§ Mr. Swayne
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action she is taking to prevent the importation of plant material that may act as a host to sudden oak death infection; and if she will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Bradshaw
All plants entering the UK from third countries must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate and are subject to inspection at import. For a wide range of known hosts of the sudden oak death fungus (Phytophthora ramorum is its scientific name), specific measures must be followed before the authorities in the exporting country can issue the certificate. For trade within the EU, specific disease control measures are applied at the place of production to rhododendrons and viburnums, the two types of plant which have been most often found to be infected in Europe. Plant passports are then issued that travel with consignments allowing their free movement between member states.
Findings of P ramorum in imported and UK origin plants are of concern and inspections at UK nurseries and ports of entry are to be stepped up to ensure that all consignments of plants moved into and within the UK are free from P ramorum and meet plant passport requirements. Any consignment found to he infected, or not to have the correct documentation, will, as now, be destroyed. The UK will support extension of specific measures against P ramorum to additional types of plant when these are shown to present a significant risk.
§ Mr. Swayne
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what additional resources are being made available to the Plant Health Inspectorate in connection with sudden oak death; and if she will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Bradshaw
Defra's 75 Plant Health and Seeds Inspectors (PHSI) are already employed for around 20 per cent. of their time on inspection and surveillance duties related to Phytophthora ramorum, which is known in the USA as sudden oak death. However, in response to the increasing number of findings of this pathogen in England and Wales, the plant health service is to employ at least 20 additional staff to cover the increased rate of inspections at production nurseries, wild planting areas and ports of entry. This is part of a package of measures announced on 4 December. Wherever possible, suitably qualified field staff will be transferred from elsewhere in the Department. These will be supplemented by recruitment of a small number of staff with appropriate experience and qualifications (e.g. ex-PHSI staff). Transfer and recruitment will start in January.438W
Defra are also funding a substantial increase in sample diagnoses undertaken by the Central Science Laboratory (CSL) which is estimated to cost in excess of £750,000 to the end of 2004–05. CSL are also involved in on-going research into Phytophthora ramorum to the value of £370,000.
The Forestry Commission has redirected about 23 staff onto a woodland survey in England and Wales, to be completed by April 2004, which will help us to assess whether Phytophthora ramorum is present in the wider environment. Resource has also been redirected within the Forest Research Agency into projects designed to help us better understand the disease.