Horse Society Ragwort Bill goes to House of Lords committee
British Horse Society (BHS) initiated Ragwort Control Bill successfully
had its second reading in the House of Lords recently (17 October)
and now moves to Committee and Report Stage (4 & 10 November
respectively). Provided the Bill moves smoothly through these latter
stages it should return to the Commons prior to the Queen's Speech
on 26 November and will come into force three months after adoption.
Bill was led by Baroness Masham, herself a Vice-President of the
BHS and Ponies (UK), as well as running her own Highland Pony Stud
and a riding centre in North Yorkshire. In her speech, Baroness
Masham described the problems she has, as a landowner, in controlling
ragwort and explained how the Bill provides for a code of practice
to strengthen enforcement and provide clear guidelines on best practice
to control the spread of ragwort.
vice-chairman of the All Party Group on Conservation and Wildlife,
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville expressed the concern of several
conservation groups as to the ecological effect of the code on ragwort,
whilst in no way decrying its danger to equine welfare. In his response,
Defra Under Secretary for State, Lord Whitty, stated that the code
of practice and methods of enforcement would take into account environmental
and biological concerns, believing that the Bill and code would
strike the right balance. He also stated that whilst the most recent
national countryside survey found no overall increase in fertile
or infertile grasslands up to 1998, there was a significant increase
in the frequency of ragwort in lowland woods and on arable land.
In some localised areas there had also been an increase in grassland
and this, coupled with there being far more horses now than 50 years
ago when the Weeds Act was first introduced, meant that proper management
of ragwort was needed to ensure that the danger to horses was minimised.
concerns raised during the debate, the Bill was moved unopposed
to have been read a second time and it is hoped that, should any
amendments be tabled, it will not be held up at committee stage.