by David Babbs Jan 14th, 2011
A few people have got in touch asking for more background on where the government’s plans to sell off English forests have been made public. Here are a few links to some of the key primary documents. Comments and suggestions for other documents which should be linked to here would be welcome.
The Minister, Jim Paice MP, set it out in the plainest English on the 24th November 2010 when he talked about “the decision to move towards substantial, large-scale disposal of the forestry estate”.
That particular quote is from page 9 of a transcript the evidence he gave in the House of Lords. The whole transcript is here:
At the same time, legislation which would clear the way to a sell-off of up to 100% is before Parliament. It’s contained within the Public Bodies Bill which is currently passing through the House of Lords. The provisions of the bill (particularly clause 17) would give the Secretary of State power to dispose of up to 100% of the forests without further reference to Parliament.
Giving the government such wide-ranging powers to sell forests without Parliamentary scrutiny is obviously particularly worrying when taken together with Jim Paice’s statement above.
But even if the current government was giving reassurances that no selloffs are intended right now (which of course they aren’t) Clause 17 of the Public Bodies Bill would still be very worrying – it gives any future government freedom to privatise forests in England without even needing to get a vote through Parliament.
From the explanatory notes to the Public Bodies Bill:
Clause 17: Powers relating to functions of Secretary of State
50. Subsections (1) and (2) allow the Secretary of State to make an order amending the Forestry Act 1967 in relation to the exercise of certain functions, including those of managing, using, letting and disposing of forestry land. Subsection (3)allows the order to secure that the Secretary of State may exercise those functions for any purpose or without condition.
51. Subsections (5) and (6) allow the Secretary of State to delegate those functions to any person for a specified time and whether or not subject to conditions.
From the current draft of the bill before the Lords:
Powers relating to functions of Secretary of State
This section applies to the functions of the Secretary of State under the following provisions of the Forestry Act 1967—
section 39(2) (disposal);
section 39(3)(a) (management and use);
section 39(3)(b) (letting and granting of rights and interests).
The Secretary of State may by order amend the Forestry Act 1967 so as to modify the purposes or objective for which, or conditions under which, the
Secretary of State exercises a function to which this section applies.
An order under subsection (2) may in particular secure that the Secretary of State may exercise a function to which this section applies for any purpose or unconditionally.