Published:

Peter_ainsworthA written question from the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Peter Ainsworth MP, reminds us of an extraordinary fact about illegal timber imports:

"Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many seizures of illegal timber imports have been made in each year since 1997. [233423]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Under current UK law it is not illegal to import timber which was illegally felled, processed or transported in another country provided the actual importation is legal. The UK Government cannot institute legal proceedings in the UK relating to a breach or breaches of sovereign laws in another country, with one exception.

The exception is CITES—the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. As a CITES signatory, the UK Government have the legal powers to seize timber or timber products containing a CITES—listed species imported without the correct CITES paperwork. Information on any such seizures is not held by core-DEFRA and should be obtained from HMRC as the relevant central Government Department."

Various environmental groups have criticised the Government’s refusal to ban illegal timber imports into the UK. In January last year, WWF said that Britain was the world’s third largest importer of illegal timber.

Back in January 2006, Mr Ainsworth said:

"The trade in illegally logged timber is not only environmentally destructive, it is also unfair to responsible producers who find their products undercut in the market.

It is extraordinary that the EU has yet to ban imports of illegal timber and the UK should be pressing for it to do so.

We should also, as a matter of urgency, consider UK legislation to make it unlawful to possess or market illegal timber products."

What hope for the preservation of trees as long as it is not necessarily illegal to import timber that has been felled illegally?!

Declaration of interest: Tom Greeves, who wrote this post, used to work for Peter Ainsworth.

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