Ministers accused of soft line on illegal logging

Click to follow

The Government has been accused of hypocrisy over its commitment to stop illegal logging after refusing to stop tons of Brazilian mahogany coming into Britain, despite international protests that it may have been unlawfully felled.

Ministers allowed a shipment from the Amazon worth £600,000 into the country earlier this month, despite warnings that up to 70 per cent of mahogany from Brazil may be cut down illegally or comes from Indian or public land.

Tony Blair made a speech last year saying Britain would, "purchase timber only from legal and sustainable sources".

Other EU countries, including Germany, have already impounded shipments of Brazilian mahogany following concerns that it was illegally logged, despite being issued with a valid export permit in Brazil.

The Government's policy on logging will be tested again this week over a shipment of Brazilian mahogany bound for Britain and Belgium which is in a Dutch port.

The Belgian authorities have said that they will not take the wood but a spokeswoman for the Department of the Environment said yesterday Britain did not have the power to impound the shipment if the Dutch authorities said its export certificates were valid. She said the decision to allow the timber to be imported into Britain for use in furniture could be reviewed in the future if "new evidence came to light."

"We are not in a position at this moment to take decision on detaining or impounding," explained the spokewoman.

Greenpeace said Britain's stance was out of step with the rest of Europe. Andy Tait, the group's forests campaigner, accused the Government of "utter hypocrisy" and spin.

The EU this week sent a private memo to member states, including Britain, warning that there was doubt about the origin of the Brazilian timber and that the export certificates should not be accepted.