Shadow Forestry Minister talks with industry delegation

22 May 2024

Toby Perkins MP, Labour shadow minister with responsibility for Forestry, saw for himself the scale of the forestry industry on a visit to Egger at Hexham where he met with business leaders from nurseries to sawmills and panel board manufacturers. Mr Perkins was accompanied by local Labour candidate for Hexham Joe Morris.

Organised by Confor, the visit and meeting provided the opportunity to impress upon the shadow minister the significance of the industry to areas like the far north of England and to discuss the importance of future wood supply for future investment, including through woodland creation. 

“Toby has taken a real interest in the industry”, said Confor CEO Stuart Goodall “and he can see that when businesses in the sector have confidence in the future they have a track record of investing hundreds of millions of pounds in areas like Northumberland and Cumbria, securing and creating thousands of jobs.” 

As well as a tour of the impressive Egger facility, Toby Perkins discussed issues of timber security, the reliance of the bulk of the industry on softwood, and the benefit of using more home-grown wood, especially in house building and construction. 

The discussion also ranged across recruiting new people into the industry, including diversifying the workforce, training, opportunities for farmers to create new productive woodland and the importance of woodland creation of fast-growing trees for net zero. 

Reflecting on next steps, Mr Goodall said “We hope to take Toby out to see forestry at work in southern England where issues like squirrel and deer control are particularly important and maintain a dialogue with the Labour Party”. 

And he added, “There is only a small team in Confor to represent the sector across the UK, so I was very grateful that so many members gave their time to meet with Toby, and that Alastair Kerr of the Wood Panel Industry Federation was able to join us. There is a lot of work to do ahead of the General Election and active member support will be vital”. 


Note: Toby Perkins MP is the Labour MP for Chesterfield and Shadow Minister for Nature and Rural Affairs, a post he has held since September 2023. 

He visited Egger’s mill at Hexham on 20th May 2024, accompanied by local Labour candidate Joe Morris. 

Toby and Joe met with: 

  • Charles Beaumont, Trees Please
  • Rob Carlow, Gresham
  • Jon Garson, Confor
  • Stuart Goodall, Confor
  • Michael Hall, Scottish Woodlands
  • David Hodgson, AW Jenkinson
  • Alastair Kerr, WPIF
  • Andrew Laidler, Egger
  • David Leslie, James Jones
  • Max McLaughlan, Egger
  • Alex Murray, Glennons
  • John Paterson, Egger
  • Robert Scott, A&J Scott
  • Cameron Smith, Euroforest
  • Harry Stevens, BSW/Tilhill
  • Andrew Tait, Egger