§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement on the destruction of sheld-duck on the Cuxhaven bombing range, and on the measures proposed in future to avoid endangering this species.]
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY)
My Lords, this bombing range was selected with the co-operation and agreement of the German Federal Government to take the place of Heligoland which was used for bombing training until 1951. It is located on sandbanks off the North-West Coast of Germany, the target area being about five miles from the shore. It was first used for bombing training 100 in the autumn of 1953. The sheld-duck appear to use these sandbanks during their moulting season in July and August. The duck are flightless during this season which is thus the period of danger. Reports have been made from German sources of heavy destruction of duck during the moulting season of 1954, the first such season when bombing has taken place. There are, however, other estimates throwing doubt on the number of duck reported as destroyed.
As a result of discussions which I have had with the Chairman of the British Section of the International Committee for Bird Preservation, new arrangements will be made for the use of the range during the next moulting season. Only practice bombs will be dropped containing only a small charge to set off a smoke marker, which will mean that there will be no blast effect. The Royal Air Force will co-operate with ornithologists under arrangements to be made with the British Section of the International Committee, to inspect the range before and after bombing has taken place to establish its effect on the sheld-duck. By these measures, there is every hope that in the future the species will be able to moult without being seriously molested.
§ LORD TWEEDSMUIR
My Lords, in thanking the noble and gallant Lord for his statement, I think I can speak for ornithologists, not only in this country but on the Continent as well, when I say that we give a warm welcome to the assurance he has given us. We are all extremely grateful for the co-operation which the Royal Air Force have shown in this matter.
THE MARQUESS OF WILLINGDON
My Lords, representing the Society for the Preservation of Fauna, may I add my sincere thanks for the interest and help which the Air Ministry have given us in this matter.
My Lord, may I add an expression of gratitude from these Benches for the continued solicitude of Her Majesty's Government in the cause of wild birds?