Don’t go down in the woods today

 

            A favourite nursery song gives topical Labour  advice to Ministers:

“If you go out in the woods today,

You’re sure of a big surprise.

If you go out in the woods today

You’d better go in disguise”

          I am a tree hugger. I like trees. I love looking out at a wooded vista. I think trees planted in towns and cities take some of the severity off the urban landscape. I favour keeping woods and trees where possible.

          I also understand the strong feeling  we share, that some of the great woods are part of our common inheritance. They date back to times when commonland offered poorer citizens the chance of augmenting their incomes. As a boy I picked bluebells and primroses from commonland woods in the spring, and took home blackberries for a pie in the autumn. In our new regulated world I would not dare do those things today.

          I do not have that same strong sense of national ownership and enjoyment with some Forestry Commission Plantations. The Forestry Commission was the body which in various places cut down old deciduous mixed woods, and replaced them with carefully farmed conifer plantations. If I ever venture onto Forestry Commission land I keep to the authorised footpath or bridleway. I would expect some official to pop out of a concealed hut somewhere and fine me if I stooped  to pick a wild flower or wandered off the approved track. I might end up being  accused of crushing  underfoot some protected beetle or fungus which an expensive consultancy study had revealed.

                I am a convinced tree saver, but I am also an economic realist. There are occasions when Planning authorities need to grant development permissions which entail cutting down some trees to make space for new homes or factories. In such cases it is good if the Council requires the developer to place at least an equal number of new trees in appropriate places in the development to replace those lost. Such development should not take place in heritage forests, which are already protected by planning law and other special designations in many cases.

                 Listening to the wild debate in the Commons on Wednesday I despaired of any rational approach to this problem. So many seem to think private sector trees are not as beautiful or useful as public sector trees. Others wrongly think every private owner of trees harbours the desire to cut them all down and build, or intends  to block all rights of way and close all car parks in and near the woods.  Thinking the worst of all such people, they also think the law is not strong enough to enforce the clear public wish that all rights of access should be preserved where Forestry Commission woods are transferred on lease to private managers.

                  I think we need our heritage and amenity woods, and should expand them as this government says it wishes to do. We also need more commercial woods, run with profit and growth in mind. We import far too much of our timber. The Forestry Commission has left us very reliant on imports for most of our needs. Harnessing more private capital and management might help bring about a larger and more successful timber industry in the UK.

Adapting the old song

“If you go out in the woods today

You’re sure of a big surprise

If you go out in the woods today

You’ll find them full of lies”

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49 Comments

  1. norman
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Even though I live in the middle of nowhere I’m completely ignorant about tree farming but common sense tells me that any private company will want to nurture any asset they buy to ensure a long term return. You wouldn’t buy a factory then strip it all down and sell it for scrap so why would foresters, who one imagines understands more about trees than most of us, do so?

    I can’t see what all the fuss is about.

    • alexmews
      Posted February 4, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      all the fuss is about the current government, headed by a PR professional. not being able to sell a message. anyone who saw QT last night will know the problem. the shrill economist painted a picture, making out that the common folk of England were like the rabbits in Watership Down and the ‘Tory-led Government’ are warming up the chainsaws and bulldozers. Of course this porttait got everyone onside. the government minster, damien green, was completely unable to make a rational argument and therefore the story was left at the emotional level. the policy will therefore unravel.

    • wab
      Posted February 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      Why are you assuming that foresters are the ones buying the forests and not investment companies? Let’s see, I can buy a forest courtesy of my friends in central government for a couple of thousand pounds per acre. If I can get planning permission to put houses and/or offices on the site, courtesy of my friends in local government, then suddenly it is worth a million pounds per acre. Wow, what a dilemma. Do I cut (some/many/most of) the trees down or not.

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted February 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        Trust me when I say this, the idea that you would get planning to build houses on forests, is to say the least very, very remote indeed. I say this a twenty year veteran in the house building industry.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    You have the balance on trees and the timber industry about right I think.

    The BBC loves the phrase “double dip” the argument seems always to be BBC and Labour party framed along the absurd lines “if the government cuts public spending now a double dip is very likely, do the recent poor figures not prove this is right?”

    The Tory response is always rather weak. Correctly blaming the current position on Balls and Brown’s mismanagement but always failing to make key the point. Which is surely simply that without a reduction in the state sector, reductions in regulations, proper banking facilities and then lower tax rates then growth in the private sector and actual tax receipt growth will not happen at all.

