UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 1740-i

House of COMMONS

Oral EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE the

Environmental Audit Committee

Wildlife Crime

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Andy Shipp, Stacey Frier, David Hoccom and Bob Elliott

Mark Lloyd, Martin Salter and Charles Nodder

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 90

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Environmental Audit Committee

on Wednesday 7 March 2012

Members present:

Joan Walley (Chair)

Peter Aldous

Neil Carmichael

Martin Caton

Katy Clark

Zac Goldsmith

Mark Lazarowicz

Caroline Lucas

Mr Mark Spencer

Paul Uppal

Dr Alan Whitehead

Simon Wright

________________

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Andy Shipp, Prosecution Case Manager, RSPCA, Stacey Frier, Parliamentary Adviser, RSPCA, David Hoccom, Head of Species Policy, RSPB, and Bob Elliott, Head of Investigations, RSPB, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: I warmly welcome each one of you to what we think is an important evidence session in our current inquiry. By way of introduction, what we are doing is following on from a previous report of the Environmental Audit Committee into environmental crime and wildlife crime, which was done in the 2003-04 Session. To get this evidence session moving, I would like to invite each of you to share with the Committee-albeit very briefly-the major concerns you feel have emerged since our report eight years ago, and what now needs to be urgently put on to the agenda. We would very much welcome that brief introduction from each of you.

Andy Shipp: Can I just say a little bit about myself? I am Andy Shipp, a senior Prosecution Case Manager with the RSPCA, where I spent 13 years as an investigator. I have seen the investigating part of this process and now I see the files and decide whether we prosecute, so I am seeing that side of it, too. We weren’t actually involved in the 2004 audit, as far as I can see, so it is difficult for me to comment on that. I have seen the notes. I am not sure a lot has changed, to be honest. The area of wildlife legislation we mainly deal with is the pursuit of badgers and possession of wild birds. Those issues have not gone away. People are pretty relentless in that hobby and I don’t think anything has changed. On your wider issues about the report, again I don’t see that much has changed, to be honest.

Stacey Frier: I have nothing to add to what Andy has said.

David Hoccom: I am Dave Hoccom, Head of Species Policy for the RSPB. My colleague, Bob Elliott, is Head of Investigations for the RSPB. Since 2004, we have seen the formation of the National Wildlife Crime Unit. It is very much a good thing from the RSPB’s standpoint. We welcome the funding commitment that has come from central Government to enable that to happen, although we note that there are ongoing issues around its long-term future. The funding currently in place is only good until 2013. We are very encouraged by the development of UK wildlife crime priorities, which use scientific evidence to focus enforcement’s preventive effort-good work in some of those priority areas, particularly around trade in endangered species; however, in other areas of particular interest to the RSPB, such as the persecution of birds of prey, there is less good progress to point towards.

Legislation-we have seen various welcome developments in each of the countries. Obviously, that means that the legislative framework has developed at different paces. That is not necessarily a big issue in enforcement terms, but it means that we have some provisions that are available, for example, in Scotland, but not elsewhere in the UK, and we would like to see that corrected.

For sites conservation, we think that the framework is largely effective, but currently we believe that the responsible agencies are perhaps not making best use of the various offences and sanctions available to them. Ultimately the bottom line is that, in terms of our core interests, persecution continues to be a significant constraint on the populations of some birds of prey, and in terms of protected sites the evidence base is actually quite thin. We don’t really know what the sum impact of crime against protected sites is.

Chair: Thank you. Do you wish to add to that, Mr Elliott?

Bob Elliott: No. That is fine for now, thank you.

Q2 Chair: You just mentioned sites conservation. I wonder whether you had any particular remit in terms of the budget coming forward, in terms of the NPPF and the planning issues that relate to site conservation and the other issues that relate to all that agenda. Is that something that you would wish to raise?

David Hoccom: I can say briefly it is not an area of expertise for either Bob or me, but we do have a position versus that framework, as you would expect. We have taken legal opinion around the fact that the proposals, at least in the form that Government brought them forward several months previously, could well have a detrimental consequence for the protection afforded to special wildlife sites. But we could come back with further written submissions on that if that would be helpful.

Chair: Okay-thank you.

Q3 Mr Spencer: If we can just look at the legal framework that is currently in place. I am trying to work out in my own mind whether we have the right tools in place, and we are not implementing them, or whether we require further legislation?

Andy Shipp: I would say, from our point of view, that the legislation is sufficient to do our job. You have to bear in mind that we use wildlife legislation to pursue our animal welfare objectives, which cover badger digging and possession of wild birds. Putting a wild bird into a small cage is a welfare issue. We probably use quite a small area of legislation, but it is there. We have everything we need there. There are warrant powers. There are seizure powers, disqualification powers. We have the Animal Welfare Act, which is an excellent bit of legislation. It can also be used for wild animals now, because if a wild animal comes under the control of man, it becomes a protected animal under the Animal Welfare Act. That has added an extra tool that has been really good and useful.

The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act is a little bit-not irrelevant, but it requires an intention to cause suffering. That is very difficult to prove. It really could do with a recklessness element attached to it, because how do you prove someone intended to cause suffering to an animal when they say, "I intended to kill it when I kicked it, not cause it suffering"? So that would need amending. But overall, with the entire package, with all the powers available to the police, broadly speaking we are happy with it. It is a bit of a mess, it needs tidying up, but we don’t want to lose any powers in that process.

Q4 Mr Spencer: Are the RSPB of a similar opinion?

Bob Elliott: Yes. It mirrors that quite a lot. As a practitioner, as somebody who is the Head of Investigations, I find the legislation strong and we have gone-particularly in Scotland-some way to addressing the issues of criminality in the upland areas of the UK associated with grouse shooting. Recently, vicarious liability was a very good initiative that was taken forward in Scotland through the Scottish Parliament. We would like to see that mirrored here where, again, the Wildlife and Countryside Act means that effectively you have to make sure your staff and your system in place are robust and complying with the law. Vicarious liability is a big thing for us. We have some great legislation, I think, compared with some of the other areas in Europe. We just need to have the correct framework in place for enforcement, so that means police resources and so on, which I am sure we will come to later. We are hoping that others will support the idea of vicarious liability in the rest of the UK. There is certainly an online campaign going on at the moment, and other organisations fully support that.

The introduction of custodial sentences was a big win under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. If you compare egg collecting with, say, raptor poisoning or raptor persecution, egg collectors routinely get sent to prison and it is the same legislation, whereas we are not seeing that for people who are convicted of some of the serious raptor offences. Other disposals are used for that, so we are not quite getting there with the actual explanation of how serious these offences are.

Q5 Mr Spencer: If you were looking to change legislation, it is not necessarily about the actual crimes; it is about the sentencing of those criminals once they have been prosecuted and convicted?

Bob Elliott: Indeed. We can have a debate about the level of fine and prison sentence as well and where it sits, but generally it is fit for purpose. However, it is not being applied uniformly across the board. It is strange to be in a court case to do with a gamekeeper who is being prosecuted and an egg collector. An egg collector would probably be a repeat offender and he will be sent to prison, whereas others won’t get that sentence handed down to them. We see poisoning cases-when you think about the populations of birds of prey, particularly golden eagle, white-tailed eagle, hen harrier and those other important species that are priority policing species, we are just not seeing those sorts of sentences handed down.

Andy Shipp: Can I just add one point there? It would be utterly misleading to say that people are not being apprehended because the legislation is weak. That is not the case. The reason you often don’t detect the people we deal with is because they are well organised. They go out in the middle of the night in camouflage gear; it is like a military operation. The issues are evidential. You will always have those. Legislation cannot assist you in that area, I am afraid.

Bob Elliott: Another thing that I think could be a real win for us in the UK is making sure that we have possession controls for the serious chemicals that still seem to be out there, which are routinely abused and used in the killing of rare wildlife, particularly carbofuran which is a banned chemical. You should not be able to possess it. We have possession controls in Scotland. You can be convicted of possession of carbofuran. You can’t do that in the rest of England. I think we should really tighten that. That would make a big impact.

Q6 Mr Spencer: Just for my own interest, I see a lot of cases in the press where both the RSPB and the RSPCA have been involved in prosecutions, but mostly around domestic offences. I wonder how much of your time is spent on wildlife and how much on domestic abuse-I am sure you don’t have that to hand, but roughly as a ballpark figure.

Andy Shipp: If I could give you some statistics on convictions, last year the RSPCA achieved around about 3,000 convictions for all our offences. Approximately 100 of those were wildlife, so quite small if you compare those figures. I have some photographs that I am more than happy to show you all if you want to see them. Those few-those badger diggers and their welfare offences-are top of our list, because they don’t do it for financial benefit; they do it because they like seeing a badger attacked by dogs. Often in the background of the videos you will hear laughter and joking, so they are actually enjoying what is going on. From our point of view-we are looking at welfare-it is at the top, so the figure is small but very important-100 out of 3,000. When you do a wildlife investigation, it takes a lot of resources and a lot of time just because of the nature of it.

Bob Elliott: On the RSPB’s role in this-we have no powers. We are here to assist the police and other agencies with these sorts of cases. We haven’t taken a private prosecution for 20-odd years. We took a policy decision not to do so. I think the last case was a goshawk-a rare bird case-which was a DNA case and it was very important that we tested the legislation at that time. We have a small investigations unit and, as I say, we are here to be expert witnesses, to assist the police with cases, and we have probably done it for more than 40 years. We have led from the front on this one, and we believe it is the police and the RSPCA people who should take these cases forward. The object of the exercise is to make myself redundant one day, and we will see about that.

Obviously, we work very closely with the National Wildlife Crime Unit and all the forces, and we were at the forefront in creating, I suppose, the wildlife crime officer network. It was really because we found officers who were very interested, committed and enjoyed wildlife themselves. We latched on to them quite a lot because we had the support there within the force. We are now seeing some full-time wildlife crime officers and some success there, so that is pleasing.

