HC Deb 18 March 1991 vol 188 cc3-4W
38. Mr. Mans

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received on the subject of tropical forests; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Chalker

I receive numerous letters from hon. Members and members of the public who are rightly concerned about tropical deforestation. Many are also interested in the emerging World bank forestry policy paper due for publication in July. My postbag also includes letters from environmental NGOs such as the World Wide Fund for Nature and representatives of the trade.

In addition I have recently received over 25,000 postcards from Friends of the Earth members who are calling for limitations on tropical timber imports and greater attention to environmental and social safeguards in projects carried out by the International Tropical Timber Organisation—ITTO.

The United Kingdom Government believe that import restrictions would be counterproductive and would almost certainly tempt some tropical forest countries to accelerate conversion of forest to agricultural or ranch land. Restrictions or outright bans may also encourage loggers to speed up their rate of timber extraction to recoup investments in machinery and infrastructure. The positive way forward is to encourage Governments to manage and use their forest resources sustainably and to help provide them with the capacity to do this.

The ODA is already at the forefront of initiatives to ensure that ITTO works as an effective organisation. We supported work to produce ITTO guidelines on best management practice of natural tropical forests and will continue to encourage countries to adopt them. We pressed for the establishment of an expert panel to review ITTO project proposals which has now been set up. We are also financing two independent experts to help ITTO review how it handles projects generally including the appraisal of their environmental and social impacts.

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