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Wildlife Protection

Volume 460: debated on Wednesday 23 May 2007

3. What recent discussions he has had at a European level on the protection of winter quarters of whooper swans potentially affected by road proposals. (137957)

Following the restoration of devolution on 8 May, I can now tell the hon. Gentleman that roads are now devolved, and whooper swans are devolved too. The hon. Gentleman asks about recent discussions at European level; as a Liverpool MP, the only discussions that I am really interested in having at European level today are about Liver birds rather than whooper swans—and specifically about how well the Reds will do in Athens tonight.

I am grateful to the Minister for her answer, and also for a written answer from one of her colleagues on 20 March revealing that in the Seamus Heaney area of special protection, where a large proportion of the 4,000 over-wintering whooper swans are to be found, by Lough Beg, there is a proposal for a dual carriageway from Toome to Castledawson.

Am I right in saying that both national and international laws require the Roads Service to make a far better assessment of the risk to whooper swans—and may I invite the Minister to come with me next winter to see them and to make sure that they are protected?

I can confirm that whooper swans are protected. They are listed in annexe 2 to the birds directive and schedule 1 to the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. However, such matters are the concern of the devolved Administration. The Minister in the Northern Ireland Administration with responsibility for them is Arlene Foster MLA. I am aware of the hon. Gentleman’s previous correspondence, and he might wish to write further to her on this matter.