UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 469-i

House of COMMONS

Oral EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE the

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Jamie Dewhurst, Caroline Harrison and Chris Inglis

Evidence heard in Public Questions 87 - 215

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

on Wednesday 26 June 2013

Members present:

Miss Anne McIntosh (Chair)

Richard Drax

George Eustice

Barry Gardiner

Mrs Mary Glindon

Iain McKenzie

Sheryll Murray

Ms Margaret Ritchie

Dan Rogerson

________________

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Jamie Dewhurst, Horticultural Trades Association, and Managing Director, J&A Growers, Caroline Harrison, England Manager, Confor, and Chris Inglis, Chair, Confor Nursery Producers Group, gave evidence.

Q87 Chair: Good afternoon and welcome. May I thank you all very much indeed for attending and contributing to our inquiry into tree health and biosecurity? I wonder if I could perhaps just go along the table, starting on my right. If you could introduce yourselves, and give your names and your positions in the organisations that you are with.

Jamie Dewhurst: I am Jamie Dewhurst. I am here on behalf of the HTA. I am a member of the Tree and Hedging Group, and a past Chairman of it.

Caroline Harrison: I am Caroline Harrison. I am England Manager for Confor, which is the Confederation of Forest Industries, the trade body for the forestry and timber processing industry in the UK.

Chris Inglis: I am Chris Inglis. I am Executive Director of Confor.

Q88 Chair: Excellent. You are all very welcome, thank you. A year on from the beginning of the ash dieback crisis-if I start with Mr Dewhurst, and perhaps both organisations could answer-how far do you think the disease has taken a hold in the United Kingdom, Mr Dewhurst? How strong a hold has there been?

Jamie Dewhurst: I am aware from Forestry Commission statistics that we have 524 incidences spread between nurseries, the wider environment, and infected plantings. Truly, I believe that once the infection period starts, we will see that figure explode. We are sitting on a ticking time bomb, you might say.

Caroline Harrison: I have nothing further to add to that.

Chris Inglis: I cannot really usefully add anything, either.

Q89 Chair: What do you think the main actions of the Government have been to prevent the spread of the disease, and do you believe that they have gone far enough? Mr Dewhurst, first of all.

Jamie Dewhurst: Have they gone far enough? We are dealing with a disease in the wider environment here. It is not footandmouth in a field of sheep, where you can shut the gate. We are dealing with the wider environment. I believe that, given it is windborne, there is very little more that the Government could have done to slow the spread, if at all.

Chair: That is good to know.

Caroline Harrison: Again, within the timescale, the Government has done as much as it can with the resource that it has. I believe there is a resource issue. Chalara is just one disease, and I hope we are not going to just concentrate on Chalara today.

Q90 Chair: Just looking to the role of industry, do you believe that industry should take some precautions themselves? I have been concerned that we seem to have been exporting saplings to grow in countries that are infected with the disease, and then re­importing them from the affected areas. It strikes me as not being a very safe thing to do. Would you agree with that?

Jamie Dewhurst: The European plant market is intrinsically a trading market. It always has been. One of the key issues is that we live in a marketplace that is forever changing. There have been instances in the past where seed is not only sent abroad but bought by other member state nurseries, grown on, and sold back to the UK. That happens. We all know that Holland is the biggest producer of horticulture product. They are not only buying UK seed; they are buying German, French and Danish seed for growing and selling back. Yes, it has created a biosecurity risk, doing that. Fundamentally, I believe that when we see the new EU legislation presently going through, we must ensure that that is tight enough to control these issues.

Chair: Thank you. We will come onto that. Is there anything you want to add, Mr Inglis?

Chris Inglis: There was a time that I can remember when trees were produced locally for the local market, but it is a long time since that occurred. The plant market is no different to any other market, really. It has developed over the decades, and has become rather more international.

Q91 Chair: If you think that this is one tree or plant disease, and that there may well be others that we read about as well, are you reassured that Defra have come up with a "lessons learned" and a fast response from this episode?

Chris Inglis: I think there is still a way to go, quite honestly, and one of the biggest difficulties is communication. I do not think there is effective communication, in a number of senses and contexts. There is communication up and down between agencies, but very often there is not sufficient communication across, and there is not sufficient communication with the private sector. There needs to be a single source of information that people can rely on that is completely up­to­date-a one­stop shop for information. I think there is a degree of confusion, and there continues to be a degree of confusion, about where the most up­to­date information lies and how it can be accessed.

Caroline Harrison: If we are having problems accessing it, how are the public going to be aware of what are some very, very devastating and impactful diseases upon the private sector. There is Phytophthora, Dothistroma and Chalara. They are but three, and there are several more.

Jamie Dewhurst: I have just one thing to add. I have an example where one of our members recently had a visit from his Defra inspector, who was extremely frustrated that in Herefordshire there has been an incidence of chestnut blight, and he was unable to find out the locations of that because it was a forestry issue and therefore being dealt with by the Forestry Commission. We have got this big communication issue between the Forestry Commission and Defra. We are hoping that, as Chris said, that vertical communication is improving, and certainly that awareness of it is. We are now talking widely to Defra and Martin Ward, and we welcome that, but we need to see some horizontal communication between the relevant agencies.

Q92 Iain McKenzie: If you purchased one of these saplings and brought it to this country, would you necessarily be made aware of, or be told, where the seeds originated from?

Jamie Dewhurst: If you sourced the material from Holland and you brought it into the UK, yes. That would be part of the contract. You would be buying a certain provenance material.

Q93 Iain McKenzie: So you would be aware that these had grown from seeds originating from, say, Germany?

Jamie Dewhurst: Or the UK.

Iain McKenzie: Or the UK.

Jamie Dewhurst: Yes.

Iain McKenzie: So you would have that trace?

Jamie Dewhurst: Within forestry and forest reproduction material, yes. When you are talking about amenity material-which is a closely related market, because there is a pencil­line difference between what is forestry and what is amenity-then you would not. There is no requirement under the ornamentals directive to disclose that. Of course, we are now seeing the advent of the internet, where I can go on my telephone now and place an order for material with a Dutch nursery that could have been grown in Italy, or could have been grown outwith the EU. This, to me, is the biggest risk to the UK’s biosecurity: e-commerce and globalisation of the plant trade.

Q94 Chair: Can I just ask about the expert taskforce? Do you believe that they have identified the right issues to be actioned?

Caroline Harrison: Confor is happy with and welcomes the recommendations that they have recommended. We are concerned about the timescales of those-and it is a plant health taskforce per se, not just trees, of course-particularly the risk register, because Confor believes that there has been very little horizon­scanning of pests and diseases. You cannot contingency­plan if you do not know what is there. Again, that comes down to a resource issue. Yes, we are happy with them, but the timescales do concern me.

Jamie Dewhurst: Yes, I would reiterate everything that Caroline has said. We are certainly happy. We think there are other issues on biosecurity, which we have outlined in our recent written evidence. Fundamentally, the nursery trade for a few years has been calling for a risk register, and we are pleased to see that that is the number one recommendation. It gives a single source of information. We have had information coming out of the Forestry Commission; we have had information coming out of Defra; and we have had information coming from Forest Research. We need a single source.

Q95 Chair: Is there anything that they have omitted that you think it is so obvious that they should be doing?

Caroline Harrison: No.

Chris Inglis: I think the six principal recommendations cover the field fairly comprehensively.

Q96 Chair: Caroline Harrison, you said about resource issues. Would you like to elaborate?

Caroline Harrison: We do have issues with research resources.

Chair: We will come on to that.

Caroline Harrison: If you will come on to that in a moment, then we will cover that then.

Q97 Chair: I do not want to pre­empt. Can I just ask: I know the public are being asked to look for the signs, but I would not feel capable of looking. I am slightly worried that there might be spurious reports of ash dieback that perhaps is not ash dieback, or indeed other diseases.

Caroline Harrison: There is, and it does.

Q98 Chair: That actually could lead to a huge misappropriation of resources. Could the advice to the public be perhaps a bit clearer?

Caroline Harrison: Crikey.

Chair: It is not a trick question. If there are limited resources, then we want to target the resources.

Chris Inglis: Even experts can find it difficult. Forest managers might identify the fact that trees were showing signs of dieback or lack of vigour, and be unclear as to what was causing that. It could be weather­related, or the result of a cold winter and a severe frost, or a nutrient deficiency on the site, or some biotic agent. Asking the public to identify a particular pest-unless it is very large and obvious like a squirrel or a deer, or something like that-does carry with it certain risks.

