Africa (Sustainable Forestry)

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 28th March 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Party Chair, Co-operative Party

We are committing more than £73 million for forestry work in Africa, including £50 million announced last week by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor for a Congo basin forest fund. Our funding is helping to improve governance and secure environmental benefits, and potentially could help to safeguard the livelihoods of more than 50 million poor people.

Photo of Paddy Tipping Paddy Tipping PPS (Rt Hon Jack Straw, Lord Privy Seal), Leader of the House of Commons, Parliamentary Secretary

Does the Minister accept that one of the important steps that could be taken is for the Government and the wider public sector to buy only legal and sustainable timber? Is he confident that the central point of expertise on timber procurement is properly resourced and that its messages are widely understood across the public sector?

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Party Chair, Co-operative Party

I agree with my hon. Friend that there is much that the Government, through public procurement, can do to send strong signals about the need to use sustainable and legal sources of timber. At central level, the Government have set an example by setting out through the CPET what we want to see happen. We need to work with local authorities to help them see the benefits in that direction, and we need to encourage other Governments across the European Union and across Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries to do so, too. Yesterday, I met my Norwegian and Swedish counterparts and we are encouraging them to look at exactly that issue.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Minister is right to say that there is huge importance in maintaining forestry—quite apart from anything else, to stop land slips and other forms of erosion. Has he had any meetings with the Waitrose Foundation, which is doing valuable work in southern Africa training people not only in horticulture and maintaining farms, but in sustainable forestry?

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Party Chair, Co-operative Party

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight one particular benefit of forests. He may know that about 2 billion people worldwide depend on forests in some shape or form, so not only do donors and development agencies such as ours have a responsibility, we also need to work with the public sector, as my hon. Friend Paddy Tipping said, and with the private sector, to which Michael Fabricant referred. I have not yet met members of the Waitrose Foundation, but if he wants to bring them to see me, I shall be happy to meet them.

Photo of Betty Williams Betty Williams Labour, Conwy

My hon. Friend will be aware of the Secretary of State's visit to the university of Wales, Bangor last year. When considering sustainable forestry in Africa, will he look at the work being undertaken at the university of Wales, Bangor on the impact on forests of climate change and elevated carbon dioxide levels?

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Party Chair, Co-operative Party

I welcome the work that is taking place at Bangor and I know that my right hon. Friend's visit was useful. I will of course discuss with him the research benefits that were explained to him, as my hon. Friend Mrs. Williams described. We need more effort from public sector and private sector bodies in terms of research into the importance of deforestation and what we can do to counter it. We need to work with bodies in the private sector and with other Governments around the world to step up the effort to combat deforestation.