House of Commons – Written Answers 2 November 2010
Zac Goldsmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether her Department plans to mark the International Year of Forests in 2011.
Mr Paice: The International Year of Forests (IYF) provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of the world's forests. The Government are committed to tackling deforestation, which contributes to climate change, biodiversity loss and poverty. Internationally, the IYF will provide an opportunity to highlight our achievements in this area, including action to ban the placing of illegally harvested timber on the UK market, and to raise the profile of forest issues worldwide. Here in the UK, the Forestry Commission is planning various initiatives and events to mark the IYF.
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether she plans to require (a) successor bodies to the Forestry Commission and (b) owners of former Forestry Commission sites to fulfil the Commission's undertaking to restore planted ancient woodland sites with native broadleaf species. 
Mr Paice: In my letter to all Members of Parliament on 29 October I outlined the Government's plans for the Public Forest Estate in England. The Forestry Commission continues to play an important role in protecting and expanding the trees, woods and forests in England. There will be a new approach to ownership and management of woodlands and forests, with a reducing role for the state and a bigger role for individuals, businesses, civil society organisations and local authorities in a managed programme of reform in which the Forestry Commission will play a crucial role.
The protection of our most valuable and biodiverse forests will not be compromised. Full measures will remain in place to preserve the public benefits of woods and forests under any new ownership arrangements. DEFRA and the Forestry Commission will consult on the proposals and will invite views from a wide range of potential private and civil society partners on a number of new ownership options and the means to secure public benefits, including the restoration of planted ancient woodland sites.
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether an environmental impact assessment has been undertaken of the Government's proposals to sell or lease part of the Forestry Commission estate. 
Mr Paice: An impact assessment, along with an Equality Impact Assessment, will be published as part of the consultation on proposals for the Public Forest Estate in England.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many people were employed by the Forestry Commission at the latest date for which figures are available. 
Mr Paice: At the end of September the Forestry Commission, as a non-ministerial Department for England, Scotland and Wales, employed 3,454 people, in both full and part-time positions.
Zac Goldsmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with the Forestry Commission on sales from the public forest estate. 
Mr Paice: The Forestry Commission is a non-ministerial Government Department that reports to the DEFRA Secretary of State; The Forestry Commission has been closely involved in discussions on the new approach to ownership and management of woodlands and forests.
Zac Goldsmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what plans she has for the sale of the public forest estate in (a) the Forest of Dean, (b) the New Forest and (c) Sherwood Forest; 
(2) what plans she has for sales from the public forest estate; 
(3) how many hectares of the public forest estate the Forestry Commission plans to sell. 
Mr Paice: DEFRA and the Forestry Commission will consult the public on proposals regarding the public forest estate. We will invite views from a wide range of potential private and civil society partners on a number of new ownership options while protecting public benefits. I envisage a managed programme of reform to further develop a competitive, thriving and resilient forestry sector that includes many sustainably managed woods operating as parts of viable land-based businesses. No decisions have been made in relation to any individual sites.
Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much of the Forestry Commission woodland estate is held as (a) freehold and (b) leasehold; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr Paice: As at 31 March 2010 the Forestry Commission public forest estate in England comprised 198,298 hectares of freehold land and 57,692 hectares of leasehold land. The majority of this is woodland, but it also includes associated open habitats, some agricultural land and land used for quarries, car parks and built development.