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Questions raised about the enforcement of a new licensing regime for the release of gamebirds

27 May 2021

The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has published a report which raises a number of concerns about the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Variation of Schedule 9) (England) (No. 2) Order 2021 (SI 2021/548).

The Order governs non-native gamebirds which may not be released or allowed to escape into the wild unless authorised by a license and specifically sets out;

  • A prohibition of the release of common pheasants and red-legged partridges into certain protected areas or within a buffer zone of 500 metres around these areas without a license;
  • A prohibition of letting these species escape into such protected areas without a license; and
  • A time limit on the instrument which means it will expire in May 2025, and an obligation to review the effectiveness of the licensing regime before the end of May 2024.

The Committee expressed considerable concern about the practicality of making it an offence to let gamebirds escape into protected areas and also took issue with the inconsistency of this provision with the statutory guidance, which simply states that the escape or release of gamebirds into protected areas should not be “encouraged”.

Committee members expressed doubt that the new regime could be effectively enforced by authorities and questioned how responsibility for the escape of any gamebirds could be properly established for these purposes.