Before reading this piece of legislation it is recommended that you read the explanation and analysis. The page on this link explains the most important part of the act Ragwort law the legislation explained.

Most importantly the act does NOT make it illegal to have ragwort on your land, make it illegal to allow ragwort to spread, or force landowners automatically to control it. It provides for orders to be made for control where it is said to be a problem. Many people and Local councils get this wrong frequently. See Local council Ragwort errors.

It was a consolidation act that was not subject to parliamentary debate but which simply reinstated legislative powers from 1920. ( See the bottom of this article) This is rather questionable in the context of the modern problem of biodiversity decline which was not an issue a century ago. These powers were clearly intended largely to prevent agricultural tenants from neglecting their landowners property at a time when parliament still contained large numbers of landowning gentry.

1 Power to require occupier to prevent spreading of injurious weeds

(1)Where the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (in this Act referred to as "the Minister") is satisfied that there are injurious weeds to which this Act applies growing upon any land he may serve upon the occupier of the land a notice in writing requiring him, within the time specified in the notice, to take such action as may be necessary to prevent the weeds from spreading.

(2)This Act applies to the following injurious weeds, that is to say—

  • spear thistle (cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten.),

  • creeping or field thistle (cirsium arvense(L.) Scop.),

  • curled dock (rumex crispusL.),

  • broad-leaved dock (rumex obtusifoliusL.), and

  • ragwort (senecio jacobaeaL.);

and to such additional injurious weeds as may be prescribed by the Minister by regulations.

2 Penalty for failure to comply with requirement

(1)Where a notice has been served under section one of this Act on the occupier of any land and that person unreasonably fails to comply with the requirements of the notice, he shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on summary conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale or, in the case of a second or subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.]

(2)If a failure in respect of which a person is convicted under the preceding subsection is not remedied within fourteen days after the conviction he shall be guilty of a further offence under that subsection and may be punished accordingly.

(3)Proceedings for an offence under subsection (1) of this section shall not be instituted except by the Minister.

3 Default powers of Minister

(1)Where a notice has been served under section one of this Act on the occupier of any land and the occupier has not taken the action required by the notice within the time specified therein, the Minister may take that action and recover a sum equal to the reasonable cost of so doing from the occupier or, if it is not practicable after reasonable enquiry to ascertain his name or address and he is not the owner of the land, from the owner.

(2)Where the Minister is entitled to recover a sum under the preceding subsection from the owner of land (whether or not he is also the occupier) and is unable after reasonable enquiry to ascertain the name or address of the owner he may apply to the High Court or, if the said sum does not exceed the amount by which the jurisdiction of the county court is limited by section forty-one of the County Courts Act, 1934, or any enactment re-enacting that section, to the county court, for an order imposing on the land a charge for securing the payment of that sum.

(3)A charge imposed under the last preceding subsection shall be a local land charge . . . ; and the Minister shall, for the purpose of enforcing the charge, have the same powers and remedies under the Law of Property Act, 1925, and otherwise as he would have if he were a mortgagee by deed having powers of sale and lease, of accepting surrenders of leases, and of appointing a receiver.

(4)Where, by reason of the default of the occupier, the owner of any land has been required to pay any sum to the Minister under subsection (1) of this section or has, by reason of a charge imposed on the land under subsection (2) thereof, otherwise suffered loss he shall be entitled to recover the amount of his loss from the occupier.

4 Powers of entry

(1)Any person authorised by the Minister in that behalf may, for the purpose of carrying this Act into effect, on the production, if so required, of his authority, enter on and inspect any land, so however that the occupier shall, in all such cases, be served with a notice of the date on which the inspection is to take place.

(2)If any person prevents or obstructs the entry for the purpose of this Act upon any land of any person authorised thereunder, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding .

powers by local authority

The Minister may authorise the council of any county to exercise on his behalf any of the powers (other than the power to make regulations) conferred on him by this Act; and where a council is so authorised subsection (1) of section four of this Act shall have effect in relation to land in the county in question as if the reference therein to a person authorised by the Minister included a reference to a person authorised by the council.

