-Davies, W. R.
King, Rt Hon Tom Rhodes James, Robert
Knight, Mrs Jill Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Knox, David Rifkind, Malcolm
Lamont, Norman Roberts, M.(Cardiff NW)
Lang, Ian Roberts, Wyn(Conway)
Latham, Michael Rost, Peter
Lawrence, Ivan Royle, Sir Anthony
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lee, John St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Le Marchant, Spencer Scott, Nicholas
Lester, Jim(Beeston) Shaw, Giles(Pudsey)
Lloyd, Ian(Havant & W'loo) Shaw, Michael(Scarborough)
Lloyd, Peter(Fareham) Shelton, William(Streatham)
Loveridge, John Shepherd, Colin(Hereford)
Luce, Richard Shepherd, Richard
Lyell, Nicholas Shersby, Michael
McCrindle, Robert Silvester, Fred
Macfarlane, Neil Sims, Roger
MacGregor, John Skeet, T. H. H.
MacKay, John(Argyll) Smith, Dudley
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. Speed, Keith
McNair-Wilson, M.(N'bury) Speller, Tony
McNair-Wilson, P.(New F'st) Spicer, Jim(West Dorset)
McQuarrie, Albert Spicer, Michael(S Worcs)
Madel, David Sproat, Iain
Major, John Squire, Robin
Marlow, Tony Stainton, Keith
Marshall, Michael(Arundel) Stanbrook, Ivor
Marten, Neil(Banbury) Steen, Anthony
Mates, Michael Stevens, Martin
Mather, Carol Stewart, Ian(Hitchin)
Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)
Mawby, Ray Stokes, John
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Stradling Thomas, J.
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Temple-Morris, Peter
Mayhew, Patrick Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Mellor, David Thorne, Neil(Ilford South)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Thornton, Malcolm
Miller, Hal(B'grove) Townend, John(Bridlington)
Mills, Iain(Meriden) Townsend, Cyril D,(B'heath)
Mills, Peter(West Devon) Trippier, David
Miscampbell, Norman Trotter, Neville
Mitchell, David(Basingstoke) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Moate, Roger Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Viggers, Peter Whitney, Raymond
Waddington, David Wickenden, Keith
Wakeham, John Wiggin, Jerry
Waldegrave, Hon William Wilkinson, John
Walker, B.(Perth) Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D. Wolfson, Mark
Waller, Gary Young, Sir George(Acton)
Ward, John Younger, Rt Hon George
Warren, Kenneth
Watson, John Tellers for the Noes:
Wells, John(Maidstone) Mr. Robert Boscawen and Mr. Donald Thompson.
Wells, Bowen
Wheeler, John

Question accordingly negatived.

6 pm

Mr. W. Benyon

I beg to move amendment No. 3, in 0page 1, line 9, at end insert `providing that in any one year the proceeds of such disposals shall not exceed the grant in aid to the Forestry Commission for that year or if they do the balance shall be carried forward to the next and subsequent years'. This is an attempt—I hope not a vain attempt—to achieve some consensus on some of the most contentious aspects of the Bill, and thereby to ensure that the measure starts its life with the widest possible agreement and good will. It is essential to grasp that the Bill is predominantly a financial and not a forestry measure.

First, therefore, the amendment seeks to limit the enabling power given to Ministers by the Bill. None of us likes wide enabling powers. The amendment places a very modest limit on their exercise under this legislation. If the Government propose to exercise their powers with moderation, as we have been assured from the start is their desire, they have nothing to fear from the amendment.

It remains irrefutable, however, that under the Bill as drafted the Government—any Government—could sell the entire forestry estate of the Forestry Commission. The Minister himself acknowledged that in Committee when he said: I understand these fears very well. He continued: if I can be convinced that there is some sensible constraint which would satisfy the fears that have been expressed, yet which would be reasonable and not lead to endless litigation or delay or constrain the Forestry Commission from exercising its ordinary commercial practice or deprive the market of what the market can absorb, I am certainly not so rigid in my thought as to say that I shall not consider any such suggestion before the Bill leaves this House."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 19 February 1981; c. 104.] The amendment is a response to that invitation.

Secondly, the amendment acknowledges the Government's desire—and, indeed, my own—that the Forestry Commission should become self-financing at the earliest possible moment and thus relieve the taxpayers of their present obligations. That was expressed by the Minister in Committee as follows: the object of the Government here is to reduce the Exchequer liability."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 17 February 1981; c. 45.] I absolutely accept that.

Thirdly, the amendment provides an incentive for the Forestry Commission to sell which would otherwise be lacking because it could thereby lessen its dependence on the Treasury and at the same time continue its forestry enterprise at the optimum level of finance and management.

Fourthly, the amendment ensures that the money raised from sales will continue to be used in forestry if the need is there. That is the important point. Equally, it does not alter the position under clause 2, whereby an overall surplus achieved by the Forestry Commission can be paid into the Consolidated Fund. I am emboldened on this aspect by the Minister's remarks in Committee, when he said: The purpose of clause 2 is, indeed, if the sales of land and/or the profits made on the sale of timber go beyond the needs,— to me this is the important point— and the sensible needs, of the Forestry Commission, as decided by forestry Ministers …money will be transferred to the Consolidated Fund."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 24 February 1981; c. 121] My amendment entirely accepts that position.

Throughout the discussion on the Bill there have been two recurring themes. First, there is the desire of the Government to reduce the burden on the taxpayer and to encourage greater participation by the private sector. That has been matched by the concern in many quarters that the enabling powers are too wide and that the proceeds of sales will be lost to forestry even if the need is there.

Overall hangs great uncertainty in all the measures proposed in the Bill. First, will the private sector respond? Secondly, what level of sales can be achieved? There has been an estimate of £10 million, but we do not know. Will the Bill and the arrangements for the private sector, taken together, make a major impact on the future level of imports?

The key issue in my view, however—this is the reason for the amendment—is not the transfer of assets from the public sector to the private sector, important though that may be, but the totality of the industry and its economic viability. That depends essentially on confidence. That is what the amendment seeks to achieve. It may be—it probably is—imperfectly drafted, but its sense and design are clear. I commend it to the House.

Mr. Cormack

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon), who moved the amendment with considerable eloquence. The case that he put is supported by all the officers of the Conservative Party forestry sub-committee. We are not against the Bill as such, or the powers to sell off parts of the Forestry Commission's assets, but we are concerned about the two points to which my hon. Friend drew emphatic attention. They are, first, the wide enabling powers given to the Minister, and secondly, the question where the proceeds from the sales would go. I wish to make two brief points to emphasise what my hon. Friend said.

First, of course, we have total trust and confidence in my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and the other Ministers charged with responsibilities under the Bill. This is no personal attack upon them, and implies no suggestion that we question their judgment or integrity for one moment. We are, however, extremely concerned that in legislating Parliament is giving powers to a Minister and not to an individual, and wide enabling powers can be misused. We should be worried if some people occupied the posts occupied in such distinguished manner by my right hon. and hon. Friends. We therefore wish this note of caution to be accepted by the Government.

The second and perhaps even more important point made by my hon. Friend concerns the proceeds of sales. On Second Reading—I did not have the good fortune to serve on the Committee—I was among those who said that we were concerned that this was a Treasury measure rather than a forestry measure. I said at that stage that unless some amendments were made I should find myself in a difficult position on Third Reading. Indeed, if the amendment is not accepted—or, rather, if the spirit of the amendment is not accepted—I am afraid that I shall be unable to vote for the Third Reading. I should like my hon. Friend the Minister either to accept the amendment here and now or to make it plain that a similar amendment having the same effect will be introduced by the Government in another place. If he cannot give that assurance, I shall ask my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) to press the amendment to a Division. I should certainly support it in the Lobby, and I should then be unable to vote for Third Reading.

Mr. Bruce Milian (Glasgow, Craigton)

I well understand why the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) moved the amendment and was supported by his hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack). He wishes to place some restriction on the wide powers given to Ministers by the Bill. That theme has run through all the debates on the Bill—on Second Reading, in Committee and now on Report.

I am slightly worried about the amendment. The grant in aid to the Forestry Commission is at present about £40 million a year. However, in 1979–80 it was rather more than £40 million, but there were special reasons for that. On adjustment, the correct amount for that year should have been about £38 million.

Even the amendment will allow scope for disposals well beyond anything that the Opposition—or, for that matter, the hon. Member for Buckingham—could accept. It would help if the Minister could explain rather more coherently what the Government expect in the way of disposals, both in terms of acreage and the money involved. It would also help if the Minister could explain exactly what will happen to the money.

Only last week, the Minister of State, Scottish Office, the Earl of Mansfield spoke to the Royal Scottish Forestry Society in Edinburgh. That speech was reported inThe Scotsman on 26 March. He made the bold and inaccurate statement that The receipts will be ploughed back into the commission. As I understand it, that will not happen to the receipts from the sales. We have had different accounts from the Minister of State——

Mr. Wiggin

Is that in the Bill?

