Newly relegated to the backbench, ex health minister David Anderson was asking rather then replying to questions in the House of Keys.
The Glenfaba MHK quizzed Environment Minister Phil Gawne over whether private landowners are legally obliged to fell diseased trees.
‘Can he confirm there is no obligation on private landowners in relation to these diseased trees?’ he asked. Mr Gawne confirmed that there clearly are obligations. ‘Can the Minister confirm there is a legal obligation on private landowners?’ pressed the former minister. Again Mr Gawne replied: ‘I can confirm there are legal obligations on private landowners in relation to diseased trees.’
The exchange prompted Brenda Cannell (Douglas East) to suggest: ‘Whether or not there is a legal obligation surely there is a moral obligation?’
Giving a progress report on the removal of larch trees in the island’s plantations to control the spread of the phytophthora ramorum disease, Mr Gawne told the Keys to date some 250 acres had been felled in six weeks, of which just under half had been harvested using local contractors and been removed for processing by the Sawmill.
He described this as a ‘very positive step’ to control the disease. But he said the felled area was only 17 per cent of the total. and it would take the rest of this year at least to remove all the larch trees, which make up 20 per cent of the plantations. The focus was on eradicating the disease and there was no money in the budget for replanting, he said.