HC Deb 23 May 1990 vol 173 cc273-4
6. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will increase the Government's package of aid to replace trees lost in the recent storms.

Mr. Trippier

In February I announced a £1 million package of aid to Task Force Trees and English Heritage to help to replace amenity and historically important trees lost in this year's storms. We shall consider the provision of further aid as part of this autumn's public expenditure survey. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food recently anounced special cash help to assist planting of broadleaved trees in woodlands damaged by the storms.

Mr. Townsend

Although I pay tribute to the Government, the Countryside Commission and English Heritage for the work that they are doing to restore the widespread damage following the storms, does the Minister agree that it is now perfectly obvious that more needs to be done? Will he have a word with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to try to get him a little more interested in restoring damage and planting acorns—concepts that should not be utterly alien to the Treasury?

Mr. Trippier

I am sympathetic to my hon. Friend's underlying point. It is perfectly clear from the way that the Government have responded, especially with the near £30 million that has been spent following the incredible tragedy of the 1987 storms, that our commitment is total. Obviously, we shall have to wait for the negotiations in the public expenditure survey round later this year, but I have sympathy for the underlying point.

Mr. Tony Banks

Is the Minister aware of the storm devastation that still exists in the south-east? A number of trees still have not been cleared, never mind new planting. I echo what the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) said. Much more money is needed. How many trees were lost in those two major storms and how many trees have been replanted, given the small amount of money that the Government have made available?

Mr. Trippier

We have had a substantial number of applications from various bodies, including local authorities, and it would be impossible for me to catalogue the total number of trees affected, but after the recent storms we received 148 applications which I believe are eligible for grant aid. Some of that money will be forthcoming this financial year and some more next year in the public expenditure survey settlement. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I admit that the bulk of the cost is not in planting but in clearing fallen trees.