The Guardian has a piece today saying that “finally” Labour has sat up and taken notice of the forests sell-off, which is a little inaccurate This was the first time, I think, the sell-off was raised in the Commons, and you will note that I just squeezed in there first. Not that it really matters…
Anyway, below is a blog post I actually drafted on Friday but didn’t get round to posting…
… I suspect I’m not the Farming Minister, James Paice’s favourite Labour MP…. Not only have I been badgering him (if that’s an appropriate word!) about the Sustainable Livestock Bill, the campaign against Nocton Dairies and indeed, badgers, but I’ve now written to him about the Government’s plans to sell off forestry commission owned land. I’ve relayed to him various criticisms voiced by constituents about the sell-off, and have asked him to respond to a number of questions:
- What measures will be put in place in the Public Bodies Bill to preserve the public benefits of forests
- Can the Government confirm that the Forestry Commission will continue to manage tree licensing
- Schedule 7 of the Public Bodies Bill allows for Forestry Commissioners to be abolished. If they are abolished will the Secretary of State directly manage public forests?
- How will public rights of access remain unaffected?
- Will new owners of land be required to meet current Forestry Commission obligations when managing woodland?
- What land-based businesses will be able to purchase land? Will restrictions on foreing ownership apply?
- What sort of trees will they be able to plant?
- Will the Forestry Commission receive the revenue from the sale of their land?
- What safeguards will be put in place to ensure the sustainable planting of new native woodland?
I’m doing this as a constituency MP, by the way, who’s been contacted by more than a few constituents about the issue, obviously not as a frontbencher because it’s not my brief. The tax issues relating to forest sell-offs are.