26 March 2009 | Jake Kanter
The environment secretary wants to make it an offence to import into the European Union (EU) timber that has been logged illegally. He has also toughened up public sector timber rules.
MP Hilary Benn called for more action on wood purchasing in the EU as the government launched its timber procurement policy yesterday.
The code, which will come into force from 1 April, will require the entire public sector to purchase timber products from independently verified, legal and sustainable sources.
The UK is the fourth largest importer of wood in the world and the public sector is responsible for 40 per cent of the UK's annual timber procurement.
Benn said the policy was a message to Europe that the UK was ready to lead on the issue but he believed more should be done.
"Making it an offence to import it would send a clear message to the market that such activity was no longer acceptable. We need to bring an end to this pernicious trade. Illegal timber should be just that - illegal."
The government estimated illegal logging costs timber producing countries $10 billion (£6.8 billion) a year.
A study by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' Central Point of Expertise on Timber Procurement last year found "some variability" in implementing and maintaining timber purchasing policies between 14 central government departments (Web news, 20 August 2008).