From the House of Commons library – dated 6th January 2011 – this report clearly shows that a Working Group set up by the last Government recommended that the public forests estate “remain under public control and accountability“.
You can read the full PDF document here but an extract that more fully shows the enabling nature of the Public Bodies Bill is below:
4.2 Public Bodies Bill 2010—powers to dispose of the Public Forest Estate
The Public Bodies Bill 2010, introduced to the House of Lords, contains clauses 17 and 18 relating to the reform of the Forestry Commission. It would 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) of clause 17 allows the Secretary of State to exercise these functions “for any purpose or without condition”.
Defra Minister James Paice MP said that these powers were required to enable the Government to sell a substantial part of the PFE:
In order to have substantial disposal, we need to change the law. Our lawyers advise us that up to about 15% of the forest could be sold without risk of transgression of current legislation, which requires the Commission to own and manage the public estate. To get beyond that, we would need to change the law.
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