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Norman Baker MP

On 22 Feb 2011 at 9:21am Sven Radio wrote:
Norman Baker supported the Government Bill to sell off the forests of this country and here is the evidence incase you have doubts.
Dear Michael Hanson,
Thank you for taking the time to contact my office with regard to possible reforms to the Forestry Commission.
Frankly, this matter has been misrepresented. The proposals, if implemented, are not going to result in the wholesale sell off of forestry, as some believe. As it stands, 70% of England's woodlands are already privately owned, and generally well maintained, with the Forestry Commission controlling just 18%. Under the proposed reforms, about only 20% of the Commission's estate, so about 4% of all forest land, would be up for sale.
The concept of transferring ownership of public forest land is, in fact, a continuation of a policy pursued by the previous Labour government, who I should add sold off 25,000 hectares of forestry. The main reason that they have attracted public attention now is because of the decision of DEFRA to try to be more upfront and consult the public and interested groups on the way forward. The ultimate decision will fully take into account the public response to that, something the previous government totally failed to do.
This policy is not set in stone, and is subject to genuine consultation, so I would encourage you to write to contact the Consultation Coordinator to ensure that your views are taken into account. You can download a consultation form at the website: www.forestry.gov.uk or request a form by calling 0845 367 3787 or writing to:
Public Forest Estate Consultation Coordinator
Forestry Commission England
620 Bristol Business Park
Coldharbour Lane
BS16 1EJ
I would also make it clear that, if progressed, it would absolutely not result in a free-for-all of golf courses and developments across the country's woodlands, as is the perception of some. Rather, as a result of pressure from both within the coalition (I myself have written to the Secretary of State about this) and from the wider public, a very robust set of conditions has been put forward for consultation, including ones to ensure the protection of biodiversity and to require replanting. For instance, any leases offered will contain robust access, public benefit and historic rights and biodiversity clauses, so people will still be able to enjoy rural woodland. This is something that the previous government did not do when selling off woodland.
To reflect my position, on the 2nd of February, I voted for the following amendment:
(That this House) "deplores the actions of the previous administration in selling off 25,000 acres of public forestry estate with wholly inadequate protections; notes that the previous administration sought to go even further in finding ways to exploit the forestry estate for commercial gain as recently as 2009; welcomes the consultation proposals to guarantee the future protection of heritage forests by offering them charitable trust status; supports the consultation proposals for robust access and public benefit conditions that will be put in place through lease conditions, including access rights for cyclists and horse-riders; believes the leasehold conditions regarding biodiversity and wildlife conservation will safeguard significant important environmental benefits; sees these proposals as important in resolving the conflict of interest whereby the Forestry Commission is the regulator of the timber sector whilst being the largest operator in the England timber market; considers that debate on the future of the forest estate ought to be conducted on the basis of the facts of the Government's proposals; and believes that under these proposals people will continue to enjoy the access and benefits they currently have from the woodlands of England."
On a related matter, whether the proposals go forward or not, you may be pleased to know that the coalition government has announced a new 'Big Tree Plant', which will see one million extra trees planted across England in the next four years. This is the first government tree planting campaign since the 1970s and will plant trees in urban areas that need them most. The campaign will be carried out by the government and the Forestry Commission and will bring together charities and conservation organisations, such as The Tree Council, Woodland Trust and Trees for Cities.
Separately, my department, the Department for Transport, has announced it wants to plant two million trees along the proposed route of High Speed 2.
Lastly, you indicated that you wanted me to vote against these proposals. Leaving aside the facts above, not least that all that is proposed at the moment is a consultation, I have to say that there is a bigger picture that I must consider.
The Coalition Agreement, which was formulated after the General Election, is a contract and both sides must abide by this, particularly ministers for whom collective responsibility applies as it has for every government in living memory. Neither the Lib Dems nor the Tories can, therefore, just throw our toys out of the pram every time an issue comes up that we do not necessarily fully support.
