The Committee had a full and detailed debate about the public disclosure of information relating to pesticides during which I explained at some length the Government's intentions. In the drafting of subsections (2) (j) and (5) of clause 15 the Government believed that they had struck the right balance between the public interest in access to information and the protection of the commercial interests of those who supply the information. My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) raised this very issue when introducing a few minutes ago his Bill on environmental pollution information. I have no doubt that the balance is weighted in favour of public access, but the feeling in Committee was that more could be done in the Bill to favour the public interest as the Royal Commission recommended.
The Government have reflected carefully and in response have tabled the amendment to the first subsection of clause 15 on the general purposes of this part of the Bill. If accepted, the amendment would have the effect that the following provisions of part III
would have effect with a view to making information about pesticides available to the public".
This would apply to safety data about chemicals and to other information and to information about the controls exercised over pesticides in the Bill. I believe that this addition to clause 15 further strengthens the presumption in favour of public access. We cannot adopt the Royal Commission's use of the term "unrestricted access" in a legal statute because that would nullify the effect of subsection (5), which protects the legitimate interest of manufacturers. Again, that is an issue to which my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington referred in introducing his Bill.
We are moving public information into the highest category of purpose of the Bill, which, because of the widespread public concern about pesticides, is the appropriate place. Moreover, we are maintaining the balance between the public interest and the respect for commercial interests in the body of clause 15. That seems to us to be a significant improvement.
We believe that the public's access to information should have a high priority and should be an integral part of these provisions. By moving the relevant provisions to the first part of part III we have highlighted the emphasis that we attach to the principle. The Government believed that they had struck a perfect balance between subsection (2)(j) and subsection (5), but it was made clear in Committee that those considering the Bill felt that something more could be done to emphasise the importance that is attached to public access to information. It is in that spirit that we have moved the emphasis on public access to the beginning of part III to make it the top priority.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for that explanation, which was suitably brief. I am also grateful to the Government for accepting the principle of the three amendments moved in Committee, Nos 98, 99 and 100, which we think were of great significance to the Bill. The Government could easily have reversed the three amendments, and those of us who voted in favour of them in Committee are grateful that they have been retained, more or less as they are. We congratulate the Government on their wisdom.
Clause 15(1) is an important part of the Bill. As the Bill is now, subsection (a) speaks of the need
to protect the health of human beings".
That can be understood, but my hon. Friend's amendment will mean that there will be two subsections lettered (a). That will serve only to make a complex Bill more complex.
Apart from that, I welcome what my hon. Friend has tried to do. We are grateful to her for preserving the spirit and the quality of amendments tabled in Committee. However, I ask my hon. Friend to give some clarity to the drafting of these amendments.
I always want to be helpful to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, and I hope that she will think that by tabling amendment No. 56 I am being so. She gave an impressive television performance recently in which, in answer to a journalist, Penny Junor, in a programme on Thames Television, she said that when regulations come out, it is her wish that all the details will be available. I hope that we can move in that direction. I am not suggesting by my amendment that we should have all the details, but we can go a little further in trying to reconcile the interests of the public and those of the manufacturers.
I had a discussion with the director of the British Agrochemicals Association only yesterday. He assured me that he supported my amendment, which goes rather further than that on which my hon. Friend is anxious that the House should agree.
It must be in the interests of the public to be able to see the data submitted by the manufacturer about the safety of the pesticides and their effect on the environment. When I speak of the public, I put in a word for our working farmers, who deal every day with pesticides. There is growing anxiety among them about the pesticides and to what extent they should use certain of them. That anxiety is increased when they read about how other countries forbid the use of the very pesticides that they are using. Therefore, it is right that a small organisation with which I am associated, the Smallfarmers Association, should have access to the data in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and then be able to engage its own scientists to investigate that data to see to what extent the testing has been carried out satisfactorily.
Equally, it is in the interests of the manufacturers that rivals, particularly countries such as Korea and Thailand, which are getting into the pesticide business, should not be guilty of piracy. Therefore, my amendment is couched in such a way as to ensure that there can be no piracy, nor any danger to any manufacturer. I would welcome my hon. Friend's comments on that. That would enable those concerned, either on behalf of farmers or environmental lobbies—even doctors, because many of them are concerned about this—to have access to the data so that they can assess it.
My hon. Friend may say that it is intended to produce monographs on these different pesticides that will give a summary of the data, but that will not be enough. I am sure that she will realise that. They will not recite the methodology or the kinds of tests that have been carried out, nor will they give details of the sorts of animals that have been used.
My hon. Friend knows that the tests on these pesticides are almost entirely carried out on rats and mice. If the pesticide is mutagenic, we must know whether the tests have been carried out for at least two years on three generations of rats and mice. One will not know whether a pesticide is mutagenic unless such data are given.
I understand that what is made available by the Ministry will not include that information. If a pesticide is carcinogenic, the tests must be carried out for a certain time. We must also question whether, if it is carcinogenic in respect of rats or mice, it will be the same on humans. I do not want to repeat the thalidomide story, but that was tested on rats and was perfectly satisfactory, yet we know only too well what the effect was on humans.
There is a question mark over the use of only rats or mice when testing such pesticides. The public should therefore be told what animals are being used so that they can judge the extent to which the tests are valid.
I stress that, because in the United States, as my hon. Friend knows only too well, people are beginning to realise that by themselves tests on rats and mice are not sufficient and that other tests should be carried out. The Minister and I know that a number of pesticides have been called into question in the United States and will now be prohibited, yet their use will still be allowed in this country. Is there a difference in testing between the United States and the United Kingdom? How will we know if all we are to get are monographs? Will they contain the kind of information that will be sufficient to enable people to pass their own independent judgment?
My hon. Friend will be familiar with the name of Professor A. E. M. McLean, who until recently was a member of the scientific sub-committee of the Government's own Advisory Committee on Pesticides. I hope that his views will not be dismissed as those of a crank but will be acknowledged as the views of someone who has had an inside knowledge of the subject. Professor McLean was joint author of a book entitled "Safety Testing of New Drugs. Laboratory Predictions and Clinical Performance", which was published only last year. He said:
the ordinary criterion of scientific reliability (that the results are reproducible in other laboratories) does not operate".
When the methodology of conventional test procedures is discussed it becomes evident that quite small differences in procedure can have large effects on the outcome, and so on the inferences which may be drawn from them".
The Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate, therefore, that the summaries will be useless to the public, to farmers and to the members of environmental groups and others who want to probe these issues unless they have some understanding of the methodology and what led up to the data being provided. Unless that information is forthcoming, we shall not satisfactorily solve the problem.
Let us suppose that the boot were on the other foot and a manufacturer, having produced a new type of pesticide, had to have it tested by an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Let us suppose that the Ministry then published only a summary of the data, such as that which my hon. Friend has in mind. What, then, would be the feelings of the manufacturer? Say that the new pesticide was condemned by the Ministry and the manufacturer was not permitted to obtain the full data comparable to what I have in mind should be disclosed to the general public. The manufacturer would be in an impossible position.
The United States has its Freedom of Information Act. We have the chance now to go to Washington and find out the full details of how the same pesticides have been tested in that country. Indeed, officers of Friends of the Earth tell me that they have been to America and seen the very data that they will not be allowed to see in Britain.
I fear that the Government's not allowing the same information to be available here—remembering that we are concerned with circumstances in which some pesticides forbidden in the United States will be permitted here—will cause ugly statements to be made, and such a state of affairs will not be helpful to anyone.
I hope, therefore, that the Minister will give careful consideration to my amendment No. 56 and will agree that, if it is right that people in the US should have this information, it is right for the people of Britain to have it. It is wrong that we should have to cross the Atlantic and go to Washington to get the sort of information that should be available to us here. If it is not made available, the worst suspicions will be aroused, and I fear that we in Parliament will not do well as a result.
I apologise in advance for the fact that I shall have to leave at 4.15 to attend a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, where I wish to deal with an important item on the agenda. I shall then return to the Chamber, but I may miss the Minister's speech in reply to this amendment.
Like the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body), I fear that the Bill, in the way in which it will be amended, will not clarify the position and may, instead, disguise the intention of the Government. The result will be that the public will be denied information about pesticides. The Government amendment contains the words
with a view to making information about pesticides available to the public".
What it does not say, but should say—because that is the intention—is that it will be restricted information. All the information available to the Department will not be made available to the public. In Committee, the Parliamentary Secretary said:
I assure the Committee that we shall seek to ensure that the public will have every opportunity to judge for themselves whether the Government have reached a reasonable decision about a chemical … information will not be kept under wraps unnecessarily.
Who will decide on what is unnecessarily being kept under wraps? Will it not be the Department? It is unreasonable that those who wish access to information will be denied the right to determine whether something should be made available. A bureaucrat will take the decision.
It was clear from the debate in Committee that there are divisions of opinion about what should constitute information being "kept under wraps unnecessarily." The Government are totally misreading the representations of Campaign for Freedom of Information, the environmental groups and all others interested in these issues. They are demanding that full information be made available.
In Committee, the Minister said:
it is our intention to ensure that the information released will enable an informed judgment to be made by the public".—[Official Report, Standing Committee H, 30 April 1985; c. 334.]
What does the Minister regard as an "informed judgment"? What she regards as an informed judgment may not be what environmental groups and researchers believe it to be. All the time we are leaving subjective judgments to be made by officials who make recommendations to Ministers. The Minister is misreading the sense of environmental outrage that is felt by the public on this issue.
We dealt at length in Committee with the position in America. I pointed out that the Environmental Protection Agency there found that IBT—Industrial Biotest Laboratories — had fabricated data. Some of those studies were submitted in the United Kingdom and were accepted by the Advisory Committee on Pesticides, and decisions were taken based on the ACP's recommendations. The same officials will decide to what extent information should be restricted.
The Minister should take on board the American experience and ensure that United Kingdom researchers are given full access to information. After all, often no alternative information about hazards is available.
That information should be available, for example, to those concerned with the effects of pesticides on their employees and to persons affected by spraying. Otherwise, it will be difficult for them to obtain information relevant to the problems with which they must deal and with which doctors are concerned. Indeed, medical practitioners may wish to research into the effects of certain products. They should not be denied information which is available to the Department but which will be under lock and key.
The full disclosure of safety data under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rhodenticide Act in America works well. FIFRA has shown that it is possible to combine full disclosure with the protection of commercial interests. The amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Holland with Boston would not alter a company's indefinite right to the exclusive use of such data.
To deny information on the ground that the public is not competent to make correct use of it is unacceptable. The British Agrochemical Association accepts the principle of "the right to know." Disclosure would increase public confidence, prevent amateur research being carried out by other organisations and, to some extent, prevent the need for duplication of research. Public anxiety increases when people are denied the facts.
Even at this late stage, the Parliamentary Secretary, should heed the substantial representations that are being made by people inside and outside the House. In particular, she should heed the remarks of her hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston, who has great knowledge of these matters. He is in contact, through an organisation representing small farmers with which he is associated, with many people in Britain who are involved with the use of pesticides. I am sure that he brings to the House through that association the value of their experience.
All Committee Members received persistent demands from a number of organisations to set up a more open regime with respect to freedom of information. The Parliamentary Secretary must respond to those demands and be fair.
The Government should accept the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body). I pay tribute to the Government for responding to pressure and to the other place for having moved forward. They have accepted that there should be a move towards giving people the right to know about pesticides.
The Parliamentary Secretary's words a fortnight ago on television are important because they highlight not only the possible advantages of the Government's amendments but the gap that will exist if we go only as far as the amendments take us. The hon. Lady said:
The Bill empowers Ministers to make information available to the general public regarding the safety of pesticides.
She went on to say:
The details will all be available.
Those two statements are not consistent. Government amendment No. 22 states:
with a view to making information about pesticides available to the public".
The criteria are set out, but the Government retain the right to determine exactly what will or will not be included in that information. If the Parliamentary Secretary is to give the House the assurance that she gave the nation via television—
The details will all be available"—
she must logically accept the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston. It provides that information will become available automatically and naturally and not simply in a conditional sense because of what the Government's regulations impose.
Yes. We are constrained by the fact that the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston goes as far as we shall be able to go today. He has imposed a condition too. He has restricted disclosure relating to commercial interests, for reasons that I understand although I may not entirely share them. If the Parliamentary Secretary accepted that premise, we would be making progress. She said that she was satisfied
that the preponderance is on making information available to the general public.
We must not have battles year after year when Governments always resist and have to be dragged through the hedgerows until they are forced to give a concession. Countries that learned democracy from us have long before us established the right to know. The High Court has decided that councillors have the right to know. That means that not only officials but the people who are concerned with the issues have the right to know. They include farmers, business men, researchers and legislators. I ask the Government to say that those people need to know now.
I give one bizarre and important example which shows how ridiculous the position is. I am told that research is being conducted in London university on lemons sold in shops in London. After they are harvested, a fungicide called hydroxydiphenyl 2 is sprayed on them. That fungicide is governed by World Health Organisation limits, because it is dangerous when used above a certain limit. WHO says that the acceptable limit for that fungicide is 10 parts per million. The fungicide on lemons sold in London shops regularly measures 200 parts per million.
This is what happens to the lemons. They are harvested and then scrubbed to remove the pesticide. They then look a little withered and as though they will not appeal to the consumer, so they are dipped into a wax fungicide mixture to make them yellow, shiny and appealing. When one washes those lemons there is no problem because the fungicide does not react in any way. The water runs off them because the skin is protected. However, if one regularly dips a lemon into one's gin and tonic, alcohol causes a chemical reaction.
One might need to drink a few gins and tonics in a day for this to have any effect. I may have vices, but that is not one of them, although there may be some hon. Members present who are worried about this information. The chemical reaction dissolves the wax and releases the fungicide into that drink at nearly 20 times the recognised international level.
This research was conducted by an eminent and respected group of people at London university who thought that they should ascertain whether the Ministry knew about this. They telephoned the Ministry and asked about its findings. The answer was, "I am sorry. We cannot tell you. It is governed by the Official Secrets Act." Here were researchers offering the Government information, which may save Conservatives more than any others by protecting them when over-indulging in gin and tonic—yet the Government could not say whether they were researching the same issue.
That is an amusing example, but it is an example of a fundamental point. If science is to be of benefit to our society, it must be of benefit to everyone in our society and not selectively of benefit to those who take unto themselves the rights that go with being in the Civil Service.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give the House an assurance in exactly the same terms as the assurance that she gave on television and consider what the Government would do to go even further than the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston.
Amendment No. 26 provides that, on payment of "reasonable fees", information will be made available. I accept that there must be a reasonable fee, but the Parliamentary Secretary knows that we are again considering the question of definition. What is "reasonable"? It is clear that, since the last stage of this Bill was considered, the Treasury has been at work on it. We are considering several small amendments that quietly emanated from the Treasury and add little money-recouping measures. This is one of them. I do not object to the Treasury suggesting that a reasonable fee is required. Of course we must pay for photocopying and the like, but we cannot have fees that reflect the cost of the work going on and partly pay for the research and the officials. They are there anyway. The officials' time is given in the public service, for which they are paid. Members of the public, who may not be on big salaries paid by the British Agrochemicals Association or any other firm, need to be assured that we are talking about matters of pence, not pounds, and that the fees are reasonable at all stages. If the Government are committed to access and to freedom of information, they must not put up barriers, whether of cost or of bureaucracy.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to think again and ask her—reflecting in the glory that she is partly enjoying by having pulled her Government from resistance to a welcome of freedom of information—to go the whole way and do the job properly.
The hon. Members for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) and for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), who spoke in a most amusing fashion, have identified one lacuna. I want to touch briefly on another omission, although I welcome the measure as it is at least a move towards freedom of information. It touches on the question of public confidence and the processes by which we come to decisions on pesticides which are covered in the Bill and which have been established for some time.
I refer in particular to the constitution of the advisory committee. In a written question to the Minister in column 58 of Hansard on 18 June this year, I asked her in what way declarations of interest on the advisory committee are stated. This is relevant because the amendment states that information about pesticides is required to be made available to the public. I point out to the Minister that it is also important to have information about the decision-making process made available to the public. This is a matter of concern to me and, I believe, to other hon. Members, and I hope that the Minister will see fit to touch on it. With regard to the declaration of interests by members of the advisory committee, the members at present are required only to sign a piece of paper which says:
I have no commercial interest which might make it undesirable for me to receive confidential trade information.
In relation to freedom of information, it seems curious to me that members are not required to make—
I ask the Minister to consider accepting as more appropriate amendment No. 56 tabled by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston, which is broader and may well allow for members of the advisory committee on pesticides to nominate their interests in a more specifc fashion. We are dealing with decisions taken in secret about products which could cost £1 million to bring to market. It is important that members of the public should have full confidence in how the decisions are taken. Therefore, a broader declaration of interest would be more appropriate if the Minister is indeed interested in following through full freedom of information effectively in the Bill.
