§ 25. Mr. Dudley Smith
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the latest position over Dutch elm disease; and if he will estimate how many dead elm trees still remain to be felled.
§ Mr. Strang
The Forestry Commission surveys the progress of the disease annually at the end of the summer when its effect is most apparent. The last report published by the Commission on 30th October 1975 indicated that out of an estimated original elm population of about 23 million in southern and central Britain, some 6½ million trees had been killed since the aggressive strain of the disease struck in the late 1960s. About 1 million of these elms had been felled.
To limit the further spread of the disease the Forestry Commission has introduced legislation to control the movement of elm logs, and has given powers to certain local authorities, mainly in the lightly affected areas in northern Britain, to take precautionary measures, including felling.
As regards the disposal of the dead trees the commission has set up an Elm Marketing Group, with the co-operation of the timber trades, charged with seeking out and promoting outlets for marketable timber. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has recently received a report from the Tree Council, which also makes a number of recommendations on the clearance of dead elms. This report is now being considered.