So yes, our objectives are conservation objectives. The RSPCA does an amazing job with welfare and other areas. Our job is conservation. We want to see these species-golden eagle and so on- increasing their range and we will see that as a success, when and if that happens.

Q7 Caroline Lucas: You have already touched on enforcement, but I wanted to probe a bit further in terms of getting a little bit clearer what each of your roles are on enforcement. Bob Elliott has already explained that the RSPB does not do it so much, but is the RSPCA happy with its role in enforcement? Do you feel that the police commit sufficient resources to tackling wildlife crime or do you feel that in a sense you are having to make up for a gap that is there?

Andy Shipp: No. We are very happy with our role. I think you have to start from the premise that when a member of the public sees an animal issue they don’t really think of ringing the police in the first place, do they? They are probably always going to ring us or the RSPB on a bird issue. That is where the call comes in. We get excellent cooperation from the police at all levels-they don’t have to be experts in wildlife crime-but I think part of that is because we then do the job. They supply the statutory powers, the warrant, the arrest, the seizure, but we deal with the animals, we take the prosecution, and we take a lot of the pain away. That relationship works very, very well and it is a well-oiled machine. Obviously, we have a lot of expertise in this area now and overall we are pretty happy with it.

Q8 Caroline Lucas: It is a wonderful example of where there is not a resource issue then? You were explaining earlier that these people whom you are going after are very well organised and they are going out at night and so forth, so it is not a resource issue that stops you being able to get them?

Andy Shipp: I don’t think it is, and you have hit on exactly why. Because you could have any number of wildlife officers, but you are not going to be in that wood at 11 o’clock at night when those badger diggers go in there. It is just not going to happen. It is about educating some of the ordinary police officers that if they do vehicle stops in the middle of the night, and find four guys, camouflage gear, dogs, this is what they are probably doing. There is a lot of education that the wildlife police officers could probably hand down better to normal police officers.

Bob Elliott: Yes, exactly. I think it is very similar from our point of view, apart from the resourcing issue, because obviously we don’t actually take cases to the Crown Prosecution Service ourselves, so we want others to do that. That is where the encouragement, the cajoling and the support kicks in from our point of view. We spend quite a lot of our members’ money in assisting this process, in order for rare species to increase their ranges.

On the legislative framework side of things, we need to address and point at the root causes of the problems. We are very keen, obviously, that research and science is used effectively to do this. More and more we are homing in on the uplands, those areas where we have grouse moors and so on, for problems of these species not breeding. Resourcing-wise, we have always had a smallish team. We believe that our role is to assist others and we are not doubling our team tomorrow. Of course money would always be welcome but, as one of the biggest organisations around in this game and the most experienced, we will continue to do it-continue to perform that role.

Q9 Caroline Lucas: My following question-and in a sense you have already touched on it a bit, but I wonder if you might say a little bit more, just to put it on the record-is around the value added that your investigators can bring alongside what is already being provided by the police. You gave an example of knowing what to look for and so forth. Is there anything else specific that could be added in there?

Andy Shipp: We have a really sensible relationship with police. Any one job could be taken by the police officer and prosecuted through the CPS. With any one job on which they could assist us, we have a very honest, frank conversation on that level. I don’t mean to sound too optimistic but we are very happy where we are. It does work. We are pursuing welfare and, therefore, we don’t sit on intelligence because we can’t. We can’t wait two years while more animals suffer. It gives some urgency and we push that urgency on to the police. Their role is smaller, and they assist us fantastically well. Yes-I am going to sound optimistic-it works for us.

Q10 Zac Goldsmith: Just on that point, and I hope you have not already said this, and I have not missed something that you have already answered. Are all your prosecutions funded through your own fundraising?

Andy Shipp: Yes.

Q11 Zac Goldsmith: Even though you are filling in a gap, it is all privately funded?

Andy Shipp: Yes, it is all from charity money; no Government money.

Zac Goldsmith: I had not fully realised that.

Andy Shipp: I am not sure you are alone on that.

Q12 Zac Goldsmith: Do you know how many of your prosecutions are successful? Also, is there a default position within the police that they accept your prosecutions as valid when you get going? There is always total synergy there?

Andy Shipp: Yes, absolutely. I think because the RSPCA were actually in existence before the police, this is a long-established relationship. They have absolute total trust in us, so they are more than happy and, in fact, they are keen for us to take it because these matters are complicated in their own right. It is a specialist area, isn’t it? You need some expertise, so they are more than happy to allow us to take the job. The success rate is around about 98%, which is fantastic because I think CPS last time I looked was down in the eighties. I understand that they are dealing with complicated cases that are bound to take the rate down, but we are very happy with that.

Q13 Zac Goldsmith: Can I ask one other thing? I know I am jumping in here, but in terms of the successful prosecutions-the 98% you said-how many result in a penalty that you believe is proportionate to the crime that has been committed?

Andy Shipp: I have no figures, but definitely most. With normal prosecutions-custodial, that is for the court to decide, isn’t it?-what we are really after most of the time is a disqualification order: "This person has demonstrated that they don’t deserve to own animals". If we come away with a disqualification order we are very happy, and we get that; we do get that. Yes, the length of them can vary from one year to life, and it is a bit hit and miss around the country, but broadly speaking we get what we want and that is more often than not what we are after-and confiscation of the animal obviously, because we don’t want it to go back.

Bob Elliott: Since our inception we have been involved in wildlife crime investigation, or certainly really serious concerns about conservation issues. It is fair to say that we have had a crucial role in hundreds of successful prosecutions in this area. We probably have more experience than any other NGO of this. In fact, through our BirdLife partners that the RSPB sponsors, we go out and help with those sorts of cases as well. We provide investigative support to cases. We stand up in court. We have pioneered new DNA fingerprinting and all those techniques. The value we have added has been huge and, if we had not added that value. I don’t think our ruling board would have allowed us to continue. We have to see the biggest bang for our buck in this particular area.

As I mentioned before, we have been actively supported the increased capacity of the police and National Wildlife Crime Unit and specialist prosecutors, and we still think that role is vital. We are here to assist, and we are here to take these difficult cases forward. We have the professional expertise, particularly in species identification and other matters, for example, the ornithological and sites experience, through our own reserves management, to be an active, successful, positive force here.

Q14 Chair: Just before I move on, could I just go back to something you just said, Mr Shipp, about the RSPCA perspective presumably being about welfare and domestic animals, whereas the RSPB is perhaps looking at it from a different angle? One of the concerns that I have about penalties is the attitude of Magistrates. What might be handed down through the court might be different if you are dealing with domestic animals from when you are dealing with wildlife animals. For example, I am thinking of a case in my constituency where swans and cygnets were shot and it was difficult to get the case to court in the first place. Would you like to comment on the extent to which Magistrates, and the Magistrates’ Association, are familiar with the extent of the penalties that they may need to deal with this?

Andy Shipp: From a welfare point of view, we are probably quite lucky because welfare offences shock the average person. There are quite a number of these cases going through the courts, so Magistrates are more used to dealing with them as opposed to conservation issues, where I am sure they are scratching their head wondering what they are doing. Largely speaking, Magistrates are shocked by them and they are giving appropriate sentences for welfare matters. Again, I go on these photographs. I would love to show you but you may not wish to see them.

Chair: You are very welcome to put them in.

Andy Shipp: I will pass them round. When Magistrates see these kinds of photographs, they sentence appropriately because they are shocked by them. But that is coming from the RSPCA’s welfare remit and that is what we are about: welfare, not conservation, which is the RSPB’s job and they do it very well.

Bob Elliott: That is a good observation. The egg-collecting case perhaps is a lot more immediately visibly understandable to a court or to a Magistrate. You have an egg that didn’t hatch into a golden eagle and this person has stolen them from the wild; it is our natural heritage, whereas a poisoning case out in the environment I think might be slightly more difficult to articulate. Our problem is that we don’t have a good set of records of prosecutions generally. The RSPB records every case that we come across regarding conservation of wild birds. However, there is no central database here and perhaps a CPS lawyer or a judge would be able to look back and have some historical record of this type of thing.

Q15 Paul Uppal: Mr Elliott, there was one particular issue you raised in terms of vicarious liability, and that is quite good. That gives you peace of mind in terms of its all-encompassing and holistic approach. Just turning it around the other way, one of the key recommendations of the 2004 report was that there should be a single and agreed definition of wildlife crime. What are your thoughts-and all your thoughts generally- about the merits of that, how you can allocate resources and the effectiveness of that?

Bob Elliott: Yes. It is a very good question. In my experience in my career, which was formerly in Scotland and now I am UK Head of Investigations, we kicked this around through the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime Scotland and Partnership Against Wildlife Crime here. It is extremely difficult to do. You have wildlife and environmental crime, wildlife and rural crime. It is a sort of double question, really. Would a single agreed definition be beneficial? Perhaps it would when you are articulating some of these messages to the public, to the outside world. Would it be beneficial from a recording point of view, as in the police recording? I think that is for the police to decide. My take on that is that wildlife crime is crime, and you could categorise it by the species that are of most conservation concern. That would be the easiest to do rather than having some broad statement about what wildlife crime is. If you use the hen harrier as an example, it could become extinct in England, with four successful pairs apparently in 2011. There should be over 300 pairs there. We need a recovery plan for that species. Therefore, the single definition really pales into insignificance as opposed to the species itself. So no, I don’t think it is that beneficial necessarily and we can get incredibly tangled in deciding what that definition is. Does that answer your question?

Paul Uppal: It does indeed.

