Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence



NEW RELEASE 2000/0516. 28 JULY 2000

Action to halt illegal Timber Imports—Meacher

  Government action to tackle the trade in illegally harvested timber was announced by Environment Minister Michael Meacher today.

  The move follows the commitment made by G8 leaders last weekend to do more to tackle illegal logging. The United Kingdom is first off the mark to meet that commitment.

  In a Parliamentary Answer to Colin Burgon MP (Elmet) Michael Meacher said:

    —  "The UK has worked hard in recent years to promote sustainable forest management and help reduce illegal logging world-wide. Illegal logging damages both the environment and society. It reduces government revenues, destroys the basis of poor people's livelihoods and in some cases even fuels armed conflict.

    —  Working directly with affected countries to combat illegal logging will continue to be the mainstay of our efforts in this area. Among other initiatives we will sponsor later this year, along with the US and World Bank, is a high-level meeting in South-East Asia to examine what can be done to strengthen enforcement of forestry laws in the region, and how donors can assist in this. However, we must also deal with parts of the problem nearer to home. It is counterproductive to help enforce laws abroad without striving to ensure that illegally produced timber is not consumed at home.

    —  The Government is a major purchaser of both timber and timber products, and has a responsibility to ensure its own house is in order. Guidelines already exist to encourage Government departments to purchase from legal and sustainable sources, but we can do more. To show a lead in addressing the G8 communique's call to `examine how best we can combat illegal logging, including export and procurement practices', we will implement a progressive programme of work to improve current purchasing practice for timber and timber products. This initiative will have three components:

        —  current voluntary guidance on environmental issues in timber procurement will become a binding commitment on all central government departments and agencies actively to seek to buy timber and timber products from sustainable and legal sources, for example, those identified under independent certification schemes such as that operated by the Forestry Stewardship Council;

        —  each central government department will report annually on its timber purchases. It will be required to explain what steps it is taking to pursue this objective; the quantity and types of its purchases; and what assurances it has received that the source of timber is sustainable and legal;

        —  this process will be monitored by an inter-departmental group reporting to the committee of "Green Ministers". The group will: assist departments and agencies in working with timber suppliers and producers; give guidance on best purchasing practice; set progressive overall targets for government timber purchases from assured sustainable and legal sources; agree appropriate targets for individual departments and agencies.

    —  This programme does not involve banning the purchase of timber of timber products which cannot be shown to be sustainably and legally produced. That would be both unfair and impractical. There is currently not enough timber that can be independently guaranteed to have come from sustainable and legal sources to meet all needs; albeit that different assurance schemes are growing quickly. We would also not want to penalise poorer countries and producers, which have not been able to put in place such schemes. We will continue to work with such producers to ensure they have fair market access, and that any action is fully consistent with our international obligations. Our aim is to give confidence to those obeying their country's laws and managing their forests responsibly that they will find a welcome market in the UK, and will not be undercut by unscrupulous and illegal competitors".

  The new measures will complement the UK's other work in combating illegal logging, which includes working with other countries to: encourage good governance and remove corruption; tackle the burden of debt; improve awareness of the true value of forests; and develop alternative, rural livelihoods for the poor.


Model Contract Specification Clause

Timber and products containing wood supplied under the Contract

  The Contractor shall ensure that no timber or wood contained in any product supplied to the Authority shall have derived from any species of tree that is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) unless the Contractor can prove, by producing official documentation, that he has complied with the CITES requirements that permit trading in the particular species of tree so listed under that Convention.

  All timber and wood, other than recycled timber and wood, supplied to the Authority shall derive from trees or other plants that have been harvested and exported in strict accordance with the applicable law or laws of the country in which the trees or other plants grew. The supplier shall obtain documentary evidence to prove such legality and to prove that the evidence does in fact match the products supplied by establishing a chain of custody from the source of the timber and wood through to delivery of the final product.

  The Contractor is required to supply timber and wood that derive from trees or plants that were grown in forests of plantations that were managed to (a) sustain their biodiversity, productivity and vitality and (b) to prevent harm to other ecosystems and any indigenous forest-dependent people. The Contractor shall obtain documentary evidence to demonstrate that this requirement has been met.

  It is the Contractor's responsibility to produce documentary evidence, in respect of these requirements, that will enable the Authority to verify the authenticity and credibility of the claims being made. The Contractor shall obtain independent verification of the claims being made and shall meet the full costs involved in so doing. In this context "independent" means a body or organisation that is accepted by the Authority as having the competence and capacity to provide an objective assessment of the evidence presented and as having no interests that would conflict with their duty to provide impartial advice. One way in which the Authority will accept that the Contractor has met his obligations in proving the source of his timber and wood products is if those products are certified, by properly accredited organisations, as meeting the standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council or such other standards set by such other bodies as are listed in the Contract Specification.

PFI Schemes

  It is recommended that for PFI schemes that involve long contract periods the following clause should be added:

  The preceding clauses numbered implement Government policy that was current at (insert date of original agreement). For specifications that are created at a later date or dates in accordance with the contract programme the Contractor shall supply timber and products containing wood in accordance with such Government policy as is in operation at that later date or dates. Before the commencement of each stage of the contract programme the Authority shall supply the contractor with details of the policy in operation at that time.


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