Jamie Dewhurst: I am sure that there has been a huge amount of misreporting, but if you ask the public to do something, at least they are doing something. If you want them to do it, then they will do it, and they have done it.

Q99 Chair: But it is not like a birdwatch?

Jamie Dewhurst: No.

Chair: It is slightly more complicated than that?

Caroline Harrison: It is much more complicated.

Q100 Barry Gardiner: Mr Dewhurst, can I just explore a confusion that I have? I understand that the HTA in 2009 wrote to Defra and notified them that you thought this was going to be a problem, but you said today that you do not think there was anything more that Defra could have done than they have. There seems to be a tension in those two statements. If they could not have done any more than they already have, then what were you notifying them about; what did you want them to do that they should have done, but did not; and, if they did not, why did you say today that there was nothing else that they could have done?

Jamie Dewhurst: My response of, "There was little more they could have done" was aimed at between spring last year and autumn. I think the question was around "over the past 12 months".

Barry Gardiner: Yes, indeed.

Jamie Dewhurst: I was actually on that trip in 2009 to Denmark. I was the Chair when we went over, and Steve Ashworth took over from me on that trip, and I saw, for the first time, ash dieback in a nursery. Unaware of what it was, we spoke to the Danish nurserymen, and they said "It is a disease called Chalara fraxinea". Being aware of the volume of ash being planted in the UK, we decided to come back and write to the plant health authorities and request a ban. Everybody has read the response we received from Roddie Burgess. Subsequently, what we found frustrating was that when the science changed in 2010, we as an industry were not told that it had changed.

Q101 Barry Gardiner: Explain that, if you would.

Jamie Dewhurst: My Latin is not that great, but the Chalara in 2009 was believed to be caused by a fungus called-

Barry Gardiner: "A fungus." That will do.

Jamie Dewhurst: I was never good at school. In 2010, the scientific community identified it as being a closely related, but distinctly different fungus.

Q102 Barry Gardiner: Can I just ask you: was that material to the question of whether a ban could or could not be imposed, because you could only impose the ban if we did not already have it endemic in the UK? I just want clarity here.

Jamie Dewhurst: We were told that-let us call it Fungus A-the first fungus was widely endemic in the UK. It was; it had been for decades. Fungus B was not endemic in the UK, and it was at that point that action could and should have been taken. We have mentioned communication before. We were never told. Had we been told that the science had changed, although I cannot answer for other commercial businesses, there would have been a raised awareness that actually we were dealing with a nasty here.

Q103 Barry Gardiner: Let me pursue that a bit. I think we have got clarity here. You rightly told Defra in 2009. In 2009, the science said, unfortunately-

Chair: Could I just interrupt? I am so sorry. Did you tell an official, or did you tell a politician?

Jamie Dewhurst: We wrote to Roddie Burgess, who was Head of Plant Health in the Forestry Commission, and it was copied to Martin Ward. We received one response from Roddie Burgess, which we have the letter of. We never received a response from Martin Ward.

Q104 Barry Gardiner: Just for clarity, again, Martin Ward was the official at Defra?

Jamie Dewhurst: Correct.

Caroline Harrison: He was at Fera.

Barry Gardiner: He was at Fera?

Caroline Harrison: Martin was Fera, wasn’t he?

Chair: This is quite important, because I met officials.

Jamie Dewhurst: Yes, I know.

Chair: I met officials from your organisation, and it is just about being absolutely clear on the record whether the letter was sent formally to Defra.

Q105 Barry Gardiner: I am trying to get that clarity, Chair, with my line of questioning. Could you just explain again, for the record, the relationship between Fera and Defra? Cash out the acronyms, if you will.

Chris Inglis: Fera is, as I understand it, part of the Defra family.

Caroline Harrison: It is the plant health inspectorate.

Chris Inglis: It is the plant health inspectorate. It is the science side.

Q106 Barry Gardiner: So when Mr Dewhurst or the HTA wrote to the Forestry Commission and copied it to Fera, they were making sure that the two key organisations who had responsibility for tree health were aware of it?

Chris Inglis: Yes.

Q107 Barry Gardiner: But in 2009, the science as we then understood it would not allow us to put a ban in place, but in 2010 that scientific understanding changed, and it was at that point, Mr Dewhurst, that you say a ban should have been imposed. Is that correct?

Jamie Dewhurst: Action should have been taken.

Q108 Barry Gardiner: What actions? Let’s be specific.

Jamie Dewhurst: Yes. Action should have been taken way before this; the European Commission should have made it a quarantine pest. Had the European Commission made it a quarantine pest to get it onto the pest annex, then all plants would have been inspected at a source of production. That would not have stopped windblow. There would still have been plant material moved that was infected, because of the latency of the disease, but it would have slowed it down. That did not happen in the European Commission-why? I cannot answer why they did not do it, but they did not. In 2010, when the science changed, we could have taken emergency measures, as we did with oak processionary moth and as we did with Phytophthora ramorum. We could have taken emergency measures-firstly, requested protected zone status-and we did not.

Q109 Chair: Can I just be absolutely clear-because Sheryll wants to come in as well-the Horticultural Trades Association did not write to Defra; they wrote to Fera and they wrote to the Forestry Commission?

Jamie Dewhurst: I would need to clarify that.

Q110 Chair: It is quite important, because I understood that they had written to Defra, and that seems not to be the case. In 2009, the science probably did not justify bringing it to the attention of Ministers; it is quite important to know when it came to the attention of Ministers.

Caroline Harrison: It depends who Martin Ward was with at that time.

Jamie Dewhurst: It depends who Martin Ward was working for at that time.

Q111 Barry Gardiner: Nonetheless, Fera were the tree plant health authority.

Caroline Harrison: Yes, they are the plant health inspectorate.

Q112 Barry Gardiner: They are a part of Defra.

Caroline Harrison: Yes.

Q113 Barry Gardiner: As far as I can understand it, you wrote to the right people?

Caroline Harrison: Yes.

Q114 Sheryll Murray: Can I just expand on that? First of all, would you have expected Fera to have brought it to the attention of Defra? Second, could you expand on 2010: was it very early on in 2010, or was it late in 2010? Is it possible for you to give us, if not in months, an approximate time of the year?

Jamie Dewhurst: I do not have the date with me, but I believe it was later in 2010.

Q115 Sheryll Murray: Would you have expected Fera to have flagged it up with Defra as a matter of course?

Jamie Dewhurst: That the science had changed?

Sheryll Murray: Yes.

Jamie Dewhurst: Yes, I would have.

Q116 Sheryll Murray: But you did not specifically request it?

Jamie Dewhurst: I do not have a copy of the letter in front of me; I would need to check that.

Q117 Barry Gardiner: Can I just take this a little further? Mr Dewhurst, you had been part of the delegation to Denmark that had seen the devastation caused there, and you were obviously concerned about it enough in 2009 to notify both Fera and the Forestry Commission. What advice did you then issue to your own members? It is all very well to say, "We notified the authorities", but as the Horticultural Trades Association, you could have done quite a bit yourselves, could you not, in terms of notifying your members that you had seen this, that you believed that it was likely to be impacting on stock that they were purchasing, that they should be cautious when bringing it into the UK? What measures did you take at that stage, as an association?

Jamie Dewhurst: At that stage, we did not see it in devastation mode, i.e. in the wider environment. We only saw it on nursery. We did not visit forests; roadside trees looked healthy, they were not dying back, that we saw. We saw it on nursery-one incidence in one nursery.

Q118 Barry Gardiner: Substantial enough for you to be worried enough to write to both Fera and the Forestry Commission, and you have just told the Committee that at that stage, or at least by 2010, because of the advance of it on windblow, that you thought the European Commission should have been taking action. At that stage, when you believed the European Commission should have been taking action, what action did you take, as an association?

Jamie Dewhurst: At our trade group, the Tree and Hedging Group, it was minuted; it was discussed there, and we felt we would write to the authorities, who came back and said, "The fungus is already here", in layman’s terms. Therefore our feeling was, "If the fungus is already here, there is something stopping it from mutating into killing trees, because it has been here for a number of years".

Q119 Barry Gardiner: You could have thought that between 2009 and 2010, but in 2010 the science changed.

Jamie Dewhurst: We were not aware.

Q120 Barry Gardiner: When were you aware of that change in science?

Jamie Dewhurst: 2012.

Q121 Barry Gardiner: You did not know about this until it all went public in 2012.

Jamie Dewhurst: Yes. We were not aware from 2009 to 2012 that there had been a change in the science.

Q122 Barry Gardiner: Right. What you are saying is there is complete dysfunctionality between plant health, the science community and the plant trade. Is that right?

Jamie Dewhurst: There was then.