It is necessary to comment only shortly upon the debate, in view of the long discussion on the subject in Committee.
We started from the premise that as full information on pesticides as possible should be available on the basis that public concern relates to the concealment of information. This gives rise to fears which, although they may be groundless to the experts, are nevertheless real because members of the public are unable to comprehend fully.
I welcome amendments Nos. 21 and 22 as a move from what is provided in clause 15(5), dwelling exclusively upon confidentiality and commercial considerations, towards a presumption that full information shall be available.
I understand the fears expressed by hon. Members about the face of the Bill, but we must be clear that the mechanism provided by the Bill on this matter, as on so much else, is little evident on the face of the Bill. Little on the face of the Bill is adequately covered by amendment No. 22. Regulations will follow under clause 15(2)(j) which will provide for the type of information required. I believe that here we must be vigilant to ensure that summaries are not perfunctory and the information provided is not sketchy. We must ensure that the sort of information mentioned by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston is incorporated in those regulations. It will be for us at the stage of consideration of the Government regulations to make sure that that is so.
I am glad that the Government earlier in Committee stated that hon. Members would be involved in the consultation process on the draft regulations and would be able to make the necessary representations. I believe that, if we are not satisfied with the draft regulations, we will make those representations.
What is included on the face of the Bill is a major step forward. For the first time in consideration of the Bill the Government are saying that the provisions shall have the effect of providing information. In my view, that general statement of intent must be followed up by adequate information being provided for in the regulations. Parliament will scrutinise the regulations closely and, if they are inadequate, will be accordingly critical. I believe that the fullest information possible should be available and the exemptions allowing secrecy should be kept to a minimum. The public will be more reassured by information being available than they will by its being hidden.
Secondly, I wish to take up the point made by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). It is one thing to have information available, but it is another if it is available, as some farming booklets are, at a price of approximately £15. Price can be a determinant of how widely knowledge is disseminated. If there is an entry of the type mentioned by one of my hon. Friends in the case of the Environmental Protection Agency in America dealing with particular chemicals, that should be done at as nominal a sum as possible. I underline that, although I am sure that the Government have it in mind. In this way, those who are interested in obtaining the information will have it freely and without undue expense.
I welcome the Government's amendments on this matter as meeting a point that was widely canvassed in Committee as a source of anxiety.
I welcome the acceptance of the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) of amendments Nos. 21 and 22 and the motives of the Government in tabling them. The amendments make clear the purpose of the Bill. Concern has been expressed that the purpose should be made clearer, and that the amendments seek to do. I understand that hon. Members will scrutinise the regulations carefully to be sure that they live up to that objective.
I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body). I had intended to refer to amendment No. 26 to try to prevent a misunderstanding of the kind which has arisen in the mind of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). I am glad that the hon. Member for Pontypridd understands what we are trying to do.
The amendment to clause 15(2)(j) is a technical one to enable Ministers to recover the costs of copying and postage, if necessary, from those who request information about pesticides. The Government's intention is to provide in part III a measure similar to that already contained in the last three lines of paragraph 13 of part II. Parliamentary counsel have drafted the amendment with some care to ensure that the provision covers only the incidental costs of providing copies of the document. I assure the Committee that this will not have the effect of inhibiting the public's access to information. Equally, we must not run the risk of becoming an unlimited source of free material at public expense.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston, who has tried to table an amendment that meets the needs of all concerned with disclosure of information. Amendment No. 56 is admirably drafted, but it has one serious disadvantage from the Government's point of view. The amendment does not provide for the release of raw data, but our advice is that Ministers will be constrained to provide access to raw data to anybody who requests it. I explained in Committee that it would involve great administrative effort and that the advantage would in practice be small. The amendment would prevent the provision of summaries of data.
I have already explained that summaries have been prepared for the meeting of the advisory committee. They include methodology, details of tests, the different kinds of animals and periods of time. Carcinogenicity, mutagenicity and teratogenicity are described in the summaries, and the questions surrounding pesticides are also listed. Therefore, I assure him that the summaries include all the details that he said are not included. They are lengthy, amounting to about 20 pages.
The Freedom of Information Campaign agrees with the Government that the summaries would satisfy the overwhelming majority of inquiries. The raw data on each approved product stand about 3 ft high. It would be a waste of time and effort to make that information available to everybody. Access to raw data may be of use to those engaged in research, and we are prepared to consider granting access to it if a scientific case can be established. We shall discuss the matter when we consult all the relevant interests about the proposals.
The Bill would not prevent either this Government or any other Government from providing access to raw data. I have explained the problem of providing an extreme degree of public access to raw data. My hon. Friend's amendment constrains Ministers to provide access to raw data to anybody who requests it. I hope that I have reassured him about the contents of the summaries and that he will therefore withdraw his amendment.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey made a serious point about lemons in London. The pesticide residue working group survey found that lemons in London have exceeded the codex limit of 10 parts per million. Between 1981 and 1984 the level occasionally found was 18 ppm. However, hon. Members who consume large quantities of gin and tonic are much more likely to contract cirrhosis of the liver and to be put at risk than they are if they consume lemons.
It appears that research shows that there may be other sale points at which the danger level is much higher. Can the Minister assure the House that it will be provided with that information, whether in the form of raw data or a summary, before the Bill is enacted so that protection may be provided?
We monitor residue levels not only in individual items but in the complete diet. The levels found over many years have been well below the level that is internationally regarded as safe, and the levels are declining. The Bill provides for action to be taken on residue levels.
I appreciate hon. Members' difficulty about understanding how far the Government have moved on this issue. I become a little agitated when I am told that I am being dragged screaming into the 20th century. We have sought to enact a good Bill. The Government are not being dragged into the 20th century. The legisation permits disclosure in full about safety data, but in practice that must be subject to consultation and practical considerations—how long it will take, how much it will cost and how much information is required. We must attempt to reach consensus within the ordinary practical constraints of commercial secrecy. We shall make available all the information that is necessary to reassure the public about the safety of the pesticide in question.
These are purely drafting amendments. Their effect will be to remove subsection (8) from clause 17 and to insert it at the end of clause 15, to remove superfluous words from subsection (7) in clause 15, and to provide drafting improvements that are consequential upon the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body).
I beg to move amendment No. 25, in page 15, line 41, at end insert—
'(ff) provide for the payment of compensation to beekeepers who incur financial loss as a result of the use of pesticides;'.
This amendment tries to create a statutory compensation scheme for beekeepers who incur financial loss by using pesticides. In Committee and on Report we have spent many hours talking about birds. It is perhaps appropriate that we are now talking about bees. They are very much affected by the misuse — I emphasise the word "misuse"—of pesticides.
Bees are a valuable national asset. They provide us with a considerable amount of honey and serve a useful agricultural purpose. It is therefore in the interest of nobody that bees should be killed by pesticides. Nevertheless, there are about 36,000 colonies of bees in this country and according to the Beekeepers Association there are between 100 and 200 incidents each year of bees being affected by pesticides. About 1 per cent. of beehives are affected each year by pesticide poisoning. We ought to try to reduce it and, if it occurs, we ought to be able to offer compensation to the beekeepers. Aerial spraying in particular is responsible for poisoning bees and causing most of the damage.
Another cause for concern is the increase in the cultivation of oilseed rape. If oilseed rape is incorrectly sprayed, many more bees die. We are aware that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food issues guidance to both beekeepers and farmers each year and urges the farmers to keep to a code of conduct.
If I heard the hon. Gentleman aright, he was talking about the spraying of oilseed rape and the fact that many bees die. Surely he would acknowledge, though, that the vast acreage of oilseed rape that is now grown is of direct benefit to beekeepers. Indeed, much honey now comes from oilseed rape, although it is not as tasty as honey from lime trees and other sources.
I did make the point that I was talking about the misuse of pesticides. If the hon. Gentleman wants to follow that particular analogy, looking at the benefits to beekeepers of oilseed rape, I would refer him to a very useful article in Farmers Weekly of 12 April by a beekeeper who produces a great amount of honey from oilseed rape. However, without going into the technical aspects, as the hon. Member knows, one should not spray oilseed rape when it is in flower because that is the time when the bees are killed. I am very much aware of the point raised.