As things stand, the Lib Dems have managed to get 65% of our manifesto within the Coalition Agreement and I attach a copy of some of our policies that have been, or are in the process of being enacted. To elevate one issue above any others would put all this at risk. I would ask you therefore to consider matters in the round, as I have to.
It would be possible, in theory, for an arrangement to exist whereby Lib Dems treated every issue on its merits and voted accordingly. That, however, would have meant that instead of the present coalition, there would be a minority Conservative government, putting forward only Conservative policies. It is also possible that if the coalition were to end, another General Election could follow shortly afterwards and the Conservatives could win with a majority.
I hope that this is helpful
Yours sincerely,
Norman Baker MP
On 22 Feb 2011 at 10:05am Twinky wrote:
"considers that debate on the future of the forest estate ought to be conducted on the basis of the facts of the Government's proposals" - sems pretty sensible to me. A debate fuelled by hysteria.
On 22 Feb 2011 at 4:17pm 'ere be monsters wrote:
What's your problem with that then Sven?
On 22 Feb 2011 at 6:59pm SHS wrote:
I have lots of time so please write longer messages for me not to read.
On 23 Feb 2011 at 9:46am Sven Radio wrote:
This is my reply and may answer your question of what I feel is wrong with it - if not please tell me why you agree with Mr Baker.
Dear Mr Baker,

I thank you for your standard letter in reply to my two independent concerns. I suspect these replies are churned out on a regular basis to the many hundreds, possibly thousands of people who have taken the time to write to you. Not wishing to be churlish it would appear that you have choosen a blanket-letter that only half answers the issues involved and does not address my fundimental concerns.
Firstly, if you take the sell off of the New Forest as an example, it is little wonder that people are up in arms. this being one of the most popular and well used woodlands in this country. So your suggestion that the previous government sold off huge tracts of land with very little concern from the public does indeed ring true, but does not give the present government carte blanche to sell of the land that is remaining. (I might add as a side note that it is an old chestnut to blame previous governments for the decisions of the present one.)
Why is the Forestry Commission being stripped of its responsibilities should be more the question that should be answered. You point towards irregularities and the conflict of interests that the FC holds and that the Tory/Lib Dem government is doing the country a great service by transferring this land into private hands so that they can then save and exploit what is common land and our heritage at the same time. You try to portray the government as the protectors of our heritage and ancient trees when in actuality that is not the case at all. Do we not already have "... robust access, public benefit and historic rights and biodiversity clauses, so people will still be able to enjoy rural woodland. This is something that the previous government did not do when selling off woodland." What should be added is that we the Tories/LibDems will give you all of something that you already have but with our blessing.
Secondly, why is this land being sold off? Is this another step in the direction of privatisation of the woodlands under our feet. Does this fall under/into the catalogue of all previous programmes of privatisation that started with Margaret Thatcher and is now being completed by your illustrious leader David Cameron? (sorry Nick Clegg) I am old enough to remember so many disasters when the private sector moves into the public sector, and you Mr Baker should take a long, hard look at your own department to understand our terrible railways that are over crowded, filthy, and expensive before casting your vote in favour of this move. But, I will hold my tongue and concentrate on the issue at hand.
I welcome the planting of trees but wonder how many old trees will be knocked down in order to plant new ones. Can you not see the anger that this move arouses? You talk of toys in prams and not throwing them out and how your party is countermanding the Tories by making sure that 65% of the input into the bill is worded/taken from Lib Dem policies on this matter. By mentioning this you are saying that the Bill would have been more draconian if not for your party's ability to infiltrate the Tory party. So in actuality you are keeping the Tories in power by supporting them? It is your party then that is responsible for all the ills befalling this country from attacks on the poor and vulnerable, to the NHS, to student fees, to the continuation of the war in Afghanistan. You are saying that the government would collapse and that a general election would have to be called if the LibDems withdrew their support. Then to add to that you point out that the Tories may get back into power with a greater majority! That proves to me Mr Baker how out of touch you really are. This government is a disgrace to all decent thinking people, and I am certain this will be reflected in the next General Election and to my mind the sooner the better. But let us not forget your own seat here in Lewes. I'm sure the good people of the middle-classes of this town will ensure your safe return and that by your continuing support of the Tories, who are after all greatly misunderstood, it is almost guaranteed. After all the public have short memories do they not?