Q123 Barry Gardiner: A complete lack of communication?

Jamie Dewhurst: Yes.

Q124 Chair: I have got a copy of your letter from the Chairman of the Tree Hedging Group of the HTA, which was sent to the Head of the Plant Health Service of the Forestry Commission, and was also copied, only, to Martin Ward, who was then Head of Plant Health at Fera. It looks like it was not brought to their attention. The other interesting thing is that you do call for a ban on imports, yet that was not the advice you gave your own members.

Jamie Dewhurst: When we were told that-

Chair: This is 2009; you were calling for a ban, but that was not the advice that you gave to your members?

Jamie Dewhurst: Within the Tree and Hedging Group we discussed it. We all agreed we should call for a ban at the AGM that we held in Denmark. We came back, we got the response that you will have a copy of, saying that the fungus is here, and, for some reason, it is not killing UK ash trees, but it does not like Danish trees.

Chair: I am half Danish, so I ought to declare that. It is not my fault.

Jamie Dewhurst: We were slightly stuck in-we have got the fungus; that was what we were told.

Barry Gardiner: There was a failure of the science.

Q125 Chair: The point I am trying to say, though, is you were asking the Government to impose a ban, but you were not prepared to impose a voluntary ban. I am trying to get behind your thinking about why you were waiting for the Government to act, and why you did not introduce a fairly obvious voluntary ban?

Jamie Dewhurst: The HTA members only cover 40% or 50% of the plant trade. They would have suffered severely commercially, and we were told that the fungus was here, so was it an issue?

Chair: I am still really trying to understand, if the fungus was here, why you wanted a ban?

Barry Gardiner: They did not know that at that point.

Jamie Dewhurst: We did not know that until we received the letter back from the Forestry Commission.

Q126 Sheryll Murray: Could I just expand on that, before I come in and ask another question, because it seems as though you felt it important enough to ask the Government to impose a ban at that time, but you did not feel it important enough to ask your own members to have a voluntary ban?

Jamie Dewhurst: We did not directly. We spoke about it at the AGM, and it was minuted that the group would request a ban: that is not the whole of the HTA; that is the Tree and Hedging Group that would request a ban. We got the response back saying, "The fungus is here", so we could not pursue it any longer.

Q127 Sheryll Murray: At that time, was any suggestion made that perhaps you could have imposed a voluntary moratorium yourself?

Jamie Dewhurst: I do not think there was ever-

Caroline Harrison: Would that have controlled the disease, though? Would that have controlled it coming over here?

Q128 Sheryll Murray: I just find it confusing. Could I just continue with disease resistance? What is your assessment of the potential for ash trees resistant to ash dieback being able to repopulate areas of significant ash loss?

Jamie Dewhurst: I am not a scientist. We have all heard what the scientific community are doing, and they are working extremely hard to do that. At the moment, they have identified trees that are showing signs of resistance to Chalara in Denmark, and for Fraxinus excelsior, which is the ash in the UK. They are just showing signs of resistance. Unfortunately, under treebreeding programmes, it is a long haul to-

Q129 Sheryll Murray: Do you have any idea of the timescale?

Jamie Dewhurst: Not in my career.

Caroline Harrison: 50 to 100 years.

Jamie Dewhurst: Probably 50 or 100 years.

Q130 Sheryll Murray: Do you have anything to add to that?

Caroline Harrison: I am a forester; I am not a nursery person, but from what I have heard, from biosecurity and science, I am confident that it is long, longterm.

Q131 George Eustice: What proportion of the total annual sales of ash species, in nursery stock, are native species, raised from seedlings and grown on their own roots, compared to perhaps more ornamental ones that might be budded or grafted onto-

Jamie Dewhurst: Percentage by number or by value?

George Eustice: By number, just roughly.

Jamie Dewhurst: By number, 98% are Fraxinus excelsior.

Q132 George Eustice: Grown on their own root?

Jamie Dewhurst: Yes.

Q133 George Eustice: In terms of resistance, in some of these things resistance has been dealt with by finding a particular root stock that carries a resistance, which then can be used right across the whole range of species. Is that something that is being looked at?

Jamie Dewhurst: I do not know. I am not a scientist. There are varieties of ash that are resistant to Chalara that are grown in the Far East, where it now turns out that this disease originated from, but they are not suitable for our climate. I am not a scientist; I am not a researcher. We are tree farmers, for want of a better word: that is what we do; we farm trees. I would be asking that question to the scientific community.

The fundamental problem is to build up the basis. If you are starting with one tree, to multiply it up to the point of putting it into the commercial world, to repopulate the UK, it is a long, long goal, assuming that the UK ash succumbs to Chalara, which it looks like it is going to. We can only hope there is a degree of resistance in the UK population.

Q134 Chair: That fine upstanding Tree 35 in Denmark-are you surprised that it has proved resistant, and to what do you attribute that?

Jamie Dewhurst: I do not know. I am not a scientist.

Q135 Chair: Are we going to learn from the Danes? Are the Danes going to share with us the-

Jamie Dewhurst: They have got a 10-year start on us, so hopefully we will learn from it. Hopefully, there will be a lot of pan­European, global work done on tree diseases. We cannot sit in our own little cocoon here; we have got to look-

Caroline Harrison: It is one of the taskforce recommendations that we look at the EU and beyond; certainly for Chalara we looked at Poland, France, Denmark, and various scientists. The Tree Council did some work on contacting various people in those countries and looking at what the scientific community had done over there, so it was very useful-a bit too late, but very useful.

Q136 Richard Drax: Looking slightly further afield to the international rules on trade, New Zealand and Australia have strong control on imports that predate their entry into the World Trade Organization agreements. It can be argued that the UK has an absence of mechanisms, which means that immediate action is quite hard to take. What problems have been identified with the international framework governing plant movements, and what improvements could be made? Mr Dewhurst, may I start with you?

Jamie Dewhurst: Are you talking within the EU?

Richard Drax: We are looking internationally. Australia and New Zealand come out very strongly; they have the advantage, for the reasons I have just expressed. What problems have been identified internationally? Your answer may well be that the EU is part of the problem; I do not know.

Jamie Dewhurst: The present EU plant health regime is inward­looking; it is not horizon­scanning, which is something that we must start doing. With the risk register you are going down that route. We have to improve our border controls-I am talking EU-wise. We work in a single market. Unfortunately, unlike Australia and New Zealand, we live 21 miles across the water; they are living thousands of miles from anywhere. We will always have the risk of windblown disease or pests coming in, which is a fundamental difference between the UK and Australia and New Zealand that we cannot get away from. When the new plant health regime eventually comes in in 2018 and beyond, we must ensure that it is modernised and fit for purpose. That is something we are already closely cooperating with both the Forestry Commission and Defra on.

Q137 Richard Drax: Bearing in mind the wind problem, you are saying the rules within the EU are not tough enough? Is that what you are saying?

Jamie Dewhurst: They are out of date with present international trade in plant supply.

Richard Drax: Ms Harrison, what is your view?

Caroline Harrison: I cannot comment. It is not my area.

Richard Drax: Mr Inglis?

Chris Inglis: There is a very real distinction between the EU and the rest of the world.

Chair: We are coming on to the EU in just one moment.

Chris Inglis: As far as trade is concerned, we can prevent the import of something if it represents a risk. We can make a case for not importing some plant material from, let us say, North America, because it poses a risk, and we can do that relatively easily, without contravening any trade rules. However, to stop something coming in from the European Union is more complicated, because it is a single market.

Q138 Richard Drax: What are the barriers to stricter import controls, such as Australia and New Zealand have? What are those barriers?

Jamie Dewhurst: I do not know enough about their regimes.

Chris Inglis: The Australians and New Zealanders can put up a barrier, because they are not part of a wider trading group, so they are not impacting upon trade within that group. As I understand it, as a nation we could put up similar barriers to plant material from the rest of the world coming in, but not from the EU, because we are part of a single trading bloc, and it is a single market. We need to be able to show we are a pest­free zone; that the pest exists in the rest of the EU, but does not exist here, and then, through current EU legislation, we can easily stop the import of the material that might introduce that pest into this country.

Q139 Iain McKenzie: I think we have probably touched upon this question, and it is to do with the proposed changes to EU rules on the movement of plants. To the whole panel, do you think these changes in rules will permit earlier action to prevent diseased plants being imported by the UK?