It is worrying that bees are killed, but what is perhaps also worrying is the great difficulty that beekeepers have in claiming compensation. I will quote a particular case to the House because it exemplifies the problem very clearly. It concerns a Mr. Houldey of Hartpury in Gloucestershire. I know that the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland), who is here today and has been of assistance to Mr. Houldey, will not mind my quoting the case because I think he accepts that it raises a very serious point.
Mr. Houldey has had a number of spraying incidents. In 1984 alone, in four separate incidents, he lost 47 hives of bees. He estimates his total financial loss to be about £9,000. The interesting point is that, in spite of the fact that Mr. Houldey received compensation in one case, in one of the other cases the contractor was successfully prosecuted but compensation was still refused by the NFU Mutual Insurance Company, which said to Mr. Houldey, "Sue us." Of course, no small farmer or beekeeper is going to take on a massive insurance company; he just has not got the financial assets to risk. I think it is a matter of shame that the NFU Mutual Insurance Company, which by and large has a very good reputation, is refusing to pay compensation in this case.
I raised that example to show the difficulties that beekeepers face. The difficulties come from two main points: first, the failure of farmers, but mainly of contractors, to give notice and to abide by the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service recommendations and code of conduct; and, secondly, the question of getting compensation even when the claimant is able to bring a successful case for compensation.
We believe that there is need to compensate beekeepers. We emphasise that we wish that the code of practice and the Ministry of Agriculture recommendations were more strictly adhered to by contractors and farmers. However, we accept that accidents will happen and that there will be misuse of pesticides. We believe that in such cases there should be compensation paid to the beekeepers, and that is what we call for in this amendment.
The Government cannot accept this amendment, which singles out one sector of the community for right to compensation in law. Such a provision might prejudice the position of others, if they found themselves in dispute with users of pesticides.
The proper course of action for such grievances is to seek redress in the courts, and I know from a recent case that aggrieved beekeepers have been successful in such actions. The case to which I refer was brought to court before we introduced this legislation to enable Ministers to control use of statute. In finding against the farmer, the judge relied on the considerable advice already made available to users of pesticides both from my Department and from the pesticide manufacturer about the effects of pesticides on bees. I shall explain the action taken by my Department in this area.
When pesticides intended for use in agriculture are submitted for clearance under the PSPS, information on their toxicity to bees is invariably taken into account. By their very nature most insecticides are toxic to bees to a greater or lesser extent; but an unacceptable level of risk would in itself be sufficient grounds for denying a particular clearance. Such decisions have been taken in the past. The withdrawal of clearance in 1978 for the aerial application of triazophos to oilseed rape was such a case. Cleared products may carry labels with warning phrases, such as "Dangerous/harmful to bees. Do not apply at flowering stage. Keep down flowering weeds."
To back up the warnings on product labels, my Department provides a great deal of advice to farmers and growers about the use of these pesticides. We give warnings on the general incidence of pest attack and the circumstances in which spraying should be, or is unlikely to be, cost-effective. When we advise that spraying is worth while we recommend farmers to use wherever practicable pesticides that are least toxic to bees, to spray early in the morning or late in the evening, when bee activity is minimal, and generally to take care and to think of others when spraying. We issue a considerable amount of publicity' literature. All this is supplemented by advice to individual farmers.
Furthermore, our scientists are ready to investigate any incidents involving the suspected poisoning of bees by pesticides whenever the beekeeper concerned is able to provide a sample of the bees for chemical analysis. The Ministry also arranges meetings at both the national and the local level between representatives of the National Farmers Union, the beekeepers associations and spraying contractors. Our objective is to get the people involved to discuss common problems and to agree on the measures necessary to prevent bee losses from crop spraying. I believe that advice, consultation and communication are the best way to ensure that growers and beekeepers are aware of each other's problems and needs and aware of how to co-exist.
Our legislation will add another dimension. During our consultations on its implementation we shall need to consider very carefully how to protect bees by legal control—for example, by making application at the flowering stage of certain crops an offence. But this is the kind of detailed control on which we must consult all interests affected, so I speak without commitment.
I hope that with this explanation the hon. Gentleman will feel able to withdraw this amendment.
I must admit that I find the last comment from the Minister very helpful and I take the point that she is talking only about the possibility. If the Ministry of Agriculture is about to consider that possibility in the future, that is somewhat reassuring. There has been movement in law and in the case to which the Minister referred—which I think was a case in Sussex where a number of beekeepers combined and were paid damages of about £7,000 for loss of honey crops—the High Court judge did clarify the ruling as to what exactly a bee was, whether a bee was trespassing, and so on. I think that as a result we have moved forward.
I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
These amendments are minor drafting improvements suggested by the parliamentary draftsman to the new subsection 15(7), which was adopted in Committee. My hon. Friend said in Committee that they might be necessary and I hope that the House will accept them.
I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for tabling this minor amendment and also for her letter to me on this matter. There is certainly no weakening of the Committee's intention in the amendment. The key to the amendments made in Committee was that the advisory committee should offer advice upon matters that concerned it without being asked, and that has been preserved intact. The House regards that as an important point, and it probably deals with some of the points that we discussed earlier about the provision of information and so on. If the advisory committee feels that additional information should be made available, it can proffer advice to the Minister without being asked. Therefore, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what she has been able to do.
I beg to move amendment No. 32, in page 17, line 26, at end insert—
'(aa) as to the extent and implications of resistance to pesticides among pests in Britain;'.
This amendment brings us back to a point that was raised in Committee, but which, for one reason or another, was not responded to in full.
For a long time there has been considerable anxiety that the very objects for which pesticides are designed are developing immunity to them. Therefore, the pesticides which in minute quantities could kill and control the pests, can no longer do so.
The Royal Commission on environmental pollution mentioned that factor, but said that it found it difficult to get an exact picture of both the seriousness and the scope of the problem. Many scientists throughout the world are concerned that constant use of pesticides is developing strains of pests immune to their toxicity. There is anxiety that what I call the first world war mentality—that is, if there is resistance we put forth even more to overcome that resistance, which develops more resistance—should be avoided at all costs.
The Ministry acknowledged the problem but put it on the governmental back burner by saying that, although there was a problem, it would not occur until the end of the century. But, of course, even the end of the century is only 15 years away and we are talking about a development of other sources of pest control that are effective during that short time.
I think that we all agree that pesticides should be used at the minimum level consistent with being effective. Because there is resistance to a certain pesticide, we do not want to engender the philosophy that the farmer should add a little extra in the hope that it will kill the blighters.
The Minister said that there were 25 strains resistant to 28 pesticides. We have also been told that both fungicides and herbicides are finding resistant strains. The Farmers Weekly on 15 March noted:
Earlier drilling of winter cereal and widespread use of fungicides may lead to a sudden rise in MBC-resistant eyespot.
People are worried because in the ADAS eastern region the resistant strains had risen by 90 per cent. in the year 1984–85. There are similar quantum leaps in resistance in other crops.
The Big Farm Weekly of 11 April said:
The first signs of herbicide resistance in blackgrass have been recorded by scientists at the Weed Research Organisation, Oxford.
When I was looking at the fairly daunting forecasts for the size of this year's harvest—that is, if we ever get any warm weather—the problem of blackgrass was central to the question of cereals. Blackgrass is now becoming resistant to herbicides, so a major problem is arising.
The amendment seeks to ensure that the Ministry consults the advisory committee about pesticides so that it can express its view on this increasing problem. There is no doubt that a resistance will occur, that it will take different forms, that it will apply to a wider spectrum of crops and that it will cause many problems.
In Committee, a similar amendment was moved as one of a large group. I am sure that that is why the Minister replied to it with less than her usual thoroughness. I counted about six lines in Hansard—and I was being generous—when I read her reply. But such is the importance of the subject that it warrants a reply. The Government should refer the problem to the ACP at the earliest possible opportunity to determine how it may be overcome and what may be done to avoid resistant strains growing. I hope that the Government can reassure me on that.
I tabled the amendment not to make a party political point or even a point of sharp difference, but to try to make the legislation—as the hon. Lady wishes—as good as we can possibly make it.
This amendment is a watered-down version of an amendment tabled in Committee, but it is effective. The amendment tabled in Committee asked for a report to Parliament on resistant pests, but it was negatived.
The most serious problem of pesticides is that they can lose their effectiveness due to the appearance of tolerant strains of pest. The pesticides create selection pressure on pest populations that invariably have a genetic pool of widely differing susceptibility to the poison. Certain strong individuals survive the pesticide to breed the next generation. The tolerant pest strain is so serious because there is a real danger that the appearance of such strains will obstruct the production of effective pesticides. The outcome is that we are led to increase the amount of pesticides used to counter the resistance, and that is at the heart of much of our concern and underlines the need to table the amendment.
