Ash Dieback Disease

Part of Opposition Day — [9th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 5:49 pm on 12th November 2012.

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Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Chair, Science and Technology Committee (Commons), Chair, Science and Technology Committee (Commons) 5:49 pm, 12th November 2012

I referred to the SAGE precisely because the Select Committee’s report on scientific advice in emergencies called for an opening up of the process. I believe that one alternative explanation has not been rigorously tested, although it could be by an open call for evidence from the Minister. Nurseries in places such as Lancashire, from where the trees I planted 10 years ago were sourced, source their trees from locally grown seedlings, whereas closer to the European mainland the probability is greater that seedlings were sourced from within Europe. That possibility needs to be tested, and by opening up the SAGE process I invite the Minister to do just that and close the missing link.

There are issues on the DEFRA website that concern me. My hon. Friend Mary Creagh spoke of how the website had changed miraculously, but I remind the Minister that the changes were made without any reference to scientific citation whatsoever, and that must be examined.

Chief scientific advisers ought to be able to give scientific advice, based on the science, freely and openly to the Government, and it is not for Ministers to reinterpret that on their Department’s website. That is an improper use of the scientific advice, which should be available to the whole House and indeed the whole country. There is no reason that the process cannot be conducted most transparently, and if it is we will suck in all the information necessary to solve the problem once and for all. It is a challenging issue, but I hope the Minister takes my advice.