My constituents have recently voiced their concerns about wildlife licensing.
I understand the concerns that you’ve raised regarding general licensing for the control of wild birds. In June last year, Defra simultaneously issued new interim general licences and launched a review to inform longer-term licensing arrangements. I am aware that the review has made significant progress, however I understand that additional time is needed to thoroughly analyse the evidence.
I’m pleased that six general licences for the control of wild birds have now been reissued on a temporary basis ahead of new licences coming into force on 1 January 2021. No action is required by licence users, beyond the ongoing requirement to act in accordance with the licence conditions. Defra intends to publish new licences in November to allow user groups to become acquainted with the changes before they officially come into force.
As a result of the above, wild bird control on and near European sites and lethal control of gulls have been via individual licence this year. I appreciate the frustrations of my constituents regarding individual licensing, and Ministers are working closely with Natural England to ensure that these issues are sorted as quickly as possible.
I am aware of calls for a feasibility study into Defra taking back control of individual licensing from Natural England. While I recognise frustration around the individual licence process this year, Natural England is England’s statutory nature conservation body and has the right specialist expertise and site-based knowledge to make licensing decisions.
I would like to reassure you that Natural England, Defra, my colleagues and I all committed to achieving a general licensing regime for wild birds which is both robust and workable for users, ensuring that longer-term licensing arrangements are informed by the best available evidence.
Thank you again for those who took the time to contact me about this.