Mr. Milian

The Bill states that the money will go into the Consolidated Fund. Therefore, as far as I can see, my hon. Friend's ministerial colleague's remarks are inaccurate.

Before the Opposition decide how to vote we should have a great deal more clarification than we have had so far about the scale of the disposals which the Government envisage. We should also be told what will happen to the money. I am talking about the next few years. No Government can commit a subsequent Government. Indeed, it is part of the hon. Gentleman's apprehension that this type of modest amendment may be necessary in years to come when a Government might be disposed to sell off Forestry Commission assets on a large scale. From that point of view, such an amendment would be a safeguard. At present, it might even carry the implication that it would be all night for the Government to sell off £30 million or £40 million worth of assets a year. I would oppose and regret that.

Mr. W. Benyon

The right hon. Gentleman will also accept that as the Forestry Commission's woodlands become more productive its income will increase and the two will come together.

Mr. Milian

I accept that. In any case, without the Bill we do not know when the break-even year will be. If it were 10 years from now the amendment would be valuable at that time. There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty, which could be ended if the Minister clarified the position.

I support the thought behind the amendment. Unless we get a satisfactory answer I would be disposed to support it.

Mr. Alex Pollock (Moray and Nairn)

I endorse what has already been said by my hon. Friends the Members for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) and for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) because I believe that the amendment goes to the root of the disquiet which has persisted ever since the Bill was first presented to Parliament. That disquiet has been shared throughout the House. No doubt it will continue when the Bill goes to another place for consideration.

The reason for that disquiet is that, in spite of the several assurances from the Government, both here and elsewhere, that the Bill will not be used to decimate Forestry Commission land, the fact remains that its scope is enormously wide and that it gives enormous enabling powers to the Government of the day in respect of any sale of Forestry Commission land. Coupled with that is concern about the role of the Treasury. Is this truly a Forestry Bill, or is it Treasury-inspired? I fear that the doubt remains.

6.15 pm

If the amendment were at least accepted in spirit and principle it would go a considerable way towards allaying the fears on both sides of the House about the risk to the bipartisan support for the continuing existence of the Forestry Commission alongside the private sector. If a similar amendment were acceptable to the Government, that risk would no longer persist. In Committee I felt obliged to reserve my position. I shall continue to do so until we hear the Minister's reply.

Mr. Wiggin

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) for the courteous and clear way in which he moved the amendment. From their public utterances and from private conversations I am familiar with the concern that my hon. Friends have expressed and I fully understand it. The Forestry Commission has been completely free to buy land, and I can see no justification for constraints on the sale of land. That is what the argument is all about.

My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham quoted what I said in Committee, namely, that I would be prepared to consider constraints that fell within certain parameters. The amendment is technically unsatisfactory, but I do not think that that will trouble my hon. friend. However, I understand that it would be necessary to transgress the law if the second part were to be implemented. I am sure that my hon. Friend did not intend that. The issue relates to the argument behind the amendment rather than to the details of it.

The grant in aid mentioned in the amendment: will effectively be the constraint. A sum is fixed by agreement in the normal way, but that in itself could be open to some manipulation. I recognise that under the public expenditure programmes the figures are produced in advance, but this could be manipulated.

Mr. W. Benyon

I fully appreciate my hon. Friend's point. However, that would be manipulatable only in the interests of the Forestry Commission, because the sales could increase only if the grant in aid were increased.

Mr. Wiggin

I understand that point. My hon. Friend asked whether the private sector would respond. I have made it clear all along that the Government do not know. There is not a substantial market in mature timber. Therefore, it is difficult to say whether such a market can exist. I am advised that there are those seeking to find investments for pension funds, life insurance, and the like, who see some merit in this type of investment. However, we shall have to test the water to discover what the level may be.

We should consider the practical problems of selling even £10 million worth of land, which is what we have in mind for the first year. They are considerable. There are both the legal and physical sides. However, £10 million worth in the first year and £15 million worth in the next two years is the answer to the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Milian). That is the programme that we have embarked on.

The future will depend on whether the private sector turns out to be interested and on whether a sensible market develops. Of course, confidence will be involved. It is no great secret that the price of certain small roundwood dropped by one-third last year. That will have a substantial effect. If the price rises again there may be greater interest. It would be most unwise to stand here prophesying the future level of such an unexplored market.

There is a misapprehension about imports. Whether wood A is owned by the Forestry Commission now and at some future date by an insurance company or by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham will not make any difference to the amount of timber grown in the United Kingdom. I hope that those of my hon. Friends who are interested in forestry matters will bear in mind that the Forestry Bill is a small part of the package that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland announced before Christmas.

Confidence is the key to this business. I am not an expert forester but I have learnt a great deal during the Bill's passage. However, I entirely respect the point of view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire. Confidence is involved. The sale of some Forestry Commission land is but a small part of the overall picture.

As for the statement, two things really matter. First, I refer to the Government's avowed intention to proceed with forestry. That intention was made clear. Secondly, despite the advice of a Select Committee, the Treasury was prepared to make it clear that the tax concessions necessary for the private investor in forestry would be maintained. Without that there would have been a substantal deterioration in confidence. I am happy to say that the rate of application is surprisingly rewarding. am hopeful that we have established, or at least maintained, confidence in the private sector in a way that the Labour Government did not.

The right hon. Member for Craigton asked about the proceeds of sales. What happens is clear. The money goes into the forestry fund. Under clause 2, with the agreement of Ministers, it can then be transferred into the Consolidated Fund. We must be realistic. Since 1919 Government money has been pooled for the purpose of creating this great asset. It was always envisaged that a dividend would be paid at some point in the future. It was envisaged that as the trees matured, were felled and sold, money would be returned to the Exchequer.

Of all people, my hon. Friends must be acutely aware of the pressure that every Minister is under to ensure that he exercises the greatest economy within his Department. We have tried to dissociate forestry as far as possible from the pressures of the Treasury. Although the Forestry Commission comes under a Government Department, the enterprise bears more resemblance to a nationalised industry than to a bureaucratic office. When the Government place constraints on the commission it is difficult for it not to comply with them. The commission wants more and more men in order to fell the trees that are reaching maturity. The operation of the financial arrangements will dissociate the commission from the Treasury rather than associate it with the Treasury.

Mention has been made of a bipartisan approach. We are bringing forward the date on which some of the taxpayers' money will be returned, although this is a time of great national stringency. Although I sympathise with the fears that my hon. Friends have expressed I hope that they will accept that we have set out with the best of intentions for the whole of forestry. They should look upon this as a small part of an overall package.

I have taken close note of the fears expressed not only during this debate but during the passage of the Bill. I shall certainly give consideration to strengthening assurances in any way. However, I can give assurances only for my period of office. Given those remarks, I hope that my hon. Friends will feel that the spirit of their amendment is in the Government's mind. We intend that the industry should take its rightful place as a productive part of Britain's national heritage.

Mr. Hardy

I had not intended to speak until I heard the Minister's comments. Someone should comment on the matters that he raised. He suggested that it was time for some return to be provided by the Forestry Commission. He referred to its establishment in 1919. In many respects that is a long time ago, but in terms of the lifetime of trees and of the cycle of forestry operations it is meagre.

The Minister referred to the commission as a great asset. Indeed, I value it. However, he overlooks the fact that only 8 per cent. of the land surface of Britain is covered by forest. In addition, only 83 per cent. of that 8 per cent. is exploitable, which means that apart from Ireland and Iceland a smaller proportion of our land is afforested than that of any other Western European country. We are dependent on imports. Therefore, the Government's vision is limited.

Instead of this pettifogging procedure there should be a promotion of expansion on a bipartisan basis. Encouragement should be given to both the private and the public sector in order to meet the acute need that will arise. The Minister is aware that the world's forests are being cleared at a rapid rate. In most tropical areas of the world millions of hectares of forest are cleared every year. Indeed, they are being cleared in such a way as to sterilise the land.

If the Minister has done his homework—I recognise that he has great and wide-ranging responsibilities—he will be aware that by the end of the decade countries such as ours will be in a bad way. It is already obvious that in every year between 1985 and the 2000 the balance of payments cost of our timber deficiency will greatly exceed the cost of importing all our food. The Minister pointed out that because of the recession this year's roundwood market may have fallen. However, if this country is to remain an industrial Power large quantities of timber will have to be imported. The Minister's arrangements are not satisfactory.

The Minister seems to believe that the Treasury is entitled to take £10 million from the Forestry Commission this year, £15 million next year and £15 million the year after that. The Treasury should be reminded that it is not omniscient. Some hon. Members will recall the Treasury's interference in forestry in 1972. Certain Conservative Members remember that, because they shared my misgivings. In July 1972 the Treasury brought out a cost-benefit analysis. It produced a forestry policy document that suggested that there was no role for commercial forestry. A few weeks later the Russians increased their timber prices substantially and knocked the Treasury's policy firmly on the head.

