HC Deb 19 October 1971 vol 823 cc83-4W
Mr. Onslow

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what efforts his Department is making to contain the spread of Dutch elm disease in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is aware of grave depredation in Worcestershire arising from elm disease, and the request made by the Worcestershire County Council to the Forestry Commission for an order under their powers for plant and tree health and husbandry; and, in view of the negative response from the Forestry Commission, whether he will now assist the campaign against elm disease in Worcestershire by issuing an appropriate direction to the Forestry Commission.

Mr. Prior

I have authorised the Forestry Commission to make an Order under the Plant Health Act, 1967, conferring powers of inspection and control upon eligible local authorities in the areas mainly affected who elect to assume them. The Forestry Commission will contribute in total up to £250,000 towards the extra administrative costs of such authorities. I understand that Worcestershire County Council have signified its intention to accept the powers. The Commission is making the results of a recent survey of the disease available to local authorities, and is offering them its advisory services so that the most effective use can be made of the available resources in developing local strategy for containing the disease. The Commission is also conducting intensive research on the disease, and is in close touch with research abroad.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will seek powers to enable local authorities to recompense retirement pensioners who have suffered hardship from having to meet the expense of felling trees with Dutch elm disease on their property, to prevent the further spread of disease.

Mr. Prior

Local authorities who accept the Order to which I referred in my reply today to my hon. Friends the Members for Woking (Mr. Onslow) and Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) will have power to require the owners of elms to fell them at their own expense. The authorities will also have power to fell elms without cost to the owners. Which of these powers is used in a particular case must be left to the discretion of the local authorities concerned.