Public Bodies Bill [HL] — Committee (7th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 28th February 2011.

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Photo of The Bishop of Gloucester The Bishop of Gloucester Bishop 4:30 pm, 28th February 2011

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Taylor and Lord Henley, for what they have said this afternoon, because it means that there will be no need for me to move Amendment 47A relating to the Forest of Dean. As noble Lords are aware, there was particular anxiety and anger in the Forest of Dean, which falls within my diocese of Gloucester, at the proposals to legislate in regard to forestry without regard for the special status of the Forest of Dean recognised in earlier legislation. The Government have wisely withdrawn all the clauses relating to forestry. When they return with some new and different proposals relating to the future of the forests, of which we have had some hints already, I hope they will at that point recognise that when people speak of the Forest of Dean, they are not talking about a collection of trees, but about a series of communities with a common sense of identity. People call themselves foresters simply because the Forest of Dean is where they live, and their sense of identity comes more from the forest than from the particular towns, villages or hamlets that are part of it. To talk about changes in ownership with even the smallest possibility of withdrawal of access or unwelcome development is to provoke a deep emotional response in people who have, in many cases, inhabited the forest for many generations-that quite apart from the more general issues of the ownership and stewardship of the forests on which the Government have wisely changed their mind. So I am grateful to the Government for withdrawing the clauses that they have, rendering my amendment obsolete. I can assure your Lordships that the people of the Forest of Dean are both relieved and elated by the sense that they have seen off a particularly ill-thought-through policy.