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The British Horse Society Historic day for The British Horse Society as Ragwort Control Bill goes through

Yesterday (18 November) became an historic day in the work of The British Horse Society (BHS) as its Ragwort Control Bill completed its passage through parliament and now awaits automatic Royal Assent in the next day or so.

The Bill's journey started almost exactly a year ago following the 2002 ballot for Private Members' Bills. The BHS approached all MPs drawn in the ballot asking for support for a Bill to protect equines against the traumas and death resulting in consuming Common Ragwort. John Greenway, MP for Ryedale in North Yorkshire and drawn No 13 in the ballot, took up the request and gave it his whole-hearted support.

Government and cross party MPs also supported the Bill through the Commons where it was totally unopposed. Baroness Masham of Ilton led the Bill in the Lords where it came up against amendments tabled by Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, on behalf of Wildlife & Countryside Link, and the Lord Bishop of Hereford. Concerns were discussed at Report Stage last week (12 November) about the effect the Bill would have on Ragwort's ecological status. These concerns were addressed by Junior Minister Lord Whitty, resulting in the amendments being withdrawn.

BHS chief executive, Kay Driver, said, "We are delighted that the Ragwort Control Bill has been successful. This will, we hope, make a real difference in landowners' attitudes towards the need to control Ragwort. It was the BHS that first raised the issue of Ragwort poisoning in horses over five years ago with its 'Root out Ragwort' campaign. The campaign achieved its aim of raising awareness about Ragwort but we still saw horses ingesting this insidious weed with an agonising death as a result.

"We are most grateful to John Greenway for sponsoring the Bill, and to Baroness Masham for leading it through the House of Lords. Their names will go down in history as being actively involved in improving horse welfare."

The Bill went through its Third Reading without debate and becomes law three months after adoption.


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