National Wildlife Crime Unit March 2016

UPDATE, 1st March 2016:

I am deligthed that it was announced today that the National Wildlife Crime Unit has secured 4 years of funding of total £1.204 million needed for its work. That is fantastic news for British wildlife. The Government has now listened to the voice of the UK public and decided to continue the great work of the last Labour Governemtn which has set up this Unit.

You can read the Governments announcement in full here:

December 2015:

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the related World Animal Protection campaign.

I share your appreciation for the work that the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) does to help prevent and prosecute wildlife crime.

As I am sure you are aware, 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.

I am proud that 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. This is an issue of great concern to me thus I, myself, wrote to Rt Hon Mike Penning MP, who is Minister of State for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims, and asked him about this issue.

During the last Parliament, the Coalition Government cut the level of funding to the NWCU and only guaranteed its funding until March 2016. I share your concern about the NWCU's lack of long-term financial certainty and 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. 

Mr Penning has confirmed in his response to my letter 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 25 November 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.

Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views. I can assure you that I will continue to follow this issue closely and press the Government to tackle wildlife crime.