HC Deb 18 July 1994 vol 247 cc48-9W
Mr. Morley

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what support the Government are giving for research into DNA identification of stolen birds of prey;

(2) what support the Government are giving to research and development in respect of registering birds of prey by feather samples as part of a DNA registration data base.

Mr. Atkins

I have been asked to reply.

Since 1987, my Department has been funding research at the University of Nottingham into the use of DNA fingerprinting techniques to establish the genetic variation in birds of prey. The Department expects to publish the report shortly.

In each of the bird of prey species that have so far been examined, DNA fingerprinting has proved capable of identifying individuals and their parentage. This has enabled captive breeding claims to be verified. The technique has already been used in criminal proceedings to identify individual birds that have been illegally taken from the wild or stolen from another keeper. There have been several convictions in cases where evidence from DNA tests was presented. The Government's priority is to encourage the wider use of DNA tests to assist the police and others involved in enforcing the law on wildlife. The potential for other applications of DNA techniques will be kept under review, taking account of scientific progress and the availability of resources.