Tree Pests and Diseases - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:09 pm on 13th February 2020.

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Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Judge 3:09 pm, 13th February 2020

My Lords, on both my behalf and that of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this fascinating and very important debate. I thank the Minister for a very detailed and helpful reply, which I am sure we will all want to study with some care when it appears in Hansard.

The debate has drawn attention in the most powerful way possible to the scale of the problem that we face. We have covered many parts of the country, from Devon, east Kent and Wiltshire to South Yorkshire, Wales and Scotland. We have heard detailed descriptions from people who really know what they are talking about of the problems that they face. Of course it is right to say that landowners bear a responsibility for looking after the trees that they have on their land, but the Government have a major part to play too because of the resources and powers that are available and the initiatives that they can take. I hope that what has come through the debate is the message that we look to the Government for initiatives, particularly in the realm of biodiversity, which will seek to address the problem.

There is a curious paradox here. Someone said, although I cannot remember who it was, that a person working in woodlands had said it was the safest job he had ever had because you do not see the results. It is a long-term process; trees take many years to develop. But the problems we face are the complete reverse; they are not long-term problems at all but urgent. It is very dangerous to think of planting wide areas of woodland when we face issues that could destroy them before they even have a chance to get going. So this is a major problem and an urgent one, but we can feel encouraged that the Minister will do his very best to respond to it.

I was very taken with the tribute paid by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, when she said that the Minister had done more than most to raise awareness of the impact of these diseases. I believe that is true. He is very well placed, because of his knowledge and experience, to carry forward the message that has come from this debate. We very much look forward to the results of that, which, as I say, are short-term, so many of us are young enough to see the results of that although we may not see the trees grow to their full potential. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.