Friday, 7 June 2013

Save our Forests 3 - a Legal solution?

The biggest threat to our forests is the International Trade in plants.  I won't bore you with the details - as  I have already done this in previous blogs - suffice to say plants are arriving in this country from all over the world - bringing with them diseases and pests which are causing, or threatening to cause - devastation in our woodlands.

The government - apart from lots of hand wringing and fine words - which - of course - butter no parsnips- as the saying goes -says it is virtually powerless to act as - under our EU treaty obligations we are unable to ban or restrict imports from fellow European states - even when those fellow European states are importing plants from China and such place before forwarding them on to us!

However it strikes me as bizarre that no one - has - as yet - explored the legal option - or even - as far I can understand from questioning Forestry Commission executives - even thought of it.  My point is simple - if a nursery provides a client with stock which is diseased or carries a pest then surely that nursery should be liable in law for damages.  The Processionary Moth - for instance - came into this country on consignments of semi mature trees from specific Dutch nurseries - we know the exact nursery - so why is no one taking them to court?

Similarly the outbreak of Chalara disease in Ash we know came in on diseased stock imported from Holland and Germany for planting out in the UK - why is no one suing the the nurseries which imported the stock or those on the continent which provided the diseased trees in the first place.

This - seeming - total absence of any form of legal liability for bringing in disease or pests - which may cost land owners and the tax payers many millions of pounds to try and eradicate or control - has resulted in the nursery trade for both forest and garden plants being totally cavalier and irresponsible in their sourcing of plant material.

Now imagine if someone brought a successful legal action against either a Dutch nursery or a UK nursery which had imported diseased stock from one.  The said nurseries would of course have to fork out many millions and possibly go bust unless they had sufficient insurance cover.  The effect, though, on the whole plant trade would - overnight - be miraculous - insurance underwriters would impose enormous increases in premium on those nurseries or landscape architects who fancied importing cheap trees from abroad. The nurseries in Holland would realise they had to clean up their act or - effectively -they would be banned from their largest market. In other words -One successful legal action - or even perhaps the threat of one - would have the effect of stopping the importation of suspect plant material without -in any way - breaching EU rules - a great result all round.  All we need then is for someone to start the ball rolling. I doubt it will the government or the FC but there must be someone out there in the private sector who has suffered a pecuniary loss from disease so has a bona fide case in law. Surely - funding and bringing such a case -would be a great opportunity for that mega rich charity - the Woodland Trust - to come of age and do something which really would benefit Britian's woodlands - rather than just talking about it..     

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