By Jonathan Isaby
I've just had a quick glance at the division list from the vote at the end of today's opposition day debate on the proposed forest sell-off and note that three Conservaitve MPs defied the whip and voted for the following Labour motion:
That this House believes that the Government’s intention in the Public Bodies Bill to sell off up to 100 per cent. of England’s public forestry estate is fundamentally unsound; notes that over 225,000 people have signed a petition against such a sell-off; recognises the valuable role that the Forestry Commission and England’s forests have made to increasing woodland biodiversity and public access, with 40 million visits a year; further recognises that the total subsidy to the Forestry Commission has reduced from 35 per cent. of income in 2003-04 to 14 per cent. of income in 2010-11; further notes that the value of the ecosystems services provided by England’s public forest estate is estimated to be £680 million a year; notes that the value of such services could increase substantially in the future through the transition to a low carbon economy as a carbon market emerges; notes that the public forest estate has been retained in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; and calls on the Government to rethink its decision on the sale of England’s public forest estate in order to protect it for future generations.
The rebels were:
The motion was defeated by 310 to 260, but there were a further half dozen Lib Dem rebels and evidently further abstentions on the Conservative side.
Tory MPs have certainly been deluged with letters over this issue and the feedback I have been getting from a large number of them is that the whole issue has been very badly handled in terms of prebuttal, rebuttal and briefing from the department and handling of MPs for whom the issue is an especially sensitive one.