HC Deb 17 November 1983 vol 48 cc972-3
3. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether his Department's work on straw and moorland burning has given any indication of the numbers of wild animals killed by these practices.

Mr. Jopling

Provided that straw and moorland burnings are properly carried out, they should not pose significant threats to wildlife populations.

Mr. Bennett

Is the Minister aware that the problem this year has been that a great deal of the burning has not been done properly and that farmers have put people on the roads at risk through accidents? Is he further aware that many wild animals have been trapped and encircled by flames as a result of irresponsible burning? When will he produce enforceable laws to stop this obnoxious practice?

Mr. Jopling

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the implication that I read in his supplementary—he seemed to underline what I said—that provided straw and moorland burning is carried out properly, it should not pose a significant threat to wildlife populations. I accept that, if it is carried out improperly, in some instances there can be a threat to wildlife. It is partly with that in view that we are carrying out the reviews and discussions to which I referred.

Sir Hector Monro

Does my right hon. Friend agree that burning for hill and upland grazing is an essential part of hill sheep management and that if the regulations laid down under the Wildlife and Countryside Act were carried out there would be no problems? Indeed, none has been reported to me?

Mr. Jopling

I acknowledge my hon Friend's wide experience. As a member of the Nature Conservancy Council, he knows much about this matter. I agree with and underline what he said. If burning is carried out properly, it should not represent any threat to wildlife, which we are anxious to preserve.