The Treasury has already demonstrated that it takes too short-term a view. The Parliamentary Secretary seems to have gone too far along that road. I urge him to ensure that the comments of his right hon. Friend the Minister are accurate. Although it is possible that this money should not be taken from the Forestry Commission, the Minister should ensure that it will at least be completely devoted—with a great deal more besides—to ensuring that we meet more of our requirements in the 1980s, if not before. The national interest suggests that the time scale required for growing a tree should be considered to a greater extent than it has been today.

Mr. W. Benyon

I emphasise our strong understanding of the motives of my right hon. and hon. Friends. I am sure that they are sincere. We have heard much about the mortality of Ministers. We must look further ahead. We cannot look simply over the next year; in forestry we must look a long way ahead. In view of what has been said, I have no other course but to press the amendment to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 164, Noes 279.

Division No. 128] [6.29 pm
Adams, Allen Callaghan, Jim(Midd't'n & P)
Allaun, Frank Campbell, Ian
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Campbell-Savours, Dale
Ashton, Joe Cant, R. B.
Atkinson, N.(H'gey,) Cocks, Rt Hon M.(B'stol S)
Bagier, Gordon A.T. Coleman, Donald
Barnett, Guy(Greenwich) Cormack, Patrick
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N) Cowans, Harry
Bidwell, Sydney Cox, T.(W'dsw'th, Toot'g)
Bottomley, Rt Hon A.(M'b'ro) Crowther, J. S.
Brown, Hugh D.(Provan) Cunliffe, Lawrence
Brown, R. C.(N'castle W) Cunningham, Dr J.(W'h'n)
Brown, Ron(E'burgh, Leith) Dalyell, Tam
Brown, Ronald W.(H'ckn'y S) Davidson, Arthur
Davies, Ifor(Gower) Marshall, Jim(Leicester S)
Davis, T.(B'ham, Stechf'd) Martin,M(G'gow S'burn)
Deakins, Eric Maxton, John
Dean, Joseph(Leeds West) Meacher, Michael
Dempsey, James Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Dixon, Donald Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Dobson, Frank Mitchell, R. C.(Soton Itchen)
Douglas, Dick Morris, Rt Hon C.(O'shaw)
Dubs, Alfred Morris, Rt Hon J.(Aberavon)
Duffy, A. E. P. Morton, George
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
Eastham, Ken Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Edwards, R.(W'hampt'n S E) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Ellis, R.(NE D'bysh're) O'Halloran, Michael
English, Michael O'Neill, Martin
Ennals, Rt Hon David Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Evans, Ioan(Aberdare) Parker, John
Evans, John(Newton) Pavitt, Laurie
Field, Frank Pendry, Tom
Fletcher, Ted(Darlington) Powell, Raymond(Ogmore)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Price, C.(Lewisham W)
Forrester, John Race, Reg
Foster, Derek Richardson, Jo
Foulkes, George Roberts, Ernest(Hackney N)
Fraser, J.(Lamb'th, N'w'd) Roberts, Gwilym(Cannock)
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Robinson, G.(Coventry NW)
Garrett, John(Norwich S) Ross, Ernest(Dundee West)
George, Bruce Rowlands, Ted
Ginsburg, David Ryman, John
Golding, John Sever, John
Gourlay, Harry Sheerman, Barry
Grant, George(Morpeth) Silkin, Rt Hon J.(Deptford)
Hamilton, James(Bothwell) Silverman, Julius
Hamilton, W. W.(C'tral Fife) Skinner, Dennis
Hardy, Peter Soley, Clive
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Spriggs, Leslie
Haynes, Frank Stallard, A. W.
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Stewart, Rt Hon D.(W Isles)
Heffer, Eric S. Stoddart, David
Hogg, N.(E Dunb't'nshire) Stott, Roger
Holland, S.(L'b'th, Vauxh'll) Strang, Gavin
Home Robertson, John Straw, Jack
Homewood, William Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Huckfield, Les Thomas, Dafydd(Merioneth)
Hudson Davies, Gwilym E. Thomas, Dr R.(Carmarthen)
Hughes, Mark(Durham) Thorne, Stan(Preston South)
Janner, Hon Greville Tilley, John
John, Brynmor Tinn, James
Johnson, James(Hull West) Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Jones, Rt Hon Alec(Rh'dda) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Jones, Barry(East Flint) Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Lamond, James Watkins, David
Leighton, Ronald Weetch, Ken
Lewis, Arthur(N'ham NW) Welsh, Michael
Lewis, Ron(Carlisle) White, Frank R.
Litherland, Robert White, J.(G'gow Pollok)
Lyons, Edward(Bradf'd W) Whitehead, Phillip
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Whitlock, William
McCartney, Hugh Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
McElhone, Frank Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
McGuire, Michael(Ince) Wilson, Gordon(Dundee E)
McKelvey, William Winnick, David
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Woodall, Alec
McNamara, Kevin Woolmer, Kenneth
McTaggart, Robert Young, David(Bolton E)
McWilliam, John
Magee, Bryan Tellers for the Ayes:
Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton) Mr. W. Benyon and Mr. Alex Pollock
Marshall, Dr Edmund(Goole)
Adley, Robert Banks, Robert
Aitken, Jonathan Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Alexander, Richard Bell, Sir Ronald
Alton, David Bendall, Vivian
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Benyon, Thomas(A'don)
Arnold, Tom Bevan, David Gilroy
Aspinwall, Jack Biffen, Rt Hon John
Atkins, Robert(Preston N) Biggs-Davison, John
Blackburn, John Hamilton, Michael(Salisbury)
Blaker, Peter Hampson, Dr Keith
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Hannam, John
Boscawen, Hon Robert Haselhurst, Alan
Bottomley, Peter(W'wich W) Hastings, Stephen
Bowden, Andrew Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hawkins, Paul
Bright, Graham Hawksley, Warren
Brinton, Tim Hayhoe, Barney
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Heddle, John
Brotherton, Michael Henderson, Barry
Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Bruce-Gardyne, John Hill, James
Bryan, Sir Paul Hogg, Hon Douglas(Gr'th'm)
Buck, Antony Holland, Philip(Carlton)
Budgen, Nick Hooson, Tom
Bulmer, Esmond Hordern, Peter
Burden, Sir Frederick Howell, Rt Hon D.(G'ldf'd)
Butcher, John Howell, Ralph(N Norfolk)
Cadbury, Jocelyn Howells, Geraint
Carlisle, John(Luton West) Hunt, David(Wirral)
Carlisle, Kenneth(Lincoln) Hunt, John(Ravensbourne)
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Hurd, Hon Douglas
Chapman, Sydney Irving, Charles(Cheltenham)
Churchill, W. S. Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Clark, Hon A.(Plym'th, S'n) Jessel, Toby
Clark, Sir W.(Croydon S) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Clarke, Kenneth(Rushcliffe) Kaberry, Sir Donald
Clegg, Sir Walter Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Cockeram, Eric Kershaw, Anthony
Cope, John Kimball, Marcus
Corrie, John King, Rt Hon Tom
Costain, Sir Albert Knight, Mrs Jill
Cranborne, Viscount Knox, David
Critchley, Julian Lamont, Norman
Crouch, David Lang, Ian
Dean, Paul(North Somerset) Latham, Michael
Dorrell, Stephen Lawrence, Ivan
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Dover, Denshore Lee, John
Dunn, Robert(Dartford) Lester, Jim(Beeston)
Durant, Tony Lloyd, Ian(Havant & W'loo)
Dykes, Hugh Lloyd, Peter(Fareham)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Loveridge, John
Eggar, Tim Luce, Richard
Ellis, Tom(Wrexham) Lyell, Nicholas
Eyre, Reginald Macfarlane, Neil
Fairgrieve, Russell MacGregor, John
Faith, Mrs Sheila MacKay, John(Argyll)
Farr, John Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Fenner, Mrs Peggy McNair-Wilson, M.(N'bury)
Fisher, Sir Nigel McNair-Wilson, P.(New F'st)
Fletcher, A.(Ed'nb'gh N) McQuarrie, Albert
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles Madel, David
Fookes, Miss Janet Major, John
Forman, Nigel Marland, Paul
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Marlow, Tony
Fox, Marcus Marshall, Michael(Arundel)
Fraser, Peter(South Angus) Marten, Neil(Banbury)
Freud, Clement Mates, Michael
Fry, Peter Mather, Carol
Gardiner, George(Reigate) Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Gardner, Edward(S Fylde) Mawby, Ray
Garel-Jones, Tristan Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Goodhart, Philip Mayhew, Patrick
Goodlad, Alastair Mellor, David
Gow, Ian Meyer, Sir Anthony
Gower, Sir Raymond Miller, Hal(B'grove)
Grant, Anthony(Harrow C) Mills, Iain(Meriden)
Gray, Hamish Mills, Peter(West Devon)
Greenway, Harry Mitchell, David(Basingstoke)
Grieve, Percy Moate, Roger
Griffiths, E.(B'y St. Edm'ds) Monro, Hector
Griffiths, PeterPortsm'th N) Montgomery, Fergus
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Moore, John
Grist, Ian Morgan, Geraint
Grylls, Michael Morris, M.(N'hampton S)
Gummer, John Selwyn Morrison, Hon C.(Devizes)
Hamilton, Hon A. Morrison, Hon P.(Chester)
Mudd, David Speed, Keith
Murphy, Christopher Speller, Tony
Neale, Gerrard Spicer, Jim(West Dorset)
Needham, Richard Spicer, Michael(S Worcs)
Nelson, Anthony Sproat, Iain
Neubert, Michael Squire, Robin
Normanton, Tom Stainton, Keith
Onslow, Cranley Stanbrook, Ivor
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Stanley, John
Osborn, John Steel, Rt Hon David
Page, John(Harrow, West) Steen, Anthony
Page, Rt Hon Sir G.(Crosby) Stevens, Martin
Page, Richard(SW Herts) Stewart, Ian(Hitchin)
Parkinson, Cecil Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)
Parris, Matthew Stokes, John
Patten, Christopher(Bath) Stradling Thomas, J.
Patten, John(Oxford) Temple-Morris, Peter
Pawsey, James Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Penhaligon, David Thompson, Donald
Percival, Sir Ian Thorne, Neil(Ilford South)
Peyton, Rt Hon John Thornton, Malcolm
Porter, Barry Townend, John(Bridlington)
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Townsend, Cyril D,(B'heath)
Price, Sir David(Eastleigh) Trippier, David
Prior, Rt Hon James Trotter, Neville
Proctor, K. Harvey van Straubenzee, W. R.
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Raison, Timothy Viggers, Peter
Rathbone, Tim Waddington, David
Rees, Peter(Dover and Deal) Wainwright, R.(Colne V)
Rees-Davies, W. R. Wakeham, John
Renton, Tim Waldegrave, Hon William
Rhodes James, Robert Walker, B.(Perth)
Ridley, Hon Nicholas Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Rifkind, Malcolm Waller, Gary
Roberts, M.(Cardiff NW) Ward, John
Roberts, Wyn(Conway) Warren, Kenneth
Ross, Stephen(Isle of Wight) Watson, John
Rost, Peter Wells, John(Maidstone)
Royle, Sir Anthony Wells, Bowen
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Wheeler, John
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Whitney, Raymond
Scott, Nicholas Wickenden, Keith
Shaw, Giles(Pudsey) Wiggin, Jerry
Shaw, Michael(Scarborough) Wilkinson, John
Shelton, William(Streatham) Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Shepherd, Colin(Hereford) Wolfson, Mark
Shepherd, Richard Young, Sir George(Acton)
Shersby, Michael Younger, Rt Hon George
Silvester, Fred
Sims, Roger Tellers for the Noes:
Skeet, T. H. H. Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and Mr. Peter Brooke.
Smith, Cyril(Rochdale)
Smith, Dudley