    Anyway they have not made any real public sector cuts yet anyway.

    How on earth can paying yet more people, in the state sector, with borrowed money to do nothing very useful (and sometimes actually negative) help us avoid a double dip?

    A positive vision with a much smaller state sector and light at the end of the tunnel is what is needed – where is it They are still pushing daft employment laws on us?

    Getting rid (only in part) of Mrs Ball’s absurd HIP packs is not remotely enough and time is short.

    • lifelogic
      Posted February 4, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      I hear George Osborne is today launching another (PR) web site for small businesses to make suggestions I hope they will not be too rude. He could just read your site I suppose but anyway I will forward these suggestions below when I find his site.

      First he needs to actually personally believe in and put forwards a genuine vision of a smaller state/smaller taxes and work towards this. 25% of GDP is about right.

      He also needs to convince business & investors that he will have, at least a chance, at the next election.

      Then he needs to regulate the banks so they do actually lend to sound UK businesses and do not go bust gambling on paper again.

      Then he needs to cut employment laws, cut redundancy cost, health and safety and most other regulations down to size. In short leave businesses alone.

      Then he need to leave, or just have free trade with, the EU and work mainly with the countries outside who have decent growth rates instead.

      Then he needs to abandon and renounce the expensive green energy religion.
      and make the BBC take a genuine scientific non religious view on this.

      I doubt much will materialise but we shall see.

      • Bazman
        Posted February 4, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        Deregulate everything, but regulate the banks more? Am I Missing something in your argument, surely banks are the ones on the ground to make the right decision on who to lend to and how much?

  3. Colin D.
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Your comments may well be valid, but selling woodland will not pay off the national debt. With all the problems facing the Coalition, why on earth have they got themselves dragged into this controversial subject? It does nothing to enhance their reputation and if the sell off proceeds, there will bad feeling, jibes and criticism that will be constantly levelled at the Government – even up to the next election.
    This is all a classic ‘own goal’ by people who have allowed themselves to become disconnected from the general public.

    • Richard Calhoun
      Posted February 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      To answer your question, the State needs to withdraw from holding any means of production….. we are / should be a capitalist economy with a free market philosophy.

  4. Javelin
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    It’s all down to the details. I’d want two things ensured. Firstly that wooded land expands in size – housing is OK. Second that public access is made to the woods – not just selected pathways. If the National Trust wants to manage this them fine. There is nothing worse than walking through a wood and seeing a fenced area with no purpose. It’s just like seeing roadworks for months with nobody working on it.

    • Posted February 4, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      The National Trust tend to restrict access to properties they manage to members or paying visitors.

      Makes sense really. Maybe the recreational forests should be given to the NT and the timber ones auctioned off.

  5. G. Tingey
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    VERY very simple solution.

    Allow all the Forestry Commisssion wodds to be sold, with one compulsory condition.
    The day before any sales are finalised, make an official government declaration that all these woods are “Access Land”.

    No problem at all, then, is there?

  6. Bill
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I can’t see why private forests would be any more efficient, than those of the Forestry Commission (and cut the import bill) the trees grow at the same rate.

    Kielder forest at 250 square miles – largest in England. Home to rare plants rare bogs, the commission now plant a mixture of pine and native broadleaf trees.

    They run days for safari’s, star watching, Goshawk watching, evening deer watch, deer safari’s, bat watch, dawn chorus.

    Or you can just hike through the forests or fish in the streams for a few pounds.
    A private owner may seek to drain the bog lands, plant only Scandinavian pine and reduce the activities.

    It’s an inexpensive day out for families, in my view, best left alone.

    • Mike Fowle
      Posted February 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Well, I drove through Kielder Forest about five years ago. I thought it was the most boring dispiriting place I have ever visited.

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Given the shambolic way in which this issue has been handled by the government I think the following nursery rhyme is more appropriate to the outcome:
    “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
    All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
    Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

  8. Martin
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I’d like to see all new forests (private or public) be made to plant a substantial part of their forests with mixed native trees. North American quick grow may be economic but it is ugly. Sustainable native forestry ought to be the goal.

    It is government policy to require mixed wood replanting in some places where the Forestry Commission had planted conifers.

