Equine Welfare (Ragwort Control) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:55 pm on 21st March 2003.

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Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire 12:55 pm, 21st March 2003

I am delighted by those reassurances, although I remain confused about one point. If the Bill's purpose is to require local authorities to act, how can they be required to check whether they have done so? That would be a very peculiar form of self-regulation. While the Minister probably would not read each ragwort control report personally, I am sure he has a host of willing and able civil servants who would be happy to do it for him. Some degree of central control might be a good idea. I am pleased, however, that my hon. Friend has said that not all three parts of the Bill need be enacted—that they are options, and he would be content with the enactment of just one part.

We have heard a great deal about the huge problem of ragwort; it causes incurable liver damage, primarily among horses, although as Shona McIsaac pointed out, sheep and cows can sometimes be affected. Each plant produces 100,000 seeds—an astonishing figure. As the hon. Lady also pointed out, the seeds can remain alive for up to 20 years, which adds to the problem. The plants are extremely difficult to deal with, as I know from trying to eradicate them by hand from a field behind my house. It is extremely hard to pull up the roots and the plants spread like wildfire.