BUSINESS QUESTION – OFFICIAL VERDERER – 17 January 2008

[Mr Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): Will the Leader of the House arrange for, at the very least, a written statement from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the reappointment, or otherwise, of the official verderer of the New Forest, as my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) and I fear that there has been some skulduggery?

Hon. Members: Oh!

Ms Harman: I suggest that the hon. Gentleman work out what the official parliamentary term is, and then table a written question ... ]

Dr Julian Lewis: When the Government insisted on setting up a National Park Authority for the New Forest, my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Desmond Swayne) and I articulated the concern of many locally that the authority of the Court of Verderers as protectors of the forest would be undermined. The fact that that has not yet happened has been largely due to the fine performance of the Official Verderer, Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre. May we have a statement by the appropriate Minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the reappointment of the Official Verderer, who is willing to be reappointed but whom we gather may not be reappointed for reasons not unconnected with the existence of the National Park Authority?

[The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): If the hon. Gentleman wants to raise questions about the New Forest National Park Authority or verderers, I suggest he table a written question to the relevant Minister.]