After receiving 200 emails and letters asking me to oppose the Coalition Government's plans to divest itself of it's English forestry estate, I've received 50 emails expressing disappointment that I did not agree. Which is all rather odd, in that I started off with some sympathy with the opposition. But I awaited confirmation of the actual proposals, and decided that I can hardly vote against a consultation process.
One aspect of the opposition that narks me is the implication that charitable and voluntary ownership and management is inferior to state ownership. Not in my book, its not. Until I was elected an MP, I was a trustee of Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust. We owned around 20 reserves in Montg. and had hundreds of volunteers helping out. I've also been a member of the National Trust for decades. We have millions of members. Several of my friends work as 'guides' at Powis Castle, an NT property 3 miles from my house. They volunteer because they love it. And I've been member of the RSPB for decades. The RSPB is one of the biggest landlords in the UK. The suggestion that voluntary and charitable bodies cannot own and manage land is as offensive as it is inaccurate.
And objection to the state selling its commercial forestry is not as straight forward as it seems either. On Saturday I was talking to the principal of a large local timber firm, who had wanted to buy lorry loads of felled Forestry Commission timber, only to be refused because he is not on a 'list' of preferred buyers. This timber will be allowed to deteriorate to a state where it is only fit for Kronospan chipboarding, at a fraction of the price. Can you imagine a private commercial business tolerating such stupidity.
I just hope that all these people who are emailing me and writing to me read the Consultation Document, and write to the Coalition Government outlining their thoughts - without 'guidance' from 38 Degrees. I want to see some changes, and look forward to seeing what changes are made.