  9. Winston Smith
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    As has been said before, the proposal has been handled badly. The Government has, yet again, failed to communicate the benefits, the history and the reasons behind the proposal. The economic benefit of the sale is comparably small compared to other State assets that are ripe for privatisation. There is one very large such asset, which continues to devote much of its resources to undermine the Coalition, the BBC. You will never achieve electoral success whilst the monopolistic broadcaster conspires against you.

    • lifelogic
      Posted February 4, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      I tend to agree with this on the big BBC problem and there is also a lot of propaganda in schools, in school books and in school even the school exam syllabus. It is difficult to address this as most in the BBC have grown up with this drip feed of propaganda read the Guardian and Independent and now they honestly belief (contrary to all the scientific evidence) that for example:

      reducing public expenditure is taking money out of the economy
      nuclear power is the work of the devil
      men and women are identical (or would be but for societies evil discrimination/conditioning)
      anyone who thinks global warming is largely an exaggeration (as most sensible
      scientists do) is a mad flat earther to be ridiculed whenever they can.
      Stronger employment laws are good for employees
      More health and safety laws increase overall safety
      And that if you pull hard on your shoe laces you will pull yourself off the ground!

      • Liz
        Posted February 4, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        They also believe
        Education – That 100% of children go to state schools and if secondary then they must be mixed comprensives as any mention of private schools, grammar schools or single sex schools is forbidden.
        Ditto – Health – no mention of private health or systems in other countries that produce better outcomes far cheaper are allowed to be mentioned either.

      • Matt
        Posted February 4, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

        I’m guessing you don’t deal much with facts. However most people do not read the Guardian or the Independent. Most people don’t read a paper at all but those that do mostly read the Sun and the Mail.

  10. Richard
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I watched BBC Question Time last night and my advice to the Government is to stop making any changes on forests and just drop the subject as soon as possible.
    The audience were more insensed about this issue than anything else and were way beyond the point of even listening to Damien Green and his quite reasonable arguments on the matter.
    It is odd how small issues like this can ruin Goverment popularity rather than radical action on major issues, but this matter does seem to be one of those.
    Perhaps Cameron has judged the mood of the nation correctly-we dont want cuts, we want more Govt jobs, more Quango jobs, more Council jobs, more NHS jobs, more EU jobs, more increases on the prices of our homes and lots of cheap and easy to get credit which we may be able to wriggle out of having to pay back, assuming inflation doesnt do it for us.
    So I say, citizens are you with me? lets man the barracades and tax the rich, make the bankers pay, lets get those money printing presses going.
    Its amazing what watching just one BBC Question Time programme can do for a man

    • Winston Smith
      Posted February 4, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      The BBC deliberately fill the audience with lefties and public sector workers (if you believe the two are separate). The application has leading questions, allowing them to make assumptions on your political leanings and they will often ring up applicants if in doubt. The warm-up fella tries to manipulate the audience’s mood with left-leaning jokes.

  11. Damien
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I agree with all of you points but would only add that where ever practicable the state should be smaller and should not be in competition with the private sector. In this instance the Forestry Commission is owner and regulator of 18% of the forests. This represents an unfair competitive advantage and if they are to retain ownership that conflict must be resolved.

    Certainly it is unlikely that the sale of some of these forests will bring any substantial economic savings. Given the emotion around theses forests’ it may be wise to compromise.

    I still think that the sates ownership of £600 billion of property is too much give our economic situation. The coalition should create a new ‘right to buy ‘scheme whereby the public can buy shares/bonds in the governments government portfolio which should be managed as efficiently as the Crown Estate. The only problem I can foresee is that the government is so inefficient it probably does not actually know what it owns or what it costs to hold these public assets.

  12. fake
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Scandanavian forests are largely private = Good timber is produced.

    English forests are mostly public = nearly everyone in the timber industry scoffs at using homegrown softwood timbers for anything other than carcassing and pallets.

    Now I know it’s somewhat down to the climate, but alot of the issues of quality are due to the way the forests are grown and managed.

  13. Posted February 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    What was Spike Milligan’s riff on a popular song at the time? “I talked to the trees, that’s why they took me away”.

  14. fake
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    sorry, double posts.

    *Your comments may well be valid, but selling woodland will not pay off the national debt. With all the problems facing the Coalition, why on earth have they got themselves dragged into this controversial subject? *

    I think this demonstrates the real issue though of goverment spending.

    They can’t cut spending without basically saying “the government is going to stop doing X”. And that’s essentially what they are doing with the forests, saying it’s no longer going to be done by the goverment.