Chris Inglis: The key here is something that we have touched upon earlier, getting a better understanding of the pests that pose a threat to us, in the European context and in a wider international context, and concentrate on the science of those organisms, so that we have a complete understanding of the potential risk becoming a real hazard, and looking at ways in which we can strengthen our pestfree status. One has to be able to prove that the UK is pestfree, before you can claim pestfree status. There is a period that one is allowed to do that, but, for example, if we had better monitoring going on, as a matter of routine, so that we could identify spores of different fungal pests or organisms, so that we could identify very quickly when a fungus or an insect was found to be present-that requires a significant investment, and whether we could ever do that-

Q140 Iain McKenzie: Do you think that the forest and horticultural society has been sufficiently engaged in developing these proposals?

Chris Inglis: We are at the point now, through the work that has been done by the taskforce and the ongoing work stemming out of that, that we are beginning to think about these things. There is an opportunity for the private sector to be fully engaged in this.

Caroline Harrison: We have tried to be engaged, but there have been resource issues within the plant inspectorate. Finding an insect at the ports around these countries is like finding a needle in a haystack, and they simply do not have the resource to do it efficiently. We have offered private-sector help with other diseases, for instance Phytophthora, in surveillance monitoring, and a framework tender went out from the Forestry Commission. We are here, we are engaged, and we are ready to help, if we can help.

Chris Inglis: I could also make the point at this juncture that the import of plants is not the only pathway to the introduction of pests. I was somewhat surprised last year to discover that we land 7.2 million shipping containers each year, so that works out at an average of about 20,000 shipping containers a day throughout the year.

Chair: Of trees?

Chris Inglis: No, this is shipping containers. The majority of shipping containers have wooden packaging, pallets, and so on, a proportion of which-I will not say "all of which", because pallets should be treated so that they are not carrying pests and diseases, but a significant number of these containers have the potential to introduce pests through this wooden packaging material, which is probably when the shipping container is unloaded of its contents and just dumped.

To inspect 20,000 shipping containers every day is just an impossible task, so Customs and the plant inspectorate work on a risk­based approach, as I understand it. If they think a container is coming from an area of the world where there is maybe less rigid regulations applied, then it will be inspected, and good communication takes place between different European Customs departments to flag up where they think there might be problems. I would urge you not to focus solely on the import and trade in plants, because it is just one route.

Q141 Iain McKenzie: Just a supplementary on what Ms Harrison had said, and that was that you were ready and willing to have input into the design of these EU proposals, but you have not, you said, to date.

Caroline Harrison: That is not quite what I said.

Jamie Dewhurst: Certainly, the HTA and the Confor Nursery Group are actively involved with both Defra and the EFC on reviewing it. We have got to remember we are at the early stages; we are only in draft form. There is a huge amount to go through, and we have got to ensure that it is fit for purpose. As it stands at the moment, the plant health regime will allow member states to take emergency legislation quicker, but we are at draft stage now. We are already aware that the French and the Germans, as far as the FRM part of the package, are not very keen on it, and are looking to get forestry pulled out of it, but it will still be Lisbonised and tied to the Plant Health thing. We are actively involved in setting the UK thing, certainly the HTA and the Confor Nursery Group are.

Caroline Harrison: I was referring more to at the wood-face-the surveillance and monitoring that is going on now for the likes of Phytophthora, Dothistroma, Chalara, etc.

Q142 Iain McKenzie: As a further question to Mr Dewhurst, along the lines of the EU proposals, to do with the practice of exporting seeds to be cultivated abroad, do you see these proposals as decreasing the risk of importing diseased saplings into the UK?

Jamie Dewhurst: Are you asking whether it will reduce the amount of seed being shipped abroad? No, there is nothing that will stop that. Do I see it decreasing? Not while we have such a volatile marketplace.

Q143 Iain McKenzie: As a supplement to that, what are you doing to promote the growth of native species in the UK?

Jamie Dewhurst: The market is looking to demand it, but at present there are no official figures collected. I would estimate-and I am not just talking forestry; I am talking amenity, hedging, and everything-that we still import over 50% of the plants that are planted in the UK. We do not have a production base in the UK for horticulture produce. It is the likes of Holland, Belgium-they are 95% export countries. Why? It is a very good question; it is not a commercial reason.

The company that I run started 11 years ago in direct competition for imports. We are two and a half times our business plan, in terms of the size of the company and number of trees we produce. Some people say, "Why not grow more? The demand is there." The market is so volatile that one year we could be selling 800,000 alder; the next year it could be 500,000. We cannot afford to burn the material, to destroy plants, so we grow 500,000, and once that is sold, people go to the continent. We need stability, not only in the forestry market, but in the whole amenity market, and that is driven by support mechanisms.

Caroline Harrison: It is driven by grants.

Jamie Dewhurst: Grants, support, and investment.

Q144 Chair: Could I pick up on two things? Mr Inglis, what evidence can you demonstrate that pests have transferred from pallet packaging to trees? It is quite a big statement to make.

Chris Inglis: Asian longhorn beetle came in on package material.

Chair: How far did that-

Chris Inglis: Fortunately it was discovered, identified and hopefully has been eradicated.

Chair: That is helpful.

Chris Inglis: It is a large beetle, and it makes large holes, so it was quickly spotted. If it had been a tiny beetle that made tiny holes, it might not have been spotted.

Chair: I have heard of spiders coming in with bananas.

Chris Inglis: That is the reality of the situation that larger beasties are easier to spot.

Q145 Chair: I always understood that what was originally Article 36, and I do not remember what number it is now, of the Rome Treaty and possibly the Lisbon Treaty enables imports to be stopped on the basis of human or animal, and presumably plant, health. Have you ever tried to use that to limit imports from these countries in Europe that we know have had the disease since 1992?

Chris Inglis: This is a particular disease?

Chair: I am thinking of ash dieback.

Chris Inglis: I think the answer is no. I do not think one should concentrate solely and too strongly on Chalara, because there are other pests and diseases that are causing real commercial damage out there, some of which have been present in the UK for 50 years. Pests and diseases have a habit of sitting there in limbo for a bit and then suddenly, for no apparent reason, there is a sudden upsurge in activity and damage.

Q146 Chair: You are slightly contradicting yourselves when you say that, because, if you ask for a ban, but you realise that it may already be here, and it may be dormant, what is the point of a ban?

Chris Inglis: Chalara is one disease that we need to learn policy lessons from, but there are other diseases that equally we need to learn from, and because something is benign at the moment, and is perhaps benign elsewhere in the world, if it is brought in it may not be as benign under UK conditions. Phytophthora is another example, which came in on imported rhododendron and has caused sudden oak death, but it has transferred to larch and it is causing serious commercial damage to larch crops.

Sometimes it is quite difficult to predict how an organism is going to behave, and how quickly it is going to show that behaviour. The more we know and the more we can exchange information with other countries, and the better we can identify those diseases that pose a real threat to our industry and our landscape, the more we can do. Developing a policy based on the introduction and incidence of one pest would be dangerous.

Q147 Chair: Can I just clarify, Mr Dewhurst, you said we import over 50% of all trees; is that of all trees, not just ash?

Jamie Dewhurst: All trees, hedging-that is my feeling; there are no official figures. I know, roughly, the production base in the UK, and we hope to know roughly the market size in the UK, but there are no official figures kept.

Q148 Chair: On what you said about the commercial decision that you grow your 500,000 and then you stop, is that purely a commercial decision?

Jamie Dewhurst: The market fluctuates so wildly-and it is a very pricesensitive market that we work in-that we cannot afford to destroy any plants, and the moment we do, we turn a crop from being profitable into a lossmaking material. We grow what we are confident we can sell; my goodness, we get that wrong sometimes too.

Q149 Dan Rogerson: We started off by asking what more the Government could have done, and there was the view that you did not think it could have done much more, given that it was an airborne pest.

Caroline Harrison: Is this Chalara again?

Dan Rogerson: Yes. Looking at what you are arguing there-that you think the Government could have a slightly different approach to dealing with pest and threats generally-what would that look like? As some of these threats may be airborne, and some may be in packing cases or whatever, is it possible for you to tell the Government, "This is what we think you ought to have in place to catch all these things." What are you asking the Government to do?

Chris Inglis: There are things that have been done, like banning the import of coniferous timber with bark on, because insect pests can be harboured in the bark and be brought in. That is an example of an action that was taken quite a long time ago that has prevented the importation of some fairly nasty pests that would decimate trees in this country. We need to look at practical solutions to that, and work to reinforce regulation that exists; as it is, pallets have to be heat-treated to-I forget the temperature-56 degrees, which should kill all pests. We are beginning to import biomass for energy, which is being driven by some other policy, but a lot of that will have bark in it. That might be a low risk, because it is fragmented, but it is still a risk, and the wood chips-

Chair: I think we are coming on to this, so if we move on now. We are coming on to that specific point.