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Millan

I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 1, line 9, at end insert— `except for land acquired under section 24(2) of the Countryside Act 1968. (2A) Nothing in subsection (2) above shall affect the powers of disposal provided under section 24(3) of the Act of 1968.'

Mr. Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 8, in the schedule, page 2, column 3, leave out lines 10 to 12.

Mr. Millan

The amendment would put a restriction on disposals with specific reference to amenity land. It refers to section 24 of the Countryside Act 1968, under subsection (2) of which the Minister was given power to acquire on behalf of the Forestry Commission land which in his opinion ought to be used for planting trees in the interests of amenity, or partly for that purpose and partly for afforestation, together with any other land which must necessarily be acquired therewith". This is another attempt to put a restriction on the wide powers that otherwise will be available to Ministers for the disposal of land.

On Second Reading and in Committee hon. Members interested in forestry expressed concern that land essential for the maintenance of amenity might be sold by the Forestry Commission and that such land, which is used at present for tourism, recreation, and so on, might be in danger if the Bill were to be passed unamended.

6.45 pm

I am not too optimistic that the Government will accept the amendment, because they seem determined not to accept any amendment, however reasonably expressed and from whatever quarter it may come, which would restrict the unfettered right of Ministers to dispose of land. Such obstinacy is foolish and unnecessary. Even Conservative Members who do not disagree with the principle of wider powers of disposal being made available to the commission and to Ministers are concerned about certain land that may be disposed of. We have already discussed the Forest of Dean and other Crown lands.

The amendment specifically relates to land acquired under the 1968 Act for amenity purposes. I think that there is a general feeling on both sides of the House that it would be undesirable for such land to be disposed of and perhaps to disappear from use for amenity purposes.

This is a modest amendment. I hope that the Minister will not say that the drafting is not right, that it will be difficult to identify the land, and that there will be many problems if such land is excluded. The land is identified, because it is specifically provided for amenity purposes under the Countryside Act 1968. I hope that even at this late stage the Minister will accept this modest amendment to limit the disposal of land about which there is considerable concern.

Mr. Wiggin

I should like to oblige the right hon. Gentleman by accepting the amendment, but there is a snag. As far as can be traced, no land has been specifically acquired by the Forestry Commission under section 24(2) of the Countryside Act 1968. Therefore, there would be little purpose in accepting the amendment.

I accept the spirit of what was said by the right hon. Gentleman. In Committee, we dealt with the principles of access, amenity and other such matters, about which he rightly expressed concern, because they would be in the public's mind.

Sensitive woodlands will not be selected for the sales programme. If, for example, an insurance company were to purchase a wood, I cannot believe that it would be in its interest to conflict with the public in such a way as to get itself a bad name. If I were in the happy position of controlling such an investment I should seek to make the best of it for my company or employer.

The commissioners have powers under the Countryside Act 1968 to plant for amenity purposes land that is already in their possession. They have never needed to invoke the provisions of section 24(2) of the 1968 Act. If they were to do so, one might readily accept that it would be for a special reason. Having purchased land for a special reason, I cannot believe that they would wish immediately to sell it.

Although I cannot please the right hon. Gentleman, I hope that I have satisfied him that there is no necessity for the amendment.

Mr. Milian

The Minister having told me that there is no land in the possession of the Forestry Commission that falls into this category—which surprises me—obviously there is little purpose in pushing the amendment, because it would not bite on the land in which we are interested. Nevertheless, there is a real worry about amenity land. Obviously, this matter will not be dealt with here. I hope that the other place will fare better than we seem to have fared in getting some sense written into the Bill.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

I had the good fortune a year or so ago to put a request to the Forestry Commission in Scotland to go to some of its amenity lands—the Queen Elizabeth Forest, just north of Glasgow, and other Forestry Commission estates there—to see to what extent it had sought, in the land under its control, to marry the interests of itself as a forester and the amenity of the Greater Glasgow and other areas. It would be unfortunate if, under the Bill, the work which the Forestry Commission has done so successfully in Scotland were to be harmed in any way.

Although the Minister made a point about insurance companies and said what he would do personally if he had control of a company to ensure that nothing was done contrary to the public interest as he perceived it, he surely cannot speak for a commercial organisation, whose prime aim would be to maximise its profits rather than to keep on good terms with the public.

There is a real problem here, and even if nothing has yet been done under the 1968 Countryside Act—I must be one of the few hon. Members here who served on the Committee on the Countryside Bill in 1968—I hope that the Minister will take this amendment in the spirit in which it is moved. There is real concern about the dangers to those areas which the Forestry Commission has earmarked, currently so successfully, for amenity purposes and I hope that the Minister—or perhaps a Minister in another place—can act sympathetically on the problem raised.

Mr. Coleman

My hon. Friend has talked about Scotland. Is he aware that in South Wales, particularly in my constituency, this matter of amenity land and usefulness to the public has arisen, apart from the Bill, and we want to see that it is not interfered with?

Mr. Anderson

I take my hon. Friend's point. I should know the Welsh situation. I had a week or so in Scotland and I saw there the grand work done by the Forestry Commission, so that comes more immediately to my mind, but I know that in the constituency of my hon. Friend, in the Neath valley—which people praise as one of the most beautiful forested valleys in South Wales, in spite of the scars it bears—the same problem exists.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Cormack

I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 1, line 9, at end insert `providing he gives any surviving previous owners of such land an opportunity to acquire it by private treaty sale'. I do not want to detain the House for long. The purpose of the amendment is simple. On Second Reading I referred to those owners who had been obliged to sell their land to the Forestry Commission, particularly after the war. I am not talking of precise compulsory purchase, but many people did indeed sell their land under some duress, including some in my constituency. I suggested on Second Reading that there should be some provision in the Bill whereby, if the land that those people sold were to be sold by the Forestry Commission, it should not necessarily be sold to the highest bidder but should first be offered to the original surviving owners by private treaty sale if they wished to acquire it.