    And yet even on this small basic thing they are struggling to argue for it to be cut.

    Everybody talks about the need for cuts, yet whenever they actually try to cut anything, it suddenly becomes a hurculean task to do even a little trimming.

    • Simon
      Posted February 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Except this isn’t to do with trimming .

      It’s flogging off the family silver and at the bottom of the market .

      Virtually identical to the debacle where Brown sold all our gold so he could keep spending , putting off the dreadful day when the tough underlying problems would have to be confronted ….

      ….like trimming ongoing state expenditure , reducing staffing of bloated departments in Westminster , cutting packages of police officers and senior council workers , derailing the gravy train , wastefulness , repealing unneccessary regulations and legislation , getting out of the EU .

  15. wab
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Last night on Channel 4 News, Caroline Spelman could offer no coherent reason for this government policy. Last night on Question Time, Damian Green could offer no coherent reason for this government policy. If government ministers have no clue as to why this is happening, it would tend to indicate it’s not a very good policy.

  16. Posted February 4, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    John,
    Why are you and your fellow MPs with English seats not standing up and demanding to know why it is only English forests being sold off to plug the UK deficit or why it is only students in England who will be saddled with crippling debts whilst our taxes continue to fund those elsewhere in the UK or even in the EU, anywhere except England. Why aren’t you standing up and asking why it is only students in England who are going to see their EMA scrapped whilst the rest of the UK carry on claiming it. Oh yes, that’s right, devolution, something denied to us English. David Cameron made a lengthy speech on reforms recently but he never once mentioned the word England, implying the whole UK would be affected when in fact 95% of these reforms would only affect England. Not only is this patronising and insulting to the people of England but suggests that you and your fellow MPs think that by not mentioning the word England, then no-one will notice the discrimination still continuing against it and this by a Conservative party put there overwhelmingly by the English, no-where else. Who is standing up for the English in the same way as the Scots, Welsh & NI are allowed to stand up for their own interests as our elected MPs with English seats are obviously not. It is by not discussing the constituional deficit in England created by Labour’s asymmetrical devolution act which will eventually break up the union, not the opposite as obviously our Conservative Unionist MPs think when they ignore the problem. I was a lifelong Conservative voter and party member until last month but I cannot support a party which is carrying on where Labour left off.

    • Winston Smith
      Posted February 4, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      I was not aware that the EMA was only being removed in England. I agree we are not being told the extent of the inbuilt discrimmination against the English. Can we have a response, Mr Redwood?

      • Posted February 6, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        Winston, shouldn’t think you will get a response as all our elected MPs refuse to mention the word England. EMA is only being scrapped in England, it can still be claimed in the rest of the UK. Go on the website and it will tell you that EMA applications are closed for England only.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted February 4, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      According to the Private Eye article, in 2009 the SNP proposed leasing Scottish forests to private companies but it was successfully opposed on various grounds. One being that as the companies would then be eligible for public funding the short term gain could be more than offset by long term costs, with the taxpayer effectively providing the private companies with most or all of their profits in perpetuity.

    • Martyn
      Posted February 4, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      There is no longer a country called ‘England’ within the EU. And for that the blame lies fairly and squarely on past governments of all colours.
      The EU Map is entitled “The EU, Member States, Regions and Administrative units”. Since the UK is a member state, it is the UK that the map refers to. The regions of England are referred to as Economic Planning Regions as previously designated by the UK government. If England was designated as a separate regional entity (as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are) by the UK government, then it would be included on the map. And that is why you will rarely if ever hear a minister or other refer to England.
      I wonder just how much progress has been made on dismantling the regions of England and whether we might see it appear on the EU map? Silly me….

  17. Woodsy42
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    The point for me is not the inefficiency of the Forestry Commission. Selling the woodand will make so little difference to the national debt that it’s irrelevent, and I am sure the FC could be given a kick to make them more efficient anyhow.
    The point is that these are OUR woodlands, they do not belong to the government, they belong to the people of this country. It’s not like selling an artifact like a railway line or a govenrnment building, these areas of countryside are an integral part of our culture and tradition. The government has no moral right to steal them from us and hand them to private owners.

    • Simon
      Posted February 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      Here here .

      Our Childrens woodlands too .

      Perhaps the woodlands should be moved into this “third sector” so that future governments cannot get their hands on them .

      It’s sickening , bail out the financial sector so they can use our money we have given them to buy the woodland from us .

