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The British Horse Society British Horse Society Ragwort Bill enters final stage

Fears that conservations groups were prepared to wreck the British Horse Society (BHS) initiated Ragwort Control Bill thankfully proved unfounded in the House of Lords late last night (12 November). Amendments tabled prior to Report Stage were withdrawn during debate, enabling the Bill to move one stage closer to becoming law and provide for a code of practice with evidential status.

Amendment 1: Page 1, Line 5, leave out 'prevent the spread of' and insert 'reduce the risk of horses dying from eating [Ragwort]' tabled by the Lord Bishop of Hereford and in particular, Amendment 2: Leave out Clause 1, tabled by Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville would, if accepted, have effectively wrecked the Bill at almost the last stage. The amendments reflected concerns of the Wildlife & Countryside Link (Link), an umbrella group of 32 member organisations, on the effect a code of practice to control Ragwort would have on the plant's ecological status.

Through Lord Brooke, Link sought assurances from Government Minister Lord Whitty that environmental issues relating to the control of ragwort - random use of herbicides and removal of the plant as a source of food for a number of insects and moths - would be considered, including undertaking an environmental impact assessment relating to the code.

The BHS, in an earlier response to Link's Position Statement on Ragwort, had expressed support for such an assessment as it recognises that to protect horses it's not necessary to eradicate Ragwort completely, but essential to control it and prevent it from spreading to grazing land and land used for the production of dried forage.

Lord Whitty advised that the Government would indeed take Link's concerns into account when amending the draft code following consultation but could not, at that stage, give assurance on an assessment. On being asked if research would be undertaken to study how far Ragwort seeds spread, Lord Whitty replied that he would respond to Lord Brooke in writing.

BHS chief executive, Kay Driver, said today, "We are pleased that the Bill is looking set for successful completion and the Society would like to thank the Government, MPs and members of the House of Lords for their support of the Ragwort Control Bill, which is a significant step forward for horse owners worried about the spread of Ragwort in this country.

"The BHS is willing to cooperate with conservation groups to ensure a workable code of practice acceptable to both them and to horse owners. Horse owners must, and many do, accept their responsibility to undertake proper pasture management, and the BHS will help to promote this. However, it is irresponsible of neighbouring or other landowners to allow Ragwort growing on their land to spread and endanger the lives of horses.

"The BHS and the many horse owners in England and Wales are indebted to John Greenway MP and Baroness Masham for their work involved in seeing the Ragwort Control Bill through parliament."


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