§ Mr. Robert Banks
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps his Department is taking to prevent the introduction and spread of plant pests and disease; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Donald Thompson
My Department takes stringent action to prevent the introduction and spread of serious plant pests and diseases. Active campaigns are currently in force against rhizomania disease, cucumber downey mildew, pea bacterial blight and the western flower thrips.
Our plant health legislation lays down a wide range of import controls to avoid the introduction of plant pests and diseases. The Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate carries out checks at ports, airports and markets and on farms and nurseries to ensure that imports are free from infection. If they are not, action is taken to destroy, treat or otherwise safely dispose of the infected material. Immediate contact is made with the exporting country to prevent a recurrence.
We do not hesitate to impose additional controls when new threats occur. We are able in an emergency to supplement the requirements of the EC directive by unilateral controls.
If outbreaks of alien pests and diseases occur, we take firm steps to eradicate or control the infection and to minimise spread. Inspectors may require, by statutory notice, infected material to be destroyed or treated and marketing restrictions can be imposed.
I attach great importance to the preservation of the United Kingdom's plant health status and shall continue actively to pursue this objective.