Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Further Supplementary Memorandum submitted by the National Forest Company


The Rationale behind The National Forest Company

  The National Forest Company (NFC) was established as a company limited by guarantee and as a Non Departmental Public Body in April 1995. This followed considerable research and deliberation as to the nature of the organisation that should be set up to undertake the implementation of the National Forest Strategy that had been approved by Government following wide public consultation.

  These investigations were undertaken by the Development Team specifically employed by the Countryside Commission to plan and test the feasibility of a new National Forest in the Midlands. Work was commissioned by the Development Team from KPMG Management Consulting to analyse the various organisational options and this was incorporated into the Business Plan submitted to Government in November 1992.

  The KPMG report identified the functions proposed for the organisation and the powers it would need to fulfil them. The specified functions could be grouped into four generic categories:

    —  public policy;

    —  direct action;

    —  operation of the National Forest Tender Scheme; and

    —  fundraising and trading.

  It was concluded that no existing public or private agency had the necessary remit or powers to embrace the wide range of functions and interests that the National Forest was to encompass in the implementation of the Strategy by the means envisaged. A new organisation with the specific remit of realising the National Forest was recommended and this recommendation was accepted.

  The not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee, was seen to offer the best way to ensure the National Forest organisation focused clearly, and without distraction, on achieving the Forest objectives. This was seen to be a powerful argument in the light of the decision that the organisation should operate principally in an enabling and facilitating capacity. It was also seen to offer the potential to be more flexible and light-footed than a statutory body. The disadvantages were seen to be in discharging the important public policy functions and the question of public accountability.

  It was proposed that the new organisation should be funded and facilitated in its work from a variety of sources in the public, private and voluntary sectors but that its core functions and the Tender Scheme it was to pioneer and administer would be directly supported by Government. Clear lines of accountability were therefore required and thus NDPB status was conferred with direct responsibility to the sponsoring Department, the then DoE, now DETR. The Secretary of State became a Member of the Company together with the Minister of Agriculture as Minister with responsibility for forestry in England. Thus the necessary public accountability was ensured.

20 December 2001

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