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.