The Government feels that grey squirrels have become irreversibly entrenched in parts of the UK and that their eradication is, in the words of Solicitor General Oliver Heald, “no longer considered feasible”.

Mr Heald announced the repeal of a 1937 regulation requiring occupiers to report the presence of grey squirrels on their land on the grounds that it is “no longer useful or observed”.

The Solicitor General made it clear that environment secretary Owen Paterson still has the power to order the destruction of grey squirrels in order to protect red squirrel populations. However, the news was greeted with dismay by red squirrel conservation groups, which maintain that the regulation played a valuable part in maintaining public awareness of the threats posed to forestry and wildlife by the non-native greys.