HC Deb 11 July 2002 vol 388 cc1100-1W
Ms Walley

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will make a statement on the outcome of his investigations into the concerns raised by Greenpeace on timber procurement in respect of the 22 Whitehall project. [69780]

Mr. Alexander

I am today placing a copy of the Cabinet Office's report on the issue of timber procurement for the 22 Whitehall project in the Libraries of the House.

The report shows that timber for the 22 Whitehall project was not procured in line with the Government's policy of seeking to procure timber from legal and sustainable sources. This has led to the procurement of sapele timber, for which there is no independent certification of sustainability available, from forests in Central Africa.

The report also sets out a number of actions that the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Office of Government Commerce will be taking to improve the Government's adherence to the policy on timber procurement. The Cabinet Office is also taking a number of steps to improve its own domestic position on timber procurement.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley) for her interest in the issue of timber procurement. The specific case of the 22 Whitehall project has highlighted a significant level of confusion associated with the terminology used in connection with the specification of timber in contracts. This clearly has implications across Government Departments as employers of contractors, and among contractors themselves. The actions set out in the report published today reflect the importance the Government attaches to improving its position on the issue of timber procurement. The Government will also carefully consider any recommendations emerging from the Environmental Audit Committee's inquiry on the Government's role in promoting the use of timber from sustainable sources.