The possibility of new legislation to outlaw the import of illegal timber is moving nearer, with the European Commission (EC) currently finalising an impact assessment on several key legal options.

The moves, known as “additional options” to the EU Action Plan for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade, have been long called for by Greenpeace and are intended to remove the competitive advantage of illegal products entering the European market.

The EC will publish a Communication on the issue in May/June, including the impact assessment and possibly legislative proposals.

Defra said that it has been persistent in encouraging the Commission to consider additional legislation, and has supported their efforts through extensive analysis of the different options. Defra is now urging the UK timber industry to contribute to the debate and to consider new, modified or hybrid options, including the possibility of introducing a requirement for a “declaration of origin” of timber imports.

“We encourage the trade to engage in discussions, to consider which measures are workable in practice,” said a Defra spokesperson. “The UK will agree its position once the Communication has been published and the intended direction of the EC is known.”

A recent stakeholder meeting attended by Defra, NGOs, timber traders and DIY retailers resulted in a broad consensus in favour of additional legislation.

Meanwhile, The Timber Trade Federation (TTF) said it supported additional legislation and was fully engaged in the debate with government on “what that should look like”.

“Any legislation needs to be balanced, achieve the effects it intends and not place undue burdens on business,” said the TTF’s Liz Betser.

A TTF cross-product group is currently examining details of the proposed options.

In April, Barry Gardiner MP plans to present a private member’s bill in the House of Commons modelled on the US Lacey Act, for which an amendment to criminalise the import of illegal wood is currently being considered. The Act is similar to one of the three legislative options being looked at by the EC.