Illegal rainforest timber used in parliament refurbishment

Last edited 29 September 2006 at 7:00am
29 September, 2006

Illegally logged timber from the rainforests of Papua New Guinea is being used during renovation work at the Houses of Parliament.

Greenpeace investigators have found the timber, in the form of at least two tonnes of plywood, in the £5million restructuring of the Press Area. The rainforest wood is protecting floors, stairs and walls while work is being carried out.[1]

And this is the fourth time in as many years that Greenpeace has revealed that the Government is using illegal and unsustainable timber.[2]

As recently as July, Greenpeace exposed the use of the same rainforest plywood at Admiralty Arch, the home of the Cabinet Office. Although the Government initially said they had proof that the timber was from 'legal and sustainable' sources, a subsequent internal investigation sent to Greenpeace makes it clear that this was not the case.[3]

The magnificent forests of Papua New Guinea form part of the few remaining significant ancient forests on earth. They are home to many unique species of plants and animals such as the tree kangaroo and the world's largest butterfly, as well as indigenous communities that depend on the forest for their livelihood. But so-called 'robber barons' are plundering the rainforest with impunity, their crimes ranging from illegal logging to corruption, torture and rape. A recent report funded by the UK Government on logging in PNG found that illegality, environmental destruction and corruption were rife. But this remains the place where Blair is getting his timber.

Belinda Fletcher, Greenpeace forests campaigner, said: "It's a disgrace that Parliament is awash with tropical plywood ripped from the world's last rainforests. While Tony Blair is busy worrying about his legacy, the world's last rainforests are being bulldozed for cheap throwaway products like plywood.

"If the Government is serious about ending its role in rainforest destruction, the UK must sort out its shambolic timber policy by ensuring that only Forest Stewardship Council certified timber is used in public building projects, and by introducing a ban on the import of illegal timber. This is the only way to stop this destructive trade."

Central government procurement accounts for approximately 20 per cent of all the timber used in the UK, while the broader public sector accounts for as much as 40 per cent.[4] In 2001 Tony Blair promised that the Government would only purchase legal and sustainable timber. However, a combination of weak guidelines and failed implementation has meant that the policy is failing, as the illegal plywood found at the Houses of Parliament and Admiralty Arch shows.

For more information, contact the Greenpeace press office on 020 7865 8255.

Video and stills available, including clip reel of Papua New Guinea rainforest destruction, previous Greenpeace protests over government timber procurement and the plywood used in the House of Commons.

Notes for editors:
[1] Greenpeace tested two lots of tropical hardwood faced plywood being used at the Houses of Parliament, which have been confirmed as the species bintangor, sourced almost exclusively from the rainforests of PNG. Chinese mills producing the plywood found on site have confirmed to Greenpeace that the veneers used are sourced from Papua New Guinea.

[2] Previous Greenpeace exposes of Government timber scandals include:

  • in April 2002 Greenpeace occupied the Cabinet Office at 22 Whitehall following an undercover investigation that revealed the Government was installing new doors and windows made from Sapele, sourced from companies known to be logging illegally in the rainforests of Cameroon;
  • in June 2003 Greenpeace occupied the new Home Office headquarters at 2 Marsham Street in Westminster after finding plywood from Indonesia's last rainforests, supplied by companies notorious for illegal logging, corruption and human rights abuses;
  • in July 2006 Greenpeace occupied the roof of Admiralty Arch, the home of the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, in Westminster after finding plywood illegal logged from the rainforests of Papua New Guinea being used as hoardings around the site.

 

[3] Key findings of the Cabinet Office internal investigation include:

  • bintangor faced plywood, manufactured in China, was used at Admiralty Arch;
  • recognition of "the strength of the supporting information provided by Greenpeace";
  • documentation supplied by timber companies was unsatisfactory proof of compliance with Government policy;
  • the need for 'legal and sustainable timber' was not passed down the supply chain;
  • there was insufficient comprehension of timber procurement and how to audit it effectively.

 

[4] Environmental Audit Committee, House of Commons (18th January 2006), Sustainable Timber

 

 

 

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