Q150 George Eustice: You have mentioned a couple of times about Phytophthora and the approach there, and you talked about how the private sector were involved doing surveillance. I wonder if you could expand on that, so that we know exactly what is being done by the industry itself to help improve that.

Caroline Harrison: It started off in the South West-I happen to live in the South West, so I have been very well aware of Phytophthora. It came in on a rhododendron apparently, anecdotally. It has spread from rhododendron to larch. The forestry sector working with the Forestry Commission and the agencies formed a working group, four or five years ago, and a marketing group. We worked very closely with the Forestry Commission, using statutory Plant Health Notices and clearing the larch. The Forestry Commission staff were wholly underresourced. We worked with the Forestry Commission, again, put in a bid for grant support, so managers and advisers could help privatesector owners, and a framework tender went out from the Forestry Commission for companies such as Tilhill to do the surveillance for them, because while Forestry Commission staff and Forest Research staff are out in the field, other grant and regulation work is not being done. Management grants those support mechanisms that are bringing woodland into management, then those applications are not being processed while you have got agency staff out in the field doing surveillance that the private sector could quite easily do.

Q151 George Eustice: Did the private sector still want to be paid by the Government for doing that work? They did not feel they had a responsibility themselves to do it to try and prevent the spread.

Caroline Harrison: We did not ask for disease; it is a quarantine disease-

George Eustice: The Government did not ask for it.

Chair: We have established that the disease is already here.

Caroline Harrison: Yes.

Q152 George Eustice: Are there any lessons, then, that could be learned applying that now to-

Caroline Harrison: Absolutely.

Q153 George Eustice: What would those be?

Caroline Harrison: Phytophthora is a good example of how agencies, the private sector and the public sector, work together for the greater good of the landscape and the environment. None of us wanted it. The public sector has got the disease as well as the private sector; we are all having to work together to do the best we can to get the trees down, and try and control the marketing of that timber. It is very different to Chalara, of course, because it is a quarantined disease, and it is enforced, essentially.

Q154 George Eustice: You say it is a quarantined disease; should Chalara be a quarantined disease? It is not at the moment, is it?

Caroline Harrison: Chalara is not my expertise.

Jamie Dewhurst: Should it be a quarantine disease?

George Eustice: Should it be, or should it have been? It is too late now.

Caroline Harrison: It is a very different scale, but perhaps we would not be where we are today if it had been.

Jamie Dewhurst: It should have been made a quarantine pest. It was not. Had it been, I believe we would have still got it, because it is windblown. It is in the natural environment, but it would not have got here quite so quickly.

Q155 George Eustice: It is good to know there are lessons from Phytophthora, but are those involved in the nursery stock trade, and the industry collectively, doing enough to make sure that plants sourced are free from the disease, and that indeed movements between nurseries are restricted in some way if there is an incidence of the disease?

Jamie Dewhurst: There has been a much greater awareness from industry. I cannot speak for everybody, but I would speak for people within the Tree and Hedging Group: they are much more aware, but then the forestry sector has probably been very aware for a while, and they have generally inspected the stock prior to purchase. Given the latent infection of tree diseases, and the inability to spot it sometimes, what we are ensuring is that the new regime that we will face is going to strengthen the EU’s and the UK’s position on plant health. That is what we must do.

Unfortunately we are five years away from earliest implementation, I am told. The HTA, along with Conform, hosted a recent biosecurity conference, which we were fortunate to have Lord De Mauley open. Joan Webber, the Principal Pathologist at the Forestry Commission gave a very good presentation, and to finish, she introduced the four biggest threats to the world in plant health: the emerald ash borer, the bronze birch borer, pitch canker, and Phytophthora pinifolia. At the end, a question was asked to her, "How many of these are quarantine pests, if we know they are out there?" Only one.

Q156 George Eustice: You said it would take five years. Is this because it is an EUwide thing and it takes forever to do?

Jamie Dewhurst: I am reliably informed that once it is signed off there is a threeyear transition period until full implementation.

Q157 George Eustice: That is at the regulatory level, but in your industry the retail gardencentre end is a very fragmented industry, but on the production side of it, you could probably count on one hand the number of significant producers in the UK.

Jamie Dewhurst: Not many more.

Q158 George Eustice: Precisely, and it is the same in Holland. At the production end it is dominated by a very small number of very large producers. Is there something that could be done much sooner, on a voluntary basis, by those large nurseries that are doing the production getting together and agreeing certain practices among themselves?

Jamie Dewhurst: Certainly we do within the UK. We do get together. On an international basis, there are nurseries in the UK who deal solely with one producer in Holland. Unfortunately, in Holland a lot of the producers who are supplying what I would call the sheds in the UK-the people who have got a shed and a forklift, plants in one door and going out the other door-are buying from the trading houses in Holland, who are doing exactly the same. They have got loads of producers firing it in, and it is all coming out. That is how the plant market works in Holland.

I have some stock contract grown in Northern Germany-some beech, purely because my soil will not grow beech, because of soilborne micronutrient reasons. It is grown by a nursery that purely grows trees and never trades anything. He is an exceptionally good grower, and that is why I use him; I have used him for a long time. If we suddenly noticed a disease of beech coming in, we would be much more aware of the potential impact. I am afraid it is a wakeup call to everybody.

Q159 George Eustice: There is not anything more that the industry voluntarily could do by setting up its own protocols, and-never mind the fiveyear wait for a new regime-just doing it now? Do you not think there is anything further that could be done that you are not already doing?

Jamie Dewhurst: It would be good if the industry would sign up to it. I do not believe you would get universal sign-up to it.

Jamie Dewhurst: There is the Confor Nursery Group.

Caroline Harrison: Our nursery members set up their own-

Jamie Dewhurst: We have rules. I am a member of both groups, the HTA and Confor Nursery Group, and we set up our own protocols for membership.

Q160 George Eustice: Is there any way that you could pool some moneys and funds to finance eradication strategies, or strategies to mitigate the spread of the disease? Do you operate at that level, or is it simply a trade association that lobbies the Government? Is it something the HTA could coordinate-a collective response?

Chris Inglis: Pest eradication is easy to say, but unless you can catch the pests very early, like Asian longhorn beetle that I referred to earlier, once the cat is out of the bag it is very difficult. When you start spraying pests, you have all sorts of social problems, land use problems, water problems, and wider environmental problems, which mean that one is constrained in what one can do. It is possible to control the oak processionary moth, for example, by spraying, but it is now fairly well entrenched within London, and the thought of spraying pesticides over London is not something that too many people would envision as being something that is practical.

Q161 George Eustice: Finally, on this point about collaboration, you mentioned earlier about research and development, and budgets are stretched, as always. There is still a horticultural levy, is there not, from the Horticultural Development Council? Are they putting sufficient priority on this? Are their efforts being diluted on less important issues?

Jamie Dewhurst: I am a panel member of the HDC, as well, for my sins; I seem to be sitting on everything. As far as the Hardy Nursery Stock research budget for this year-bear in mind Hardy Nursery Stocks are much greater than trees and hedging-our budget is £380,000 for research and communications; trees and hedging accounts for 13% of that budget, which roughly works out as £50,000 a year for research. That is one project, and presently the one project that is being funded by the HDC is on growth regulators in an attempt to ensure that we can manage the height of our crop, because if our crop gets too big nobody wants it. There is miniscule research funding available to the sector, and it is selffinanced. That is all found from levy; no longer is it partfunded by Government.

Caroline Harrison: Forest Research is forest research, and not just pest and disease. We have just undergone a science innovation strategy review last year, looking at all areas of research, which Government will have access to. You will be able to see just how stretched research is; it is ridiculous.

Q162 Richard Drax: Confor has criticised the administrative process led by the Forestry Commission and National Resources Wales. What reduction in imports of plants could be achieved by improving the administrative processes?

Chris Inglis: If I might respond to that, the process of getting approvals through for applications for a planting scheme is a very tortuous process, and is unpredictable. Jamie has already said that the nurseries are constrained by the unpredictability of demand. That is not helped by the forest management sector having this uncertainty as to how long an application is going to take to go through the process of consultation, amendment and approval. It takes three years for a nursery to produce plants that are suitable for planting out on a commercial planting scheme or a woodland creation scheme.

They need to know in 2013 what the demand might be in 2016, and with the uncertainty of how long it is going to take for schemes to be processed and come out the other end as an approved scheme, so that the forest manager can order his plants, it is very difficult. The schemes are linked to the CAP and RDP, which works in sevenyear cycles. The demand for plants this year, because we are coming towards the end of a sevenyear cycle, is enormous, because forest managers are saying, "Let’s get trees planted while we can, with a scheme that we understand and a scheme that exists, because we do not know what is going to follow on in the next sevenyear cycle, and what the support scheme might look like".