Andy Shipp: It is probably over-simplistic, but isn’t any crime that involves a wild animal a wildlife crime? Finding that might be difficult because obviously we take prosecutions for wildlife under the Animal Welfare Act now, if they can fit in that framework, but the Animal Welfare Act doesn’t stand out as a wildlife bit of legislation. You may lose some convictions through their not being flagged up immediately as wildlife. You would have to look at the animal involved to do that. Yes, simplistically, if it is a wild animal, it has to be a wildlife crime. I don’t really care whether it is welfare or conservation; it is a wildlife crime, isn’t it? I can see the problems with trying to get everybody’s databases together. We have a database. I am sure we would like it to be a lot better-resources are limited and the search functions on it are not what they should be, but we are a charity and we have what we have, so it might be quite hard to get to a perfect solution.

Q16 Paul Uppal: From a resources point of view, the obvious point- you asked for an obvious response-is: yes, there is a saving there. It is just a simplification of the whole process.

Andy Shipp: Yes, sure.

Bob Elliott: One observation is that the National Wildlife Crime Unit has gone some way with PAW partners in defining what the key species are for priority-the main suite of raptors, certainly-and they have gone some way in encouraging police forces et al to supply data, and we do that through secure systems. I know that other agencies and organisations are developing protocols to do that, and we would encourage that to happen. This in-gathering of data is becoming more commonplace. We are in danger of being swamped slightly, but that sort of thing is in place rather than developing a "whenever it hits this button you now record it" definition, which could be problematical.

Q17 Peter Aldous: I think I am right that both the RSPCA and the RSPB, along with the National Gamekeepers Organisation and the Angling Trust, you are members of PAW?

Andy Shipp: Yes.

Q18 Peter Aldous: Just tell me about that organisation. Is it effective? Do you think it contributes towards the effective enforcement of wildlife crime?

Andy Shipp: I will let the RSPB go first, because they were largely behind it being put together in the first place, and I will join in at the end.

David Hoccom: Thank you for the question. As my colleague says, we were in from the off with the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime. It is now a broad network, with well over 100 partner organisations. The clear benefit is that it brings those organisations together around a clear mission, which is to tackle wildlife crime. Clearly, its breadth also brings issues in terms of coherence, focus and so on. It has definite merit in terms of a knowledge transfer network and, in particular, it is supported by a series of working groups. To take one example on forensics, that has proven over some years now to be a really effective knowledge transfer unit and basically brings in experience from various organisations about how forensics can support successful wildlife crime outcomes.

An observation: in Scotland the PAW steering group is chaired by a Minister, which is not the case anywhere else in the UK. I think it is no accident, therefore, that some of the most proactive steps in tackling wildlife crime in recent years have been taken by the Scottish Government.

Q19 Peter Aldous: Can I just stop you there. Are you suggesting that there should be a Minister responsible in England or might it be that Scotland has greater challenges?

David Hoccom: I think having ministerial engagement clearly ups the ante and drives progress, perhaps in a way that we have not seen in other of the UK countries thus far. In terms of the commonality of issues, from our own point of view, raptor persecution respects no boundaries. The issue is particularly focused in northern England and Scotland. Other wildlife crime likewise-it really can’t be pinned down to particular areas other than by species distribution.

If I may make a comment on the statutory structures. As I said earlier, we support the fact that the National Wildlife Crime Unit exists. That is a really important focal point for activity in this area. Therefore we think it is important that that is preserved and enhanced. However we note that, with the arrival of the National Crime Agency, there is a need to think carefully about how serious and organised wildlife crime is dealt with. We contend that that probably is not the job of the National Wildlife Crime Unit. They have great expertise in bringing intelligence together. In terms of actually applying that intelligence and effecting enforcement, we think the National Crime Agency needs to be playing a role.

Q20 Peter Aldous: You see that as an opportunity?

David Hoccom: Absolutely. Yes.

Andy Shipp: PAW is undoubtedly useful in getting all likeminded people together, sharing knowledge, sharing experience. It is undoubtedly useful and will continue to be so. That is a fairly short answer but I will add one little bit at the end. Endless talking will not make the difference; it needs action, doesn’t it? We can all talk, but we have to deal with these issues. You have to get out and disrupt those criminals in that area. There can be a danger of too much talking and not enough action, but overall it is undoubtedly a good thing.

Q21 Peter Aldous: One other proposal coming up on the horizon is Police Commissioners. Have you considered the implications of that? Might that be an opportunity to engage with the people that matter to get some proper-

Andy Shipp: It probably won’t make any difference. As I said to you, we are laughing, we are happy and we are smiling. The system works for us and I don’t think they will make any difference to us at all.

David Hoccom: I take a slightly different view. Clearly, it is a proposal that has yet to be tested, but we are taking a positive view, certainly in areas where wildlife crime is particularly focused. As my colleague has already said, in areas of the uplands of England and Scotland, for example, where we know there is a very strong connection with bird of prey persecution, we are clearly looking to forces covering those areas to treat wildlife crime seriously. My understanding of the role of Commissioners is that they will clearly be important people, when it comes to the choices taken at a force level about where to deploy resources. We would see them as significant, I think.

Q22 Mark Lazarowicz: One small point. I wonder if the greater profile of activity in Scotland, reflecting itself in things like legislation and enforcement mechanisms, reflects a greater public interest in the issue. I know from being an MP from Scotland, from an urban area, that issues of raptor crime and so on are pretty big headlines sometimes in the newspapers. I am not so conscious that that applies throughout the UK and I wonder if that is also one of the factors behind the awareness. I am sure it is true in some of the more rural areas in the UK, but I wonder if that is perhaps one of the factors in Scotland. There would be greater awareness of the issue when you get greater action by Government is the point.

David Hoccom: I would agree, insofar as political awareness is concerned. Clearly, those in positions of influence in the Scottish Government have decided this is an area that merits attention and, therefore, things like the legislative advances we have seen have been given the space they need. However, on general interest and concern around wildlife crime, obviously the RSPB is a large membership organisation. We know that this is an issue of serious concern to many of our members, who come from right across the UK. Indeed, about two years ago we handed in a petition, not just our own members but round about 210,000 people who pledged that they wanted to see an end to wildlife crime. That was handed into the previous Administration. The concerns are common but, as I say, we are very glad that that political support has been forthcoming in Scotland and we have seen the advances that have been made.

Q23 Dr Whitehead: You mentioned the organised nature particularly of persecution of protected species. Are these organised and coherent groups, groups of people got together for that purpose, or largely individuals? What is the organisational level of such crimes?

Andy Shipp: With badger persecution, more and more with chat rooms and so on, they are getting together from different parts of the country. In one recent gang we stopped in Cambridge, one guy was from the north of England-Tyneside-one was from London, one was from Essex and one was from Ireland. The evidence we have is that they travelled to Ireland to persecute badgers but also throughout England as a gang. That is a fair degree of organisation between them, isn’t it? They are quite a tight bunch and they trust who they go with and they stick to that little bunch. It is organised and, because the way they can communicate with each other, it is a lot easier. But that also leaves an evidence trail for us that we can pick up on: texts, emails, and photographs on computers. More and more of that evidence is coming into play, but that is expensive for us because paying for that interrogation is expensive. It prolongs the investigation because these things take a while, so there are those elements. In short, certainly people into badger persecution are very well organised.

Q24 Dr Whitehead: What about other forms of persecution?

Andy Shipp: Birds, the other area we deal with-bird trappers, not so much. They are often individuals, putting traps out on a little bit of land near where they go. We are not talking raptors here; we are talking small finches, goldfinches, greenfinches, siskins, linnets. They are often working on their own because the birds are for their personal gain, either to breed from or to improve their stock or to sell, so they are not so organised. They do know each other, mind you. The likeminded people know each other, but in committing that crime, they generally act alone.

Q25 Dr Whitehead: In your view, is there any mileage in the possibility of reaching such people to change their behaviour, or is it a group, or groups, that are clearly so far from mainstream views on wildlife crime, and that is it?

Andy Shipp: These two areas are very difficult to change. This hobby is absolutely ingrained in them. Badger digging and capturing small finches historically go back hundreds of years. It is ingrained in some communities and these people find it very difficult to shake off that hobby; very difficult. Some of them never will. It is very difficult to change that attitude. Once you enjoy seeing a badger being ripped apart by dogs, how do you change? How do you suddenly decide that is not right any more? I am sure some do, but largely speaking, with those, and with the people who like to keep British finches, it is in their blood almost and it is quite difficult. Having said that, we don’t get too much reoffending but that could be because they are harder to detect, not because they are not reoffending.

Q26 Paul Uppal: Very briefly, just for personal interest, is there a gender difference there? Is it predominantly male?

Andy Shipp: It is all male.

Q27 Paul Uppal: It is all male? There is no female problem at all?

Andy Shipp: I have never known a female badger digger.

Paul Uppal: That is all right; I just wanted to know.

Andy Shipp: I have never known a female bird trapper. To give you a flavour, I would say the bird trapping and bird keeping is spread through the country. Badger digging seems to be located around ex-mining communities, so south Wales is a hotspot, Mansfield, Yorkshire. They are all big areas for badger persecution. Why is that? It is probably because you have urban on the doorstep of wilderness. Somewhere like this area-London-you don’t have that, do you? You would have to travel a long way to get out to the countryside. But that is the fact of it, yes-bird trappers, spread; badgers, more defined.

Q28 Dr Whitehead: Bird trappers do it for their own collections?

Andy Shipp: Yes. They go into breeding. The wild bird has a more vivid colouration to it, so now and again they like to introduce wild stock to get colouration in their birds because they like showing them and they have shows all round the country. But the purpose can also be purely financial; some of these finches are selling for £20, £30 each. We stopped a guy in Kent who had 800 chaffinches. This was a Maltese guy who was coming once every other month with that load of birds and he was taking them out to Malta. You multiply that, you are talking serious finance. It is a mixture of the hobby and for some people the financial benefits from it. Finches are relatively easy to catch in large numbers, especially in the winter. They are hungry, they come down for seed. They employ a clap net and can get 20 to 30 in one go without too much difficulty.