That is the plain and simple purpose of the amendment and I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to give me a sympathetic reply. I am well aware that the wording of the amendment is deficient and that there may be difficulties in writing this precise provision into the Bill. Perhaps my hon. Friend will want to do it by means of a code of conduct, notes of guidance, or something like that, but I sincerely urge him to do something to ensure that if land were sold under duress, or not entirely willingly, and were offered for sale by the Forestry Commission, those original owners should have the chance to buy it and it should not merely go on to the open market and be sold to the highest bidder.

Those of us who have the interests of rural areas and the countryside at heart are concerned about this matter and do not believe that the highest bidder will necessarily be the best owner and custodian of the land in the future. I therefore urge my hon. Friend to show that he has taken this point and to tell the House what he intends to do about it.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack). His interest in these matters is well known and enables him to speak with great authority. What he says appears to be only common sense. However, there are two points which I fear would raise difficulties if his amendment were accepted.

First, if what my hon. Friend proposes were put into effect, how would such a valuation be arrived at? The sums involved would probably be very large and it could not go to the district valuer. Presumably my hon. Friend has in mind a form of arbitration, rather like the arbitration for agricultural rents, but it appears to me that there should be at least two valuations to enable a fair and appropriate figure to be reached, so that the public interest is seen to be properly respected.

The second cause of my hesitation in supporting the amendment is that it may not be worded exactly as my hon. Friend intended. As it reads, a number of surviving previous owners might have an opportunity to acquire the land by private treaty sale. I see that what my hon. Friend really intends is that the immediately preceding surviving private owner should have that opportunity.

Mr. Cormack

My hon. Friend makes a valid point and I accept what he says. What I mean and what I think most people would understand—I apologise if it is not clear—is that if an owner has sold land to the Forestry Commission and that owner is still alive, he should be given the opportunity to buy it back from the Forestry Commission.

Mr. Farr

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his interpretation, which makes the matter much clearer.

With those two qualifications, I fully support what my hon. Friend is trying to do. I feel sure that the Government are likely to support it as well because it seems to me to be a matter of common and equitable sense and justice.

Mr. Wiggin

I am aware that my hon. Friend has been exercised about this matter for some time. He raised the point on Second Reading. I indicated in my reply on that occasion that I was extremely sympathetic to what he wanted to do.

The difficult problem is that there is a code for the sale of Government-owned land, and much of this goes back, of course, to the Crichel Down affair and all associated with that. The procedure whereby surplus Government land can first be offered to the former owner was introduced in 1954. It applied only to agricultural land acquired since 1934 for which no development had been allowed. Former owners could repurchase at current market value as assessed by the district valuer, if they still owned adjoining land or were farming in this country.

These arrangements have recently been reviewed and on a provisional basis are now being applied, with certain exceptions, to freehold agricultural and non-agricultural land and property which was originally acquired under threat of compulsion, provided it has not materially changed in character since acquisition. In the case of agricultural land, the operative date remains 1934, but for other land the procedure is limited to purchases in the 25 years before the property is offered for sale.

A material change in this context includes a change from agricultural land to forestry plantations, which means that moorland, for example, which the commission has acquired and planted does not come within the rules. The commission only ever acquired one property under its compulsory purchase powers, although I accept that some owners may in the distant past have had regard to the fact that those powers were in the background when they decided to sell. In all events, the commission will be following the new rules.

I think that I should comment on two points which my hon. Friend made. First, the proposition that the Forestry Commission should sell land not necessarily to the highest bidder will not, I know, appeal to the accounting officer. I am no expert on the stringent rules under which accounting officers must administer public funds, but those principles cannot be breached in a Bill of this nature. To do so would be to breach the policy adopted by all Governments, for obvious reasons.

On the whole, the Forestry Commission is staffed by country people. Their reputation and their knowledge of their own areas are well known. In the programme of sales as envisaged, they will not wish to tread on anyone's toes; they will go out of their way to avoid doing that. Therefore, I am convinced that in the circumstances which my hon. Friend described they will as far as possible seek out former owners and make sure that they are aware of the sales.

I am taking note of the pressures that have arisen during the passage of the Bill for some of the concerns that have been expressed to be met in more tangible form. I shall certainly consult my fellow forestry Ministers to see whether, by written instruction or in some similar way, these matters can be put into writing if not into legislation, but I am afraid that I cannot accept the amendment, for the reasons that I have stated.

Mr. Cormack

I thank my hon. Friend for his constructive and helpful reply. I acknowledge the amendment's deficiencies and I have no intention of forcing a second Division. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his qualified support and sincerely hope that it will be possible for some form of words to be devised.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.2 pm

Mr. Wiggin

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Although this is a short Bill it has provided the House with the opportunity for the first substantial debate on and review of forestry for many years. It is reasonable to say that frequent reviews of such a long-term industry are unnecessary, but perhaps the House will not wish another 30 years to go by before again considering the subject.

The Bill has, in particular, focused attention on the work of the Forestry Commission and the considerable contribution that it has made and continues to make to the industry since its establishment over 60 years ago. I am sure that the commissioners have been gratified by the remarkable degree of good will that has manifested itself on both sides of the House and, indeed, was evident in another place during a forestry debate on 23 February.

I view the commission's future place in the industry and in the Government machine as being secure. It cannot be said too often that we see its partnership with the private sector as crucial to the future of forestry. The Bill is intended to enable the Commission to help the other half of the partnership—the private sector—to make its contribution more effectively.

The heart of the Bill is clause 1, which provides Ministers with the power to sell land. The operation of that clause will be under the direction of the Commission and it has already started planning in the expectation that the Bill will reach the statute book. I assure my hon. Friends who are concerned about this provision that the modest proposals are being looked at carefully and that each conservator is looking at his contribution as part of the whole.

We strongly deny that we are asset stripping or seeking to destroy the Forestry Commission. At a time of great national stringency it is surely unreasonable that this vast accretion of public wealth—whether it is £800 million, £1,250 million or more—that has accumulated in the 60 years should continue to receive annual Exchequer assistance of the order that it has been receiving without some contribution, and the Bill is that contribution.

I made it clear during the Second Reading debate that the Government would impose fairly strictly certain factors in connection with the sale of land. I shall not detain the House for long, but I feel that I should once more remind hon. Members of those factors, not necessarily in order of importance. They are: financial considerations; the maintenance and development of the wood processing industry; the maintenance of employment and the viability of local communities, especially the socially fragile areas; the use of forests for public access and recreation; the interests of conservation, research and education; the effects on management; the market preferences having regard to other criteria; and, lastly, the rationalisation of the Forestry Commission's own estate. If it is possible to stick within those guidelines none of the fears expressed by hon. Members should be realised.

The main purpose of clause 2 is to direct that receipts paid into the forestry fund should, to the extent authorised by Ministers, be surrendered to the Consolidated Fund. The way in which this is expressed has led some of my hon. Friends to the mistaken assumption that this is a Treasury Bill. It is no more than a technical or accounting device, which will protect the commission from the problems that might otherwise be associated with fluctuations in receipts in what is bound to be an uncertain and even volatile market.

The Bill is an essential ingredient of the forestry policy statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on 10 December last. It will provide the commission with the opportunity to operate more flexibly in the commercial environment of which, by virtue of its steady development as a producer of industrial raw material, it is increasingly becoming a part. It will not impair either the range of its activities or its role as the forestry authority. It represents no more than a technical measure to enable the partnership between public and private woodland owners in the expansion of the nation's forestry resources to function more effectively as the commission advances towards the achievement of greater financial self-sufficiency.

I therefore commend the Bill to the House.

7.7 pm

Mr. Milan

The Minister said that we do not often debate forestry in the House. It is a pity that when we do it has to be on the basis of such a miserable little Bill as this. I shall of course be asking my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against it.

Despite all the Minister's protestations, the genesis of the Bill is the Treasury. The purpose is to save money. It has nothing to do with the encouragement of development or expansion of forestry. Yet hon. Members on both sides of the House who have taken an interest in the Bill on Second Reading and subsequently have emphasised the need for forestry expansion.

The background to the Bill is that the funds which are to be made available to the Forestry Commission for the acquisition of plantable land for new planting have already been cut and will be cut more severely over the next few years. To add to this injury that is being done to forestry, which everyone agrees is an efficient operation, the powers granted by the Bill are to be used to dispose of certain Forestry Commission land.

Virtually no one has had a good word to say of the Bill. There has been no welcome for it in the House. Even the private forestry interests who might have been expected to welcome a Bill of this nature have been at best sceptical of it and in some respects fearful about the intentions behind it, particularly if it were to be used—it could be, as the powers are completely unqualified—to dispose of a substantial part of the Forestry Commission's enterprise.

The wood processing industry, the paper industry and similar industries have expressed considerable scepticism about and, indeed, antagonism towards the Bill. Despite the efforts made to introduce more flexibility into the Bill and to impose certain restrictions on the otherwise unfettered powers given in the Bill, the Government have not moved an inch. They have not accepted any amendments to the Bill. We have received ministerial assurances. These are cheap to give. Ministers can always give an assurance that if matters are left to them, particularly the present incumbents, who are always men of good will, or believe themselves to be so, no one has any need to worry. I do not believe that this is the way to write legislation.

There is undoubtedly widespread concern about the powers of disposal. The way to assuage that concern, even if the Government are determined to press ahead with such powers, is to write safeguards into the Bill. However, they have been unwilling to write any safeguards into the Bill to prevent land suitable for forestry going out of forestry and to prevent the disposal of amenity land, even Crown land such as the Forest of Dean. They have been unwilling to provide safeguards in regard to continued opportunities for access to, and recreation on, forest land.

A number of reservations and concerns about the B ill have been brushed aside by Ministers on the ground that hon. Members can rely on the good will of Ministers and the good sense of the Forestry Commission. At the end of the day, the Forestry Commission will act as the servant of the Government, as it must. That is its role. To talk about the discretion and the good sense of the commission is meaningless if the Government—perhaps this is such a Government—are determined to use the powers in the Bill to the fullest extent to dispose of a considerable part or, indeed, the whole of the forestry enterprise. It is a great pity that the Government have gone along this road.

Many hon. Members have mentioned the fact that forestry in the United Kingdom has been a bipartisan matter to a considerable extent. I do not mean that there has not been a considerable difference of view at different times about the level of forestry expansion. There has been a general acceptance, however, of the role of the Forestry Commission and also of the partnership between the commission and the private sector.

A good deal of what I have described is put at risk by this miserable Bill. It is brought forward because of the Government's doctrinaire obsession with the sale of public assets and the reduction of the PSBR. It has no forestry justification. For that reason, the Opposition will vote against the Bill.

7.13 pm
Mr. Eldon Griffiths

(Bury St. Edmunds): I have followed the progress of the Bill by reading the Standing Committee debates. If the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) thinks that the Bill is friendless, he is mistaken. I believe that it is a good Bill. I believe that the Government are right to introduce it. It is entirely consonant with the programme on which the Government were elected. I only wish that Ministers in other areas had gone down the same road as vigorously as have my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend.

I have a constituency interest. Thetford Chase is by far the most productive forest in the country. It exceeds the Scottish forests at this time because most of the trees planted about 20 years ago are coming on stream. We have a productive and attractive forest. I pay my tribute to the Forestry Commission, which, over the years, has done a good job in looking after the timberland, harvesting it and providing employment for a number of my constituents. Following a certain amount of pushing, the commission has opened up the forest in recent years for amenity and recreation purposes. My constituents and many of those living in the surrounding area are able to enjoy the amenities of the forest in a manner that was not previously possible.

My hon. Friend, together, perhaps, with the tenth member of the commission, who, I assume, will be capable of offering advice on the financial aspects of sales, will be welcome to come to Thetford Chase. My hon. Friend can bring his picnic basket with him. He will be able to offer to those who support the Bill such advice as he and others may think useful about the manner in which some parts of the forest can be privatised along the lines of the partnership that he has so wisely proposed between the Forestry Commission and the private sector.

It is high time that the Government were removed from areas of our national life where they need not have an interest. It is urgent that we unlock some of the investment that is tied up in State assets and introduce a much more market-oriented, robust and private enterprise approach. I believe that the Bill will enable this process to go ahead in co-operation with the Forestry Commission and the private sector.

There has been a suggestion from the Opposition Benches that the private sector is not to be trusted with what hon. Members regard as a national asset. I can only speak from my experience in Norfolk and Suffolk. Not far from Thetford Chase, a monument to State enterprise which I commend, there has been the enormous achievement of the private sector in reclaiming the Breckland. My hon. Friend may be aware of the enormous achievements of private farmers in reclaiming the glacial sands of the Breckland and putting them into profitable agricultural use.

Not far away again are the chalk hills around Newmarket where, with the private help of the Jockey Club, land has been developed that is a credit to the private sector. These areas, adjacent to one another, demonstrate that the Forestry Commission—the public sector in the case of Thetford Chase—has done a good job while next door, in the Breckland, the private sector has done a good job. It is possible and highly desirable that there should be partnership. I commend my hon. Friend for pursuing that policy along the lines for which he and I were elected.

7.18 pm
Mr. Hardy

I was surprised by the development of the speech by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). At first, he seemed to be critical of the Forestry Commission. Towards the end of his speech, he demonstrated his concern that there should be partnership. I believe that there is a good case for partnership. What concerns me most about the Bill is that it illustrates a meagre and inadequate approach by the Government. A recent Economic Forestry Group newsletter quoted in its front page story the opening remarks of the Secretary of State for Scotland when he announced the Government's forestry policy in a statement just before Christmas. The right hon. Gentleman said: A continuing expansion of forestry is in the national interest"—[Official Report, 10 December 1980; Vol. 995, c. 1405.] That is the criterion by which this wretched Bill should be judged. Will the Bill contribute to an expansion of forestry? If Conservative Members were honest they would admit that the Bill is largely irrelevant set against that fundamental need.

I have already indicated that 8 per cent. of the land surface of the British Isles is forestry. Eighty-three per cent. of that forestry is exploitable. This has to be set against the position in some other European countries-20 per cent. in Belgium, 30 per cent. in the Federal Republic of Germany, 27 per cent. in Italy and 25 per cent. in France. When we look at the Russian satellites, we sce that despite the enormous resources of the Soviet Union, the figures are 36 per cent. in Czechoslovakia, 28 per cent. in the German Democratic Republic and 33 per cent. in Bulgaria.

By the turn of the century almost all the world's forests will have been cleared. When timber shortages become acute and when, therefore, the price of timber rises, we shall regret that the Government, in their commitment to the expansion of forestry, produced only a mouse of a Bill to shift some land from the public sector to the private sector. The public and private sectors should be encouraged to develop more effective, more tasteful and perhaps more successful forestry.

Two other issues require attention. The Bill does not deal adequately with them. I refer to the question of employment in rural areas. One of my constituents who is extremely experienced and highly qualified in forestry recently returned from a visit to Scotland. He professed his concern and horror at the inadequate management of the forests that he visited. Hon. Members who have been on forestry visits will be aware of the excellent examples in Scotland. However, large areas of forest in the British Isles are not adequately managed. It is about time that the Government encouraged more skilled and productive forestry activity.

I have referred to the private sector's newsletter. I commend the description of high-yield forestry systems applying in Tacoma in Washington State, in the United States. It would be desirable if some of our forests were managed in the way illustrated in that article. If they were, it would promote not only more productive forestry activity but useful and perhaps relatively substantial employment in rural areas, especially where employment needs to be created. I am not talking about thousands of jobs. In sparsely populated regions where forestry is important, just a few extra jobs could bring life to communities whose existence is in peril because of lack of economic and employment opportunity. It is a pity that when nearly 3 million people are unemployed the Bill does not deal with that matter.

If Britain is to be given the capacity to avoid excessive reliance on increasingly costly timber imports, a better Bill is needed. I hope that we shall divide the house on Third Reading because the Bill is small-minded. I hope that the Government will re-examine the matter and take the longer, more civilised and sensible view that is demanded by the national interest.

7.23 pm
Mr. Roger Thomas (Carmarthen)

At the last Committee sitting of the Bill we discussed new clauses 4 and 5, which dealt with amenities and access, and the stock-proofing and vermin-proofing of areas between farm and forestry land. There was a fair amount of cross-party argreement on new clause 4 dealing with amenity and access. Indeed, the hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Williams) said that he would support the Opposition in pressing the clause to a Division. However, we were disappointed not to have the hon. Gentleman supporting us today. He prognosticated that the Government would make a move to accommodate hon. Members on all sides who believed that the Bill was restrictive.

I am also disappointed that no move was made in relation to new clause 5. We benefited from the great experience of the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howell) who is a noted hill farmer in Wales. He said that stock-proofing and vermin-proofing should be differentiated. He said that the Bill could be strengthened by dealing with stock-proofing, which would prevent discontent and disharmony among foresters and farmers.

However, I am disappointed that even at this late stage the Minister has not moved an inch. The Government have not allowed a comma to be changed. They have not changed the emphasis, let alone allowed the insertion of a clause or an amendment. The Committee involved dogged resistance by the Minister. We are disappointed.

