Bird shooting climbdown as green quango loses powers
‘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