6 Service of notices

(1)Any notice required or authorised by this Act to be served on any person shall be duly served if it is delivered to him, or left at his proper address, or sent to him by post in a registered letter.

(2)Any such notice required or authorised to be served on an incorporated company or body shall be duly served if served on the secretary or clerk of the company or body.

(3)For the purposes of this section and of section twenty-six of the Interpretation Act, 1889, the proper address of any person on whom any such notice is to be served shall, in the case of the secretary or clerk of any incorporated company or body, be that of the registered or principal office of the company or body, and in any other case be the last known address of the person in question.

(4)Where any such notice is to be served on a person as being the person having any interest in land, and it is not practicable after reasonable enquiry to ascertain his name or address, the notice may be served by addressing it to him by the description of the person having that interest in the land (naming it), and delivering the notice to some responsible person on the land or by affixing it, or a copy of it, to some conspicuous object on the land.

(5)Where any such notice is to be served on a tenant a copy thereof shall be served on the landlord.

(6)Where any such notice is to be served on any person as being the owner of land and the land belongs to an ecclesiastical benefice, a copy thereof shall be served on the Church Commissioners.

7 Regulations under s. 1

(1)Regulations under section one of this Act may make different provisions in different cases specified in the regulations.

(2)The power to make regulations conferred by the said section one shall be exercisable by statutory instrument, and any such instrument shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

8 Expenses

Any expenses incurred by the Minister under this Act up to an amount approved by the Treasury shall be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament.

9 Application to Scotland

In the application of this Act to Scotland-

(a)for references to the Minister there shall be substituted references to the Secretary of State; and

(b)subsection (3) of section two, subsections (2) and (3) of section three, section five, subsection (6) of section six, and subsection (1) of section seven shall be omitted.

10 Repeal and savings

(1). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(2)Any document referring to an enactment repealed by this Act shall be construed as referring to the corresponding enactment of this Act.

(3)For the purpose of determining the punishment which may be imposed on a person in respect of an offence under subsection (1) of section two of this Act, an offence committed by him under paragraph (3) of the Schedule to the Corn Production Acts (Repeal) Act, 1921, shall be deemed to have been committed under the said subsection (1).

(4)This Act shall not apply in a case where a notice was served under paragraph (1) of the Schedule to the said Act of 1921 before the first day of August, nineteen hundred and fifty-eight (being the date of the Passing of the Agriculture Act, 1958), and the provisions of that Schedule shall continue to apply in relation to that case as they applied immediately before the said first day of August.

(5)The mention of particular matters in this section shall be without prejudice to the general application of subsection (2) of section thirty-eight of the Interpretation Act, 1889, with regard to the effect of repeals.

11 Short title, interpretation and extent

(1)This Act may be cited as the Weeds Act, 1959.

(2)In this Act -

  • "occupier" means in the case of any public road the roads authority ("public road" and "roads authority" having the same meanings as in the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984)] and in the case of unoccupied land the person entitled to the occupation thereof; and

  • "owner" includes a person entitled for a term of years certain or other limited estate

(3)This Act shall not extend to Northern Ireland.

The Weeds Act 1959 was never debated in parliament. It was a consolidation act which restated powers originally inserted into the Corn Production Act 1917 by the Agriculture Act 1920 . In essence it restates into law ideas from society from around the time of the end of World War One where agriculture was in a pre-industrialised state. It is very questionable that when in the modern society where it is now accepted that habitat destruction and a decline in biodiversity is being caused by industrialised agriculture that such antiquated notions from the day of the horse drawn plough should still be on the statute book.

This piece of legislation was clearly intended to insist that agricultural tenants kept the land in good condition for their landlords who would have been well represented in parliament at the time. This is indicated strongly by the titles of the sections in the chapter of the legislation concerned.