7.26 pm
Mr. Home Robertson (Berwick and East Lothian)

This is called the Forestry Bill. What exactly does it contain? It contains a clause for the disposal of land, a clause for tinkering with the forestry fund and a third clause providing for an additonal forestry commissioner. We understand that he is to be a super-salesman; a special Government asset-stripper to carry out the provisions of clause 1 and get rid of some of the land.

The Minister said that he had nothing but good will for the Forestry Commission. That was not the message that we received in Committee and on Second Reading. We had the impression that the Minister had the same good will towards the Forestry Commission that I hope I shall have for my dinner in a few minutes, in that he and the Government simply want to devour a successful public enterprise.

The Bill has been changed not an iota since it was published. The Minister has stood like a fossilised tree, totally oblivious to the economic, forestry and conservation arguments advanced against the Bill from all sides. It was interesting to hear the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) say that he was a wholehearted supporter of the Bill. To my knowledge only one other hon. Member has announced such support—the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball). If anyone deserves credit for the Bill it is the Government Whips for delivering it in the face of almost unanimous opposition.

I hope that the Government will not have such an easy time when the Bill arrives in the other place. Tory Back Benchers in the House of Lords are a little less docile than the hon. Members with whom the Whips have to contend here.

The Minister spoke of a modest proposal for selling Forestry Commission land. He spoke of tapping the vast "accretion" of public wealth. The Bill provides a curious way of doing that, since it is clear that the Forestry Commission will be required to sell land relatively cheaply. At the same time it will be required to buy land which is relatively expensive because there will be a sellers' market. That cannot make economic sense, even from the Treasury's view.

Clause 1 states that: The Minister may dispose for any purpose of land acquired by him under this section. If that is a modest proposal I should hate to hear an ambitious one from the Minister. It is tragic that we have been unable to insert any qualifications. In view of that I hope that this House or the House of Lords will throw out clause 1.

7.30 pm
Mr. MacLennan

I shall not detain the House for long, because the inadequacies of the Bill and the confined nature of its operative clauses are such that a Third Reading debate is inevitably confined.

The hon. Members for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) and Rother Valley (Mr. I-lardy) legitimately lamented the fact that the Bill does nothing for forestry, and I concur with those laments.

It is a sad commentary on the Government's attitude to forestry that they have nothing more constructive to bring to the House than a Bill that is designed to enable the Minister to dispose of forestry land, and to require payment out of the forestry fund into the Consolidated Fund of such sums as he may from time to time direct—a purpose that clearly has nothing to do with the interests of forestry. It is designed to meet the exigencies of the economic situation over which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has presided with such unparalleled incompetence. The Bill also seeks to add one member to the Forestry Commission.

What a lamentable comment on the Government's attitude to forestry. However, it encapsulates one of the reasons why the Social Democratic Party has come into being. We profoundly believe that it is highly inappropriate to the welfare of the country's economy that the frontier is constantly changed between private and public enterprise. We believe that industry needs stability and security. It is presisely this kind of legisaltion, designed to interrupt the continuing developmemt of an industry that has enjoyed a degree of stability for over half a century, that has led many people who are actively engaged in forestry to support us in our belief that a Social Democratic Party is needed at this time. The Government have injected uncertainty into forestry policy where none previously existed. The Bill has few friends, and when it is considered in another place by people who have experience of both private and public sectors I hope that it will be demolished, as it deserves.

7.33 pm
Mr. Mark Hughes

The puerile remarks of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) in using the Bill in an attempt to adduce the need to create a Social Democratic Party is beneath contempt.

My feelings about the Bill are encapsulated on page 45 of the Government expenditure White Paper. Indeed, I offer it to whichever Minister is to reply to the debate. In that White Paper the Government treat forestry with such contempt that they get the figures upside down. Moreover, the Government do not consider that a printer's error matters. They want to perpetuate a printer's error in policy and introduce a method of acquiring Treasury money as part of deep Tory policy.

The Bill totally fails to meet the requirements of the pulp industry. It will not help the balance of payments. It does nothing for the private forester or for the national Forestry Commission afforestation programme. The Government pay such scant regard to that major element of national policy that they allow a foolish printer's error to go through.

I entirely accept that there is an error on page 45. It is nothing more and nothing less. However, it epitomises the cavalier way in which the forestry industry is treated by a Government who are intent upon a minuscule reduction in the public sector borrowing requirement. For doctrinaire and ludicrous reasons, the Government are doing a major mischief to the Forestry Commission and its planting programme, to the private sector of the forestry industry, to amenities, forest parks, and all users of forest land. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. and hon. Friend's will vote against this ludicrous little Bill.

7.35 pm
The Secretary of State For Scotland (Mr. George Younger)

The concentration of the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes) on a printer's error shows the emptiness of some the opposition to the Bill. He knows very well that the Bill is a much more important matter than that.

The Bill has to be seen against the background of the general statement that I made in December about the Government's commitment to a firm future for forestry—something that the industry has been wanting for a long time. As I made clear in that statement, we have committed ourselves to a continuing level of planting on the same scale as has happened in recent years. We have firmed up the taxation arrangements for forestry, which were in a state of uncertainty and disarray, and which acted as a major disincentive for people to plant. We hope that those actions, together with the Bill, will inspire confidence in all those who are involved in the industry.

I want to emphasise something that has not been said often enough in the debate, namely, that forestry is an industry. The Forestry Commission is rightly admired for the work that it does. It has had a highly successful history, and I know that it will be successful in the future. However, we are debating an industry. Perhaps the disposal powers in the Bill will be seen in their proper perspective if we ask ourselves what other industry has no right to dispose of assets for which it has no requirement. At present the commission does not have that right. There is a gap in our legislation. It is a right that a great industry should have and use sensibly.

My hon. Friend stressed repeatedly in Committee that the Government intend that these powers will be used in a sensible and controlled way by the commission. The commission will decide what parcels of land are to be disposed of. Both my hon. Friend and I have spelt out the way in which it will use the powers.

Anyone who hopes that forestry will have a secure future can be assured that the Bill, taken in conjunction with the statement that I made in December, will give the industry the future that it requires. I hope, therefore, that the Bill will receive wholehearted support.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 269, Noes 208.

