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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 recent assessment she has made of the effects of additives present in lead free petrol on the sparrow population. [108945]

No specific research has been undertaken to assess whether pollution, or the effects of additives in lead free petrol, have had an impact on the house sparrow population.However, recent published Defra research identified various potential factors which may have been responsible for the decline of house sparrows in urban situations—air quality and pollution were suggested as having a potential impact.A one-day conference will be held later in the year to present the work undertaken so far by my Department and other organisations, to assess where the priorities for research lie and to develop co-ordination of any further work. This conference will raise the profile of the house sparrow and start the process of preparing guidelines on how the average person might improve the number of house sparrows visiting their garden and the wider community.