The disease, ash dieback (chalara fraxinia), has been recorded for the first time in the UK’s natural environment, at two sites in East Anglia. Until now it had only been recorded in a few nursery specimens.
Paterson told the Commons: "There were reports on the radio this morning about the horrific danger to our 80 million ash trees. We have already launched a consultation on the ground, involving a detailed investigation into whether the disease has taken root in the country.
"The results of that consultation will be reported to me tomorrow, and I shall discuss it over the weekend with the head of the Forestry Commission. However, on the basis of the evidence that we have seen so far, I intend to introduce a ban on imports and tight restrictions on ash movements in Great Britain on Monday."
The HTA said it supports a ban on ash imports, but is calling for compensation for losses. It has also proposed an interim licensing regime to allow the controlled movement of uninfected UK stock.
HTA director of business development said: "It is hugely disappointing that Defra have not acted more quickly on this issue as we first raised it with them in 2009 following a Tree and Hedging Group tour to Denmark where the disease was seen first hand. Our advice was to ban imports then. We are looking for Defra to provide compensation for growers that have suffered as a result of this."
The arrival of the disease in Britain was first reported by HW in June, when imported trees from the Netherlands were destroyed.