Announcing the government’s action plan to tackle the disease, Mr Paterson said efforts would focus on slowing its spread through the countryside.

Diseased young trees would be removed and destroyed, he added.

But the action plan stated that there were no plans to remove mature trees, which are important for wildlife. It added that efforts would also focus on developing resistance to the disease.

“If we can slow its spread and minimise its impact, we will gain time to find those trees with genetic resistance to the disease and to restructure our woodlands to make them more resilient.”