  18. Acorn
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    According to FC, there are 3,814,000,000 trees in the UK. That means we have 62 each on average. Personally I have a lot more. You can spot mine cos I’ve attached “acorns” to them. “Redwoods” appear to be quite rare; but I think we already new that.
    http://www.forestry.gov.uk/website/forstats2010.nsf/0/0012967D0E6E53478025736100377C16?open&RestrictToCategory=1

  19. Posted February 4, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    The political debate about this issue is totally ridiculous. However it adds to the narrative of a slightly dysfunctional strategically incompetent government. This is a battle that the coalition need not have fought. Not much money or power or regulation will change hands and public opinion is clearly on the side of no reform. Whose idea was this anyway and can that person be shuffled off so the real debates about how this country needs to be reformed can be had?

  20. Richard Calhoun
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Some commonsense on the subject at last.

    Listening to Questiontime last night one could not fail to be both exasperated and depressed when the subject of our Woodlands came up.

    The exasperation being such a lot tosh was forthcoming, not only from the audience but from most of the panel, Damien Green certainly did not seem a convinced defender.

    The depression being when it suddenly struck me on New Labour’s one and only success in power, this was in convincing the British public that the only institutions you can trust are State institutions, and that we all have a ‘right’ to look to the State to continue with its largesse despite the financial black hole they have left us in.

    Truly depressing and with worse to come you have to wonder how the public in general are going to respond.

  21. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    The FC should impliment the law on protecting trees it should not own any.

  22. Magnolia
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    New Labour thrived on having an emotional relationship with the electorate which provided positive feedback for both sides until we went bust. The thing is, it was working very well at first and even quite well right up until the bust and even afterwards the electorate only just gave power to the Conservatives. Emotions are powerful stuff. Whatever the logic and reason for the sell off of the forests, it will feel like the selling off of ‘The Greenwood ‘and that comes with visceral emotive baggage just like my loathing of our Conservative Council when it wants to sell off the Town Hall to developers to fill a funding gap created by their Libdem predecessors. It’s very bad politics, right up there with closing public toilets to save money.

  23. Katherine Spooner
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Conservation isn’t the realm of ‘tree huggers’ as you rather condescendingly imply but a practical solution for ensuring environmental sustainability, protecting the UK in the future against problems that could be far greater than the economic crisis. We may benefit from a lower timber import now but if we destroy the surrounding flora and fauna in the process then we destroy the habitat of insects such as bees, vital for food production. If we remove native trees and plants from the environment for fast growing, high turn around commercial tree we destabilise the soil leading to greater surface run off from rainfall, leading to soil erosion and failing water quality and increase the risk of flooding.

    You may argue that we are reliant on imports of timber, but importing is what you do when existing national supplies are unsustainable for the populations need, that’s why Australia imports so much ‘virtual water’ in the form of food and why China imports fuel – and for the same reason that is why they are conserving and protecting their remaining resources rather than sell them off. The UK has already lost 90% of its woodland (WWF)

    You may argue that the forest will be sustainably managed for timber but how will you ensure that there is an effective management of surrounding ecosystems and protection for flora and fauna. How will the monocultures of commercial forestry are regulated to ensure that there are not wider environmental impacts. The recent devastating floods in Queensland, Australia are a warning of how vulnerable environments become without the protection of diverse and native flora. The fact that this is opposed by environmentally knowledgeable Conservative MPs is an indication that the opposition is not an outbreak of hysteria but a public assertion that this policy is fundamentally and dangerously wrong.

    • alan jutson
      Posted February 7, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      Katherine.

      Young growing trees convert far more Co2 to oxygen than older mature trees.

      Whilst some healthy specimen older mature trees should be kept in any forest, a properly managed forest has a programme of felling and re-planting that will sustain both the forest and a business.

      Just protecting a forest with no felling or replanting will lead to its eventual decay.

      Its all about getting the balance right.

      Why the Government has got involved with this, given the rather small amounts of money it will generate is really pathetic.

  24. Denis Cooper
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    I remain unconvinced that this proposal makes economic sense, or to look at it from another perspective I remain unconvinced that privatisation would not result in higher long term costs for the taxpayer than the status quo.

    In a highly critical article Private Eye pointed out that the Forestry Commission already sells off land from time to time and this is what happened in a recent case:

    “When it recently flogged an area of woodland for £60,000, for example, the new landowner immediately applied for funds under the English Woodland Grant Scheme to grow and cut timber and was given assistance totalling £55,000.”
    Plus:

    “The private landowner will also be able to come back and ask for more grants in future – as well as bidding for other environmental stewardship and rural development subsidies available to forest owners – while the government can only sell the land once.”

