To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of whether Denmark's inclusion of social criteria in its policy for timber procurement complies with the requirements of the European Forestry Certification Scheme; and if she will make a statement on the implications for inclusion of social criteria in UK policy.
The UK Government accept that social criteria are complementary to environmental and economic criteria in the context of sustainable forest management and that international guidelines, including the Pan European Operational Level Guidelines, recognise this principle. The UK Government timber procurement policy has been devised so that one outcome will be the enhancement of forest dependent peoples' well being through an increase in the amount of legal timber and timber from well managed forests being supplied.
European procurement directives require public sector contracting authorities to limit their contract specifications to criteria that are relevant to the product or service being purchased. The UK Government believe that forest dependent people play a part in sustaining forest health and vitality. However, as far as the procurement directives are concerned, their well being does not appear to be sufficiently relevant to the subject matter of contracts to warrant inclusion as contract specification criteria. The UK's interpretation of the directives is based on legal advice and on advice from officials responsible for procurement policy. It would appear that a different view is taken by Denmark. However, if it were ever to be established beyond reasonable doubt that the well being of forest dependent people could feasibly be included as a requirement in public sector contracts, then the UK Government would reconsider its position.