§ Mr. Corrie
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is now in a position to announce the results of his review of the levels of grant and loan assistance available from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland under the crofters etc. building grants and loans scheme; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Younger
I have now completed the review. and I propose to increase the maximum levels of assistance as indicated in the following table. The present rates are included for information.
- (i) The thinning of trees in woodlands for silvicultural purposes will be exempted from felling licensing. Licences will continue to be required, however, for clear felling, including selective felling. We have asked the Forestry Commission to consult with the environmental department and timber growers Great Britain with a view to obtaining a mutually acceptable definition of the term "thinning" for the purposes of the necessary amending legislation.
- (ii) Administrative savings will be made by dispensing with follow-up inspections when replanting in accordance with a condition of a felling licence receives grant-aid. In such cases, the condition will be regarded as having been fulfilled when the first instalment of grant has been paid.
- (iii) Provision has been made in the Criminal Justice Bill for an increase in the maximum fine which may be imposed under the Forestry Act 1967 for failure to comply with the conditions of a felling licence.
- (iv) The provisions of the Forestry Act 1967 relating to felling directions which have never been used will be repealed.
- (v) The regulations under the Town and Country Planning Acts which require local authorities to provide the Forestry Commission with a copy of all tree preservation orders will be amended, to enable this requirement to be waived by agreement between the Commission and a local authority.
The reduction in the monitoring of licence conditions will be introduced immediately. The other modifications in procedures will be introduced when the necessary legislative changes have been made.
The Government have decided not to pursue the three remaining proposals relating to felling controls which were included in the commission's consultative paper. We have decided against recouping the costs of felling licensing by charging a fee. It has also been decided not to accept the proposal that detached woodlands of less than 0.25 hectares should be removed from felling licensing and that a system of notification to local authorities should instead be introduced for fellings within them. Finally, we have decided not to remove the restriction on the sale of the licence-free quota of timber which is at present limited by the Forestry Acts 1967 and 1979 to 5.5 cubic metres out of 30 cubic metres per quarter.
The changes I have announced, taken with the changes to the grant aid arrangements for private forestry contained in my statement of 28 July 1981, will meet our main objective of making the grant aid and felling control procedures less complex and less costly to administer. The Forestry Commission will also now be in a position to put in hand a review of the administration of the consultation procedures relating to both grants and felling licences, as envisaged in the consultative paper.