The Government response to the consultation and code of practice for invasive non-native species control were published in July 2017.

Section 23 of the Infrastructure Act 2015 amended the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 ("WCA") by inserting Schedule 9A to introduce a statutory regime of species control agreements and orders. This Schedule ensures appropriate action can be taken against invasive non-native species, in certain circumstances. The new provisions grant the Secretary of State, Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission powers to require owners to carry out control operations against invasive non-native species. In addition, where an owner has refused to act or allow access they provide powers for those bodies to take action themselves. The provisions can be applied in terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments.

Schedule 9 of the WCA lists animals and plants to which the provisions apply, but is not exhaustive. Part 1 lists non-native animals that have become ordinarily resident in Great Britain, such as the grey squirrel and mandarin duck. Part 1B names animals re-introduced to England within their natural range but are no longer normally present in the wild, where this is the result of unlicensed human actions, for example the wild boar. The scope also applies to non-native plant species that are listed in Part 2 of Schedule 9, for instance floating pennywort.

Analysis of response

The majority of responses from organisations supported the draft code of practice but a number of comments were made about the need for more detail on how the provisions will be applied. Most of the responses also opposed in principle the use of any powers that might result in the eradication of any animals, and were in favour of only humane, non-lethal methods being employed if control operations were considered necessary.

Government response

In response to the consultation, substantive changes to the code of practice were made. Greater detail has now been provided including the insertion of an overview section and case example, and there is more clarity on who pays for the operations. In most cases, where the landowner has not introduced the species, the environmental authority will meet the costs of all operations.

Although the government considered the request that powers are restricted to non-lethal methods, it ultimately found that where there are no effective alternatives, it may be necessary to use lethal methods of control.

The code has been revised to emphasise that all operations must be carried out in accordance with best practice to make sure that pain, distress or suffering to the animal is avoided or minimised. The code also now contains an obligation on environmental authorities, where they are not carrying out the operations themselves, to advise the owner or party carrying out the operations on the most appropriate method in light of these requirements.

The code of practice can be accessed on the website of the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat.