Sudden Oak Death Virus

House of Lords written question – answered on 11th February 2004.

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Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What measures they have taken before and since 6 January to prevent the spread of oak death virus (Phytophthora ramorum) internally within the United Kingdom and in particular from Cornwall; and whether movement controls on nursery stock would be helpful in advance of the spring planting season.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

The Plant Health (Great Britain) Order 1993 (SI 1993/1320, as amended) sets out the controls on the import, movement and keeping of plants within the EU. The order requires all plants entering the UK from third countries to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate and are subject to inspection at import. For trade within the EU, specific disease control measures are applied at the place of production and plant passports may be issued that travel with consignments allowing their free movement between member states. Such controls operate throughout the year.

From May 2002 measures to control the movement of plants susceptible to the pathogenic fungus Phytophthora ramorum into and within the UK were introduced under the Plant Health (Phytophthora ramorum) (England) Order 2002. Parallel legislation was introduced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and by the Forestry Commission. These measures included a notification requirement for movements of susceptible plants within the UK. Subsequently, following pressure from the UK Government, agreement was reached in the European Community's Standing Committee on Plant Health to extend the UK's emergency measures to apply to the whole European Community. In England these were introduced in November 2002, by the Plant Health (Phytophthora ramorum) (England) (No 2) Order 2002 (SI 2002 No 2573). These measures require all consignments of rhododendron and viburnum, the principal hosts in Europe, to be accompanied by a plant passport wherever they are being moved.

An intensive survey programme of retail outlets, nurseries, gardens and other established planting areas has been under way since the first UK case in February 2002. Where infection is suspected the consignment is placed under notice and may not be moved or sold until that notice is lifted. Any material found to be infected is destroyed.

However, because of our concern about the potential impact if more of our free species become infected, we are stepping up the eradication and containment action already being taken. Work is already under-way to survey at least 1,000 woodland areas, established planting areas and production nurseries. Surveillance of imported material at the main ports of entry is also being stepped up.

Although the findings on new tree species announced on 2 February are at sites in Cornwall, findings on shrubs are more widespread. A map of outbreaks is maintained on Defra's website and is available at We are concerned about the impact this disease might have on horticulture and on the landscape, where a major epidemic in our native trees could have a significant impact. Nevertheless, we should avoid a disproportionate response to isolated findings and try to minimise the impact of our necessary actions in controlling this disease. Our inspectors will continue to work closely with individual nursery, garden centre and historic garden owners in Cornwall and elsewhere to this end.

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