Q29 Mark Lazarowicz: You told us how the internet is allowing people to get together more easily for their criminal activity. Is it driving wildlife crime in other ways? For example, is it making the market easier to operate, increasing the number of people supplying illegally caught wildlife and allowing people to buy it more easily? Is it having an effect in other ways as well?

Andy Shipp: Undoubtedly.

Q30 Mark Lazarowicz: How extensive is it? How important is it?

Andy Shipp: It is quite difficult to quantify. We don’t have the resources to trawl the internet as probably we would like to do, but, for example, you can look at an advert for some lizard or snake and you can say, "Yes, please, I will have one of those", and they send it in the post to you. You don’t know where it has come from; you don’t know anything about it. It makes it just a simple transaction and there is undoubtedly an increase in that.

Q31 Mark Lazarowicz: Presumably birds are less easy to keep illegally-or maybe not?

Bob Elliott: That is certainly a very good question. It is the enormousness of internet-related crime, and I know the police feel that they could just deal with that the whole time in the National Wildlife Crime Unit, but we are concerned there has been an increase in bird trade.

Q32 Mark Lazarowicz: In the UK or internationally?

Bob Elliott: Internationally.

Q33 Mark Lazarowicz: But not into the UK particularly?

Bob Elliott: That is correct, yes. People are using the internet to do this trading. We probably need to have a think about whether there are any controls that could counter this. We have lost registration controls for some species, like the peregrine falcon. There used to be a passport that went with this bird and now we have lost that through the various changes in legislation and we would like to have that back again. They are still catching people at the border with peregrine eggs-viable peregrine eggs that will become peregrine chicks that will become falconers’ birds. It is still going on, and a lot of this is internet-based.

Q34 Martin Caton: More than 20 years ago I lived just outside Aberystwyth in mid Wales. At that time, it was just about the only place in the country that you could see red kites. The spread and the range of red kites has been a wonderful story. Sadly, that is not true-as you have indicated already-of all other birds of prey. I am concerned particularly about hen harriers. Why has there been a decline and why are numbers so low in the UK now?

David Hoccom: Hen harriers are a species of high conservation concern. It is a wildlife crime priority, as we know. The population is currently in decline following several decades of recovery, according to the latest survey results. Today, it is very much thought of as a bird of the uplands. It is attracted to areas of heather moorland, which provide a suitable breeding habitat, the right sort of prey species, et cetera. It is there that it sometimes comes into conflict with the practice of driven grouse moor management because hen harriers will, among other things, eat young red grouse.

Government, in the form of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, published a report in the last 12 months that basically looks at how many hen harriers there could be in the UK versus how many there actually are, and draws some conclusions as to why there is such a large difference. To give you a feeling-and these are fairly coarse estimates-around about 2,500 pairs is what the UK could hold. The most recent survey suggests a population more around 650 pairs. The Government in its report ascribes the very likely reason for that difference as illegal persecution tied in with the practice of grouse moor management. Some of the birds are being killed or prevented from breeding successfully so that they don’t predate heavily on grouse, in essence.

Natural England, the Government’s conservation advisers in England, concluded in 2008 that persecution continues to limit hen harrier recovery in England and, indeed, that very few nesting attempts on grouse moors are successful. In 2008 there were just five known successful nests on grouse moors anywhere in England and Scotland, and the same scientific study concluded that there should be around 500. So about 1% of potential was actually met in 2008.

In England-as my colleague has already said-hen harriers are on the verge of extinction as a breeding species, for the second time. They first went extinct as a result of persecution prior to legal protection in the 19th century. It is worth bearing in mind as well that the Government has recently committed, via the England Biodiversity Strategy, to avoid any human-induced extinctions of important species by 2020. We would contend that the hen harrier is the species that brings them closest to defaulting on that commitment.

Q35 Martin Caton: As you know, the pro-gamekeeping lobby suggests that you do not have any substantiation for claiming that gamekeepers, at the behest of landowners, are persecuting these birds. Is there any concrete evidence to show that this is being done systematically?

David Hoccom: The number of prosecutions is few but-as the point has already been well made by my colleague from the RSPCA-these are difficult crimes to detect. They take place often in parts of the country where there simply is no proactive enforcement presence, so that is the first point to make.

Q36 Chair: Sorry, can I just cut you short? Is it the case that there have been no confirmed crimes recorded against hen harriers in the last six years?

David Hoccom: I believe the most recent prosecution was in 2006, so that is technically correct, yes. But I would bring you back to the Joint Nature Conservation Committee’s report. This was commissioned by the Scottish Government and published by JNCC. That draws the conclusion, based on a full scientific assessment of the evidence, that persecution is, indeed, the factor that explains why there are so few hen harriers breeding successfully in the UK.

Q37 Martin Caton: The Langholm Moor Demonstration Project involves feeding hen harriers to divert them away from the grouse during the breeding season. Do you think that that is going to show the way forward for a viable coexistence between hen harriers and grouse?

David Hoccom: Thank you for that question. Yes. As the RSPB we are a funding partner of the Langholm Demonstration Project. We think it is a good thing that efforts are being made to try to reconcile the issues of predation on grouse with the practice of driven grouse moor management. It is a long-term study and we will continue to support it as such. But yes, on the question of diversion and feeding, there is good information to show that that can be a successful means of reducing-if not negating entirely-the effect of predation by hen harriers on red grouse. Therefore, we would like to see Government supporting its application and taken up by grouse moor managers elsewhere in northern England and Scotland, but critically we need those same owners and managers to actually buy into the technique. At the moment we would contend, based on the feedback we receive from representative organisations, that that is not the case.

Q38 Peter Aldous: In the last recorded period, 2010-11, there was a 43% increase in reported incidents involving badgers compared with the previous year. Is that a reflection of more incidents taking place or better detection?

Andy Shipp: Probably neither, actually, to be honest. Some of this is luck, isn’t it? As I said to you earlier, the nature of these people and how they go about their business means that it can be a one-off bit of luck whereby a police officer stops a vehicle in the middle of the night and that can lead you to a lot of convictions. In different periods you might not get that bit of luck.

Q39 Peter Aldous: If we look at the previous periods over a number of years, it is more the sort of up-down trend rather than a trend in any direction?

Andy Shipp: Yes, I think so. If I had to say I think it would be constant, really. In reality, what is going on is probably constant, yes.

Q40 Peter Aldous: I am conscious that, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, police cannot enter land where they have reason to believe that a badger sett has been damaged. Do you think that impedes the detection of incidences?

Andy Shipp: It could do because it prevents the police officer from getting on to that land quickly. He can come away and get a warrant but that delays the process and, as with any investigation, those early moments are crucial to gathering your evidence. If they had the same power that is under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to enter land other than a dwelling-I am not saying a dwelling, just the land-that would be extremely useful.

Q41 Peter Aldous: Is there any evidence that landowners might be destroying badger setts with impunity?

Andy Shipp: Hard to give you tangible evidence, just anecdotal evidence of cases on private land, where they have asked for permission to come on and the landowner has said no. Then also you have to convince a Magistrate that you have enough evidence for them to grant a warrant on the information you have, which may be anonymous, so they may not be convinced.

Q42 Chair: We are very conscious that we have another set of witnesses coming before us this afternoon, so I thank you all for your contribution today. I note that you invited us-I think it was the RSPB-if we as a Committee wished to visit any of the particular sites and locations. I do not know whether we will have time to do that, but we are very grateful for the invitation. Thank you very much indeed.

Andy Shipp: Could I take the photographs if that is okay?

Chair: That is fine, yes.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive, Angling Trust, Martin Salter, National Campaigns Co-ordinator, Angling Trust, and Charles Nodder, Political Adviser, National Gamekeepers Organisation, gave evidence.

Q43 Chair: Welcome to our second lot of witnesses this afternoon. I ask you to introduce yourselves first. In your introductions, perhaps you could mention the issues that you think have been emerging over the time since the last Environmental Audit Committee report, which was produced in 2003. I would like to invite Martin Salter-who has had a fierce reputation for many years in this place on the angling agenda-to introduce yourself first and set out issues that you think the Select Committee should be looking at, please.

Martin Salter: Thank you, Chair. Is it formal or is it first names here?

Chair: I leave that entirely to you. We are a Select Committee of the House of Commons but-

Martin Salter: Okay. Thank you very much, Joan. It is nice to be back, even if on the wrong side of the questioning process. I now work for the Angling Trust as their National Campaigns Co-ordinator. My Chief Executive is Mark Lloyd. The Angling Trust is the representative body for up to 3 million anglers in Britain and it is probably more appropriate, given that I am an employee, that my boss does the introduction. If you are happy, Joan, I would rather hand over to Mark to set the scene and then I will deal with some specific questions.

Chair: We will go straight on to Mark Lloyd then, please.

Mark Lloyd: As you can imagine, it is a good joke that anyone could be Martin’s boss. Martin has introduced me-I am the Chief Executive of the Angling Trust. For those who are not aware of who we are, the Angling Trust was formed about three years ago by a merger of six different angling organisations. We got rid of the division-what Martin used to refer to as the Judaean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judaea in angling-into a single representative body for the whole of the angling industry. We also have a legal arm called Fish Legal, which is pretty unique around the world in that it takes civil legal action against polluters on behalf of anglers and fights about 60 legal cases around the country, throughout the whole of the UK. Angling Trust is the English body.

We weren’t involved in the previous inquiry because we did not exist, and I don’t think any of our predecessor organisations were involved, either. It struck me that a lot of this discussion has been very much above the surface of the water, and what we are keen to do is try to introduce a new strand that might focus people’s minds on-

Q44 Chair: No. For the purposes of this session, we would just be very grateful to know the issues that you think should be addressed, and put high on the agenda, from the experience in your organisation.

