§ Mr. Stern
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will list those parties to the Ramsar convention which require the securing of national 46W conservation status of wetlands before granting international status; and if he will make a statement on the means for the pursuit of such policies in England and Wales;
(2) if he intends to make available to the Nature Conservancy Council further resources to enable notification of the Severn estuary both as a site of special scientific interest under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and also as a special protection area under the European Community Direction 79/409 on the conservation of wild birds, to be completed by the end of 1987::
(3) if he intends to make available to the Nature Conservancy Council further resources to enable notifications as sites of special scientific interest under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the 101 sites originally intended to be notified under the Ramsar convention by the end of 1986, and not so notified by that date, to be completed by the end of 1987;
(4) if he will explain why, in the light of his statement to the meeting in 1984 of parties to the Ramsar convention at Gronningen that 132 sites eligible for notification under the convention would he notified by the end of 1986, only 31 sites were so notified; and what steps he intends to take towards notification of the outstanding sites.
§ Mr. Waldegrave
Conservation involves more than merely putting labels on sites. It is therefore our policy to designate sites under the Ramsar convention only when they have been properly protected through notification as sites of special scientific interest. I have no information about the detail of the procedures adopted by other contracting parties to the convention, but I believe firmly that our approach is the right one. However, the sheer site and complexity of the task of notifying and renotifying some 30,000–40,000 owners and occupiers of almost 5,000 existing and proposed SSSIs was not fully appreciated at the time of the Groningen conference. This coupled with subsequent unforeseen technical difficulties has meant that progress has been less rapid than hoped for.
We have taken steps to speed things up by providing the Nature Conservancy Council with very substantial increases in resources. In the past two years it has received increases of 25 per cent. and 41 per cent. respectively, bringing its total grant in aid for the current year to £32.1 million. With the assistance of those additional funds, the NCC expects that the SSSI renotification exercise will be substantially completed by July 1987.
The priority which should be given to the renotification of particular sites is for the NCC to determine in the light of its other priorities.