HC Deb 21 March 1991 vol 188 cc218-9W
19. Mr. Michael Brown

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on his Department's actions to reduce the mortality of imported wild birds.

Mr. Maclean

The Ministry's second report on mortalities in imported captive birds, relating to imports in 1989, was published in February. Copies are available in the Library of the House.

I regard the level of mortality as unacceptably high and the Department is taking what action it can to reduce losses. During the past year veterinary officials have visited major exporting countries and more visits are to take place. We insist that the authorities responsible for exports must comply with our import requirements and observe welfare standards of the International Air Transport Association. Consideration is being given to revised pre-export isolation and certification requirements, and we will prohibit imports of birds from any country that fails to co-operate.

Following a review of quarantine standards the number of birds in each quarantine premises will be specified according to physiological and behavioural needs. These measures are expected to result in reduced consignment sizes, and from 1 April the maximum size of any consignment of non-psittacines will be reduced from 6,000 to 4,000. Applicants for import licences are also now required to provide more detailed information and we are considering tightening further the application of our disease control arrangements.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is also considering what action can be taken within his responsibilities.

Many of the problems arising from this trade would be significantly reduced if the public did not purchase captive birds. Some species should not be taken from the wild for this trade, and nobody should contemplate buying or keeping birds unless proper care and facilities are available.