Mark Lloyd: Yes. The two key areas that we want to talk about are poaching and invasive species. Martin is going to lead on poaching and I am going to lead on invasive species.

Chair: Okay. I am sure we will come to that in the course of the detailed questions. Finally, Mr Nodder.

Charles Nodder: Thank you, Madam Chairman. I am Charles Nodder. I am an adviser to the National Gamekeepers Organisation, which is a voluntary body but most of the gamekeepers in England and Wales belong. We have about 6,000 gamekeeper members and 10,000 other members. We have been in existence since 1997, and we did comment to the previous inquiry in 2004. The things that have changed since then, which we would like to comment on particularly, are the advent of the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the improvement in the statistics that are kept on wildlife crime, which I think gives a lot more information for us all to work on, and also poaching. Poaching is one of the six wildlife crime priorities set by the Government and, interestingly, it hasn’t been mentioned this afternoon although, in fact, it accounts for 27.6% of wildlife crime overall. We would very much like in our evidence to focus on that.

Chair: We hope we will have an opportunity to do that in the course of questions from my colleagues, starting with Simon Wright.

Q45 Simon Wright: I have a few questions about the legal framework, and I would be very grateful for your comments on whether you feel it is currently sufficient for tackling wildlife crime. Perhaps in your response you could also refer to your hopes of the Law Commission’s current review into wildlife management legislation.

Chair: Perhaps I should add that we have quite a few questions to get through, so we would appreciate perhaps quicker movement than we had in the previous session.

Charles Nodder: Yes. The framework within which gamekeeping and wildlife crime operates is legally incredibly complex. Some of the statutes go back to the mid-19th century. Old is not necessarily bad and there are, believe it or not, in things like the Night Poaching Act some quite useful powers for police officers to stop and search that you would not find on the streets of London. But it is incredibly complicated and it does need sorting out. We very much welcomed the inquiry of the Law Commission, looking at the whole raft of wildlife legislation with the aim of trying to come up with something simpler. We think if they can do that-and it may be a big "if"-obviously understanding on the part of people who are supposed to be sticking to the law will be easier and greater, and the enforcement against offences will be simpler.

We were all invited to a stakeholder group by the Law Commission on Monday where they gave their first impressions of how that review is going, and I was encouraged. They are thinking outside the box. I think they will come back in 2014 with the suggestion of a single Bill combining all sorts of different statutes. It is nonsense that we have a separate Bill for deer, a separate Bill for badgers, a separate Bill for seals, but everything else is lumped in the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Hopefully, that is something they will sort out.

Martin Salter: Simon, from the Angling Trust point of view, we too welcomed the Law Commission’s initiative. We think it is excellent and are participating in it. Our two big issues are: enforcement and punishment or deterrence. If you take wildlife crime in its broadest sense, it includes fishing beyond quota in our seas. There was a recent case in Scotland where 17 Scottish fishermen were guilty of industrial fraud; £63 million worth of fish were taken from northern Scotland outside of quota, removed from the public resource, removed from other fishermen to fish for them legally, damaging the biodiversity of that section of the ocean. The fines totalled £720,000 for a crime that took £63 million. This is a crime bigger than Brink’s Mat, and the fines themselves are in no way a deterrent. Basically, until you guys get to grips with this, and the Law Commission gets to grips with this, wildlife crime pays, because the fines are derisory.

As Mark said earlier, one of the reasons that Fish Legal was set up is that we achieve more in civil damages on behalf of our members’ clubs against polluters-I know this is going slightly off the subject- than the derisory fines the Magistrate will give somebody who poisons the headwaters of a river. We can achieve more through civil action than through the criminal process. That is clearly wrong. It is clearly out of kilter.

The second point, Joan, is enforcement. I am a mad-keen fisherman. I fish a lot. Lots of people I know fish a lot-

Chair: We will come on to enforcement.

Martin Salter: Just in terms of the framework, we do not have the bailiffs, we do not have the bodies on the bank side, or in the ocean, to ensure that our inadequate legal framework is in any way enforced.

Q46 Simon Wright: You will have heard in the previous session that the RSPB are proposing an offence of vicarious liability in relation to raptor persecution, so that the landowner would be subject to criminal liability where their employee, agent or contractor committed an offence. I wonder what your thoughts are on such a proposal?

Charles Nodder: The National Gamekeepers Organisation doesn’t have a strong view on it either way. We are interested to see what transpires in Scotland, where of course this was introduced very recently. Along with a number of bodies, we share a certain unease at the introduction of a vicarious offence, really. To me it sits there with things like reverse burdens of proof as being not the proudest bit of British justice. Having said that, we will look at it, we will see whether it has a practical effect and a beneficial effect. We have suggested to the Law Commission that they shouldn’t be in a hurry to introduce that in England and Wales before they have seen the effect of it up in Scotland.

Q47 Simon Wright: We have had some comments about the current available penalties. I wonder whether there are any further thoughts that you might like to offer as to whether they serve as an effective deterrent to wildlife crime?

Martin Salter: Oh, absolutely not. For example, we have been waiting for the new live fish regulations, which have now been delayed twice, out of Defra. Of course, angling has changed out of all recognition in the last 50 years in this country. There are a lot more carp fisheries. An individual carp can be worth £5,000 or £6,000 to the owner of the fishery, because people want to fish for record-breaking fish. These fish are now quite regularly imported from France and Holland without adequate health checks. We don’t have the legislative framework to enable our enforcement agencies to do the proper job-that is Cefas, the Environment Agency, and of course Customs & Excise themselves-so legislation has just completely failed to keep up with the pressure on the resource.

Charles Nodder: On the game poaching side-deer, hares and so on-a lot is recreationally inspired. People are not going for the value of the carcass; they are going for what they perceive as the fun of being out in the countryside, tearing around with their dogs and creating mayhem. Against that sort of poacher, some of the current penalties are high enough, but they are not always enforced by Magistrates’ Courts, and one of the things that we have found very, very effective is the confiscation of equipment, particularly where the Magistrates extend that to the confiscation of the vehicle and the confiscation of dogs. Poachers do not like their vehicles and their dogs being taken. A £200 fine is neither here nor there, so anything that can be done to encourage Magistrates to use the full powers that are available to them would be helpful. But I agree that on these big very organised and very valuable wildlife crimes in the fish sector, clearly the current penalties aren’t anything like high enough.

Mark Lloyd: It is very important to make a distinction between that sort of low-level crime and the organised crime. There are people doing really organised operations here, and I think that is a very important distinction to make. Someone who goes fishing and forgets to buy a rod licence: it is important that there is a law there and it is enforced, but that that is not the main show in town; people are committing crimes as part of gang activity.

Q48 Zac Goldsmith: Just quickly on that point. What is the process in relation to the example you have just given now? Assuming the laws exist to prevent smuggling unlicensed fish over the border, so the laws are there, but the problem-I am asking as a question, not a statement-is that the punishment of the court is not big enough; is that your view of the current situation?

Martin Salter: The laws exist. The fines are not an adequate deterrent, and the benefits from smuggling, particularly carp or other species, can be quite considerable. So the punishment is not fitting the crime. It is not high enough to act as a deterrent.

Q49 Zac Goldsmith: What is the standard punishment for that kind of thing?

Martin Salter: It can range from a few hundred pounds to a slap on the wrist or a few thousand pounds. As Mark said, if you assume that some of these gangs are organised, criminally minded and in criminal networks, let us just assume that they might be caught one in 50 times. The amount they are likely to be fined is in no way commensurate with the amount of profit they will have made illegally. Far worse than that-never mind bringing fish in and out of the country-is the disease that they can bring in. You can wipe out whole fisheries, whole regions of the country, by importing live creatures without the adequate health checks. The legislation is there for a purpose.

Q50 Zac Goldsmith: Is that the principal purpose, the prevention of disease?

Martin Salter: Absolutely. It is primarily, Mark, isn’t it? The principal purpose is the prevention of disease.

Mark Lloyd: Yes.

Martin Salter: It pre-dates the value of individual fish, but it is good legislation.

Mark Lloyd: If I may, just a very quick point on that. The new live fish regulations would increase the detection rate. They have been delayed twice. They are due in October. It would be great if they did actually come in in October. I know there is a bit of a legislation backlog, but it would be great if they weren’t delayed a third time.

Chair: That is very helpful.

Q51 Neil Carmichael: I am thinking about the controls that Defra-the old Ministry of Agriculture-would have, in terms of farm animals and so forth, and whether there should be a more holistic approach. Of course, agriculture is protected by certain measures for animal welfare. Would that apply to the fish industry?

Mark Lloyd: Yes. There is legislation in place, as we have said. There is just some tightening up on regulation needed. There is pretty good legislation there, and I think with these new regulations, that would provide an adequate framework.

Q52 Neil Carmichael: I was really thinking about the enforcement angle as well.

Mark Lloyd: I think that could all be tied up, and certainly the key is co-operation here. The Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime was mentioned earlier, and if you look at its annual report-which I did last night in preparation for this-there is very little evidence of any action on fish at all. There is one mention of pearl mussels and another about the international caviar trade, so it is not really focusing on the import of live fish or fish theft either.

Martin Salter: Chair, if I can come back on the point that Mr Carmichael has raised. In many regions we have seen the Environment Agency bailiffs, who used to patrol the banks, being turned into generalist roles. They are looking at fly-tipping and everything else, all very valuable work, but it means fewer people on the river bank, and certainly in terms of wildlife crime that affects freshwater. If the river bank is a place where you don’t see civil society, where you don’t get your rod licence checked, you don’t see a bailiff or whatever, it is basically sending a signal that a free-for-all could be organised here, and in some cases those free-for-alls can be exceptionally profitable.

