Letter from Defra

I am grateful to Defra Minister Richard Benyon for this reply to a letter which my MP, Louise Mensch, sent to him on 15 December concerning implementation of the EU Birds Directive.

The letter asked about farmland birds, hen harriers and marine protected areas.

The Minister’s civil servants have written him quite a detailed reply on farmland birds – it’s to do with intensive farming, agri-environment schemes are the solution and the RSPB’s Hope Farm shows what can be done.  All quite right.  But this does make the case that Defra needs to do more to ensure that the good body of knowledge that we have is translated into effective action. I’m interested in what the Minister says about MESME – I notice he doesn’t really say whether this is completed or not and what the consequences might be – I wonder whether I can find out.  Does anyone out there know?

On hen harriers it’s a poor reply.  More needs to be done but it isn’t clear that the Minister has anything resembling a coherent plan of action.  If I were given a letter like this to sign I might either ask my civil servants to come up with something more convincing or, after sending the letter, be getting them into a room and asking them what they are going to do.  I don’t know how we would settle it, but I would have a small bet that neither of those things is happening  nor has happened.

On marine SPAs,  it is a very poor reply.



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7 Replies to “Letter from Defra”

  1. And after a lot of money has been spent on harrier rearing projects, with all the accompanying monitoring and faff that surrounds such initiatives, will they have even done anything to address the scourge that continues to reduce harriers and other raptors in the UK, namely persecution linked to the sporting estates of staunch Tory supporters? Whatever happened to the Hen Harrier Recovery Project of which there is no mention?
    Whilst thankfully the remnant population hangs on in Bowland on United Utilities land the conservation organisations too have singularly failed in retaining a more broad based distribution of that species in the area . Why? Persecution again! When will the Government show its backbone and actually do something about raptor persecution instead of continually paying lip service to the continuing problem? This is not a good start to the day, MA. Two earthquakes on Islay yesterday morning and now this!!! I suppose it will take something equally apocalyptic before the Tories turn on their own!

  2. I don't understand why you are so dismissive of Richard Benyon's response in relation to hen harriers. Perhaps you would only have been satisfied if he had committed the government to a policy of vicarious liability. As it is, he quite properly highlights the various conflict resolution projects that are underway, which - who knows - may lead one of these days to the sort of sensible management approach that you commended in your own blog last August and your more recent article in The Field.

    1. Lazywell - hello! You haven't posted a comment here for a while. Good to hear from you. I would have been pleased if he had committed government to vicarious liability but he doesn't seem very keen on that. But that is certainly not the only thing that would have satisfied me - I'm not that difficult to please.

  3. Well vicarious liability is essential,it would not solve the problem but would definitely help and if it meant stronger measures afterwards then lets get on with it.
    No responsible landowner has anything to fear from vicarious liability so obviously anyone against it must be up to no good .
    All other things to improve the Hen Harrier population have failed because requests have not been heeded.
    Why should we not have the same benefits as Scotland in this law.

  4. In relation to hen harriers it is a very poor reply, given that the Hen Harrier Dialogue has been on the go for about six years and has so far delivered absolutely nothing in practical terms. Since its inception the English harrier population has gone down by more that 50%. Yet we have diversionary feeding which may not be the whole answer but largely stops grouse predation, has any estae taken it up other than an emergency measure------ No it's easier to shoot the harriers. What we need is vicarious liability, a much more forceful approach to law enforcement and failing that licensing of both shoots and keepers ( licences to be withdrawn on transgression. It is a patent lie when we are told it is a few rogues if that were the case harriers would be more numerous, all evidence suggests given the opportunity the vaste majority of keepers / moorland estates persecute. It is time these people were made to realise they are not above the law by whatever means possible. They hate publicity so name and shame should be part of the strategy.

  5. How come you get such a detailed reply? Most of us usually get but a few glib lines from the Minister, but in fact maybe you just got lots of glib lines. MESME is interesting. One of my first jobs was to try influence Defra into better targeting schemes, 8 years ago, but the farming lobby was against it because it may have forced them into doing more specific things in specific places, which they might not like. We had many of the tools and knowhow back then. Why does it all take so flipping long?!!


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