The coalition agreement stated, “We will introduce measures to make the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence”. Now however, the Government has said it is content to follow weaker EU legislation and simply ban illegal timber from entering the EU. This would not affect the legality of buying/selling or owning illegal timber.
Prior to the General Election Greg Barker explained the limitations of the EU approach as follows: “It is clear that action at European level will not go far enough. It [the new EU measure] lacks an explicit overarching prohibition on illegal timber in the EU market. With no explicit prohibition, there is no incentive to exclude illegal timber from entering the market; there is only an incentive to prove that the company concerned has tried to prevent it. Furthermore, the regulation applies only to those companies that place timber and timber products on the market for the first time, rather than all operators involved in the distribution chain. Loopholes are therefore created whereby all downstream companies-the majority of EU traders-are exempt from even the bare minimum of due diligence requirements. A prohibition on illegal timber needs to apply to all companies that make timber available to the market, whatever their position in the supply chain.”
So if a Government minister can see this, and the coalition agreed last May to go further than the EU by prohibiting the possession of illegal timber then why has the Government decided to back track on the issue? Answers on a postcard please!
I am delighted to see that Caroline Lucas MP has kept this issue on the agenda by drafting an EDM highlighting how disappointing this move is. Disappointingly however, only 78 MPs have signed up to it.
The UK Government has a responsibility to push this as far as possible. The current EU legislation will not stem the flow of illegal timber, let alone in the time frame or quantity that our fight against climate change and deforestation demands.