Jamie, and other nurseries in the UK, have sold out of a lot of species, and are unable to satisfy the demand for its trees, which results in imports being sucked in to satisfy that demand. It is the uncertainty on an annual basis as to the approval processes for applications for grant, and the wider RDP scenario of being in sevenyear cycles.

Caroline Harrison: Due to the burden on Forestry Commission staffing, we are looking now at some 18 months from application through to approval, and that is pretty much down to staffing being taken away on to plant health issues. It is a vicious circle.

Q163 Richard Drax: You suggested targeting financial support to prevent degradation of forests, since there is no requirement for owners to replant-

Caroline Harrison: On a statutory Plant Health Notice, there is no condition to restock, no. We have deforestation targets in the UK and we have afforestation targets in the UK. Along with the likes of wind farms development and PAWS restoration-plantation of ancient woodland sites restoration-we are potentially losing commercial resource, as such.

Q164 Mrs Glindon: Mr Dewhurst, how would lengthening the duration of forestry grants enable better planning from managing plant pests?

Jamie Dewhurst: It would allow the nursery trade to step up. Due to the volatility in the marketplace, our production level is fairly low. If we had stability in the marketplace through setting grant schemes, we know what is going to be the case for the next five years-that is the amount of money you are going to get per hectare for planting. The market would know. The commercial foresters would know; they would be able to plan ahead. We would have more confidence in the marketplace; we would then increase our production-I am speaking for myself and a number of colleagues; we have spoken about it -thereby reducing the reliance on imports.

Chris Inglis touched on the CAP and the sevenyear cycle we are sitting at the moment, but as of 1 January we have no grant scheme. I am buying seed at the moment for a market that may not exist, because tier two funding has not been finalised.

Caroline Harrison: We do not know if there is transition funding or not.

Jamie Dewhurst: We have no transition funding. The foresters are firing in the grant applications now, and so you are getting this massive demand for plants that do not exist in the marketplace. Why are they firing? Because they do not know what might be available on 1 January; there may be nothing. In Brussels they are saying that it is going to be 2016, so we may be facing two years. If that is the case, you will not have a nursery industry in the UK. You will be importing all your plants. We are in serious trouble.

Q165 Mrs Glindon: So this is quite hypothetical, talking about longer-

Jamie Dewhurst: But if we get stability in long­term planning, we as an industry will increase our production. I have heard arguments before that, "Oh, the Dutch are cheaper"-that is rubbish; it is absolutely rubbish. I compete against Dutchmen every day. I compete against Belgians every day. If I can do it, the horticulture industry can do it. They are no bigger, no better; they are just 25 miles the other side of the water from us.

I have got a classic example here, how support, when it was withdrawn, collapsed the market. This is one of our members: in the 2009/10 season he sold 1.47 million of a species. Under the Scottish Rural Development Plan support for rural hedging was withdrawn in 2010. It is a two­year cycle for that nursery to produce hawthorn. It had dropped to 566,000, to a third of its level. It was withdrawn overnight-no prior warning, no impact assessment done; they just shut the door. All the farmers in the North East of Scotland stopped planting hedges.

Q166 Mrs Glindon: You are talking about the uncertainty of what is going to happen in January. If there was certainty and you could have this long­term planning, it would help the industry-please God you do have the grant scheme in place-if you have this longer timeframe, would it not limit the flexibility to respond to the sudden emergence of new threats?

Jamie Dewhurst: I do not have a problem with that, as long as it is done for the right reason. Sometimes these incidences happen without thought of the consequences. If it is a plant health threat, fine. That is the real world. We have just faced the worst winter. We harvest through the winter months. We can handle that; that is part of the industry. However, when decisions are taken and we cannot see an apparent reason, and they happen overnight, or without any forewarning, that is what we cannot handle.

Caroline Harrison: Communication.

Jamie Dewhurst: It is communication again.

Q167 Iain McKenzie: I gather you are saying that in your supply chain you are being required to absorb all the risk. You absorb 100% of the risk. Is that not something you have to look at in how you are supplied, etc, to pass on at least some of the risk to your supplier, in respect that you are placing orders on a regular basis? Would it not be the case that they would need to absorb some of that risk? You could say, "We are regularly placing an order with you. It may not be X we are asking for, but we will definitely be asking for Y. Therefore, if we need to go to X you have to absorb a bit of that risk."

Jamie Dewhurst: Are you talking about demand?

Iain McKenzie: Yes.

Jamie Dewhurst: So look to my customers to take part of the risk? I would not have customers. The Dutch would walk all over it. I work very closely with my customers, and we have been very fortunate that we have never been caught out. It is a supply chain management. The moment they see problems with a species they will let me know-

Q168 Iain McKenzie: When do you place your order, if you are looking towards January as the date when you have to give the supply-

Jamie Dewhurst: When the grants will be-

Iain McKenzie: Right.

Jamie Dewhurst: That will affect the next planting season, not this planting season now. The door will shut as of 1 January. That is as it stands today, we believe.

Caroline Harrison: Yes, 2014.

Jamie Dewhurst: As of 1 January, the door will shut, but there will be a lot of schemes within the pipeline that have already been approved at that point.

Caroline Harrison: They will continue.

Jamie Dewhurst: Those will continue. You will see it suddenly go like that-1 January being there, and then the schemes will drop off. We do not have any schemes in place, because the 50% funding out of the EU is not agreed yet. The 50% funding coming from the UK is there; 50% funding out of the EU is not there yet. We have got a situation where there is no match funding available. I know in Scotland there has been a promise of transition arrangements; I am not exactly sure on the figures-

Chris Inglis: I am not sure of the details.

Jamie Dewhurst: I do not think they are sure of the details, but there will be transition arrangements. In England and Wales, we have no transition arrangements.

Caroline Harrison: Unless you know something different.

Jamie Dewhurst: Yes, and if you do, can we know?

Q169 Chair: Can I just ask a couple of questions; are you saying to the Committee that the industry is not viable commercially without these grants?

Jamie Dewhurst: No.

Caroline Harrison: We are not saying that at all about the forestry industry, but the nursery industry?

Jamie Dewhurst: We are reliant on the forestry industry and commercial hedging, which is funded through support mechanisms. Would the forestry industry plant trees without grants? Ultimately, yes, they would, but it would take a long time. In New Zealand they do it.

Caroline Harrison: They do.

Jamie Dewhurst: They have gone through that transition; they decoupled a while ago, and it was a painful period.

Q170 Chair: They have decoupled?

Caroline Harrison: They have no subsidy in New Zealand.

Jamie Dewhurst: They have no support mechanism.

Caroline Harrison: No agricultural support.

Chris Inglis: The grants are not there to subsidise an ailing industry; they are to pay for Government policy.

Caroline Harrison: The public benefit.

Chris Inglis: Public benefit. It is to plant species that the woodland owner might not otherwise plant for commercial reasons, but have wildlife, social, and recreational benefits. It is to leave open space within the forests, which is not productive for timber, but is productive for wildlife and environmental aspects of land management. Grants are not there to subsidise the industry. It is to pay for public benefit that is delivered on top of the timber.

Q171 Chair: Could I just ask: in your written evidence, in the point about this RDP grant, you seem certain here, but you seem less certain verbally. Perhaps you could write to us?

Caroline Harrison: From Confor or the HTA-whose evidence?

Q172 Chair: I think it was Mr Dewhurst. If you could possibly-

Jamie Dewhurst: Expand on it. I will write to you?

Chair: That would be helpful.

Q173 Dan Rogerson: Looking at a wider issue with RDP, in terms of animal health work that has gone on, there is this potential gap in projects that are coming on now that are doing a great deal of good, and what could happen there. Just to clarify, in terms of the hedgerow work you were talking about earlier, which might have an effect for some of your members, that might not necessarily be seen in the minds of people within the Department as a forestry scheme, because effectively it is an environmental scheme ancillary to other sorts of farming. It is about biodiversity and all those kinds of issues, so perhaps this communication you are talking about, again, would you say it is a lack of communication between the industry and Defra as to what the effects might be of altering environmental stewardship programmes and what knockon effects that might have for your members?

Jamie Dewhurst: Yes.

Dan Rogerson: It is certainly something I have considered, and it is interesting that you brought that up for us today.

Q174 Chair: Does anyone want to comment on that?