Q53 Peter Aldous: Picking up that last point, Martin. Some people might say that as far as the Environment Agency is concerned, like a lot of public organisations, they are severely stretched and trying to make resources go a long way; some people might say there could be more of a role for the anglers themselves to be involved.

Martin Salter: A great question. Can I come straight back on that one? Thank you so much for that question. First, recreational anglers provide £26 million in revenue and we are quite happy to pay a rod licence. When one of your predecessors suggested getting rid of it, we ran a campaign to say, "No. We happen to believe in pay means say". But we want to see something back for our money, and we do like to see people on the bank.

Secondly, you are absolutely right that there should be far greater co-operation. The Angling Trust-under Mark-has been piloting a programme for signing up volunteer bailiffs. We have 23 signed up in the southeast region at the moment. It is a three-phase process. We don’t necessarily want every have-a-go hero out there to end up being a fully warranted bailiff, but there is a process by which people can become fully warranted bailiffs over a period of time and we would like to see that rolled out. Joan, we would be delighted to provide the Committee with more information in case you want to put it in your report.

Chair: We would be very happy to have that.

Q54 Neil Carmichael: To develop the point that I kicked off and Peter has endorsed, it seems to me that in the countryside, it is going to be very difficult to have policemen patrolling around and checking what is going on. It is quite nice to see policemen in towns, but in the countryside it is less easy. It seems to me-and that is why I asked the question about agriculture-that you want to buy in and tie in as many people who are part of the countryside as you possibly can, to protect our fishing and so forth. I was going to extend that to fishing clubs and people who own rivers, or at least manage rivers and so on. What kind of code of practice do you think might help to protect species further?

Mark Lloyd: We have about 1,500 angling clubs who are members of ours, so there is a big network out there that we have access to. A lot of them have volunteer bailiffs who are obviously policing those angling clubs. It is a question of building that partnership between them and the paid staff of the Environment Agency, who we think shouldn’t be going around checking everyone’s licence all the time but should focus on these criminal activities and the sort of harder end of this, supported by an army of volunteers because there are plenty out there who are willing to do this.

Q55 Neil Carmichael: Yes. It seems to me that somebody equipped with a fishing rod is likely to have the appropriate permission and permits, because it is bound to be expensive. The ones I look at seem expensive, and I am not an angler or anything like that.

Martin Salter: They are expensive.

Neil Carmichael: Yes. It is the person who is acting in a once-removed way that one would want to look at, so the Environment Agency should, if it is worrying about permits, be focusing on transgressions rather than permit checking.

Martin Salter: Let us be clear. The Environment Agency bailiffs in North London in the River Lea catchment were issued with stab vests, because it can be a rough place on some of our canals. We have also seen a complete change in patterns of migration. Some of your colleagues have been involved in real problems with Eastern European communities who come from a totally different culture and they don’t have the catch-and-release culture that we have in English culture, and of course they don’t see anything wrong with laying out set lines and nets. We are working really hard on an education programme with Eastern European communities. We just had a Building Bridges project part-funded by the Environment Agency. We had a match on the Fens with Lithuanian and Polish anglers to bring the two communities together, so that people can start to understand that the tradition of freshwater fishing in this country, certainly of coarse fishing, is that we want to return as many of our fish as possible unharmed and protect the resource. It isn’t just about fishing for the pot. As a voluntary organisation, we are working really hard to bridge those comparable differences. But those patterns of migration have altered the profile of people on the river bank, and some of the behaviour that we took for granted is not necessarily the case when people come from different cultures, and so there is a job of work to be done there as well.

Charles Nodder: You are so right about the absence of police in rural Britain, which is not surprising with budgets being as they are. In my part of Dorset, professional gamekeepers outnumber the police 10 to one. It is the gamekeepers who are out there day and night. Somebody mentioned in the previous session badger-baiters in a wood and the likelihood of the police seeing them. The likelihood of the police seeing them is virtually zero. The likelihood of the gamekeeper seeing them and reporting them, or even taking them on himself, is quite high.

Neil Carmichael: We are going to come on to Police Commissioners, according to this paper, so I don’t want to get bogged down in a submission about police.

Chair: We are just going to have to very briefly get bogged down and then move back to the Police Commissioners.

Q56 Neil Carmichael: Yes. My point was that 12%, 13% of Britain is covered in houses and towns; the rest is countryside, so that is a big area. Even if you had a lot of policemen in the countryside you still wouldn’t get the coverage necessary because there are parts of Northumberland, where I hail from, or Gloucestershire, which I represent, where you just simply couldn’t expect that. You have to encourage people to behave in a responsible way through voluntary structures and so forth, because otherwise at the end of the day, if you are relying on law enforcement to the nth degree, that is going to be very, very difficult.

Charles Nodder: The extent to which police forces-not all of them, but the best of them-are now working with the gamekeepers and understanding that the gamekeepers are out there as a resource is very encouraging. For example, Thames Valley has gamekeepers on its Rural Crime Policing Panel. In Hertfordshire gamekeepers are actually being used as special constables, so they are doing their two jobs in parallel at the same time.

Q57 Peter Aldous: Both organisations are partners in PAW with the RSPB and the RSPCA. At times do you perhaps feel that you are in the second-class carriage and they are in the first-class carriage when it comes to their being more proactively involved in enforcement than yourselves, or not?

Charles Nodder: It would be easy to think that. Of course, they are large and very established organisations and certainly RSPB has more than 1,000 staff. The NGO has three. Having said that, at the annual PAW conference last week, one of our representatives was invited by the people from Defra and the ACPO Lead for Rural Crime, who ran the conference, to give a presentation on our police training course. We offer a free course to police forces all over the country telling them about what gamekeepers do, how gamekeepers can help the police, how the police can help gamekeepers, and actually going through some of this very complex law that Mr Wright was asking about earlier, and trying to make it easier for the police to understand what offences they might be able to work on. We were given a slot within PAW to talk about that, although numerically we are one of the smallest organisations on it.

Martin Salter: We don’t feel second class. Perhaps we don’t have the resources of the RSPB and the RSPCA, but we have been going, in the guise of Fish Legal, for 63 or 64 years. We have lost only four cases and we have recovered millions of pounds, on behalf of our member clubs, against people who are effectively committing wildlife crimes. So no, we play our role and we also represent a small army of people who are more than capable of engaging in vigorous citizen’s arrests.

Q58 Peter Aldous: Finally, just moving forward-galloping on over the horizon-do the National Crime Agency and elected Police Commissioners represent an opportunity or a threat?

Mark Lloyd: It is an opportunity for perhaps the very large numbers of anglers in the constituency to be reflected in the activities of the police, and we would like to see a greater understanding of the issues affecting fisheries in the police. Quite often people report crimes on river banks and find themselves being shunted from the police back to the Environment Agency, who say, "No, it is the police", and they go between the two. I think anything that improves co-ordination and reflects the value of fishing to the economy is good. Fishing means £3.5 billion to the economy and has 3.5 million participants-it is one of the most popular pastimes in the country-so if the police can do something to reflect that popularity and importance to the economy, that would be great.

Charles Nodder: Police Commissioners we don’t have a view on; we will see what happens. The National Crime Agency-as I understand it, that new body is going to be looking particularly at serious crime. As you have already heard this afternoon, some of what we are talking about, under the wildlife crime umbrella, is very serious indeed and where it falls naturally within their ambit I think that would be a very good thing.

Q59 Martin Caton: Charles, you were here when I asked the RSPB about what had happened to our hen harrier numbers in this country. You heard what they said in reply. What is your position on why harrier numbers are so low?

Charles Nodder: First, we need to define our terms. There are many hundreds of pairs of hen harriers in the UK but most of them are in Scotland. The re-colonisation in England, following the previous decline, has been slower-slower than anybody would like it to be, and we are concerned about that. But I do take issue with the assertion that, because there appears to be a physical coincidence between the absence of hen harriers and the presence of grouse moors, therefore the case is proven that all the gamekeepers are killing them. A lot of upland gamekeepers are very offended by that assertion, and it certainly doesn’t help the good relations that would help to solve the problem long-term. Madam Chairman, you pointed out that there hasn’t been a prosecution; there hasn’t been a conviction for the persecution of a hen harrier in this country since 2006. Natural England’s 2009 Hen Harrier Recovery Project Report found that illegal persecution played no role in the failures of the nests that they were monitoring; that the circumstances were habitat, predation and so forth, but in no case was it deliberate persecution.

Q60 Martin Caton: You heard the RSPB quote another report in which persecution was described as being at least a contributory factor.

Charles Nodder: This is the circumstantial report that I was alluding to, where because you don’t have harriers but you do have gamekeepers, there must be an association. The hen harrier is called the hen harrier because it used to be very prevalent throughout Britain and it was a harrier of hens in farmyards. It wasn’t an upland bird; it was a lowland bird as well. We still have the lowlands; we don’t have hen harriers in the lowlands, but nobody says it is because the lowland is killing them.

Q61 Martin Caton: Is there is a viable shared way forward for keeping grouse and hen harriers on the moors and, in particular, do you think the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project offers a way forward?

Charles Nodder: It may help inform the situation. We are already paying partners, fully involved with something called the hen harrier dispute resolution process, which is being run by the Environment Council. We attend all their meetings, and I think that is making some quite useful progress, understanding what the issues are and looking for ways forward. It is still some years off a conclusion and it will have to be informed by the results of the research at Langholm, but it would be marvellous to think that we could have grouse and hen harriers in numbers throughout upland Britain.

Q62 Martin Caton: Do you work collaboratively at all with the RSPB and RSPCA or any other bodies to tackle wildlife crime?

Charles Nodder: We do, yes. The hen harrier resolution process is an example of where we sit with them in that process and we are both members of PAW, as has been alluded to earlier.

