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Ragwort Control Act

The Ragwort Control Bill received Royal Assent on [20] November and is now an Act. It applies to England and Wales, and will come into force on [20] February 2004.

The new Ragwort Control Act amends the Weeds Act 1959 and provides specifically for more effective management of ragwort, a poisonous weed which is responsible every year for the deaths and illness of many horses and other livestock. It enables the Secretary of State, or National Assembly for Wales, as appropriate, to make a Code of
Practice for landowners and occupiers to prevent the spread of Ragwort. It will also assist landowners and others to strike the right balance between the protection of animal welfare and the need to preserve bio-diversity within the countryside. The Code will also be admissible in evidence if enforcement proceedings under the Weeds
Act are necessary

The Bill was sponsored by The British Horse Society to help protect horses from Ragwort poisoning. It was presented to Parliament as a Private Member's Bill by John Greenway MP. The Government gave its backing to the Bill and welcomes its successful passage through Parliament.

The Government has already worked with the British Horse Society to prepare a draft Code of Practice to prevent and control the spread of Ragwort. This was launched by Rural Affairs Minister and Minister for the Horse Alun Michael, at the Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead in July. A separate but similar code is being developed by
the National Assembly for Wales.

Alun Michael welcomed the Bill's success and said the legislation marked a new phase in protecting horse welfare:

"This will be marked by co-operation in action between horse owners and the Government. Defra is committed to give priority to complaints about weed enforcement where horses and livestock are at risk or when weed spread will affect fodder" (see notes to Editors).

Now that the Bill is an Act, the draft Code will be reviewed in the light of comments received so far. There will be then be a further opportunity for formal consultation on the revised Code of Practice, which we expect to publish early next year to coincide with the new law coming into effect.



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