§ Mr. Bob Russell
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps he is taking to combat the spread of ragwort(a) along roadside verges and (b) in liaison with local authorities and utilities in respect of land owned by them. 
§ Mr. Hill
For roadside verges, eradication of noxious weeds on road verges in England is the responsibility of highway authorities. These authorities take measures to eradicate ragwort when made aware that a problem exists. The Highways Agency's current policy on noxious weeds for the trunk road and motorway network in England is to seek out infestation and take appropriate control measures. Maintenance of roadside verges on local authority roads is the responsibility of the local highway authorities, who are free to set their own standards. However, DETR are working with local authorities to produce a new code of practice for maintaining their roads, and will recommend that they adopt the same procedures for ragwort elimination as on national roads.
For land owned by local authorities and utilities, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has policy responsibility for control of injurious weeds, of which ragwort is one, under the Weeds Act 1959. Under its provisions, the Ministry may investigate complaints from any occupiers of agricultural land who consider that their land is threatened by ragwort spreading from land nearby. Where a specific complaint is received about ragwort spreading from land occupied by utilities or local authorities, the local Ministry regional service centre may approach the utility or authority concerned to request that control measures be taken. Where such measures are not put in hand, the Weeds Act gives the Minister powers to implement statutory procedures to ensure that weed control is carried out.