If we are to respect the policy of minimising the use of pesticides to a degree compatible with efficient farming, a thorough consideration of the implications of resistance is of the utmost importance. The Minister said in Committee that resistance did not necessarily lead to a breakdown of control because there were alternatives. It would be a necessary function of consultations with the advisory committee to determine — based on an appreciation of the extent of the resistance — the implications for the implementation of alternative measures. It is only within the past 10 years that any progress has been made in collecting the data necessary to formulate strategies to control the spread of resistance. Many opportunities have been missed and research has been largely limited to listing occurrences and investigating inheritance patterns and biochemical mechanisms. That is unsatisfactory. We need to understand all the processes, including the evolutionary ones, that lead to a failure in pest control. If we wait until there is a control failure it will be far too late. The alternative attitude is to assume that resistance will eventually arise everywhere and to treat it with larger and larger doses. Our amendment seeks to avoid such an approach, which would be environmentally and economically unsound. It would certainly be most unpopular and damaging to everything that we hold sacred in the countryside.
I support the amendment and endorse the arguments for it. If the amendment is accepted and included in the three specific matters on which the advisory committee should be consulted, the importance of the increasing resistance that exists because of the genetic process of pesticides will be highlighted.
I know that the Minister made a response in Committee. I know she is aware of the problem and I accept that the advisory committee will consider the issue, but the question is whether it will regard the matter as sufficiently important to devote some of its members' time to it.
The most graphic example that I have seen recently—the Minister will have seen it also—is the super-rat, which is resistant to all rat poison and rat removal operations known to local authorities which deal with rodent control. Small rats are difficult and frightening enough to deal with, and we wish to remove them from our communities, but now we have super-rats, which cause great alarm where that species is found.
I ask the Minister to reconsider the matter and incorporate the amendment as a specific task for the committee.
My Department already undertakes a considerable amount of work on resistance to pesticides in agriculture, horticulture and food storage and among houseflies and rodents. I apologise if my response in Committee was brief. I am trying not to be too wordy now, but I feel compelled to inform hon. Members about the work that is carried out.
The Ministry has a small team at Harpenden monitoring crop pest and disease resistance on a regular basis, and at present its work is directed to monitoring eight aphid species of economic importance. As the answers to many questions show, resistance has been confirmed in three of these species. Our regional laboratory at Wye is responsible for monitoring resistance in pests of protected crops for which the problem is most acute, but which have benefited from considerable work on integrated pest control.
Resistance to pesticides for storage pests and houseflies is monitored by the Slough laboratory in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland and Ministry advisers. The pests covered include seven species of storage pests, houseflies in poultry houses and in intensive animal-rearing units, beetles in poultry houses and mites in cheese stores. Resistance to malathion has been demonstrated in one grain beetle and resistance to the fumigant phosphine occurs in stored grain beetles. Flies in animal houses developed resistance to a pyrethroid insecticide which was withdrawn, and the laboratory was instrumental in developing alternative controls. Mites in cheese stores are now resistant to available pesticides, and the Slough laboratory is investigating fumigation techniques to achieve control of pesticide-resistant cheese mites.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) referred to resistance in rodents. Work on the extent and implications of anti-coagulant resistance in rodents has mostly been undertaken by the Ministry's agricultural science service, although some studies have been carried out in universities. Monitoring of the extent and incidence of resistance has also been carried out by the Ministry. Staff at the agricultural science service central laboratories are researching two methods of controlling anti-coagulant resistant rodents, alongside work to screen candidates for new rodenticides submitted by the pesticide manufacturers.
I hope that I have given hon. Members some idea of some of the programmes relating to resistance to pesticides. I should say to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey that the advisory committee already considers the problems of resistance to individual pesticides, and with the widening of its terms of reference as a result of this legislation, it will be given powers to examine the extent and implications of resistance to pesticides. Therefore, there is no need for the amendment. We are very conscious of the problem and are already devoting considerable resources to investigating and overcoming it.
I knew that, given a little encouragement, the Minister would give vent to the self-expression which was denied to us in her six-line answer in Committee. I am reassured by her comments on the work that is continuing, and especially by her confirmation that the widening of the terms of reference of the ACP will mean that its task of solving the problems will be far easier. Given her assurance that it is unnecessary, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
I beg to move amendment No. 33, in page 17, line 34, at end insert—
'(10A) Within 12 months of the passing of this Act the Ministers shall jointly review the extent of and necessity for aerial spraying of pesticides and shall report to Parliament with proposals for reducing the use of this method of application.'.
With this, it will be convenient to consider amendment No. 34, in page 17, line 34, at end insert—
'(10A) Within 12 months of the passing of this Act the Ministers shall jointly review the scope for improving techniques of pesticide application and for promoting integrated pest management and shall set out in a report to Parliament a strategy for reducing the use of pesticides to a minimum consistent with efficient food production.'.
The only connecting factor in the two amendments is the fact that they choose the same mechanism—a review by Ministers within 12 months of the passing of the Bill — to deal with two separate matters. The first is aerial spraying. Lest there be any misunderstanding, especially on the part of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), who challenged me on this point, I should say that some aerial spraying is necessary, for example, in difficult terrain. The spraying of upland bracken is extremely important, and spraying is important in controlling pests in forests. However, modern technology has already made it less necessary to use aerial spraying in the lowlands than it was some years ago. The development of low-pressure-tyre vehicles means that spraying can now be done by ground-based vehicles in conditions which would have been unthinkable a decade ago, and probably less. Therefore, to some extent, the need for aerial spraying in the lowlands has diminished.
We are asking for a report to be produced with a view to reducing aerial spraying to the minimum necessary. I should set out briefly to the House my reasons for asking for this limitation. One point that was voiced in Committee—it has been voiced by environmental groups and at public meetings—is the tremendous concern about aerial spraying, and about the involvement, accidental or otherwise, of people, animals and flora. There is unresolved public anxiety, which is not reassured by the often well-meaning statements that nothing can happen and that there is no real problem or danger. Many of those incidents are highly frightening and cause a great deal of emotion. We will not be reassured unless MAFF examines the working of the Act and aerial spraying, and reports to the House so that the matter can be publicly aired.
A second reason why the minimisation of aerial spraying should be undertaken — in Committee we considered a few fairly ropey forms of spraying—is that of all forms of spraying, it is probably the most inaccurate. I expect that many members of the Committee will have received a recent memo in which the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reiterates its concern for areas that become affected, although those areas were not due to be sprayed. Two of the examples that it gives are SSSIs and ponds. Spray drift is a particular problem for aerial spraying. It is a problem in itself, and relates to the next reason why I believe that a report is necessary, which is that on occasions aerial contractors spray in unsuitable weather conditions. That climatic problem means that wider areas of land are affected than originally intended. The effect of that on the inhabitants of neighbouring properties is tremendous.
The third reason is that often such spraying is unannounced. The Minister will no doubt reassure me that a formula is laid down under which spraying visits are reported to the nearest police headquarters, and so on but I ask her to accept the evidence, produced on an anecdotal but significant basis by hon. Members, which shows that in practice many people find aircraft spraying crops adjacent to their properties without having had the faintest idea that spraying was to take place that day or that low-flying aircraft would spray at or comparatively near to houses.
Has my hon. Friend seen the report of Friends of the Earth, which has been circulated to hon. Members—copies have been sent to Ministers and to the Prime Minister—which sets out in detail the facts of a number of incidents that have taken place this year when people have not complied with the rules? Do they not show that there is a need to tighten up in this area where there is abuse by many aerial sprayers?
I have seen that report. I was going to refer to it both in that connection and in response to the riposte that the Government may feel obliged to make, which is that the number of incidents reported are small. I contend that there are many more incidents that those that are reported.
I shall return to the point relating to an unannounced visit, with an aircraft flying fairly low and unreasonably close to dwelling houses or other buildings. That has an affect on people. In a letter written to my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) I noticed that it said that in Germany, for example, the intention of a contractor to spray aerially must be conveyed to both the police and the local authority. I hope that in the Bill we shall secure, among other things, much more effective communication about where aerial spraying will take place. Those are the reasons why the report is necessary within 12 months to reassure the public. It should be targeted towards the reduction of aerial spraying.
