The National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) does valuable work to help prevent and prosecute wildlife crime.
The NWCU was set up by the last Labour Government – which had a proud record of achievement on animal welfare at home (for example by introducing the Animal Welfare Act in 2006) and international animal welfare, including the introduction of the EU trade ban on seal products.
The last Labour Government achieved much to end the cruel and unnecessary suffering of animals and at the general election I stood on a manifesto that included a commitment to build on this strong record on animal welfare.
During the last Parliament, the Coalition Government cut the level of funding to the NWCU and only guaranteed its funding until March 2016. The NWCU’s lack of long-term financial certainty is a concern. I believe it is important that the NWCU has the resources and certainty it needs to detect and prevent wildlife crime.
The current Government says that it is committed to tackling crimes against wildlife and that it recognises the important work the NWCU does to help tackle wildlife crime.
The Government has also confirmed that decisions on NWCU funding beyond March 2016 will be made as part of the current Spending Review process. However, the Spending Review was published on November 25 and, as you may be aware, did not mention the NWCU. The Government has, however, confirmed that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ budget is to be cut by 15% over the course of this Parliament. I believe there are still lots of questions over what this will mean for DEFRA.
Unfortunately, when pressed in the House of Commons recently to confirm that funding for the NWCU will be maintained beyond 2016, the Secretary of State for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs refused to do so. Following the Spending Review, my Shadow Frontbench colleagues are pressing the Government to confirm its plans for funding of the NWCU.
I hope the Government will listen to the concerns that have been raised by organisations such as World Animal Protection and recognise the importance of funding the National Wildlife Crime Unit so that it can continue to carry out its vital work beyond March 2016.