Ash tree imports banned
Imports of ash trees will be banned from Monday in an effort to stop the spread of chalara fraxinea, which has devastated ash stocks in Europe.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson told the Today programme this morning he was "ready to go" with legislation to ban ash imports. He also argued the Government had not acted slowly on the issue, despite detecting the disease in February, because there had been no commercial imports during the summer.
"We didn’t take a long time. It was first detected in a routine inspection in February through a routine inspection, it was then confirmed through the summer.
"Then a detailed process has gone on of identifying where the trees had come from and there’d they gone. During this process over 1000 sites had been investigated and 50,000 trees have already been burned. When I came in in September the consultation with the industry had just started and I made it absolutely sure that it took as short a time as possible."
Labour's shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said the Government had been "asleep on the job" over the issue.
"After the forest sell-off fiasco the Government have been asleep on the job with ash die-back. They discovered the disease in a tree nursery in February but waited until it was found in the wild in August to consult on banning ash imports.
"The Government also ignored the Forestry Commission’s warning that there was no money to tackle tree disease and cut its cash by 25%, forcing 7 offices to close and cutting 250 staff. You simply can’t trust this incompetent Tory-led Government with the nation’s forests."