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Baroness Sharples: My Lords, can the Minister say whether any financial encouragement will be given to small timber growers?

Lord Sewel: My Lords, I confirm that every encouragement will be given to small timber growers. Systems are available to support both large and small timber growers. I recognise the contribution that small timber growers make to both the environment and the industry.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, can the Minister tell us when he will authorise or start the Forestry Commission's planting once more in place of the moratorium on planting?

Lord Sewel: My Lords, there is a moratorium on sales. We want to see an increase in plantings generally. It is true that in recent years plantings have fallen short of the previous Government's target, but we would like to see a general increase in plantings not only by the Forestry Commission, but by the industry as a whole.

Lord Gisborough: My Lords, in view of the undoubted fact that the majority of private forestry is better managed than the majority of Forestry Commission forestry--

Noble Lords: Oh!

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Lord Gisborough: It is, my Lords, and it is more environmentally friendly. There is no doubt about that. Given also the higher market value and the fact that land can be sold with covenants in order to protect access, would it not be much better for much of that forestry to be sold off so that the Government could use the funds that they receive for other projects?

Lord Sewel: No, my Lords. I dispute that private forestry management is undoubtedly superior to the management of the Forestry Commission.

Baroness Nicol: My Lords, does my noble friend recall that quite a short time ago--within the past two years--the previous Government went out to consultation on the matter of privatising the forestry industry and received negative responses from everyone, including the private forestry industry, which wanted the Forestry Commission to stay as it was and to continue to fund research?

Lord Sewel: My Lords, as always, my noble friend makes a well-informed and valuable point.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, the Minister has told the House that the Government will implement a moratorium on large-scale sales as set out in their manifesto. In answer to almost all the Questions that have been put so far, the Minister has said that he will maintain spending on small-scale plantings and the other matters that have been raised. Presumably, the Minister is aware that the sales of Forestry Commission assets, which currently amount to about 1 per cent. of its 1 million hectare-plus estate per annum, fund part of the commission's programme: grants to private owners, increased access to visitors and the purchase of freeholds where that is beneficial for access. If the Government intend to impose a moratorium on large-scale sales of Forestry Commission assets, they must either cut their programme or find the money from elsewhere.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, the last contribution sounded more like a statement than a Question. However, I shall deal with it in the spirit of a Question. Disposals have been used to fund other activities. They have also been used in the Government's general public expenditure survey settlement. We are reviewing those arrangements.

Earl Russell: My Lords, further to the Minister's original Answer, can he explain why the Government need to consider how to implement a moratorium? I thought that it would be rather simple.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, that is very true! The moratorium is in place. The question arises how one then moves to a situation in which large-scale disposals are avoided but at the same time the Forestry Commission is given flexibility to dispose of and acquire assets in the overall efficient management of its property.

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Tourist Coaches: Parking in London

3.11 p.m.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which authority is responsible for sanctioning the daily parking of tourist coaches in the no parking area situated on the south end of Great Cumberland Place, W1, affecting traffic flow into Marble Arch.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the City of Westminster is responsible for parking restrictions in Great Cumberland Place.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. Is she aware that this problem is not restricted solely to Marble Arch? Is she also aware that motorists are becoming more and more resentful at being fined and having their cars towed away in areas where other traffic can park with impunity uncontrolled by police or wardens?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the City of Westminster is aware of the problems. At the moment it is legal for coaches to load and unload in the particular part of Great Cumberland Place which causes the difficulty. However, in recognising that problem, the City of Westminster will be developing the area next year as a red route to deal with that. Those new traffic regulations will be enforced by the Metropolitan Police.

Lord McConnell: My Lords, is the Minister aware that part of the congestion in Great Cumberland Place is because the traffic lights at the Marble Arch end stay green long enough to allow only three or four vehicles through at a time?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the noble Lord is perfectly correct. This happens from time to time. The operation of the traffic lights is under review as part of the implementation of the red route. I shall draw his particular concern to the attention of both Westminster City Council and the Metropolitan Police. When the red route is implemented, there will be a careful review of the process to permit maximum traffic flow.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, if tourist coaches have so much trouble parking in London, will my noble friend issue advice that there is plenty of parking space in the beautiful county of Fife and many other beautiful parts of Scotland?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I do not wish to undermine the value of tourism in London. However, I cannot but agree that tourists would be well advised to travel to the beautiful county of Fife particularly were they to travel through the beautiful county of Lancashire to get there.

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Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there would be much less daily parking of tourist coaches and the blocking of the streets of London if more tourists were encouraged to take the Underground by the Government implementing a clear and agreed strategy to privatise it?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, we are delighted to receive support from the Opposition Benches for my right honourable friend's early review of the options of partnership projects in order to invest in the Underground. The £1.6 billion investment deficit that we inherited from the noble Baroness's party when in government must be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the provision of parking for tourist coaches in London is generally very poor, not just in Great Cumberland Place? Does she agree that this should be considered as part of the overall transport review that the Government will commence shortly?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, my noble friend is right. The London Coach Forum, which represents all interest groups, gives consideration to this matter. The work of implementing the red route must be taken alongside work to develop appropriate parking to meet the needs of both tourists and those who need to travel.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, do the Minister and my noble friend have any plans to prevent tourist coaches from parking where ordinary buses stop so that those who use the latter services can get on and off the buses? Sometimes passengers cannot see buses because tourist coaches are parked in the way.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, this is a problem in London. If the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, is aware of a particular problem and she writes to me, I shall ensure that it is brought to the attention of Westminster City Council and the Metropolitan Police.

Lord Boardman: My Lords, is the Minister aware that tourist coaches create congestion not just by parking but by travelling very slowly in order that places of interest can be pointed out to passengers, as well demonstrated in London this morning?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I believe that it would be difficult to enforce a regulation that demanded a particular speed of travel. Unless a red route is in place, sometimes it is difficult to move other than at a slow speed. Traffic management is difficult, but we seek to do all that we can to ensure that there is a reasonably free flow of traffic.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that measures have been promised year after year? Can the noble Baroness persuade Westminster City Council to do something about it?

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