§ Mr. Hendry
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what information is available on mortalities in imported wild birds.
§ Mr. Gummer
The Department's latest report on mortalities in imported captive birds, relating to imports in 1991, is now available and copies are being placed in the Library of the House. The figures show a fall in the number of birds imported from 176,000 in 1990 to 129,000 in 1991, but the average mortality rate in transport and post-import quarantine rose from 12–3 to 14.8 per cent. Although variation in mortality rates is to be expected, this increase is unacceptable and urgent improvements are clearly needed.
There is a clear correlation between mortality and the size of individual consignments. We are therefore pursuing vigorously proposals for limiting the size of consignments with the International Air Transport Association, whose live animal regulations are to become mandatory under Community law. We are also opening consultations with interested organisations on the introduction of consignment limits in the United Kingdom. From this month new checks are being made on all commercial imports of birds into Great Britain. We are pressing the European Commission to introduce proposals for further specific measures for wild birds under the directive on protection of animals during transport. The United Kingdom 342W presidency is also giving high priority to discussions in the Environment Council on a proposed new Community regulation on the wildlife trade which would provide for specific controls on species are particularly vulnerable to transport.
The Department will be discussing with interested parties a programme to recognise the competence of quarantine operators. In addition, further training courses will be held for veterinarians supervising quarantine premises.
The Government fully appreciate the concern about this issue and is determined that any trade in wild birds is conducted in humane conditions and in accordance with strict conservation safeguards.