Q63 Neil Carmichael: I don’t know a huge amount about the hen harrier, to be honest, but you said something about hens on farms, but of course one could say that there are fewer hens on farms so that would alter the behaviour of the hen harrier.

Charles Nodder: Precisely. That is my point. It is not automatic that because there aren’t hen harriers on farms, they are being killed by farmers. It may be that something else has changed and maybe there aren’t any hens.

Q64 Neil Carmichael: Yes. I find it difficult to believe that wildlife crime is responsible for such drastic figures on the hen harrier when, according to the evidence we have here, other birds of prey are doing pretty well.

Charles Nodder: Yes. I agree with you. Most birds of prey are at or near record levels. There have been massive recoveries. Some of them are now so numerous-the buzzard in particular-that they are becoming a serious problem. Natural England is having to look at licence controls as a route to saving wildlife.

Q65 Zac Goldsmith: Just before I deal with poaching-and I will be very quick-I want to go back to the point about the illegal trade in fish. The legal trade in plants in this country has led to appalling problems. By definition, it is not a wildlife crime. For example, the oak processionary moth came in legally; no law was broken. Is it the case that the laws surrounding the trade in fish-I am not talking about the illegal trade but the legal trade-are adequately regulated, or do those regulations need to be refined and perhaps made a little tougher?

Mark Lloyd: Absolutely. As far as I understand it, the problem lies with world trade rules. We can’t ban the import of various plants, which are being freely sold in garden centres. As soon as someone gets fed up with them, cleans their pond out and dumps them into a river without knowing what they are doing, it spreads through the entire river system and causes millions-if not billions-of pounds’ worth of damage. The same with fish-there are top mouth gudgeon being sold quite freely. If someone doesn’t want one and flushes it down the toilet-they can even survive that-or releases them into a lake or anything else, they can cost millions to remove. It is a complicated area to deal with, with world trade regulations, but it would be worth it. It would save us a huge amount of money and reduce risk and a whole load of regulation.

Q66 Zac Goldsmith: Thanks for that. Just one other point that I don’t want us to lose. Martin, you talked briefly about the body among registered anglers that is effectively taking responsibility for some of the policing that we have been talking about. I am interested in how widespread that is. Is that a pilot or is it nationally?

Martin Salter: It is a pilot scheme at the moment, but we would like to roll it out nationally, and we will provide the Committee with more information on that.

Q67 Zac Goldsmith: But it is funded privately?

Martin Salter: It is a joint initiative between Government agents and ourselves at the moment. We want to skill up people to have that presence on the waterside, we really do. David Bellamy had the quote that we use all the time when we are justifying angling: we are the "eyes and ears of the waterside", and far too much of the public view is concentrated on what is above the water rather than what is below it. We are the guys that care about it, and we are very keen to have more people in an official capacity caring about it.

Zac Goldsmith: Totally. I love the idea of that; I hope you can do it.

Mark Lloyd: Just a quick point on that, we are trying to look for ways of applying that offshore as well and we are going to start up an illegal net-watch campaign to try to get anglers-

Q68 Zac Goldsmith: Sea anglers?

Mark Lloyd: Yes-sea anglers because they are often out in boats, and also enforcing marine conservation zones as well; so spotting when commercial fishermen are straying into MCZs.

Q69 Zac Goldsmith: Do you think sea anglers need to be registered in the same way as freshwater anglers, because that doesn’t exist; there is no body?

Mark Lloyd: I don’t think that is necessary for them to perform that enforcement role.

Q70 Zac Goldsmith: But they would have much more of a say, presumably, if you could say there were 2 million registered sea anglers.

Mark Lloyd: That is a big question.

Martin Salter: Yes. Of course they would, but at the moment we respect the views of sea anglers.

Q71 Zac Goldsmith: They don’t want to be registered?

Martin Salter: There is a debate in angling about whether there should be sea licences in some jurisdictions. At the moment, we are just trying to get the environment right. I will be perfectly honest with you, Zac, the issue is this. The average sea angler would take the view that, while his freshwater cousin has seen the rivers improve and a lot of legislation put in place, and opportunities to fish-and there is a lot of problems as well-because of commercial over-fishing, the marine resource has got worse and worse and worse. The average experience of a recreational sea angler has got worse and worse and worse. To ask him or her now to be paying a licence for an experience that is nothing like what it was 10 or, 20 years ago-

Q72 Zac Goldsmith: It doesn’t have to be paid, though; it could be just an organisation.

Martin Salter: There is an issue. If they started by joining the Angling Trust, we could then move the debate on.

Q73 Chair: Going back to this point you were making about skilling up people to look at this wider issue, I would assume, given what was just said a short while ago about localism and the need for people to look at it in their own communities-either with or without support from, for example, the Environment Agency-that there will be a problem whereby you have some angling clubs and societies that have the finances, the resources and the wherewithal to do that, but other areas-I am thinking of, for example, Stoke-on-Trent- might not find it so easy to have the resources. How would you deal with the cost of doing that?

Martin Salter: Can I make one point on Stoke-on-Trent? Some years ago, with a different hat, I took the then Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, up to Stoke-on-Trent and you had that superb scheme, which I hope is still running-

Chair: SAFE.

Martin Salter: SAFE-Stoke Angling for Everyone. It was a model, Joan, because the Environment Agency will run all these taster courses and say, "Yes, okay, we have introduced someone to angling because they have caught a roach". That doesn’t make you an angler; it just means you caught a roach. Stoke Angling for Everyone had this pathway that took people from the taster sessions into the clubs, into the junior sectors, mentoring them through and it really was a model. Mark has done a lot of work involving our national angling participation programme, because we are conscious that we want to generate anglers of the future, and you need the structures to do it.

Chair: Sure. I am in danger of being told off by the Committee for straying into constituency issues. The issue is about how you fund organisations like that, where the finances aren’t readily available-but, Zac, back to poaching.

Q74 Zac Goldsmith: I am with you. All the best river organisations and campaigns that I know were triggered by anglers, without exception, and so I totally agree with that. We have more or less covered the issues. Just one question: it would be useful to know if you could break down the crimes in your respective areas; how much of the total crime that you experience is the consequence of organised crime as opposed to individuals? In other words, how big an issue is organised crime?

Charles Nodder: For the game situation, poaching exists on at least two levels. You still get casual poaching, local poaching, but increasingly, and for several decades now, there has been more organised poaching, with people travelling considerable distances, people rather like-I was listening to the discussion earlier on-those involved in badger-baiting, who make contact with each other via the internet, via mobile phones and then meet up. It is very important to understand the motivations for game poaching, because most of it is about recreation, as I said earlier.

One of the interesting things that the police have found is that the people whose recreation is the crime of poaching very often have a profession that is a crime as well, and some of them are pretty serious. Police forces in Kent, Essex and Cambridge and around London are picking up money launderers, drug barons, people involved in serious gangland killings and so forth out in the countryside poaching at weekends because that is their pleasure. It is a hell of a lot easier to find them out in rural Cambridgeshire than in the East End of London. When that dawned on the police some years ago we suddenly saw a huge increase in police interest in tackling poachers, which obviously we very much welcome. One of our concerns at the moment is that with cutbacks in the police, some forces are beginning to reduce their rural coverage and there are forces around London where that is the case. Others have had sufficient success with catching poachers and then finding that they are involved in other things that they wanted them for-and are keeping that going.

Q75 Zac Goldsmith: How do you distinguish that type of poacher; you said there were two types. What is the other end of the spectrum?

Charles Nodder: The bottom end of the spectrum is the local ne’er-do-well who just comes out and-

Q76 Zac Goldsmith: Are you saying that you can very easily distinguish between the two, because it is not really about numbers, is it?

Charles Nodder: It is not about numbers. No. You distinguish between them when they are in court afterwards. It is not always easy in the dead of night when the gamekeeper is pursuing five pretty ugly blokes, probably armed, across his grounds.

Q77 Zac Goldsmith: The lower end of the scale, though, it sounds like that is not a major concern; that is not something that particularly worries you and your members, it is the organised end.

Charles Nodder: They both worry us, and poaching is overwhelmingly the biggest wildlife crime; 27.6% of all wildlife crime is poaching, 2,600 recorded incidents last year. Compared to some of the things we have been talking about this afternoon that are numerically tiny, it is huge and it is associated with some very serious criminals.

Q78 Zac Goldsmith: But on the lower end, what I am trying to get at-and you have already given the numbers, and I accept that-in terms of the importance of the crime; I am just trying to understand if there is a clear distinction between the organised stuff, which has a real implication, and the low-level stuff. There may be lots of it, but I certainly wouldn’t compare it. I wouldn’t put it on the level with some of the badger stuff we were hearing about earlier, for example.

Charles Nodder: Yes. It is important because what they are doing is the same crime, and poaching has an effect on a number of levels. Obviously it has an effect on the wildlife. It has a disturbance effect. It has quite important welfare consequences, and the gamekeepers frequently have to turn out to deal with wounded deer that have been left with their hindquarters ripped by poachers’ dogs. The motivation and the origin of the man whose dog it is, is of no concern to the deer. The problem is the same. Also, when it is the more serious version, you very often get the physical abuse as well and a lot of gamekeepers end up in hospital.

Q79 Zac Goldsmith: I am going to make just one question out of it, and throw the same question at you in relation to rivers.

Mark Lloyd: I agree with all of that. There are a lot of parallels. In terms of the impact, certainly on the marine environment, obviously the key thing there is the major industrial haulage of millions of tonnes of fish. On the freshwater environment, I think the low level stuff, because numerically there can be quite a lot of people in it, can have an impact. But there is much more concern in the community about the organised stuff, people going down with a night line with 30 hooks on it, netting rivers. That is the kind of thing that has an impact on fish stocks.

Martin Salter: And, of course, restaurants buying it knowing; there is a whole issue around the tagging of carcasses that people started talking about as a control mechanism.

