HL Deb 21 December 1988 vol 502 cc1359-60

Lord Stodart of Leaston asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether there are now fewer pelicans in St. James's Park than there were a year ago, and if so, why; and whether it is their policy to maintain numbers at the level of a year ago.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, there are now four pelicans in St. James's Park compared with five a year ago. One became seriously ill during the year and had to be put down. We have no immediate plans for a replacement.

Lord Stodart of Leaston

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that unhappy Answer. Does he recall the efforts made a year ago by my noble friend in trying to shed light on the sex of the pelicans? Does he recall that my noble friend said that he would like to wander through the park on one spring evening to see whether anything was going on? Can he tell us whether he made that expedition and whether he saw anything going on which aroused his interest? Lastly, will my noble friend do his best to see that the numbers are kept up because some 30 years ago the pelicans formed an extremely appreciative audience at four o'clock on a summer morning when I rehearsed my maiden speech for another place?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am advisedly informed that my noble friend was seen taking a meander in St. James's Park in springtime. He observed what was going on but did not observe very much of what the pelicans were doing.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that most of the notices warning visitors not to feed the pelicans with unsuitable food have been removed from around the lake in St. James's Park? Will he do his utmost to see that those are replaced as death can be caused through them eating unsuitable food?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I shall certainly take that point on board and raise it with the bailiff.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, can my noble friend tell us whether the present pelicans have been given names? Is he aware that some 30 years ago there were three and they were named after the chiefs of staff? Two of them were always getting together and appeared to be ganging up on the third.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, no. The present ones do not have names because we do not know their sex and, therefore, we thought it would be rather invidious to name them.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, will the Minister accept that the pelicans are probably becoming very depressed, first, by being harangued by new MPs practising their speeches and, secondly, by noble Lords wandering around in the dead of night spying on them?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am informed that my noble friend was spotted in daylight. However, it has done the pelicans a power of good that my noble friend spoke to them in the early hours of that morning because none other than my noble friend and my noble friends Lord Chelwood, Lord Rippon and Lord Eccles have all been involved in pelican questions in another place.

Lord Rippon of Hexham

My Lords, will my noble friend bear in mind that I dealt with my noble friend's question in another place nearly 30 years ago and the position has not changed since then? Indeed, none of this matters very much because they have not laid an egg since the time of Charles II.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I do not believe that they laid one then either!

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, if they do lay eggs, will they be contaminated with salmonella?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the eggs are chalky white but we shall continue to look for them.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that it is easy to tell the sex of a pelican because either the male is bigger than the female or the female is bigger than the male? I cannot remember which.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I wish it was that simple, but alas it is not.

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