I strongly believe the Coalition’s plan to sell-off England's forests is an act of environmental vandalism. In the 1980s the then Conservative government also sold off thousands of hectares of land - the true value of which can never be reflected in the price government gets from selling them.
The Public Bodies Bill, which Labour Peers are currently opposing in the House of Lords, paves the way for the complete sell-off of the English Forestry Commission Estate (FCE). It will allow Ministers to dispose of land without consulting Parliament. Tory Ministers have failed to clarify how rights to public access and the maintenance of biodiversity in our forests will be managed.
Labour is leading the fight against the Bill in Parliament. My colleague Mary Creagh MP, Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary, has launched a new website www.thislandisourland.org.uk to keep people updated on the campaign.
The Forestry Commission’s estate covers 18% of England’s wooded areas and 2% of land. It consists of over 1,000 woods covering over 250,000 hectares of land with around 250 million trees. The Coalition wants to remove all safeguards which protect these vital natural assets.
I was pleased to speak in the recent debate on the "Public Forest Estate", opposing the Tory led Government's plans, you can read my contribution here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110202/debtext/110202-0003.htm#11020259001431
My colleagues and I will continue to challenge the Government on this important issue, and work alongside the many community campaigns and groups fighting against these dangerous proposals.