As I have said and as my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) pointed out, the number of incidents reported is comparatively low. I believe that it bears only scant relationship to the number of incidents that occur. The Friends of The Earth report suggests that where the public are gathered together at a meeting there is immediate testimony to such incidents by many. That is of much greater significance than the number of reports suggest. That may be due partly to the complexity of the rules of reporting, and partly to a lack of knowledge about how to go about reporting and why it should be done.
We must also take account of the feeling that the controls are not properly enforced. On 26 April in a Ministry press release I noticed a warning about pesticide spraying and the minimisation of risks. The warning is fairly prominently displayed and says:
The CAA will prosecute and in serious cases revoke an operator's Aerial Application Certificate if its requirements are not observed.
Would that that were so. It does not seem to be the case, in view of the low number of prosecutions this decade—the average must be about three a year. Although that number started from a low base and has increased to six or seven a year, such a reminder is not likely to strike terror into the hearts of the aerial operators who may undertake the work.
There is a widespread belief among reputable people in the agriculture industry that the CAA does not carry out its duties in this case with the same degree of interest as it devotes to other duties. I ask the Minister to accept that that is the feeling of people in agriculture. That needs to be borne in mind when we consider the preparation of a report and the consideration of aerial spraying generally.
My fourth point is that any admission of departmental responsibility between the Department of Transport and MAFF is blurred. That was referred to on 16 April in Committee when the Minister, reminded of the fact that the Royal Commission on environmental pollution had already drawn attention to the matter, said that a review would be undertaken and a statement made about departmental responsiblity and the relationship between the Department of Transport and MAFF on this subject. Will she tell us when that review and statement can be expected because they are important?
I understand from the farming press that the review of clearances for aerial spraying has already been begun by the advisory committee on pesticides. Will she confirm that, and tell us when the committee is likely to complete its review? As aerial spraying is an important subject and a potentially damaging form of pesticide spraying we should like a separate report on it to consider the aspects of safety and dislocation for those living in the countryside, and to deal with the question of how to reduce that form of spraying to minimum.
Amendment No. 34 deals with the improvement of application technique. It is important and calls for a system of integrated test management. We alluded to it in part when we talked about resistance to pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides of present strains of produce, which will apply in future. We are committed—the Minister was good enough to confirm this—to the use in agriculture of the minimum amount of pesticides, consistent with the effective use of that pesticide to control pests on crops.
We need the most efficient and accurate techniques possible, and well maintained equipment. Those two things do not necessarily automatically follow. Sometimes we have good designs which a few farmers, wanting to reduce their costs, use long after the repair and maintenance of such equipment has been neglected. We sometimes have inefficient systems, which are not as modern as they can be. The result is that there is unnecessary spraying of pesticides.
There are two general methods of spraying which would yield a lower pesticide use—ultra-low volume or controlled droplet application. We examined these two methods in detail earlier, but I refer the Minister to an article in Farmers Weekly of 20 June about low volume spraying. The article claims that low volume spraying minimises the check to the crops that spraying inevitably gives them. It is calculated that the use of ultra-low volume spraying or controlled droplet application is equivalent to a 25 per cent. reduction in the use of the active ingredient in pesticides.
In a report from a conference which appeared in Big Farm Weekly an ADAS representative who is an entomologist said that one third of all insecticide sprays applied to cereals were a waste of money. That must give the farmer and outselves a great deal of food for thought. The representative described revenge spraying. That occurs when the cosmetic damage to the crops leads farmers to want to get rid of the pests merely for the sake of the crops' appearance rather than to improve the quality of the crop.
The Opposition call for an integrated pest control system. Apart from the techniques that we adopt in the spraying of pesticides, there are a number of other steps which would and should be taken, such as crop rotation, the timing of planting, soil management, the use of pest and disease resistant crop varieties and, most importantly, biological controls, which are a growing source of pest control.
Biological control, as a preventive measure, has been discussed in Committee and its most interesting use at present is in the glasshouse cultivation of salad crops. Dr. Payne, and others, have been responsible for developments in that sector. In Farmers Weekly of 14 June there is an article about Doctor Lynch of the Glasshouse Crops Research Institute. He has pioneered techniques which include straw breakdown. The active microbes released through that process will form a pest control. That new development shows the importance of soil surveys in identifying where a turning-in of straw would provide maximum benefit and could be done safely and to the benefit of the soil. I commend to the Minister early-day motion 575 that I have tabled on that subject. It would be to the country's and the farmers' advantage to study it. It will be at least four years before those developments are commercially applicable and viable.
The hon. Gentleman knows that the turning back of straw can create bacteria and soil-borne diseases which are detrimental to the crop. In some cases, a form of chemical application may be necessary to cure those very bugs—if I may use that term—which are engendered by keeping the straw rather than destroying it by burning.
Yes, I understand that, but that is the value of Dr. Lynch's research. It is important. The soil survey would be able to advise whether it would be beneficial to turn straw back or whether it would present the risks of which the hon. Gentleman speaks, in which case one would not expect it to be done.
There is likely to be a spin-off from the work of Dr. Payne and Dr. Lynch within the fairly near future not just for glasshouse crops but for outdoor crops. Farmers Weekly of 7 June talks about microbial techniques and the fact that Microbial Resources Ltd. has pioneered five pesticides based upon the biological method of control. We are talking about the many possibilities that there will be in the future for growing crops.
More importantly, there has been general unease about the use of pesticides on stored crops. That is a facet of the problem that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. The use of pesticides on stored crops can be a problem unless they are severely controlled. The use of insect hormones, which is being pioneered instead of pesticides, would provide a safer way of preserving the quality of stored crops.
In the research programme there are exciting possibilities for the biological rather than chemical control of pests. We are asking for an overall strategy, which combines healthy crops with the lowest possible input of chemical pesticides.
Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 call for the Government to study the results of the control of pesticides after the first year of the Act's operation and to return to Parliament with a report so that we can continue the debate which the Bill has stimulated and which has revealed a degree of unease about the use of chemical pesticides that the House ignores at its peril.
The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John), in his usual charming way, has put forward two reasonably attractive amendments. He will, perhaps, forgive me if I concentrate on amendment No. 33. However, when he spoke about amendment No. 34 he expressed the hope of many within the industry that improved methods will be used and he is correct to point out that more research will need more funds. I believe that my hon. Friend the Minister will take note, and that every encouragement will be given to any such projects so that we might one day be able to move to biological rather than chemical answers to some of our problems for the majority of the time. I am sympathetic to what the hon. Gentleman said about amendment No. 34.
One is tempted to go over some of the ground that was extensively debated in Committee in relation to the proposals contained in amendment No. 33. I shall, however, try to confine my comments to the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I am not entirely attracted to that amendment because an instruction to the industry to reduce aerial spraying is creeping in. He correctly pointed out that with modern techniques and methods the need for aerial spraying is not as important as it was, but the "necessity" — I use his word — exists. It has been relevant over the past few days and weeks.
It does not need someone who knows much about agriculture to understand that ground conditions are now such that in many parts of the country the ground application of pesticides would be impossible. Judging by the conditions in the part of the world where I live, and on my farm, that will probably be impossible until we harvest the crop some time in August.
The House must not underestimate the tremendous boost and bonus that aerial spraying has brought to crops. Our food production system is efficient and good and we are able to enjoy remarkable cereal crops partly because aerial spraying is available and has been used sensibly by the industry in the last few years.
I do not want the message to go from the House to the industry that we are intent on reducing aerial spraying so that one day a Government, of whatever colour, might consider legislating to ban it. That would be a sad day. I was pleased with the Opposition's stance in Committee when they said that they would never go down that road. I hope that if they ever become the Government—God forbid—they will remain of that opinion.
I shall deal with some of the arguments by the hon. Member for Pontypridd. He talked about public anxiety. He is right to say that a low-flying aircraft can be frightening, particularly if notice has not been given. However, Opposition Members and some of my hon. Friends agree that scare stories are often put about. Many allegations are unfounded, but just because the number of prosecutions is small does not mean that instances have not occurred.
I was disturbed when the hon. Member for Pontypridd implied that he did not believe the figures. All allegations are investigated thoroughly. The public easily become anxious and there is talk of scaremongering. The reports from the public are no more than allegations. They are always investigated and are often unfounded. However, I acknowledge the anxiety about aerial spraying. It is a dangerous occupation, not only for the pilot but for people on the ground.
The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) seems to be trying to minimise the dangers and value of reported incidents. Is he saying that the report by the Friends of the Earth is irrelevant? Is he saying that most of the allegations are empty and do not reflect what happens? Does he understand that only with difficulty can a private citizen successfully secure a prosecution? Will he address himself to that problem?
