HC Deb 09 November 1979 vol 973 cc371-2W
Mr. Oakes

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what progress has been made in the investigations of the continuing deaths of thousands of wild birds in the mid-Mersey area; and if he will make a statement,

(2) if he will arrange for the publication of the results of the post-mortem examination of the carcases of birds from the mid-Mersey area sent to the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology by the Nature Conservancy,

(3) what consultations have taken place between officials of his Department and the North-West water authority about the problem of the death of wild birds in the mid-Mersey area.

Mr. Fox

Departmental officials have taken no part in the detailed consultations on this problem, which has been handled regionally by NWWA in concert with local statutory and voluntary bodies, with the help of local industrialists. Press releases on the progress of the investigations are being co-ordinated by the Wildfowlers' Association of Great Britain and Ireland from its office in Chester.

I understand that at the latest count some 2,000 birds had been found dead and that bodies are still being collected. Daily monitoring counts are being arranged by the Wildfowlers' Association. Post-mortem analyses indicate high inorganic lead levels in the body tissues, but there is as yet no confirmation that this was the main cause of death. Investigations are still proceeding to isolate the true cause of death and its source.

Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether the 25 dead birds recovered from the River Mersey and taken to the headquarters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Bedfordshire died of lead poisoning.

Mr. Fox

I understand that post-mortem analyses indicated high inorganic lead levels in the body tissues of the birds but scientists have been unable to confirm this as the cause of death. Further tests are being carried out.