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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the 'outstanding issues' were which were found by the review of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification scheme which caused the probation period to be extended.
The outstanding issues relate to the decision making process for forest management standard setting as adopted by the national schemes that have been endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). The PEFC Council's new requirement for standard setting is that
"The formal approval of standards shall be based on evidence of consensus".
An initial examination of some of the national schemes showed that the various national decision making processes were not identical. Subsequent information supplied by the schemes indicated that the processes adopted may nevertheless result in compliance with the PEFC Council requirements but the situation was not at all clear-cut and called for more examination.
Another factor considered was the impending review of all the forest certification schemes assessed by CPET in 2004. The Government has decided that this review will, in addition to examining published scheme requirements, consider evidence of failure to adopt scheme system requirements. A decision now on PEFC's probationary status may be overturned following the review. That would create significant confusion in the market place and loss of credibility for the CPET assessment process.
The UK Government was mindful of the implications any ill judged decision would have on all the stakeholders involved and was anxious to be as objective and fair as possible. Consequently, the decision was to postpone making a decision on PEFC's probationary status until after the review of schemes scheduled for late spring 2006.