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Plant Biosecurity Strategy

Volume 579: debated on Wednesday 30 April 2014

I would like to update the House on the progress that my Department has made in implementing the recommendations of the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Taskforce. This is further to my written ministerial statements of 20 May 2013, Official Report, column 54WS, 16 July, Official Report, column 78WS, and 12 December, Official Report, column 53WS, in which I accepted the recommendations of the taskforce.

Today my Department has published a plant biosecurity strategy for Great Britain which sets out the new, strengthened approach to plant biosecurity my Department, together with the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales, has adopted in order to meet the taskforce recommendations. The strategy is being published alongside an update on operational activity to manage tree pests and disease, including Chalara fraxinea (ash dieback).

The strategy is based on the principles that action taken must be risk-based; to make the most effective use of resources, and that Government, industry, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), landowners and the public must all be more aware of plant health risks and know what they can do to reduce and mitigate them, therefore playing their part to ensure plant biosecurity is enhanced. It sets out high-level plans for strengthening existing risk-based activity and developing new and innovative approaches such as a publicly-available risk register and novel approaches to detection and diagnosis of pests and pathogens, which will include:

Pre-border activities to reduce the risk of pests and diseases arriving here from overseas, including our work with countries beyond the EU to drive up standards;

Activities at the border to reduce the risk of pests and diseases entering the EU and the UK;

Action inland to step up surveillance and improve preparedness.

Work has already commenced to deliver the activity within this strategy, with the UK plant health risk register having been published on 21 January 2014, and Professor Nicola Spence having taken up the post of chief plant health officer on 1 April.

The strategy will be underpinned by a robust evidence base and a programme of work to identify and address capability and capacity issues. My officials have conducted extensive public engagement over the past six months on the content of the strategy and will continue to work with those interested on its implementation.

A copy of the strategy will be placed in the Library of the House.