“we are now setting up an independent panel on forestry that will consider the whole future direction of policy for England’s woods and forests.” Lord Henley, House of Lords Forest debate
In a week or two the chairman of the independent panel will be announced, shortly afterwards the names of those on the panel will be released. The government have been incredibly slow to release these names.
Normal practice would be to draw up a list of possible members within a week, produce a draft terms of reference, handling strategy, brief and a Press release (with quotes from the Secretary of State and the Chair)… why the delay?
What have we been told so far?
- The panel will be small, perhaps only 5 people
- It will be made up of experts, not representatives of NGO’s or ‘other’ bodies (ie; campaign groups)
- The panel will be free to “go out and discuss with as many different bodies as possible their concerns and views” (Lord Henley)
- The panel will be free to set up sub-committees, to bring in further expertise and comment
- The panel must report their findings to government in the autumn of 2011 (Sept to Nov)
What haven’t we been told?
- The panels terms of reference
- If the public voice will be listened to
- How and when the panels findings will be published for public scrutiny
- Will there be a public consultation once the panels recommendations have been published but BEFORE government implementation? For example; selling off the 15% remaining under threat of sale.
We have four questions
1) The 2009 public consultation on the Public Forest Estate and the resulting DEFRA working group paper appear to have been totally dismissed by government. Why? Will the hard work and money spent on the DEFRA working group paper be wasted or will the independent panel make use of it?
2) Although the 2011 public consultation on the Public Forest Estate was stopped early, there were a record number of responses. Will a report be published? Will the content of the public responses be taken into account by the independent panel?
3) How will the Public Forest Estate/Forestry Commission and the Independent Panels’ findings be incorporated into the Natural Environment White Paper?
4) Who is on the panel?