Wood suppliers will soon become responsible for ensuring that they are not selling illegally harvested timber Environment Minister Richard Benyon announced today.
In March new rules will come into force that will enable inspectors from the Government Agency, the National Measurement Office, to seize illegally harvested timber and impose penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment for those who try to flout the law.
Currently businesses that import wood are not responsible for checking where the timber has been harvested or if it has been done so illegally.
Environment Minister Richard Benyon said:
These tough new laws will force the minority of timber importers who bring in illegally harvested wood to think again or risk imprisonment.
Illegally harvested timber destroys wildlife habitats and forces reputable traders out of business - this practice has to stop.
The new laws which will take effect on the 3 March 2013 will:
- require timber suppliers to ensure that illegally harvested timber is not brought into the EU;
- allow inspectors to enter business premises to effectively enforce the law;
- allow inspectors to seize illegally harvested timber and to destroy or dispose of it; and
- make it a criminal offence to place illegally harvested timber on the market and impose a penalty of up to two years imprisonment and an unlimited fine for those that do.
The new rules will also create lesser offences for the failure to keep information on the source of timber, for obstructing inspectors and for failing to comply with improvements notices from the National Measurement Office. The maximum penalty for these offences will be a fine of £5000.
These changes follow an industry-wide consultation which showed overwhelming support for these tough new measures.
The changes will become law after a Statutory Instrument was laid before Parliament on 8 February 2013
Details of the SI can be found at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/natural/deforestation/