Jamie Dewhurst: I would agree. It is a misunderstanding of-

Q175 Dan Rogerson: When they think forestry they think of core forestry activity as opposed to some of the stuff on other livestock farms, or whatever.

Jamie Dewhurst: Yes.

Chair: That is helpful.

Q176 Dan Rogerson: Another thing that both organisations have argued for is a chief plant health officer. Why would such a role be able to coordinate things more effectively and how would that work alongside people who are in existing posts?

Caroline Harrison: That is what the Task Force have recommended, so I assume they have done the research and the background, and surmised that there is a post for a chief plant health officer. It is a tangled web of levels of policymaking, committees, groups and policies. We have a tree health and plant biosecurity action plan that is already in existence, and we have an expert taskforce, and we have different disease outbreak management teams, and different committee, and we have the programme board.

There is actually a governance organogram that Defra or Fera produced; it is a complicated thing, so the Committee might want to have a look at that to better understand how a very underresourced private sector is running around all over the place, attending different meetings, and is not quite sure who is governing whom-who is doing what, to whom and when, is the best way to put it. If a chief plant health officer could get a grasp on all that, and consolidate the different outbreak management teams-because we are working towards the same goal-essentially that would be a better thing.

Jamie Dewhurst: There is one very simple situation that occurs, at the conference that we held, where we had Martin Ward, the chief plant health officer, and we had John Morgan, who is Head of Plant Health in the FC. Someone from the floor asked, "Who do I blame?" They both looked at each other: "Well, if it is in forestry blame him, and if it is-" ; there needs to be someone to take overall governance.

Q177 Dan Rogerson: I hope you can be slightly more positive than talk about blame, rather than making sure we do not get these problems occurring.

Jamie Dewhurst: There needs to be someone that you can go to.

Chris Inglis: To clarify channels of communication, if I have got an issue with a plant health matter, should I be going to Fera or should I be going to the Forestry Commission? Which takes precedence? If I go to both and they give me different answers, which one is right? That was an extension of what Jamie was saying.

Q178 Dan Rogerson: To complete that point of clarification, would you anticipate then-this it both organisations-would that involve a rejigging of other posts within separate organisations, in order to make sure that that post was accepted, and have the chain to be able to both get information together, but also to disseminate it and to ensure that actions flow from that. What would you see the knockon being?

Chris Inglis: The information has to cascade effectively and quickly.

Q179 Dan Rogerson: Is it just information or is it a line of command in terms of responding to that?

Chris Inglis: Both.

Caroline Harrison: Indeed, there has to be some sort of review. If the taskforce has not done it already, there needs to be a skills and needs analysis of who is doing what, and whether it could be more effective. It could; it is not up to the private sector to advise you on what agency staff are good at, what they are not good at, and whether they are communicating or not. It is not happening.

Chris Inglis: There is perhaps an interesting point to make in that context: the Forestry Commission has a responsibility for trees in woodland. It does not, according to its constitution, have responsibility for trees outside woodland, but, by default, because nobody else has responsibility, it does. We are talking about a community of plants within a smaller island or group of islands, and pests and disease do not respect fence lines, but who is responsible? Are Fera and Defra responsible for the trees on that side of the fence, and the Forestry Commission responsible for the trees on that side of the fence? It is a grey area, which in a plant health context it could be helpful to clarify.

Caroline Harrison: We also have a problem with devolved administrations as well. It is so complicate. Natural Resources Wales, regulators-let us take Phytophthora, for instance: do they abide by the GB control strategy or not? There is a lot of confusion as to that cascade of governance for plant health into different administrations.

Q180 Chair: Is the Forestry Commission headquarters in Scotland?

Caroline Harrison: Yes.

Q181 Chair: So they relate to Defra for England and the Scottish Government for Scotland?

Chris Inglis: Yes.

Q182 Chair: To ask a straight question, who do you think is in charge of tree disease, and who do you think is in charge of plant disease?

Caroline Harrison: I would say Plant Health GB, Forestry Commission, aided by Forest Research. For wider plant, I would say Fera, but that is only because of my involvement in the past. I would not have a clue otherwise.

Jamie Dewhurst: It depends where you are standing; if you are standing in the Olympic Park, it is Fera, and if you are standing in a woodland it is the FC.

Q183 Chair: Who defines a woodland?

Jamie Dewhurst: There is no definition.

Caroline Harrison: Exactly. There is no definition.

Chair: Is there is no definition of woodland?

Jamie Dewhurst: I do not believe so. What is forestry?

Caroline Harrison: What is forestry? What is woodland?

Q184 Chair: Does it matter whether it is private or public?

Caroline Harrison: Yes-no?

Jamie Dewhurst: No. We do not know.

Chris Inglis: It should not matter.

Q185 Dan Rogerson: Along the same line, the taskforce raised concerns about the UK Plant Health Strategy Board and whether that was able to do what was asked of it as well. What are your views on that concern?

Chris Inglis: I have to admit to sitting on that Board, but I have not been able to attend. I joined a year ago, and they have had two meetings, neither of which I was able to attend, so I have not been able to make a productive input to that discussion and debate.

Q186 Dan Rogerson: You are not conflicted then; you can speak without having yet been part of its activities?

Chris Inglis: I am certainly not conflicted, no. It is an example of one of the numerous bodies that have been set up in recent times in response to the raising of awareness of pests and diseases, and if you have had sight of this organogram that has been produced by Fera, you would immediately see how complicated this all is. It need not be as complicated, but the distinctions between different groups of plants, industries, administrations, and departments does not make it any easier. If it can be simplified in some way, with a sensible structure and representation of the public and private sectors on key discussion groups and policy advice-

Q187 Dan Rogerson: Is that not the point of that Board: that it is bringing together all these groups?

Chris Inglis: It is, but there are all these other groups discussing individual aspects of this that is very difficult for smaller organisations like ours to participate in fully.

Caroline Harrison: Prince Charles called a meeting at Clarence House about two months ago, and it was a thissized table of industry representation, purely because he and we did not know who was doing what and where we should be. He is expecting action as well.

Chair: We should all talk to the trees; that is the message.

Q188 George Eustice: You started earlier to talk about felled trees and transporting them around. I stopped you, because we were going to come to that now. I wondered if you could just say whether there is a risk of infection from felled trees.

Caroline Harrison: Which disease in particular: Phytophthora, or Chalara?

Q189 George Eustice: Yes, Chalara. The Forestry Commission said that if it is treated properly, there is not really a risk. Do you think that there is? Is there enough advice out there about the dangers of transporting wood?

Chris Inglis: What the Forestry Commission can do, does do, and has done, is to impose restrictions on the movement of timber within the UK for plant health reasons. If part of the country is disease­free, and part is not, they can put a prohibition on moving timber from one part of the country to another. That can halt the spread. It is possible to debark trees-peel the bark off-if the pest is within the bark. I understand that something like Chalara does not live in or on the bark of trees; it lives in the shoots, so the timber part is relatively safe to move.

There is always a risk that if you are moving material from A to B, you may be loading logs or roundwood on to a wagon, but also some leaf or branch material might get tangled up in it, so there is always a risk that one is transporting a disease from A to B.

Caroline Harrison: It must be done on a risk assessment. Phytophthora is different.

Q190 George Eustice: Different in what sense?

Caroline Harrison: In the fact that it is in the needles and in the bark, but there is no research to suggest what level of risk that is. We have been segregating bark-infected and noninfected larch-we have movement licences, we have processing licences, and still it spreads. The strategy, as it stands, for Phytophthora is not fit for purpose, and we need to review the biosecurity protocol for that disease.

Q191 George Eustice: What else would you introduce, if you have got quite a lot of restrictions already-passports and all sorts-that would stop it?

Chris Inglis: It has to be looked at on a case­by­case basis and a disease­by­disease basis-how widely distributed the disease is, where the timber is being harvested, where it is being transported to, and what the risks are associated with that. The Forestry Commission does that, and imposes restrictions on timber movement, which might be seasonal if there is a risk of spreading an insect pest through its eggs or larvae at certain times of the year, or it could be a blanket ban on moving timber from this area into this area, if it is known that one area is disease free, and one is not.

Q192 George Eustice: In the case of ash dieback, when the Forestry Commission say wood products would not spread it, if treated properly, they mean basically if it is cut right back of all green shoots.

Chris Inglis: Yes.

Caroline Harrison: Yes, if the timber is clean, as far as we are aware.

