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Tree Disease

Volume 575: debated on Thursday 13 February 2014

We have made rapid progress towards implementing the recommendations of the tree health and plant biosecurity taskforce. We have produced a prioritised plant health risk register; undertaken work on contingency planning; and recruited a senior chief plant health officer. Later this spring, we will publish a strategy which will set out a new approach to biosecurity for our plants and trees and will incorporate our response to the taskforce’s remaining recommendations.

I am grateful to the Minister for that positive response. Does he agree that, particularly in view of the flooding, we must also ensure that we protect all our ancient woodlands, keep all our trees and hedgerows, and more than that, plant more trees in our countryside and in our urban areas?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, who has been a long-standing campaigner here and, I understand, even planted a tree at the Eden Project in Cornwall. I am pleased to be able to tell him that protection, improvement and expansion are the three key priorities in our forestry and woodlands policy statement. Ancient woodland remains strongly protected through the planning system, and refreshed advice on ancient woodland to aid planning authorities is being developed by Natural England and the Forestry Commission. We believe that in many landscapes, more trees will deliver increased social, environmental and economic benefits. Next year we will invest £30 million in woodlands, of which £6 million will fund 2,000 hectares of new woodland with about 4 million trees.