On 23 Feb 2011 at 11:00am Independent thinker wrote:
Not wanting to sound like I'm defending the government, as I strongly disagree with most of their policies, but wasn't the key point Baker made that the bill had gone out to consultation? And wasn't the result of that consultation an overwhelming rejection of the bill? And didn't they then drop the bill even before the consultation was over, and the minister responsible publicly apologise for getting it wrong? So isn't that, you know, a good thing?
On 23 Feb 2011 at 12:16pm 'ere be monsters wrote:
Sven "You try to portray the government as the protectors of our heritage and ancient trees when in actuality that is not the case at all." If that's the case shouldn't you be happy they could be selling them off if they are no good at looking after them.
There's been some drivel on this forum about politics, but I tell you what.......................
On 23 Feb 2011 at 12:23pm Lumberjack wrote:
Exactly Independent Thinker, and what's more, it's not as if the bits of forest in question were going to be cut down anyway. I think this was all a bit of a storm in a teacup. Still, at least people can move on to some other worthy cause now - like wandering around Boots in fancy dress!
On 23 Feb 2011 at 6:39pm Sven Radio wrote:
Have you been following the same discussion "You try to portray the government as the protectors of our heritage and ancient trees when in actuality that is not the case at all." I was bringing to light Norman Baker's stance on the government policy of selling our heritage. I was trying to say that this lovely Liberal MP voted in favour of selling off the woodlands - yes I know all about the recent developments and the dropping of the Bill but the point I was trying to make if you care to look at what i've said is this man is NOT to be trusted! Now do you get it? He doesn't give a toss - and Lumberjack what is wrong with doing that when the issues highlighted are so important for us all?
On 23 Feb 2011 at 10:04pm MC wrote:
... if there is one thing that is certain, it is that Norman Baker is to be trusted.
That's not to say he might not be wrong.
On 24 Feb 2011 at 8:31am 'ere be monsters wrote:
If that's what you wanted to say, then that's what you should have said. My point is still valid. Your posts are so rambling perhaps you lose the plot and forget what point it is you're trying to make.
On 25 Feb 2011 at 6:51am Sven Radio wrote:
It is difficult to discern whether he got it wrong or whether he can he trusted. I mean he's got it wrong on two counts now - one was voting in favour of student fees to be raised and the other is this issue of voting for the woodlands to be sold off. With regard to the fees particularly, he said one thing and did another. I thought that was trust. I mean I trusted him to vote against a particular issue and he didn't and all you can say is he must have got it wrong! What did he get wrong? Did his hand slip on the voting form?
On 25 Feb 2011 at 11:16am Independent thinker wrote:
Sven, on tuition fees the Lib Dems deserve to take a battering. They made a pledge to young voters in particular and broke it. They felt being able to influence government policy on a wide range of issues they cared about, and forcing improvements on the tuition fees bill that the Tories would bring in regardless, made it worth breaking that pledge. It'll be up to voters at the next election to decide if they were right.

On forests, though, I think you're completely wrong. Baker did not vote in favour of selling off the forests, he voted against an opposition motion condemning the policy which hadn't been set yet as it was still in consultation. What he did do, was explain what his thinking was to you and why he supported it in principle which I imagine most politicians wouldn't have done as they could just as easily, and less honestly, said "I'm waiting for the result of the consultation period to make up my mind". There was no betrayal of trust, they held a consultation as promised and listened to the result, even if they didn't agree with it. The policy has been dropped and the minister responsible apologised. Politicians should be applauded for that, rather than condemned.

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