Q193 Ms Ritchie: I want to move onto the area of investment in science and research. A particular problem with the Chalara outbreak appears to have been lack of scientific understanding about the fungus responsible for the disease, which led to Defra concluding in 2009 that it was not permitted under EU rules to ban ash imports, given the presumed prevalence, already within the UK, of the disease. I would like to ask all of you what your estimate as to the level of investment in science and research is that is necessary to provide sufficient UK capability on tree and plant health issues. Mr Dewhurst?

Jamie Dewhurst: I do not know. I am sorry; that is not a question I can answer.

Caroline Harrison: We suspected this question, and we cannot answer it, I am afraid.

Chris Inglis: I would need prior warning, and need to do a significant amount of research myself, to be able to answer that sensibly, because I do not, sitting here today, have a complete understanding of how much investment is being put in and where. Research funding comes from all sorts of different sources, and is used by different entities, whether that be universities or Forest Research, or other research establishments. I am not a researcher by inclination or training, so I do not feel that I can give you an informed answer to that question.

Q194 Ms Ritchie: Through the Chair, as a consequence of the possible research you might do, perhaps you could provide us with a written response within the next number of weeks, which may be of help?

Chris Inglis: Yes.

Q195 Ms Ritchie: If I could just go on, are you aware of how much the forest and horticultural industries themselves are investing in research on plant pests and pathogens?

Caroline Harrison: I can get that.

Jamie Dewhurst: Certainly, I can fairly easily get the HDC levy take in trees and hedging. How much is allocated to pests and pathogens is variable, depending on what the strategy is at any one time, and it depends on what the research call is at any one time.

Chris Inglis: In response to the question about the private sector, the answer is very little. The private sector is not an entity. It is a whole lot of small businesses, and it is very difficult to get 150,000 woodland owners and small businesses that rely on trees for their income to come together, like-minded, and all put their hands in their pockets and contribute a similar amount to research. I know it is going to be very difficult to get the private sector voluntarily to put a lot of money up front for research, unless there was some-levies are one way of doing it, but they have somewhat gone out of fashion, by and large. That is one way; a levy on a product is an easy way to gather money together.

Q196 Chair: Could I just come back? Caroline Harrison, you have said that this is a resource issue a couple of times. Are you aware that there appears to be no research on Chalara in the Forestry Commission or Fera work on key pests and diseases in recent years? Are you aware of that? Caroline, you mentioned it, so I do not know if you-

Jamie Dewhurst: We have become aware of it. We were not aware of it before, but subsequently, since Chalara, we have become aware of it.

Q197 Chair: Even though it has become quite a hot issue-the spread and everything. You mentioned Holland, and possibly Denmark, as one of the main areas from which we import. Are you aware of any state aids that they are in receipt of, or any research that has been taken in those countries?

Jamie Dewhurst: No, I do not know enough about the Dutch systems. It will be coming from somewhere in Holland, I am sure.

Q198 Chair: Would you say you are surprised that there has been no research done in this country?

Jamie Dewhurst: On Chalara?

Q199 Chair: Yes, and indeed, larch; has there been research done on-

Caroline Harrison: Yes, there has been a lot.

Jamie Dewhurst: Our resources have been targeted. The limited resources have been targeted at the issues that are-it has not been horizonscanning, it has been fire-fighting. The resources are being targeted at Phytophthora ramorum. Unfortunately we have all heard what the Chancellor has said today; we need the input to get ahead of ourselves, so that we can see.

Caroline Harrison: Again, the taskforce has recommended that sort of preparedness.

Q200 Barry Gardiner: Just picking up on what you said about not firefighting, but horizon­scanning, and just to be absolutely clear, you have not written any other letters lately Mr Dewhurst, have you, that we ought to know about?

Jamie Dewhurst: Not that I am aware of.

Q201 Barry Gardiner: In your normal commercial dealings, you cannot see, at the moment, any other vectors of disease that you think really need wider investigation at this point?

Jamie Dewhurst: In the UK or horizonscanning?

Barry Gardiner: I am talking about wherever they are coming from?

Jamie Dewhurst: Yes, I do. I think there is a massive threat sitting in Russia at the moment. It is the bronze birch borer, both within the UK and the EU. It is in Russia; it has been identified in Russia.

Q202 Barry Gardiner: Have you written to Fera, Defra, Forestry Commission, or Forest Research about the bronze birch borer?

Jamie Dewhurst: I have spoken to John Morgan, Head of Plant Health in the Forestry Commission, and it is presently going through Brussels to get it as a quarantine pest.

Q203 Barry Gardiner: Could I ask you perhaps to send a letter to this Committee, at least setting out what your concerns are, either jointly or severally?

Caroline Harrison: Maybe we should do that for all of the pests and diseases that research are telling us that could be a threat, because we do rely on our research community to tell us, as a sector.

Q204 Barry Gardiner: What monitoring arrangements are there to ensure that nurseries or your members do not sell plants or trees that are infected with a disease or pest?

Jamie Dewhurst: There is the plant passport system. For protective zone material we are inspected for specific pests and tested for some of those pests. It is not only visually inspected; it is taking samples, sending it away, in an attempt to overcome the latency of some diseases. There is the plant passport system, which was brought in to put the onus on the nurseryman to inspect his own crops, and ensure it was free of harmful pests and diseases.

Q205 Barry Gardiner: Forgive me, Mr Dewhurst, but this Committee has been sitting recently taking evidence on horsemeat and horse passports, and you will appreciate that a passport system has proven less than effective elsewhere in the supply chain.

Jamie Dewhurst: I would agree.

Q206 Barry Gardiner: You know better than anyone. You know how your members operate; you operate that way yourself. How would you go about controlling this in the way that you would like to see?

Jamie Dewhurst: I personally called for inspection of all material on all production sites during the growing season prior to marketing.

Q207 Barry Gardiner: Tell me what that would involve.

Jamie Dewhurst: That would involve an official inspection of your material. We have that inspection on certain species anyway; all plant material is inspected at the point of production prior to marketing-an official inspection.

Q208 Chair: Who would pay for that?

Jamie Dewhurst: With the new plant health regime that will be-

Chair: It would have to be the industry.

Jamie Dewhurst: It will be the industry that will pay for that. Yes, it will be an additional cost. I will probably get shot by some of my competitors, but it will not be a massive additional cost, and we will be able to pass it on. We can market ourselves that we have been officially inspected, rather than selfinspected. We do that with certain species. I do that; I have inspections. It allows me to export material to Ireland.

Q209 Barry Gardiner: Will a prioritised plant health risk register, such as the one recommended by the taskforce, ensure that swift action can be taken to identify new threats?

Caroline Harrison: I am hoping that the risk register workshops that are coming up will be able to tell us that.

Q210 Barry Gardiner: How soon are they?

Caroline Harrison: Next week.

Chris Inglis: Next week.

Barry Gardiner: After that could you possibly write to us? Thank you very much.

Jamie Dewhurst: There is no point having something if it is no use.

Q211 George Eustice: I was very interested in what you said just now, about the idea of having a mandatory officially inspected clearance. Is that used elsewhere in the industry on other sectors of horticulture? Is there a model where that is already used?

Jamie Dewhurst: Pass, if you are talking about horticulture. I am not sure about the veg sector, and whether they are officially inspected. Cattle are inspected for TB. Our inspector is on our nursery; he does not have to drive again, because he is there. I know my inspector extremely well, and generally he will walk through, and he will come back and say, "That is looking good. You have got some mildew on your roses." I would say, "Well, we have just sprayed them". He is there anyway. Even though he is there to inspect certain crops, he will be walking through others, and he should almost come back and give you-not a licence to market, but-

George Eustice: A certification.

Jamie Dewhurst: Yes, that the crops are clean for harmful pests and pathogens.

Q212 Chair: Could I just ask: you are asking the Government or the taskforce to suggest that we step up from a risk­based assessment to a full­on complete inspection. Food safety-and we have looked into contaminated meat-is currently only a risk­based assessment. Why would you argue that this was more appropriate to have a fullon inspection than a riskbased assessment?

Jamie Dewhurst: We are inspected anyway.

Q213 Chair: On the basis of risk, and no one has argued to us in the contamination of food, unless there is-

Jamie Dewhurst: We are inspected automatically every year. I see my inspector twice a year. In fact, I see him more than that-three or four times a year.

Q214 Chair: Presumably they are unannounced?

Jamie Dewhurst: No, he phones me.

Q215 Chair: Why are you asking it to be stepped up from a riskbased assessment to a fullon inspection?

Jamie Dewhurst: I think he should be inspecting all our crops, not just the crops that we require protectedzone status for.

Chair: On behalf of all the Committee, can I thank you, all three, for being so generous with your time and the evidence you have given, and for contributing to our inquiry? We are very grateful indeed.

Prepared 2nd July 2013