Mark Lloyd: Probably angling is slightly different, I would say, in that that is probably of greater concern to the community and to the industry.

Chair: Which I think brings us nicely to the point Mark Lazarowicz wants to raise.

Q80 Mark Lazarowicz: I want to take up that point, and also a point that Martin Salter made earlier about the effects of migration from Eastern Europe-I think his comments were directed at migration from Central and Eastern Europe as well. It is a strong assertion that there is a major problem being caused by migrants in this kind of activity in angling. I am sure it happens in some places sometimes and I am sure it is a big problem, but is there not a danger sometimes of making assertions in which things are blamed upon migrants, just generally, because it is a simpler thing to do? What is the basis for your assertions?

Martin Salter: Well, facts.

Mark Lazarowicz: I know facts, but how many cases have been prosecuted? Is there something in different parts of the country? Surely, there is a danger of going for the wrong target, bluntly, rather than addressing some of the real issues.

Martin Salter: Mark, I have spent years working to bridge communities, and the Angling Trust is working very hard to bridge those communities. We are actively encouraging migrant anglers into membership, and we have dedicated officers in our building bridges project, precisely because the headlines were full-for probably the last 10 years now-of new migrants from the accession states coming to England, not understanding the rules and regulations and finding themselves falling foul of the law. We are engaged in an education process to ensure that people understand the rules and regulations regarding the taking and capture of fish in Britain. There is evidence that those programmes have been successful and we are very proud of our work. But denying that there was a problem is certainly not the way forward. There was a problem and the prosecutions in the Magistrates’ Court will show that to be the case.

Q81 Mark Lazarowicz: I was asking for some evidence to back up the extent of the assertion, that was all.

Q82 Martin Salter: The court records at King’s Lynn or anywhere in the Fens would give you all the evidence you need, and we would be very happy to provide them.

Mark Lazarowicz: That is one particular part of the country, that is all.

Q83 Peter Aldous: On a similar theme, a question directed to the Angling Trust: you referred to the problems with the CFP and inequities of the quota system, but most of the English fleet is now under-10s, and I have had some complaints from those registered as under-10 fishermen that people are fishing for the pot and then selling direct to pubs and restaurants. Is there any evidence of that on a significant scale?

Martin Salter: Yes. There is. The recent prosecution in Southend involved a substantial number of under-10-metre boats. Certainly the case that was highlighted in Leigh involved fishermen selling fish caught off quota on behalf of 34 other fishermen in the Southend area, so quite serious. The broader issue that the commercial sector raises, and not unreasonably, is that some recreational sea anglers sell their catch, and that is where we come into the debate around carcass tagging and fin clipping and the rest of it. We don’t call those people anglers. We call them shamateurs, because they are not really amateur anglers. They are not fishing for the sport or for themselves; they are fishing for profit. If you sell your catch, you are not an angler, all right; you have moved to become a commercial fisherman, and if you are a commercial fisherman, you should be licensed and have the same regulations applied to you. We are quite clear about that.

Mark Lloyd: Could I just add very briefly that fishing for the pot, even if you were to fill your freezer and eat fish every day, it is going to be nothing compared to the amount of fish that are thrown dead back into the sea by the commercial sector.

Martin Salter: That has got to be £63 million-worth.

Q84 Dr Whitehead: Invasive species. We know about mink and what they do and where they are, we have heard about the American signal crayfish. That is not the same as Dikerogammarus villosus; that is, the killer shrimp that arrived in the UK just recently. What sort of impacts can you tell us about that invasive non-native species actually have, particularly on the river bank and the river environment?

Mark Lloyd: If I could talk about signal crayfish, there are very few waters now left that have our native crayfish left in them. These crayfish came over in the 1970s or 1980s and have spread nearly everywhere and wherever they come into contact with our native crayfish, they out-compete them and they also carry a virus against which our native crayfish don’t have any defence. Furthermore, in terms of the impact on the rest of the ecology, they burrow into the banks, cause massive bank erosion and they eat fish eggs and even small fish. So they are really damaging and, from an angling point of view, it is impossible to fish in lots of areas, because you put your bait in and as soon as it has hit the bottom, signal crayfish come and snap it up. Lots of people say, "There’s no point in going fishing there; it’s full of signals". They really consume a lot of the other creatures in the river, so they are a menace.

The killer shrimp is not a threat to us personally-it is only this big-but if it were to escape, English Nature and Natural England have said that it could lead to the extinction of native species. It is really voracious; it breeds rapidly. It would destroy a load of other invertebrates. Those invertebrates are really important for the rest of the food chain, for bird life and for fish. They emerge at different times of the year, so they provide a stream of meals throughout the year for different wildlife. If you only have one shrimp left that has killed all the other invertebrates, then migratory birds that time their arrival in the country to eat particular species of insects that are coming out of lakes and rivers don’t get their feed if those species aren’t there. Although apparently a light-hearted issue, it is actually really, really serious and, if they were to escape from the two places where they are now and spread throughout the country, it would have a dramatic effect on our aquatic ecology.

Martin Salter: Just to add the figures, it is worth reading them into the record. The study that came out recently on the economic cost of invasive and non-native species to Great Britain showed that the direct cost to the UK economy could be as high as £1.7 billion. That includes species like Japanese knotweed, floating pennywort, mink, signal crayfish, giant hogweed and the rest of it, and in terms of impact on native species, the white-clawed crayfish-the indigenous crayfish that is a really great indicator of good water quality-is all but wiped out because of the presence of signals.

Q85 Dr Whitehead: Is this because the signal crayfish are particularly clever or is this-

Martin Salter: They are about that big, Alan. Our little Brit one is much smaller.

Mark Lloyd: They carry this virus to which our natives don’t have immunity.

Martin Salter: They can drag children out of prams.

Dr Whitehead: So obviously you don’t take your child’s pushchair through a ford.

Martin Salter: They are big. They are about eight or nine inches big.

Q86 Dr Whitehead: Yes. But presumably they were introduced to the UK by somebody.

Martin Salter: Under licence by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, against the advice of experts and scientists, into still water. The great experts at MAFF decided that, although these things can walk across land, it was okay to put them in a pond and they have now spread in many, many river systems. They have also been introduced illegally, I would suggest, by people who trap them for commercial gain.

Q87 Dr Whitehead: That was going to be my question. Are there active crimes taking place in maintaining these species and spreading them?

Martin Salter: We only have anecdotal evidence but we have strong reason to suspect that they are being deliberately seeded by people who profit from the harvesting of them and it is very serious.

Q88 Dr Whitehead: Presumably this is also a wider effect, in terms of introduction of a number of other non-native species, fish and so on, to our waterways. Do you have a system in the Angling Trust to monitor this or to report if people catch a non-native species and they know what it is and they report it?

Mark Lloyd: Yes. We are on the GB non-native species secretariat, and we recently put a load of information on our website for our members with an identification guide for 17 or 18 commonly found very invasive non-native species, and are encouraging them to report things. We also work closely with the Rivers Trust, a network of organisations across the country looking after particular catchments, and they are developing biosecurity plans for each of the rivers trusts. Our members will play a key role in those plans, in terms of reporting and also removal; things like Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed can be reduced by volunteers.

Martin Salter: Alan, can I just add one very quick point? Going to countries like New Zealand, Canada or Australia, where they are really strong on biosecurity, you try going through Customs with mud on your boots there. They are as much interested in the bugs that you might bring into the country as anything else that you might have in your suitcase. Walk into Heathrow and nobody looks.

Q89 Dr Whitehead: That was going to be my final question. Presumably there are known potentially invasive species, which don’t happen to be here in the UK but could quite easily be. As we have seen over quite a long time, people stock plants in their gardens or chuck plants in rivers, introduce pet animals, then do not like them very much and flush them away and so on-so over a long period of time, that sort of accidental introduction of invasive species, although not exactly a crime, effectively has a criminal effect on the environment. What sort of practical measures might now be taken in terms of closing the door on future non-native species that could be invasive? Are there things to be done?

Mark Lloyd: There are three key things that really need to be done. There is talk of an EU directive on non-native invasives. Given the flow of people and goods and services in Europe, it would make sense to tackle it on a European scale. There are a huge number of invasive species just across the Channel and they could very easily come in. There is a lot of work that needs to be done on education and we have the Olympics coming up. We have a huge number of boats and bits of equipment coming over, which could be wet and could be carrying invasive species. A bit of a publicity drive around that would be very good, and raising awareness generally with border agencies and ports. As Martin said, it is not something that is really on their agenda. Probably the key thing is banning the sale of invasive non-native species, which is done quite legally. These are brought in under licence. They are sold openly, but there are so many possibilities for them to escape into the water environment, so that would be a really key move. But as we have established there are problems with world trade regs.

Charles Nodder: Very briefly on this, I think it is important to get our terms right, because there are a huge number of species that are used in agriculture, in forestry, in wildlife management, and certain deer species; Muntjac, Sika are all alien-they are all non-native-but they are not particularly invasive. The thing we have to really keep our eye on is the ones that are the problem. They are invasive in as much as they spread when they get here and they do harm, rather than being invasive just because they are from across the Channel.

Q90 Mark Lazarowicz: One question on this directive. Is it a draft directive or is it actually now law? What is the position on it? Is it making a difference now?

Mark Lloyd: I am afraid I don’t know but I can let you know what the status is.

Chair: On that point, particular thanks to all three of you. I am sure we could have talked at great length on this, especially with your workforce here, Mr Lloyd. May I say thank you very much to you and to Martin and to Mr Nodder as well, and to our previous witnesses? I remind everybody who has given evidence this afternoon that if you wish to provide further information to us, we will be very happy to receive that, from whatever has arisen during the course of taking evidence. Thank you very much indeed.

Prepared 13th March 2012