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Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, does not the Minister agree that those who deface monuments with graffiti should clean them up themselves as a part of community service orders--or even be brought from young offenders institutions to do that work?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Baroness makes some wise suggestions. The scheme in the London Borough of Sutton, to which I referred earlier, does exactly that. Young offenders who are subject to community service orders are involved in cleaning up areas which have been subjected to graffiti. I think that is useful and a constructive use of their time. It is something to be commended and adopted nationally.
Viscount Falkland: My Lords, is not an important part of the attraction to those who put graffiti on walls the illegality of it? There is an excitement about it which makes it difficult to deal with. Would not the problem be better approached by diverting those who do it, by all means possible, to buildings of lesser merit? I could name a few.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Viscount seems to be suggesting that there are some buildings over which it would be more acceptable for "graffitists" to spread their wise words. I am not sure that the public at large would necessarily agree with that. I am rather reminded that on the subway system in New York there was a big campaign over 10 years to deter graffitists. It did so very successfully through a mixture of the methods suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Rendell, and by ensuring that graffitists were caught. That is an extremely powerful deterrent.
Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, as in many things, prevention is better than cure, particularly as regards crime? The powers of stop and search are very relevant to this issue. Young police officers have approached me--they are very reluctant to bend the rules in this area, for obvious reasons--and pointed out that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, which provides powers of stop and search, simply deals with stolen goods and offensive weapons; it does not include stopping people who are carrying, for example, aerosol cans for defacing buildings. In my day, of course, we used to use the Ways and Means Act. I am not suggesting that young police officers should do that. But there is a good case for extending the law. Will the Minister consider extending the law to cover stopping and searching people where it is suspected that they are carrying weapons or tools for defacing buildings?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, my noble friend speaks with far greater experience of these matters than I. No doubt over the years he has apprehended a number of graffitists. Perhaps we should take his good advice to heart and consider his proposals when we come to our next review of the situation.
Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, given that lessons in citizenship now form a part of the national curriculum in schools, does my noble friend consider that education might be an effective deterrent to those who might be tempted to spread graffiti?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I tend to agree that education can act as a form of deterrent--although that comment may not be quite the right use of language here. Nevertheless, encouraging a sense of civic pride and steering young people towards more
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, the Forestry Commission checks the source of all the trees it plants itself to ensure that the most suitable seed has been used. For trees planted by others with grant aid from the Forestry Commission, the commission checks the source of the trees wherever necessary. For example, the commission often includes a condition when grant-aiding broad-leaved and native Scots pine woodland which specifies that only plants grown from locally collected seed can be used.
Baroness Sharples: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply. Is she aware that imports from continental suppliers often include trees from countries where the climate is completely different from our own? Is she further aware that in the national forest in Leicestershire, trees have been planted using unsuitable products from Hungary?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the National Forest Company, has, I understand, today announced that more than 3 million trees have now been planted and that many of the partners in that exercise, for example, the Woodland Trust, specify the use of native origin trees. Two issues arise here. The first, regulation, has been tackled at EU level. A new directive now in place extends the number of species upon which we shall be able to take action against imports should adverse effects be found. Secondly, we must consider the issue of supply. I understand that with some broad-leaved species, the native supply is not adequate to meet demand.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, does the Minister accept that during the 20 to 30 years after the Second World War, the Forestry Commission undertook a great deal of work on the provenance of particular trees and identified their superior strains? Will she ensure that that work, which has been completed, is not lost, either in the present or in the future?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I agree that such work is extremely important. Some 95 per cent of the trees planted by the Forestry Commission are grown from seed collected in Britain. The commission carefully selects trees that are best suited to its requirements, usually gathering seeds from its own seed stands. For native woodland, it uses locally
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, are there any circumstances, perhaps relating to species, in which it would be illegal for the Forestry Commission or others to discriminate against trees from the European Union?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I understand that the directive, which gives member states powers to control imports, has been extended. Previously it covered only the main conifer species and three broad-leaved trees: oak, beech and poplar. The directive now allows us to ban the sale of material which would have an adverse effect on forestry and the environment, genetic resources or biodiversity. We have the necessary powers in place.
Baroness Sharples: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that the grants made available for tree planting are not at all generous? Perhaps the grants offered for plantings where the origin of the seed is definitely known could be rather more generous?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, as I said, we have achieved an all-time high level of grant for woodland planting schemes at £40 million. Under the England rural development plan we foresee a 26 per cent increase in the woodland grant scheme budget and a 75 per cent increase in the farm woodland premium scheme budget. That means that we shall be able to take further action on forest regeneration and conservation. Equally, I hope that I have been able to reassure the House that we shall ensure that plantings are appropriate to meet local needs.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, can the Minister give the House an assurance that we are free to carry on planting indigenous oak trees in this country without any interference from the European Union?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I believe that I can give that assurance. However, I should tell the noble Lord that we have encountered a problem as regards oak trees. They produce seeds only irregularly in Britain, averaging around one-half of our total requirement. That is why we need to import acorns and beechmasts, or young trees grown from seed. It is not a matter of our not being allowed to ban imports; rather it is that we do not have sufficient native production of the necessary quality to ensure an adequate replacement of oak trees.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, the Government welcome the task force report. It is a helpful contribution to the campaign to raise standards in schools.
The Government were working to reduce bureaucracy long before the task force report and have implemented measures which reach far beyond the recommendations of the report. For example, on 1st June the Government announced that, from this September, they would cut by a third the amount of materials and by a half the amount of paperwork they send automatically to schools.
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