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Volume 488: debated on Monday 23 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 27 January 2009, Official Report, column 320W, on birds, about what elements of the report there were uncertainties; what the reasons are for the time taken to resolve such uncertainties; and whether the contract made provision for financial penalties for late or sub-standard delivery. (253683)

Queries about the nature, reliability and robustness of the information reported, have delayed publication of this report. These queries included the extent to which conclusions in the report were supported by reliable evidence, and whether individuals named in the report had agreed to the inclusion of their names.

The report was reviewed with the authors five times as a consequence of officials raising questions about its content. While the authors of the report acted as promptly as possible, delays did occur due to the difficulties of verification of data with third parties overseas, or as key personnel were not available temporarily.

While the contract did allow for penalties none were imposed because at the time, March/April 2008, the report was believed to be reasonably correct. Most of the concerns about the style and content of the report only came to light subsequently, and the contractor then undertook the necessary additional work.