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Illegal Timber Imports

Volume 455: debated on Tuesday 16 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he plans to take in 2007 to reduce the import of illegal timber into the UK. (114738)

During 2007, the Government will continue to work, through bilateral and multi-lateral processes, to develop restrictions on the import of illegally harvested timber.

The Government are working to implement the EU Forestry Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Regulation which was adopted in 2005. This allows the EU to enter into Voluntary Partnership Agreements with timber producing countries, and will include a licensing system to identify legal products for export to the EU.

A number of countries will be negotiating partnership agreements during 2007. Malaysia, Ghana and Indonesia have announced their intentions to proceed with formal negotiations, and several more countries are expected to confirm their intention to negotiate by the summer. The Department for International Development (DFID) is engaged in the negotiations together with the European Commission and other member states. DFID is also providing financial support to put in place reforms. The length of negotiations will vary, but we expect the first partnership agreement to be signed by the end of 2007.

The EU FLEGT Action Plan required the assessment of potential additional legislative options to tackle imports of illegal timber into the EU. On 20 December 2006, the Commission launched a public consultation on this. The Government will review the applicability of the options presented, including their compatibility with World Trade Organisation rules, before deciding what, if any, additional measures to pursue at a national or EU level.

Collaboration continues with other major consumer countries in the G8, China and the private sector. In particular, the UK Government’s timber procurement policy, which requires all timber supplied to have derived from legally harvested trees, has become a beacon for other governments to tackle illegal logging through voluntary consumer action.