§ Lord Whitty
The problems of invasive non-native species are recognised internationally and have been identified as one of the major threats to global biodiversity by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Article 8h of the CBD requires contracting parties, as far as possible and appropriate, to prevent 133WA the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species. Decision VI/23 of the Conference of Parties adopted Guiding Principles on Invasive Alien species and urged parties to address the threats posed by invasive alien species when revising and implementing their national biodiversity action plans. Decision VI/23 also urged parties to review relevant policies, legislation and institutions in the light of the guiding principles.
The department, with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales, convened a working group in 2001 comprising government, nature conservation, and trade representatives to undertake a fundamental review of policy and practice on non-native species. The report took account of CBD Decision VI/23. The working group report of the Review of Non-native Species Policy has been published and is available from the Defra website (www.defra.gov.uk).
The department published the government response to the working group's detailed report in October 2003. It was accompanied by a public consultation exercise. The outcome of the consultation is helping my department and the devolved administrations prioritise action and develop an overall strategy for dealing with invasive non-native species. The establishment of a coherent overall strategy will assist in prioritisation of key actions.
The CBD does not refer specifically to any individual species such as the grey squirrel. I refer the noble Earl to the Starred Oral Question on 27 May, (HL Deb. Col. 1440), that grey squirrels are well established and the approach we adopt towards them is clearly different from the approach we would adopt to a new threat. A Species Action Plan (SAP) for the red squirrel was published in 1994 as part of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP). The UK BAP was prepared in response to our commitment to the CBD. The SAP identifies spread of grey squirrels, habitat fragmentation and disease as current factors in the decline of the species and sets objectives and targets to maintain and enhance existing red squirrel populations and to re-establish populations where appropriate. Delivery of the SAP is taken forward through the UK Red Squirrel Group, led by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.