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Invasive Weeds

Volume 406: debated on Thursday 12 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to assist those responsible for habitats where invasive non-native weeds are growing (a) to offset financial implications, (b) to install long-term plans to ensure these weeds are not just temporarily cleared but that all rhizomes are killed off and (c) to assist with safe disposal of cleared weeds to ensure that spread is not encouraged; and if she will make a statement. [117798]

The Department has no plans to provide specific funding to meet the costs for landowners of dealing with invasive non-native plants, although statutory bodies such as the Environment Agency, English Nature and local authorities may on occasion be involved with control projects.Guidance on control and disposal of non-native plants is made available by the Environment Agency and English Nature. Fuller details are given in the response to my hon. Friend's separate question 117799. Waste containing Japanese knot weed is controlled under the Environment Protection Act 1990.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to assist those responsible for habitats where invasive non-native weeds are growing; and if she will make a statement. [117799]

The Environment Agency and English Nature produce a range of guidance on controlling invasive non-native plants. The Environment Agency produces detailed guidance for landowners and managers on how to control a number of invasive species. In addition, English Nature has provided funding for 'The Invasive Alien Species' website (http:// www.appliedvegetationdynamics.co.uk/IAAPwebsite/ index.asp), which provides guidance for controlling problem species. Leaflets on invasive non-native pond plants produced jointly by English Nature, the Environment Agency and others also give guidance on control and on safe disposal to avoid further spread of the plants.In addition, the Department has set up a working group to undertake a fundamental Review of Non-Native Species Policy. Its report, published on 28 March 2003, is available in the House library. It includes a range of measures for dealing with invasive non-native species. We are developing, in liaison with the Devolved Administrations, the Government response to the report, and there will be public consultation later this year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had regarding the control of invasive non-native weeds; and if she will make a statement. [117801]

In March this year, the Department completed a Review of Non-native Species Policy. The Review involved discussions with other Government Departments, the Devolved Administrations, the statutory conservation agencies and representatives from the trade sector, animal welfare and conservation organisations. This included discussion of control of invasive non-native plants.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received regarding the role of educating gardeners and others in controlling invasive non-native weeds; and if she will make a statement. [117802]

The Department receives numerous representations on invasive non-native species. The Review of Non-native Species Policy reported that stakeholders, including gardeners, have a key role to play, for example, in avoiding further introductions of invasive non-native plants, and recommended a public education and awareness campaign. The Government are considering their response to the Review's report.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimates she has made of the costs of tackling invasive non-native weeds; and if she will make a statement. [117803]

The report of the Review of Non-native Species Policy provided rough cost estimates for national control programmes for various invasive species, including invasive non-native plants, by way of illustration of the issue. For example, the report included estimates that a national Japanese knotweed eradication programme using current techniques would cost approximately £1.56 billion. At this level of cost, national control programmes are unlikely to be feasible. This shows the importance of effective measures to prevent introductions. However, the Department is also contributing research into novel methods of control of Japanese knotweed, which may help reduce costs.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research has been done into effective methods of killing invasive non-native weeds with (a) chemicals available in garden centres to tackle weeds, (b) weedkillers which have now been withdrawn from general circulation and (c) chemical preparations available only to professionals; and what plans she has to reassess the status of the withdrawn chemical preparations if they are proved to be better at tackling the problem. [117804]

The Department has undertaken a number of research projects looking into the impact of the use of pesticides on weeds in, or around, agricultural and horticultural crops. The Environment Agency's leaflet on control of invasive non-native plants gives guidance on use of chemical control. Only one research project has specifically focussed on invasive non-native plants and this is investigating alternatives to chemicals. The Department is contributing with Cornwall county council, the Environment Agency and others, to research into biological control of one of the problem species—Japanese knotweed. The study will undertake the necessary research to establish whether biological control is a feasible method for the long-term, sustainable management of Japanese knotweed in the UK.The Department is not undertaking any research into the effectiveness of withdrawn weedkillers to control invasive non-native plants. The UK's pesticide regulatory system allows for the granting of 'emergency' approvals whereby the marketing and use of plant protection products may be permitted, subject to an environmental risk assessment, for a limited period to control invasive non-native weeds if the threat they pose cannot be controlled by other means.