Stephen Timms, Member of Parliament for East Ham, has opposed the Government’s plans to “sell off” parts of the public forest estate in England. 

The Labour Party today forced a debate in the House of Commons on the issue which could see the Government given the power to sell more than 1,000 woods in all, covering 258,000 hectares. Critics have pointed out that this would be the biggest change in English land ownership since the second world war. 

Speaking after a vote in the House of Commons on the issue, Mr Timms said: “Many of my constituents have taken the trouble to contact me about this. It is scandalous that Government is proposing to sell off our woodland! At the Despatch Box earlier, Ministers argued that they want communities and conservation groups to manage forests instead of the Forestry Commission. However, reports last week suggested only 1% will be acquired by communities and 2% by charities – the rest could go to the private sector.

“Today, I used my vote in the House of Commons to urge the Government to protect the nation’s heritage instead of handing it over to financiers. I don’t want some of England’s most beautiful countryside to be handed to a rich banker from the other side of the world who cares more about the trees at the end of their own garden than those in the forests of England.” 

Mr Timms’ comments followed an article by Labour leader Ed Miliband which was published in the Sunday Times at the weekend. In it, Mr Miliband wrote: “This is not the big society, it is just a big sale. It is the sale of the physical heart of England.” 

AuthorStephen Timms