Of course I have seen the report. I do not minimise the dangers or the allegations. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) will have seen the figures put out by the British Agrochemicals Association and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which show that a large number of allegations are found to be unjustified after investigation. That is not to say that members of the public are not expressing an anxiety that anyone would express after seeing a low-flying aircraft near or over his house. Anyone would be anxious about what would happen if he came in the path of the spray. I am saying that not every allegation is found to be justified after investigation.
Accuracy is important. The industry is concerned about it, if only because of the cost of the chemicals. It would be foolish for any farmer or grower to spray a crop in a strong wind—this cannot be done under the code of conduct — because he would probably spray his neighbour's crop instead of his own. The code of conduct lays down strict rules so that no spraying can take place when the wind is above a certain speed. Some drift could occur, but the 200 ft recommendation solves the problem of spray drift, which the hon. Member for Pontypridd over-emphasised.
The hon. Member argued for more effective communication. Most hon. Members would support him in that, as would most people in the industry. The debates on the Floor of the House today and in Committee will have informed the trade that the public needs to be told what is happening. The trade has already responded. It fully realises that the public must be told where spraying is to take place and that it has a duty to people who live in the area. The point has been well taken.
In general, we must be careful not to discourage the aerial spraying industry, which is engaged in an expensive and necessary operation. It is necessary, not only for the large areas of cereal crops in the East Anglia region which I represent but, as the hon. Member said, in the Highlands and overseas. If we lost the technique of aerial spraying and the ability to spray, food production would suffer. The message must go from the House that aerial spraying should continue under the strictest control and with cognisance of the public's anxiety. I do not think that it is the duty of any Government to give instructions to the industry. It will sort itself out in its own way. The market should take its own course. If aerial spraying proves to be an impossible operation for farmers because of its expense or practicalities it will go away. I believe that aerial spraying will be with us for a long time and that it will be of great benefit to agriculture and the community.
I have great sympathy with the two amendments. A reduction in serial spraying is necessary. First, it is necessary to assist conservation. A reduction in aerial spraying will improve our efforts to conserve wild life. Secondly, a reduction in aerial spraying would be welcomed by the public, which regards it as a nuisance. Many people have suffered from it. Thirdly, a reduction in aerial spraying will not be detrimental to farming. We have the techniques to ensure that we can, regardless of the weather, put pesticides on to the crops at the right time.
We must accept that aerial spraying inevitably leads to drift. However skilled the operator, it is almost impossible to avoid some drift in any conditions. It is almost impossible to avoid the spray drifting over hedgerows and into neighbouring areas. There is a clear need for greater controls because the damage that aerial spraying does under any conditions cannot be denied.
There are fewer arguments for aerial spraying than there used to be. We discussed in Committee new developments such as low-pressure tyres which can travel over heavy clay lands, even when they are wet. The tramline system enables a vehicle to go even into an oilseed rape crop. As a farmer growing oilseed rape a few years ago, I had to use aerial spraying at certain times of the year. Those days are gone because we have developed other techniques and machines which can spray crops from the ground. We do not now have the technical need for aerial spraying. Now that we have advanced, aerial spraying should be used only in exceptional circumstances. I doubt whether the Civil Aviation Authority has the right methods to control area spraying. Perhaps in a year's time, under the review, we should look for a system of licences to be issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for those exceptional cases where aerial spraying will take place because other techniques do not exist.
I welcome amendment No. 34. Without any doubt the great increase in the use of chemicals in the countryside has led to increasing damage to the wildlife and to the conservation of our natural heritage. We must put far greater emphasis on the use of techniques and sprays that will minimise this damage.
My hon. Friend the Minister gave a helpful answer during Question Time the other day that explained how the Government are attempting to explore techniques for the better application of sprays. I welcome that but I think we must go further. It is essential that the sprays we use are far more specific. They should attack the problem and should not affect other insects and weeds that are harmless. We need equipment that is more accurate and ensures that the sprays affect only the area that needs spraying and do not drift and vaporise.
I welcome the fact that the amendment advocates integrated pest management. A good example of such management is the research being undertaken by the Game Conservancy. Under this research 6 m is left round the hedgerows which is unsprayed either by pesticides or herbicides. This has had a beneficial effect on the numbers of insects which survive as well as butterflies and hence on birdlife. Indeed it has had a beneficial effect on the whole of wildlife. The evidence shows that yields have not been affected if the system is managed well. This is a good example of integrated pest management without any loss of agricultural production. I ask the Minister to support the scheme and to consider other ways in which we can seek a balance between agriculture and conservation. To achieve this it would be necessary to publish from time to time our findings and our strategy. It is one thing to have vague aspirations but quite another to set down what we have accomplished, what our intentions are and how we are to achieve the goal of a balance between agriculture and conservation.
I hope that the Minister will look with sympathy on these two amendments. I cannot see how they will harm agricultural production and within them are the seeds of benefit.
This is the more controversial part of the Bill, and we spent some time in Committee discussing these matters. It is the part of the Bill on which the public's expectations of Parliament are highest.
We are grateful to Friends of the Earth for its work to identify cases that have been reported to the authorities and those cases that were not. Even as late as today a Mrs. Simmonds contacted Friends of the Earth from Henfield in Sussex because of her concern over aerial spraying which took place this morning in her area. Also today a Mrs. Judy Holder from Totnes, Devon, contacted Friends of the Earth because a helicopter was spraying right over her farmhouse. Friends of the Earth has given me a copy of a letter from Mrs. Slade of Romney Marsh in Kent. She wrote:
Only last Thursday I was working in the fields when a spray plane suddenly appeared and proceeded to spray the adjacent fields. Luckily the wind was blowing away from me and when I went home it was spraying the fields around our house. The plane was turning right overhead. I was not informed that spraying would take place. I don't know what they were using, there was no smell whatsoever.
The point is that the public do not know what is happening and they are frightened. They are looking to Parliament to deal with this matter. The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) was speaking to the House as though there was no problem.
It is a great problem. I have a copy of the early-day motion which I tabled last year along with two of my hon. Friends and other hon. Members. I believe that about 50 to 60 Conservative Members, along with almost the whole of the Labour Party and a few alliance Members, signed the motion. Two hundred and thirty four Members signed the motion calling for
an effective ban on the aerial spraying of certain arable crops and additionally of specified products and progress towards the introduction of a more effective means of pesticide application: further urges the Government to adopt such a programme as a matter of urgency.
Two hundred and thirty four Members expressed concern about aerial spraying. The Minister should recognise the concern of those who signed the early-day motion and ensure that adequate safeguards are provided in the regulations that are to be published in due course.
Friends of the Earth has produced other information. It appears that in April a farmer sprayed the corner of a Mr. Martin Potter's garden with what the farmer described as a "deadly poison bug killer". That is the statement that was made by a constituent of an hon. Member. I accept that he might have exaggerated what took place, but that is what he said. The fact is that that individual did not know what was happening, and that is what the argument is all about. People do not know what they are being sprayed with because they are given inadequate information.
A Mrs. Betty Clarke of Birchington near Thanet contacted Friends of the Earth in April. She explained that she and a neighbour had suffered seven days of wheezing, swollen glands and bleary eyes as a result of crop spray. I accept that the cause may not have been crop spray, but it may have been. Many people—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) wishes to intervene, I shall be glad to let him do so. Many people find it difficult to establish what has happened. They see an aeroplane and watch it spraying within the vicinity. Afterwards, they are taken ill and they assume that there is a connection between aerial spraying and their illness. If there is a connection, it is often too late to establish it.
The parliamentary private secretary' to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland), knows that I have a letter from one of his constituents in which a complaint is made about a spraying incident in his constituency. It is only parliamentary protocol and good manners that prevent me from reading the letter to the House. The hon. Gentleman's constituent states in her letter that she made representations to her Member of Parliament and describes the action that was taken as a result of the representations.
The public are extremely concerned and they look to Parliament to take action. I have a series of letters—I shall not recite them all — which refer to spraying incidents, and it is clear that Parliament is expected to respond to the public's anxiety. Environmental groups such as the Soil Association and Friends of the Earth want a ban to be imposed on aerial spraying of farmland. They say that continued aerial spraying should be permissible only by a special permit for bracken control and forestry purposes.
Although aerial spraying involves only about 2 per cent. of British pesticide application, it has led to an extremely large number of pollution incidents. Much of the problem is due to spray drift. Some incidents are due to the failure of pilots to observe adequate precautions.
