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Ragwort

Volume 506: debated on Monday 22 February 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the effects of ragwort on the health of horses and grazing stock. (317321)

The Government are aware of the effects of ragwort on the health of horses and grazing stock and in 2004 issued a Code of Practice on How to Prevent the Spread of Ragwort. The Code applies to Common ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) which is one of five injurious weeds specified in the Weeds Act 1959. Common ragwort is the only one of the five weeds listed in the Act which is poisonous to horses and other grazing animals.

The code was drawn up in consultation with a steering group which included the British Horse Society and includes an environmental appraisal which drew on evidence from a number of sources of the effects of ragwort poisoning on horses and other livestock. The code provides comprehensive guidance to all land owners and occupiers on how to take a cost effective approach to weed control.

DEFRA’s policy under the Weeds Act 1959 is to control injurious weeds where there is a threat to animal welfare or agricultural activities. DEFRA’s policy is not to eradicate Common Ragwort and other injurious weeds because in the right place, Common Ragwort and the other specified weeds make an important contribution to the biodiversity of the countryside.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will bring forward proposals to make his Department’s guidance on controlling the spread of ragwort more effective. (317322)

The Government’s “Code of Practice on How to Prevent the Spread of Ragwort” was published in July 2004 and we have no immediate plans to review the code.