HL Deb 17 December 1925 vol 62 cc1632-4

EARL RUSSELL had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government how the Forestry Commission of the New Forest is constituted and under what statutory or other powers it operates, what rights it has to close the New Forest, or portions of the New Forest, to the public, or to make enclosures: whether the road from Fordingbridge, through Hyde and North Walk, to Stoney Cross is repaired by the ratepayers or not, and for what purpose two locked gates are kept upon this road; and generally whether the Forestry Commission is amenable to Parliament, and if so, through what Department?


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Russell. I beg to ask the Question which stands in his name on the Paper.


My Lords, in reply to the Question put by the noble Earl, I would state that the Forestry Commission was established by the Forestry Act of 1919 to carry out the work of caring for the New Forest. That Commission is constituted in accordance with the provisions of that Act and exercises, so far as the New Forest is concerned, the powers of the Crown Land Acts by virtue of the Forestry (Transfer of Woods) Order, 1924, which was made in pursuance of the Forestry (Transfer of Woods) Act, 1923, and which transferred the New Forest to the Commissioners as from April 1, 1924. They have power, therefore, to make enclosures in areas of the New Forest which have already been decided upon, under the Act of 1851 and other Statutes.

The particular road to which the noble Earl refers is not so much a road as a forest tract. It is not repaired by the ratepayers but by the Forestry Commission. It is kept up by them, and the local authority has no concern in it. Gates have, been provided by the Commissioners to give, access to the enclosure fur forestry operations whenever it is necessary, but they are left unlocked at such times as the wellbeing of the plantation warrants.

In regard to the question as to whether the Commission is amenable to Parliament, and if so to what Department, I am glad to have the opportunity of making this statement because that question has been frequently raised in the Press and in another place. The Forestry Commission is controlled by Parliament. Its policy is controlled by Parliament. That policy was laid down by the Act of 1919. The Commission makes an Annual Report and its work is reviewed by the Cabinet from time to time. The Treasury is responsible for the Estimates of the Commission which are laid before the House of Commons. The Forestry Commission is run under a block grant voted for a decennial period, and, presumably, the next decennial grant will be voted by Parliament in the form of a block grant when the annual Estimates are submitted. Its expenditure is controlled by Treasury Regulations which have to be submitted to Parliament from time to time. As regards the personnel that also is controlled by Parliament in the sense that the salaries come out of the Forestry Grant and can be reduced at the time the annual Estimates are submitted if the work is not considered satisfactory.

The only difference that exists between the Forestry Commission and any other Department is that the Chairman of the Forestry Commission is not an Under-Secretary or a member of the Government. This was decided after very careful study, first all all by one of the Sub-Committees of the Reconstruction Committee and subsequently by a decision of a Sub-Committee of the Cabinet. It is quite obvious that if the head of the Forestry service of the country were continually changed by each Government the continuity of policy which is desirable could not be maintained. In all other respects the Forestry Commission is as amenable to Parliament as any other Department of the Government.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord for his full reply.