Legislation to outlaw illegal timber is axed despite coalition pledge
The government has backed away from legislation that would outlaw the possession of illegally logged timber from the world's rainforests.
A previous commitment to make it against the law to own, as well as to import, illegal wood, has been quietly dropped, say campaigners, including Green MP Caroline Lucas, who has clashed with the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, over the issue.
During a meeting of the Commons environmental audit committee, Spelman denied there had been a U-turn and said new EU regulations, due to come into force in 2013, would make it against the law to bring illegal timber into Europe. But Tory MP Zac Goldsmith pointed out that the pledge had been made last year by William Hague and Greg Barker.
The committee, chaired by the Labour MP Joan Walley, pressed Spelman on why the government was backtracking on its coalition agreement to "make the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence".
Lucas warned that "shell" companies could easily be set up to circumvent the new, minimum legislation. "The point is that if you only make it illegal at point of entry you have absolutely no sanctions against any firms who buy it. It's a huge loophole and we clearly need far more rigorous legislation. Presumably that was recognised when William Hague made the promise so it's not clear why it's not being recognised now.
"We really need to lock down the supply train of this timber which is implicated in so many issues from deforestation and climate change to impact on indigenous people."
Lucas is sponsoring a private member's bill, due to be debated in February, that would make it illegal to "transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase illegal timber products".
Comment by ForestIndustries.EU: Caroline Lucas is famous for spreading misleading information regarding the "illegal logging issue" - read more here...