Buying Time for Forests: The Way Forward

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) publishes today its Second Report of Session 2005-06, Sustainable Timber. This Report examines the extent of progress since the EAC's inquiry in 2002, entitled Buying Time for Forests: Timber Trade and Public Procurement.  Announcing the Report, Joan Walley MP, the Chairman of the EAC Sub-Committee on Sustainable Timber which undertook the inquiry, said:

We are very  pleased to see that significant progress has been made in improving sustainable timber procurement since the last time EAC addressed the issue. We were also pleased to see the increased awareness on the national and international arena of the need to address illegal logging.

However,  despite this, our main conclusion is that much more needs to be done if we are to save our forests from destruction and protect the rights of those people who depend on them. The global illegal trade in timber is estimated at $15billion a year. The urgency of this matter must not be underestimated:  time is running out. If the Government wants to be taken seriously on its commitment to help protect the world's forests it must introduce as a matter of urgency legislation to prevent illegal timber and timber products from entering the UK market.

In addition, the Committee would like to see the current rules on timber procurement extended from central government to local authorities and other governmental bodies. It would also like to see a requirement for government bodies to purchase only sustainable  - rather than just legal - timber in place within the next five years.

The Committee points out that the  Government must continue to push the agenda forward within the G8 and Europe. It must in particular focus on ensuring the FLEGT Action Plan is fully implemented and that every effort is made to ensure that the proposed Voluntary Partnership Agreements  with timber producing countries are effective. There is also a need for harmonisation of procurement policy across Member States within the EU to ensure clear signals are given to producers and suppliers as to what is expected of them. The timber industry in the UK also has a role to play. It must put every effort into ensuring that the timber it purchases is legal and  must assist producers to work towards sustainability. Some timber companies are leading the way on how this can be done. The rest must follow willingly or be made to do so.

Copies of the report can be obtained from TSO outlets and from the Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, Parliament Square, London SW1A 2JX (020 7219 3890) by quoting House of Commons No 607.  The text of the Report will also be available from approximately 3.30pm onwards on its publication date, on the Committee's Internet homepage.

For further information on the report, journalists may phone the Committee's press officer, Laura Kibby, on 020 7219 0718.

Notes for Editors

The report published today by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is its Second Report of Session 2005-06, Sustainable Timber, HC 607.  Details of all the Committee's press releases together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's website.

In the 2001 Parliament, EAC agreed a Report entitled Buying Time for Forests: Timber Trade and the Environment which looked at the Government's procurement of legal and sustainable timber (printed in July 2002, the Report was the Sixth Report of Session 2002-03, HC792).

The Sub-Committee which undertook the Sustainable Timber inquiry was chaired by Joan Walley MP.  The rest of its membership comprised Peter Ainsworth MP, Colin Challen MP, Nick Hurd MP, Mark Pritchard MP and Mrs Theresa Villiers MP.