Thursday, February 6, 2014

Funding secured for Wildlife Crime Unit.

After the uncertainty which has surrounded the above it was good news indeed to learn late yesterday that funding had been secured/allocated for the continuation of the Unit until 2016.  Full details can be read here
Funding for Wildlife Crime Unit

Now, I am sure we can all welcome that news given the valuable work which has been undertaken and successfully completed previously. The news was released at 1730 hours last evening and, doubtless, was a relief to many people associated with the unit , both directly and indirectly.  It's to be welcomed.

But, you know, it's always worth looking a little further and examining motives at the same time. Politics is a strange game of massaging the collective ego of the presiding Party, but also scoring points over the Opposition, however small. It may also be a knee jerk reaction to avoid embarrassment too.

Now why do I say this after expressing overwhelming support for the initiative?  Well, first of all this very afternoon, and at the instigation of the Back Bench Committee, a debate was held in Parliament on International Wildlife Crime.  Remember too, that some little time ago, a very telling report from the Environmental Audit Committee contained a whole host of recommendations relevant to this subject area.   Joan Walley, (Labour)  ) Chair of that Committee, emphasized many of these points today,and their relevance to the days proceedings. Sadly, it seemed only two Labour MP's were present, Joan Walley and Barry Gardiner, who did the summing up on behalf of the Opposition. A signal that hardly augurs well for the positioning of the Labour Party on environmental and wildlife matters, but there you go!!

By contrast, several Tory MP's and a couple of Liberal MP's were present and several spoke well on the subject.  On that score I felt gently chided given the somewhat frequent asides I've made about the Greenest Government Ever!!!  However, repentance is a waste of time as you can't turn back history!!  The contributions were detailed and passionate from people concerned for the subject and who wanted to see progress, foremost amongst which were Nick Herbert, Richard Benyon and Sir John Randall. Well done!

This debate preceded what will be a major international conference at Lancaster House next week, fronted by HRH, the Prince of Wales, and also the Duke of Cambridge. Many Heads of State will be there and the whole affair is to the credit of the UK as the host and the inevitable message it will send world wide as to our sentiments and intentions on the matters being examined.  Doubtless there will be an opportunity to comment on what is agreed etc etc next week.

But, turning back to the initial point, all this politicking is a bit last minute, isn't it?  It's very commitment is sadly undermined by its timing, as one wonders why the announcement was made so late.  [ I say, Hubert, it would have been bad form to announce no funds were available for a unit pledged to tackle the very fundamental elements of what next week's conference is about, wouldn't it!! HRH would not have been pleased!  ] Of course it would, and that's where the politics comes in, including one might suspect, the timing of today's debate. BUT...

There were other elements of the debate that were very revealing and I had to confess a feeling of support  for what was stated.  I'd not realised that international  terrorist organizations are using the proceeds from poaching to fund their activities and that, wildlife crime , is the THIRD most lucrative illegal activity across the globe after narcotics and people trafficking.  OK, it's easy for someone like me to take a poke at the Government for deliberately timing something to its advantage, but these are clearly not routine, everyday problems that can be easily dealt with.  I was heartened to learn that there is an Inter-Ministerial Group, chaired by the Foreign Secretary and which is attended by all other appropriate Secretaries of State, that considers cross departmental implications of such activities. Impressive I thought!

So, 8 out of 10, timing can be better and can we have an Inter-Ministerial Group that examines the not infrequent notions that DEFRA comes up with and considers their implications for Government, its popularity and efficacy.  A reassuring day nonetheless!

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