HC Deb 07 November 2002 vol 392 cc698-9W
Mr. Steen

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the amount of ragwort growing in the UK; and if she will propose amendments to the Weeds Act 1959 to include commercial equine activities. [80333]

Alun Michael

Defra has provided funding totalling £420,000 to underpin the preparation of The New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. This divides the country into ten by ten kilometre squares and charts the distribution of plants, including Ragwort across Britain and Ireland. The New Atlas, which was published in September, shows that the general distribution of Ragwort has not changed since the 1962 Atlas was prepared.

Under the Weeds Act 1959, primary responsibility for weed control rests with the occupier of the land on which the weeds are growing. Where there is a risk that one of the five injurious weeds to which the Act applies might spread, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs can serve a notice on the occupier of the land requiring action to be taken to prevent its spread. Under section 1 of the Act the authority to serve a notice applies to any land.

Defra will consider all complaints about the spread of weeds but in determining what action to take, priority is given to those complaints where there is a threat to farmland or land that is being used for the keeping of horses as part of a diversified farm business.