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Labour: Government 'incompetent' over ash tree crisis

Labour has criticised the Government for responding slowly to the ash tree crisis, after it emerged in a written answer ministers had been told about the presence of ash dieback in the UK in April.

Ministers were told about the presence of ash dieback in the country on April 3 yet waited till October 29 to ban ash imports.

This seven-month delay is a tragic example of the appalling incompetence and inertia which is a hallmark of this Government.

Scientists tell us the disease loves wet conditions and spreads from June to October but Ministers failed to get a ban in place over the summer months.

We have had the wettest summer on record and I fear, have lost a year in our fight against this terrible disease.

– Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh

Defra on latest ash tree disease survey

We have thrown all possible resources at this surveying exercise which has given us a much clearer picture of the distribution of the disease to inform our evidence base.

The science on Chalara is still emerging and the more evidence we have, the greater our knowledge and understanding of this disease and the better we are able to tackle it.

I’d like to thank everyone involved in this survey.

Together we’ve surveyed over 92 percent of England and all of Scotland and Wales so far –a tremendous achievement, especially in such a short time, which shows our combined determination to deal with Chalara.”

– Martin Ward, Chief Plant Health Officer, Defra


Ash tree disease found in six new counties

Ash dieback disease which threatening to devastate the UK's native ash trees has now been found in 115 sites, Defra has said.

The results of an intensive survey by hundreds of officials over the weekend and this week show:

  • The disease has been found in 61 locations in the wider countryside, 39 planting sites and 15 tree nurseries.
  • Cases of Chalara ash dieback have been confirmed in woodlands in six more counties - Sussex, Berkshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Bedfordshire and Northumberland.
  • It had previously been identified in Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent and Essex countryside.

The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is holding a summit today with representatives of industry, conservation groups and experts to discuss the problem.

Environment Secretary outlines aims of ash tree summit

The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson will today host a summit "to get the very best ideas on how to handle" ash dieback disease.

He told ITV News:

"Today is about the Ash Tree problem but we're already looking ahead and I have asked Ian Boyd, our senior scientific advisor, to set up a task force which is already under way on how to handle what appears to be an increasing problem of dangerous plant diseases which can threaten our environment.

Ash dieback has been found at 82 UK sites

Chalara ash dieback has been identified at 82 sites in the UK, including 32 cases in forests and woodlands.

Today's summit is expected to hear the latest update on the situation after hundreds of officials spent the weekend investigating sites for the disease.

Ash dieback causes leaf loss and crown dieback

The Government has been accused of being too slow to respond to the threat of the disease, but ministers insist they are taking the problem seriously and have brought in a ban on imports of ash trees.

What is ash dieback?

Ash dieback is caused by the Chalara fraxinea fungus. The fungus causes leaf loss and crown dieback and can lead to tree death.

It is not known how the disease spreads, but it could be by insects or rain splash, over longer distances it is believed to be transferred by the movement of infected trees.

Symptoms of Chalara fraxinea can be visible on leaves, shoots and branches of affected trees and include:

  • In severe cases, the entire crown shows leaf loss and dieback
  • There may be the formation of dormant shoots under the bark on branches and the trunk
  • Foliage Leaves can suffer from wilting and black-brownish discoloration
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