IN the past few weeks, I’ve had more emails and letters from constituents about a single piece of Government news than I have ever had since I became an MP.
Is it about rising unemployment? Is it about petrol prices? Is it about the plans for a new hospital? Is it the trebling of tuition fees for university students or the scrapping of Education Maintenance Allowance? Is it about the scrapping of libraries which I wrote about last week?
No, the single biggest topic of correspondence I have received is about the Government’s plans to sell off publicly-owned woodland and forests.
In many respects this is surprising, especially when you take into account all the other, often depressing, news in recent weeks.
Quite simply, the response from constituents to this proposal has been astonishing.
At certain times this week I have been receiving an email each minute from Hartlepool people on this one issue. The reaction and anger this news has provoked from people throughout the town has been gripping.
People from every single part of the town have contacted me, with age seemingly no barrier too.
It has demonstrated that we view woodland as part of our national heritage.
Land that is part of national ownership, as opposed to being in private hands, is essential.
It is difficult to get definitive information from the Forestry Commission regarding which parts of our nearby forest and woodland is under threat.
It is believed that parts of the North Yorkshire Moors would be privatised, and a large part of Northumberland, comprising much of the Kielder Water area, would be sold off to private developers.
It is equally difficult to see the purpose behind the proposals.
I can’t really see any sensible rationale for the idea.
The Government has suggested that privatisation of the forests will increase public control, which to me seems about as sensible as claiming that the best way of keeping hold of your cake is by eating it.
As for my own position, I love trees.
I don’t think we have enough trees in this country, both in urban and rural settings.
We should see forests as a national asset, providing vital biodiversity and absorbing some of the carbon dioxide that is being pumped out into the atmosphere at an alarming rate.
By the time this article is in the Hartlepool Mail, there will have been a vote in the House of Commons on the proposals to privatise the forests.
This will be a great opportunity for Parliament to register its opinion on the issue.
I will be voting against the proposals and hope that the Government will think again about selling off the nation’s forests.