§ Mr. Sheerman
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment. Food and Rural Affairs what measures her Department has put in place to ensure the authenticity of certificates identifying the origin of tropical hardwood imports. 921W
§ Mr. Morley
Central Government Departments and their agencies are required as a matter of policy to actively seek to buy their timber and timber products from sustainable and legal sources, for example, those identified under independent certification schemes such as that operated by the Forest Stewardship Council.
My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment, (Mr. Meacher) has written to Green Ministers to explain that his Department has commissioned consultants to suggest guidance that will assist Government buyers to implement this policy. The consultants' report will address the issue of verifying claims made by contractors for the origin of timber supplied, including claims supported by certificates. The report is expected to be completed in the summer of 2002. In the meantime Departments have been given a model contract specification clause that requires suppliers to: (a) establish a chain of custody from the source of timber through to delivery of the final product, and (b) to provide documentary evidence and independent verification of the claims being made. The Forest Stewardship Council's certification scheme is identified as one way in which these requirements would be satisfied but the clause makes clear that suppliers may offer alternatives evidence of compliance.
To complement the Government's timber procurement policy we are pursuing a strategy of seeking to reach bi-lateral agreements with producing countries that would see the development of independently verified documentation to prove the legality of timber shipments to the UK. Once such memorandum of understanding has been entered into with the Government of Indonesia. The forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development may crystallise the interest of other countries around this issue.
The Government are considering whether there is scope for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to play a bigger part in helping to control the export and import of illegally logged timber and proposes to explore options with EU member states and the CITES range states.
To help tropical countries meet the Government's requirement for legally logged and sustainably managed timber, UK Government officials have participated in an expert advisory group tasked with developing guidance for tropical countries on establishing verification mechanisms and in international meetings convened to explore co-operation between the various certification initiatives.