    Before anyone says, “Oh, it’s just Private Eye” they should remember that Private Eye was on to the PFI scam years and years before the Telegraph finally noticed that we’ve been ripped off to the tune of a couple of hundred billion.

    If privatisation would actually end up costing the taxpayer more, as it could in this case, then it becomes nothing more than an ideologically driven proposal, and my general preference for private ownership over public ownership is not so strong that I’m prepared to pay higher taxes for the sake of ideological purity.

  25. Posted February 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    I know there is an old saying “Look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves”, but with the country’s finances in their present state, the government should be looking after the pounds first and worrying about the pennies later! In terms of the overall problem, the savings, or income, from selling the woodland would be trivial, and the adverse publicity is going to cost them far more. They should concentrate on making some major savings and put all their effort into convincing the public that they are doing the right thing, rather than making enemies and having to fight opposition over something relatively unimportant.

  26. Posted February 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    It’s a non-issue, trespass is not a criminal offence and as long as you don’t cause damages there is nothing you can be sued for.

  27. rose
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    The most distressing thing of all about this brou ha ha is what it says about the public’s intelligence. We seem incapable of making up our own minds rationally and independently, from facts and from experience. This is not a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees as we don’t seem interested in looking at any of the detail at all. Rather of being led by the nose, tenderly as asses are. How will we be able to have a national conversation about anything now? Are we any longer worthy to rebuild the Big Society – or England as some might prefer to call it?

  28. Matt
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    This debate is not about trees it is about trust of the government. People do not trust government or MPs as they have constantly let people down and failed deliver on promises. If government would stop promising the undeliverable and appearing to work for it’s own benefit then maybe people would have a bit more faith.

  29. Posted February 5, 2011 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    A familiar pattern is developing. The coalition makes a decision. The BBC trawls for opposing voices. The coalition goes on the defensive, even back-tracking in some cases. Today it is forests. Tomorrow it will be something else. There is surely no way the government can carry on this way.

    The media has pushed politician of all parties into a small centre-left huddle and anybody who varies from that narrow part of the stage is marginalised or ridiculed (from the Left as well as the Right).

    I know that Mr Cameron will argue, as Mr Blair did, that the government’s popularity is paramount as without it even the meagre steps taken so far would not be possible.

    However, the difference is that Mr Blair had the support of the BBC for a long time (before Iraq) and this support was later transferred to Mr Brown.

    The difference is stark. Contrast Mr Blair’s long honeymoon compared with 5 minutes accorded to the coalition. Compare ‘Teflon Tony’ with the current situation where, amazingly, blame that should be on Labour’s shoulders has been reallocated to the Conservative Party because of spending cuts which have not even happened.

    The Coalition imposed compromises on both parties and was bound to moderate policies and decisions. However I am convinced that it is pressure from centre-left wing media such as the BBC which is the main constraint.

    This does not merely affect presentation. The need to please the media bites into real life policies and affects future of the country.

    While we have the BBC as dominant in our political life as it is today, the Conservatives in particular, will come off worse.

    Perhaps it is time to go on the offensive. Perhaps it is time to point out that most of the cuts have yet to happen and things are going to get really tough. The BBC will happily make this no.1 spot on the 10 O’clock news. Once you have the air time and cameras you can then follow up and ask why Ed Balls and Ed Milliband have the nerve to remain in front line politics after what they did to the People of this country.

    NB Sorry for double posting

  30. Kathy Stokes
    Posted February 6, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Sorry John but you are missing the point about the FC and Forests. It is the fact that they are being maned to a standard far higher than one would expect from the vast majority of private forests. To latch on to the argument that public is bad and private is good is stupid, why not have a combination of both where at least the state forests can be used to try new ideas and if they work the private sector will pick them up and use.
    Your comments about the FC wanting to plant all the conifers in straight lines shows a considerable lack of knowledge – the FC have to respond to Government policy and at the time the FC were told to do this. The fact that a lot of foresters ignored this means we still have the likes of Sherwood Forest. As for feeling that you have to stay on a footpath as you might get told off is quite funny, on a private estate you might be shot!!

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
    Published and promoted by Thomas Puddy for John Redwood, both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU
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