Division No. 129] [7.38 pm
Adley, Robert Bell, Sir Ronald
Aitken, Jonathan Bendall, Vivian
Alexander, Richard Benyon, Thomas(A'don)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Best, Keith
Arnold, Tom Bevan, David Gilroy
Aspinwall, Jack Biffen, Rt Hon John
Atkins, Robert(Preston N) Biggs-Davison, John
Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone) Blackburn, John
Baker, Nicholas(N Dorset) Blaker, Peter
Banks, Robert Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Bottomley, Peter(W'wich W) Hayhoe, Barney
Bowden, Andrew Heddle, John
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Henderson, Barry
Bright, Graham Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Brinton, Tim Hill, James
Brotherton, Michael Hogg, Hon Douglas(Gr'th'm)
Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n) Holland, Philip(Carlton)
Browne, John(Winchester) Hooson, Tom
Bruce-Gardyne, John Hordern, Peter
Bryan, Sir Paul Howell, Ralph(N Norfolk)
Buck, Antony Hunt, David(Wirral)
Budgen, Nick Hunt, John(Ravensboume)
Bulmer, Esmond Hurd, Hon Douglas
Butcher, John Irving, Charles(Cheltenham)
Cadbury, Jocelyn Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Carlisle, John(Luton West) Jessel, Toby
Carlisle, Kenneth(Lincoln) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Kaberry, Sir Donald
Chapman, Sydney Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Churchill, W. S. Kershaw, Anthony
Clark, Hon A.(Plym'th, S'n) Kimball, Marcus
Clark, Sir W.(Croydon S) Knight, Mrs Jill
Clarke, Kenneth(Rushcliffe) Knox, David
Clegg, SirWalter Lamont, Norman
Cockeram, Eric Lang, Ian
Cope, John Latham, Michael
Corrie, John Lawrence, Ivan
Costain, Sir Albert Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Cranborne, Viscount Lee, John
Critchley, Julian Le Marchant, Spencer
Crouch, David Lester, Jim(Beeston)
Dean, Paul(North Somerset) Lloyd, Ian(Havant & W'loo)
Dorrell, Stephen Lloyd, Peter(Fareham)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Loveridge, John
Dover, Denshore Luce, Richard
Dunn, Robert(Dartford) Lyell, Nicholas
Durant, Tony Macfarlane, Neil
Dykes, Hugh MacGregor, John
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John MacKay, John(Argyll)
Eggar, Tim Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Elliott, Sir William McNair-Wilson, M.(N'bury)
Eyre, Reginald McNair-Wilson, P.(New F'st)
Fairbairn, Nicholas McQuarrie, Albert
Fairgrieve, Russell Madel, David
Faith, Mrs Sheila Major, John
Farr, John Marland, Paul
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Marlow, Tony
Fisher, Sir Nigel Marshall, Michael(Arundel)
Fletcher, A.(Ed'nb'gh N) Marten, Neil(Banbury)
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles Mates, Michael
Fookes, Miss Janet Mather, Carol
Forman, Nigel Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Mawby, Ray
Fox, Marcus Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Fraser, Peter(South Angus) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Fry, Peter Mayhew, Patrick
Gardiner, George(Reigate) Mellor, David
Goodhart, Philip Meyer, Sir Anthony
Goodlad, Alastair Miller, Hal(B'grove)
Gorst, John Mills, Iain(Meriden)
Gow, Ian Mills, Peter(West Devon)
Gower, Sir Raymond Miscampbell, Norman
Grant, Anthony(Harrow C) Mitchell, David(Basingstoke)
Gray, Hamish Moate, Roger
Greenway, Harry Monro, Hector
Grieve, Percy Montgomery, Fergus
Griffiths, E.(B'ySt. Edm'ds) Moore, John
Griffiths, PeterPortsm'th N) Morgan, Geraint
Grist, Ian Morris, M.(N'hampton S)
Grylls, Michael Morrison, Hon C.(Devizes)
Gummer, John Selwyn Morrison, Hon P.(Chester)
Hamilton, Hon A. Mudd, David
Hamilton, Michael(Salisbury) Murphy, Christopher
Hampson, Dr Keith Neale, Gerrard
Hannam,John Needham, Richard
Haselhurst, Alan Nelson, Anthony
Hastings, Stephen Neubert, Michael
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Normanton, Tom
Hawkins, Paul Onslow, Cranley
Hawksley, Warren Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Osborn, John Squire, Robin
Page, John(Harrow, West) Stainton, Keith
Page, Rt Hon Sir G.(Crosby) Stanbrook, Ivor
Page, Richard(SW Herts) Stanley, John
Parkinson, Cecil Steen, Anthony
Parris, Matthew Stevens, Martin
Patten, Christopher(Bath) Stewart, Ian(Hitchin)
Patten, John(Oxford) Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)
Pawsey, James Stokes, John
Percival, Sir Ian Stradling Thomas, J.
Peyton, Rt Hon John Temple-Morris, Peter
Porter, Barry Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Thompson, Donald
Price, Sir David(Eastleigh) Thorne, Neil(Ilford South)
Proctor, K. Harvey Thornton, Malcolm
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Townend, John(Bridlington)
Raison, Timothy Townsend, Cyril D,(B'heath)
Rathbone, Tim Trippier, David
Rees, Peter(Dover and Deal) Trotter, Neville
Rees-Davies, W. R. van Straubenzee, W. R.
Renton, Tim Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Rhodes James, Robert Viggers, Peter
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Waddington, David
Ridley, Hon Nicholas Wakeham, John
Rifkind, Malcolm Waldegrave, Hon William
Roberts, M.(Cardiff NW) Walker, B.(Perth)
Roberts, Wyn(Conway) Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Rost, Peter Waller, Gary
Royle, Sir Anthony Ward, John
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Warren, Kenneth
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Watson, John
Scott, Nicholas Wells, John(Maidstone)
Shaw, Giles(Pudsey) Wells, Bowen
Shaw, Michael(Scarborough) Wheeler, John
Shelton, William(Streatham) Whitney, Raymond
Shepherd, Colin(Hereford) Wickenden, Keith
Shepherd, Richard Wiggin, Jerry
Shersby, Michael Wilkinson, John
Silvester, Fred Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Sims, Roger Wolfson, Mark
Skeet, T. H. H. Young, Sir George(Acton)
Smith, Dudley Younger, Rt Hon George
Speed, Keith
Speller, Tony Tellers for the Ayes:
Spicer, Jim(West Dorset) Mr. Peter Brooke and Mr. Robert Boscawen.
Spicer, Michael(S Worcs)
Sproat, Iain
Adams, Allen Cunliffe, Lawrence
Allaun, Frank Cunningham, G.(Islington S)
Alton, David Dalyell, Tam
Anderson, Donald Davidson, Arthur
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Davies, Rt Hon Denzil(L'lli)
Ashton, Joe Davis, T.(B'ham, Stechf'd)
Atkinson, H.(H'gey,) Deakins, Eric
Bagier, Gordon A.T. Dean, Joseph(Leeds West)
Barnett, Guy(Greenwich) Dempsey, James
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N) Dewar, Donald
Bidwell, Sydney Dixon, Donald
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Dobson, Frank
Bottomley, Rt Hon A.(M'b'ro) Dormand, Jack
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Douglas, Dick
Brown, Hugh D.(Provan) Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Brown, R. C.(N'castle W) Dubs, Alfred
Brown, Ron(E'burgh, Leith) Duffy, A. E. P.
Callaghan, Jim(Midd't'n & P) Dunn, James A.
Campbell, Ian Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Campbell-Savours, Dale Eastham, Ken
Cant, R. B. Edwards, R.(Whampt'n S E)
Carmichael, Neil Ellis, R.(NE D'bysh're)
Cartwright, John Ellis, Tom(Wrexham)
Cocks, Rt Hon M.(B'stol S) English, Michael
Coleman, Donald Ennals, Rt Hon David
Cook, Robin F. Evans, Ioan(Aberdare)
Cowans, Harry Evans, John(Newton)
Cox, T.(W'dsw'th, Toofg) Field, Frank
Crowther, J. S. Flannery, Martin
Cryer, Bob Fletcher, Ted(Darlington)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Morton, George
Forrester, John Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
Foster, Derek Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Foulkes, George Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Fraser, J.(Lamb'th, N'w'd) O'Halloran, Michael
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald O'Neill, Martin
Garrett, John(Norwich S) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
George, Bruce Parker, John
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Pavitt, Laurie
Ginsburg, David Pendry, Tom
Golding, John Powell, Raymond(Ogmore)
Gourlay, Harry Prescott, John
Grant, George(Morpeth) Price, C.(Lewisham W)
Grant, John(Islington C) Race, Reg
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Rees, Rt Hon M(Leeds S)
Hamilton, James(Bothwell) Richardson, Jo
Hamilton, W. W.(C'tral Fife) Roberts, Albert(Normanton)
Hardy, Peter Roberts, Gwilym(Cannock)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Robertson, George
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Robinson, G.(Coventry NW)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Rooker, J. W.
Haynes, Frank Ross, Ernest(Dundee West)
Heffer, Eric S. Ross, Stephen(Isle of Wight)
Hogg, N.(E Dunb't'nshire) Rowlands, Ted
Holland, S.(L'b'th, Vauxh'll) Ryman, John
Home Robertson, John Sandeison, Neville
Homewood, William Sever, John
Hooley, Frank Sheerman, Barry
Howells, Geraint Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Huckfield, Les Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Hudson Davies, Gwilym E. Silkin, Rt Hon J.(Deptford)
Hughes, Mark(Durham) Silverman, Julius
Hughes, Robert(Aberdeen N) Skinner, Dennis
Hughes, Roy(Newport) Smith, Cyril(Rochdale)
Janner, Hon Greville Snape, Peter
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Soley, Clive
John, Brynmor Spriggs, Leslie
Johnson, James(Hull West) Stallard, A. W.
Johnston, Russell(Inverness) Steel, Rt Hon David
Jones, Rt Hon Alec(Rh'dda) Stewart, Rt Hon D.(W Isies)
Jones, Barry(East Flint) Stoddart, David
Jones, Dan(Burnley) Stott, Roger
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Strang, Gavin
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Straw, Jack
Lamond, James Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Leadbitter, Ted Taylor, Mrs Ann(Bolton W)
Leighton, Ronald Thomas, Dafydd(Merioneth)
Lewis, Arthur(N'ham NW) Thomas, Dr R.(Carmarthen)
Lewis, Ron(Carlisle) Thorne, Stan(Preston South)
Litherland, Robert Tilley, John
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
McCartney, Hugh Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Wainwright, R(Colne V)
McElhone, Frank Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
McGuire, Michael(Ince) Watkins, David
McKelvey, William Weetch, Ken
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Welsh, Michael
Maclennan, Robert White, Frank R.
McNally, Thomas White, J.(G'gow Pollok)
McNamara, Kevin Whitehead, Phillip
McTaggart, Robert Whitiock, William
McWilliam, John Wigley, Dafydd
Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Marshall, Dr Edmund(Goole) Williams, Rt Hon A(S'sea W)
Marshall, Jim(Leicester S) Wilson, Gordon(Dundee E)
Martin,M(G'gow S'burn) Wilson, William(C'try SE)
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Winnick, David
Maxton, John Woodall, Alec
Meacher, Michael Woolmer, Kenneth
Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Young, David(Bolton E)
Mikardo, Ian
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Tellers for the Noes:
Mitchell, R. C.(Soton Itchen) Mr. James Tinn and Mr. Allen McKay
Morris, Rt Hon C.(O'shaw)
Morris, Rt Hon J.(Aberavon)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time and passed.

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