Bird shoot­ing climb­down as green quango loses pow­ers

Daily Mail - - News - By Colin Fer­nan­dez En­vi­ron­ment Correspond­ent

‘Peo­ple are in­cred­i­bly an­gry’

Sav­age cru­elty of law that lets crows tor­ture and kill lambs From the Mail, April 27

MICHAEL Gove was forced into a U-turn last night as it emerged Nat­u­ral Eng­land is to be stripped of its power over li­cences to shoot wild birds.

De­spite months of over­tures to the green lobby, the En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary was yes­ter­day made to ap­pease fu­ri­ous Con­ser­va­tive MPs and ‘take back con­trol’ of gun li­cens­ing pow­ers from the na­ture watch­dog, it was claimed.

Mr Gove’s de­ci­sion fol­lows his re­cent ap­point­ment of Tony Ju­niper, a for­mer head of Friends of The Earth and lead­ing green cam­paigner, as head of Nat­u­ral Eng­land.

While the li­cens­ing fi­asco hap­pened be­fore Mr Ju­niper was ap­pointed, un­der in­terim chief Mar­ian Spain, it was seen as a bid by Mr Gove to pro­mote a mem­ber of the environmen­talist lobby at the ex­pense of tra­di­tional Tory ru­ral in­ter­ests. Coun­try­side Al­liance chief Tim Bon­ner said: ‘This is a po­ten­tial crisis for the De­part­ment for En­vi­ron­ment, Food and Ru­ral Affairs. Michael Gove has been keen to em­brace the en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment and Nat­u­ral Eng­land may have mis­taken his will­ing­ness to en­gage with all parts of the de­bate with a change of pol­icy favour­ing the green lobby.’

Last week Nat­u­ral Eng­land caused an out­cry af­ter it de­cided to re­voke per­mits al­low­ing farm­ers to cull ‘pest’ species.

The de­ci­sion – which fol­lowed le­gal ac­tion by BBC pre­sen­ter Chris Pack­ham and his cam­paign group Wild Jus­tice – means farm­ers now risk pros­e­cu­tion if they shoot wild birds that at­tack live­stock and dec­i­mate crops. Nat­u­ral Eng­land has pledged to rush out new per­mits to re­place ‘gen­eral li­cences’, but – with no set time­frame – landown­ers are in limbo.

Now, in an ap­par­ent bid to draw a line un­der the furore, Mr Gove has met MPs to as­sure them Nat­u­ral Eng­land will no longer be in charge and he will ‘fix’ the is­sue as soon as pos­si­ble. South Suf­folk MP James Cartlidge told mem­bers of his lo­cal Con­ser­va­tive as­so­ci­a­tion he had at­tended a pri­vate meet­ing of Tory MPs with Mr Gove ‘to dis­cuss the im­pact this most in­com­pe­tent of pol­icy gear-changes has had on the ru­ral com­mu­nity’.

Mr Cartlidge told the Daily Mail: ‘Peo­ple are in­cred­i­bly an­gry, a lot of it is go­ing back to how it hap­pened. He [Mr Gove] said “We’ve just got to get this sorted and get the new li­cens­ing regime up and run­ning so peo­ple aren’t break­ing the law when they do the usual things they do to pro­tect live­stock and crops”.

‘De­fra are go­ing to take back con­trol of li­cens­ing, that’s def­i­nitely what he said.’

But Martin Sal­ter, pol­icy ad­viser to the Angling Trust, said: ‘De­fra has been fil­leted by years of cuts and I doubt it’s got the re­sources to do a bet­ter job.’ Nat­u­ral Eng­land’s Mr Ju­niper said: ‘Our pri­or­ity is to find the best way to re­solve the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion quickly and ef­fec­tively.’

De­fra said: ‘The Sec­re­tary of State has asked of­fi­cials to ur­gently in­ves­ti­gate the is­sues around gen­eral li­cens­ing.’

Picture per­fect: Naomi Camp­bell pos­ing for NARS and, right, cap­tured by Terry O’Neill in 1 1

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