Environment: Ragwort

House of Lords written question – answered on 29th August 2013.

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Photo of The Countess of Mar The Countess of Mar Deputy Speaker (Lords)

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which department is responsible for enforcing the control of ragwort on land for which (1) the Department of Transport, (2) Railtrack, (3) local authorities, and (4) private landowners, are responsible; and what currently inhibits enforcement.

Photo of Lord de Mauley Lord de Mauley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Responsibility for the control of ragwort rests with the landowner or occupier in the first instance. A complainant concerned about the spread of ragwort, or any of the other injurious weeds specified in the Weeds Act, should contact the owner or occupier of the land in question to address the problem.

If reasonable efforts are not made by those responsible, the complainant should contact Natural England which has been delegated responsibility for investigating complaints about ragwort and other injurious weeds and, where necessary, for taking the appropriate enforcement action. However, neither Natural England nor Defra have the resources to investigate all weeds complaints. In determining what follow up action is to be taken, priority is given to complaints involving possible spread to land being used for:

Keeping or grazing horses and other livestock; Farmland used to produce conserved forage, and; Other agricultural land activities.

In order to assist public bodies (along with other landowners and occupiers) in fulfilling their responsibilities, the Government amended the Weeds Act with the Ragwort Control Act 2003. This provided for a Code of Practice on preventing Ragwort spread. My colleague, Richard Benyon, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State wrote to land owning Public bodies and over 500 local authorities in February this year reminding them of their responsibilities under the Act and enclosing our Code of Practice.

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