A very late night session in the Lords finished at 12.30 am (10th March) with the removal of the Forestry Commission clauses and any mention of Forestry in the Bill. Copied below (in a fascinating demonstration of the way the legislative process works) are the segments of Hansard that confirm this:
Clause 17 : Powers relating to functions of Secretary of State
Amendments 166BA to 166EA not moved.
Clause 17 disagreed.
Clause 18 : Powers relating to Forestry Commissioners
Amendments 166EB to 166G not moved.
Amendments 167 and 168 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Amendments 168A to 168D not moved.
Clause 18 disagreed.
Summing up the debate, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Lord Henley confirmed that the below amendments tabled by Lord Taylor will remove any final references to forestry:
My Lords, it is with some delight and some relief that I move Amendment 175C and in doing so speak to Amendments 175D, 175E and 182. The relief for all those in the Committee at this stage is because this is the last substantive group in the entire stage. (…) I informed the Committee last week that the Government had decided to remove the forestry clauses from the Bill, and this we have now done. This set of amendments would remove a series of references to the Forestry Commission from Clauses 23 and 24. It is a tidying up exercise. I beg to move.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon:
My Lords, I warmly welcome these amendments and the removal of the final references to the Forestry Commission. We have been told on numerous occasions that the campaign against the sale of our forests and woodlands was inflammatory and misguided, but the forestry clauses were, I believe, a testament to the fact that the Government wished to enable the sale of our woodlands and forests. The Minister responsible made that clear on a number of occasions. I am glad that the Bill is now being amended. I know that hundreds of people up and down the country will feel mightily relieved – the very people who welcomed the independent panel looking into the future of forestry. We look forward to their deliberations in due course.
Now any reference to Forestry has been removed from this Bill, it’s hard to see how Government can push ahead with a comprehensive plan for disposal of sites on England’s public forest estate. The Independent Panel – the terms of reference for which are about to be announced – should be able to put forward ideas about the future of forestry policy in England. Like so many others, we await to see what happens next!
Lee Bruce, Government Affairs Officer