Below is a copy of the transcript of Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East – Con) contribution to Wednesdays debate in the commons (taken from the Hansard). He voted on behalf of his constituents to Save Our Forests.
I’m sharing it here as I want you to see just how much effect YOU have had by taking part in this campaign we find ourselves in. Especially as the Tory line in the media, at the moment, is that we are just a “roused mob” with “no understanding of the issue”.
Caroline Spelman has said, on more than one occasion now, that the public don’t understand the issues and conservative journalist James Delingpole said on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions tonight that “petitioners are just a roused mob”.
The Tory MP below didn’t want to go against his party’s line. However…he simply can’t ignore the many letters and comments he is getting from his constituents. That’s YOU that is! There’s no question we have already made a difference.
WE CAN WIN!
He isn’t the only MP that mentioned you. I share this as a good example!
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Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con):
At the end of that classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, the James Stewart character is taken back to see what would have happened to his home town, Bedford Falls, if he had never lived. He discovers that it would have been cheapened, commercialised and degraded. Indeed, even its name would have been changed to Pottersville after the greedy grasping capitalist who was the villain of the film. I know that no one would wish to see any such fate befall the New Forest, but there is huge concern in my constituency that steps may be taken in that sort of direction.
I had an early start this morning. I had to go to the New Forest and get back in time for the debate, because I was attending the funeral of my constituent and friend, Mr Mike Gilling. Mike was the sort of person who, by anyone’s definition of a society, big or not, put into it far more than he took out of it. It was therefore not surprising that there was a wide spectrum of mourners at that funeral, representing a good cross-section of the people of Hythe, which is on the edge of the New Forest. Did any of them come up to me after the funeral and say, “Julian, I really think you should be supporting these proposals that the Government are putting forward for the New Forest”? Not one. Did anyone come up to me and say, “Julian, I do hope you’re going to speak out against these proposals this afternoon in the debate”? Quite a few.
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I did not just go by an, as it were, self-selecting sample like that. Nor did I just go by the self-selecting sample of people who have written a sheaf of letters to me, even though the balance is still dozens on one side of the argument and not yet a single letter-the Whips Office had better get cracking and find someone in my constituency so that I cannot say this again-in favour of the Government’s proposals. No, I am afraid it is all anti.
I did not rely even on those two samples, the small one and the larger one via the correspondence. I also spoke to one of the most senior figures in the New Forest, who has all the expertise that I freely confess I lack. What he said to me was that everybody in the New Forest who is involved in its administration in various types, capacities and dimensions is in a state of deep shock; that the status quo is unanimously preferred; and that, if there is a consultation, we had better hope that it is a genuine one, because then, on the basis of the sampling that I am seeing so far, there will be an overwhelming series of representations against what is proposed.
Neil Carmichael: What I would like to know is what will happen to multi-purpose woods-those which are commercial, heritage and used for recreation.
Dr Lewis: My hon. Friend will find that I am coming to that very point. There are two models according to which the New Forest can be run. There is the old model, with many sources of power intermixing, interacting and influencing each other, and there is the overarching model, with some authority in place to which everything else is subservient. My dear and hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Mr Swayne) was right when he said that we stood shoulder to shoulder to battle against the national park authority being imposed on us, because we felt that that was an overarching model rather than an interacting model of different organisations.
That is where I fear my Front-Bench team has lost its way. It is not as if the Forestry Commission has, or ever has had, overall control. The Forestry Commission is one of a number of bodies in this universe, along with the verderers, the New Forest Commoners Defence Association, and voluntary bodies such as the New Forest Association, all of which have to work together and persuade each other before they can go forward. The Forestry Commission is not just about commerce or timber; it is also about conservation and disease control.
Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con): Does my hon. Friend share my concern that when phytophthora ramorum, otherwise known as sudden oak death, is starting to devastate large forests and mixed woodland, it is not the right time to do something that might put at risk measures to control it?
Dr Lewis: I share that concern. It comes back to the exchange that I had with the Secretary of State during her initial contribution. There is a deficit in the running of the New Forest, and there is a good reason why there is a deficit. It is precisely because the Forestry Commission has duties, such as trying to address matters concerning disease and matters concerning conservation, as well as trying to make what profit it can from the commercial management of the timber industry.