Yesterday the spread of the deadly fungus was described as an “epidemic” after being found in more than 80 sites across the country, while the gardening industry threatened to sue the Government for millions for failing to act folliowing warnings in 2009.

Roddie Burgess, who was head of plant health at the Forestry Commission, told a newspaper that in 2007 he had sent an alert to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) following a conference after he and his colleagues were told about the damage the disease had done in northern Europe.

David Miliband presided over a 20% cut in biosecurity funding on 2007 alone. Between 2004 and 2010 the “monitoring and biosecurity” budget fell by almost 60% in real terms.