HC Deb 16 November 1971 vol 826 cc205-6
25. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on the progress of the Dutch Elm disease; and what steps his Department is taking to arrest its spread.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

The present serious outbreak is worst in the Severn Valley and Southern England.

The disease cannot spread any further until the late spring. The scale of last summer's outbreak in the worst-affected areas, and the measures for dealing with it, were announced in written replies which my right hon. Friend gave to my hon. Friends the Members for Woking (Mr. Onslow) and Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) on 19th October; and my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) on 21st October—[Vol. 823; c. 83; Vol. 823, c. 185–186.]

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are many diseased trees and that the cost of felling them and burning them is altogether excessive?

Mr. Stodart

The order that has been made under the Plant Health Act gives powers to the authorities in question either to cause owners to fell or to do the felling themselves. There is no power under the Act to pay the costs of felling by private owners.

Mr. Loughlin

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that one of the problems in the spring is the tremendous amount of non-identification of diseased trees before the leaves fall? What steps does the hon. Gentleman propose to take to get immediate identification of the disease and remedial action taken at the beginning of the spring before the disease spreads?

Mr. Stodart

I think a great deal of identification has been done by the extremely good efforts of the local authorities within the last two or three months before the leaves fell. Of course, winter is the time for getting the trees down. Provided we get a hard winter—and the long-range forecast this morning said that we shall get a hard winter—the situation may be assisted a great deal.