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Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 15 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to prevent the unlawful culling of magpies. [108114]

The control of certain birds, including magpies, is permitted under a series of general licences issued by my Department. This system, first introduced in 1992, offers a practical and easily understood method of control of certain bird species and ensures that birds are killed or taken by certain methods only, with the minimum of distress to the birds.

Control of birds under the general licences has generally worked well, however a recent High Court judgment has illustrated that there may be areas where review of the general licences would be useful. Officials will consult stakeholders shortly and revise the licences where changes are considered necessary.

If persons are aware that the terms and conditions of the licences allowing control of magpies are not being adhered to they should report the matter to their Police Wildlife Liaison Officer attached to their local police force. Persons found guilty of not working in accordance with the licences can face a maximum penalty of £5,000 and or six month custodial sentence. Copies of the general licences can be found on the Defra website.