I know the Government is very concerned about hen harrier populations, which is why it took the lead on the Hen Harrier Action Plan, which was introduced in 2016. This plan sets out what will be done to increase hen harrier populations in England, and includes measures to stop illegal persecution.
You may be pleased to hear that this year the hen harrier enjoyed its best breeding year in England in nearly two decades. Thanks to the policies in the action plan, 141 hen harrier chicks have fledged over the last three years, including 60 this year alone. I am glad that the Government’s plan is working, and I know that the Government will continue to monitor the situation to ensure this success continues.
Moreover, all wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and there are strong penalties in place for offences committed against birds of prey and other wildlife. I know that senior Government and enforcement officers have identified raptor persecution as a national wildlife crime priority, and the National Wildlife Crime Unit monitors and gathers intelligence on raptor persecution and other wildlife crime, aiding police in their investigations when required.
I believe it is vital that, while wildlife and habitats are respected and protected, people are free to manage wildlife within the law. There is some evidence that sustainable predator control on shooting estates can help the recovery of rare or declining species, such as ground nesting birds, and I am assured that the Government will continue to work to ensure a sustainable, balanced, and mutually beneficial relationship between shooting and conservation.