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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 28th February 2011.

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Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour 4:45 pm, 28th February 2011

My Lords, I will intervene briefly in the debate because I realise that the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, have been incredibly helpful. It is the first time I have spoken on the Bill. I just want to raise an issue that was not really covered by the Minister's statement-otherwise I would not be standing up. That relates to the forests being used for motor sport.

Last year, the motor sport industry contributed almost £1 million to the Forestry Commission for 41 events, 31 of which were stage rallies. There is nowhere else they can take place. Each one of those is estimated independently to bring to the local community about £2 million when it takes place. Ministry of Defence land used to be used. That is not really possible in any event because of use in the past so the forests are the only areas where these rallies can take place. There was a centrally managed agreement between the Forestry Commission and the Motorsports Association, which is the governing body for UK motor sport. I have a couple of questions, because the Minister said that a measured and rational debate was not taking place, so it is going to take place with the review.

First, will the independent chair be appointed as a result of an advertisement or a few phone calls? It is quite important that we know that. Secondly, will the Land Access and Recreation Association have a place on the body? I am making a special plea because that is the one way that the motor sport industry will be represented. It employs 38,000 people, 25,000 of whom are professional engineers, and is worth something like £4 billion to the economy. Most of the teams that we see with foreign flags are actually in this country, where the cars are designed and produced. We are talking about big business here, where the forests play an absolutely crucial part, particularly for the rally side of the industry. It is very important that they can put their piece at the table and are not reduced to external flag-waving or lobbying. If LARA is represented on the body, then I am assured that the issues relating to motor sport can be raised, because the issues have not gone away. If I can be satisfied with that, there will not be any need to raise this in future. I realise that forestry is coming out of the Bill. Nevertheless, as this body and review panel are going to be meeting, if we can get these things settled now, it will make life a lot easier for the ministry and for Defra, which, I presume, is going to have to fill a hole in its funding in due course.