In Britain, aerial spraying is controlled by the Civil Aviation Authority under the Department of Transport, so it is distanced from the Ministry and the Department of the Environment. This division of responsibilities may go some way to explaining the problems over the control of aerial spraying in the past.
During the process of listening to the groups that came to us to refer not only to aerial spraying but to other aspects of pesticide legislation, I was told repeatedly that division of responsibility between the Departments was creating confusion, and my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) commented at length on this in Committee. Division of responsibility has created difficulties in pesticide control.
The National Society for Clean Air is concerned that the notification procedure that should be followed under CAA control has been widely ignored, and I have referred to cases illustrating that point, Mr. Chairman.
Having spent so much time on the Standing Committee of the Finance Bill, I have become used to referring to the person in the Chair as Mr. Chairman. I apologise.
The notification procedure has been widely ignored and, as a result, local residents, schools, beekeepers, hospitals and market gardeners have been unable to take precautionary measures against spray drift.
Pesticides sprayed from the air include a number that are sufficiently toxic to be covered by the 1972 poisons rules or the Health and Safety Executive's poisonous substances regulations requiring special clothing for operators, such as rubber gauntlets and respirators, as the pesticides have such a high acute toxicity. As the pre-notification system has failed in so many instances, it is possible for incidents to occur in which people are sprayed directly by a poisonous substance. They are not wearing rubber gauntlets, respirators or special clothing. They simply do not know what will happen and they have to put up with the results of this abuse.
There is considerable feeling both inside and outside Parliament that the Government do not go far enough in controlling the use of aircraft for the release of pesticides. The public needs to be assured that Ministers have the power to regulate or stop the more distressing features of aerial spraying. The Royal Commission on environmental pollution has called for stricter controls on aerial spraying and the British Crop Protection Council has recommended that it be used in only a few cases.
The amount of spraying could be more effectively controlled if the number of sprays that could be used from the air were reduced. Insecticides applied from the air could be drastically reduced in number because of the increasing success of integrated pest management schemes which utilise only minimal ground application of insecticides in the control of many insect pests.
Research could also be undertaken into the conservation of spray released into the air. There is a need for more rational consideration of the insect target in relation to droplet size and formulation, a point to which the hon. Member for Luton, North referred and on which we agree. Target behaviour is largely unknown and needs to be studied because of the large payoff in spray effectiveness. There is also an urgent need for a scientific analysis of the behaviour of smaller spray droplets to take advantage of their large potential for reducing pollution and costs and providing an understanding and control of drift.
As it stands, the Bill does not give the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food new powers over aerial spray. The ambiguity about whether pesticide regulations cover aircraft, the confusion over this Bill, the large number of spraying incidents connected with this type of spray and the widespread concern that the CAA does not exercise sufficient disciplinary control together provide a strong case for clarifying the extent of, and necessity for, aerial spraying.
I welcome these amendments, which are both interesting and well worth consideration. Amendment No. 34 is a good amendment. We are all anxious to see farming problems controlled without the excessive use of pesticide. I shall speak to amendment No. 33, which concerns aerial spraying. The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) served a useful purpose in promoting this matter for debate. There are grounds for concern, and it is no use saying that there are not. Some people have behaved badly and affected many people in rural areas, villages, hamlets and isolated houses by their lack of respect for whatever code of practice may exist.
We discussed a similar amendment in Committee and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said that the CAA, which controls the performance of aerial spraying, had established much tighter controls and that the regulations would be made available to the House. I hope that my hon. Friend will follow this up. I recognise the need for aerial spraying most of the time, and particularly in weather like this. Nevertheless, the practice badly lacks some good public relations. All neighbours must be informed before aerial spraying takes place. Spraying should be not less than 100 yd from the outside boundary of the area that is being sprayed. Spray should not go within 200 yd of villages and hamlets, as they do in my constituency. However careful one is, and however still the day, there is always a risk of some spray drift affecting a neighbour's property.
I welcome these amendments. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary can give some idea of the acreage that is sprayed every year. I reinforce my belief that while we need aerial spraying, there must be a strict code of conduct. People who have not complied with the code of practice are bringing all the aerial spraying industry into disrespect. Therefore, I support the amendments.
I also support the amendments. It is unnecessary to elaborate the concern rightly expressed by the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) and others. The Bill gives us an opportunity to put down a marker saying that, rather than allow uncontrolled expansion of this practice, we shall change direction. I welcome the fact that the Government have accepted that. However, we need also to make sure that progress in that direction is continued.
I read the Committee debates on the subject. My view has always been that certain areas such as those quoted by the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) need aerial spraying. The hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) had an exchange about marginal hill land in Wales. I know that in areas of Snowdonia and the Brecons one cannot gain access to the hillside to spray by other methods. However, for reasons that have been clearly advanced we should be moving towards the principle that aerial spraying is the exception rather than the rule.
Amendment No. 33 is a simple and straightforward amendment to ensure that there is a process of monitoring movement in that direction. It is a well tried and tested device used by the House to make sure that Ministries are responsible to us and report back on the progress that is made. Only if one sets a direction can one, over time, cause production and agricultural machinery and techniques to be adapted to move in that direction. That is why the amendment is important. We do not want the Bill to set a signal that is not followed on by consistent review to ensure that spraying is reduced rather than increased and that the methods and efficiency and accuracy of spraying is improved.
Did the hon. Gentleman or any of his colleagues in the alliance sign the early-day motion in the name of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) calling for an effective ban on aerial spraying?
My recollection is that several alliance Members did sign it, because we are seeking to reduce the amount of aerial spraying. Some of them signed it, but not all. I think that the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) was saying that there is great pressure, as exemplified by the signatures on that motion, from within the House and from people who have written to most hon. Members here and in the other place for a move in this direction.
I am sorry to say it, but it was with great difficulty that I secured the support of some of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends and that some members of the alliance did not support the motion.
I cannot enter into a discussion of the reluctance or lack of it to sign the motion. All I know is that during discussions at an early stage between at least one of my colleagues, myself and the hon. Member for Workington, there was an agreement to support that move from the beginning. I know that there was full co-operation from one of my hon. Friends, who is not here today, but who liaises with me on a regular basis. Therefore, in that respect there was enthusiasm and co-operation as opposed to reluctance.
People from different backgrounds and with different jobs will have different views. My hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North, who served on the Committee, is a farmer and has seen the need for and practised aerial spraying on difficult farming terrain. I have not said that spraying should not take place, and my support for the amendment is on the basis that it signals a move to reduce and curtail, except when necessary, aerial spraying for all the reasons that have been advanced.
It is important that the House should know whether the alliance supports, as is said in the early-day motion:
an effective ban on … aerial spraying".
The impression given by the alliance spokesman in Committee was that, for the reason the hon. Gentleman has put forward, spraying should be available to the hilllands and lowlands of Wales. The hon. Gentleman's answer to that point could be of particular relevance to a certain by-election that is taking place in a few days.
The answer has no more relevance to the by-election in Brecon and Radnor than to any other part of the country where aerial spraying is carried out. Since 1967 the Liberal party has sought effective controls on spraying, and it has regularly passed motions to that effect at its assemblies. The motion to which there were signatories from the alliance called for effective control of spraying. It did not say there should be no control; rather that such control should be better. There will be exceptions, and those were canvassed in Committee.
The early-day motion seeks effective control of aerial spraying. That is a view that my hon. Friends unanimously support. It does not mean that aerial spraying should be discontinued if it is impossible to spray by other means. The geography of Britain would make that a ludicrous position, and we have not adopted it.
The other amendment states that there should be a review so that we can ensure that there is integrated pest management. We have seen failures as a result of contradictory methods of pest management in the past. I do not blame the Department for that, or those who have used those different methods. The amendment requires that we look at the application of pesticides.
My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) has similar concerns about other amendments. This is a continuing process. We are continuing to improve the mechanism and are learning by experience.
The only way of ensuring that a Department does what the amendment requests is to make sure that a review is presented to Parliament in the same way as Royal Commissions present their reports through Ministers to Parliament. In that way we can ensure progress along the line that the Bill intends. That will ensure that intention becomes reality.
I hope that the Minister will reassure us that what is sought by both amendments, supported by Members on both sides of the House, will be responded to positively by the Government. I hope that the Government will report back to the House so that we have the information on which to evaluate the effectiveness of this legislation.
As the Bill has proceeded through Parliament, a great deal of time has been spent discussing aerial spraying — in the other place, during Second Reading, in Committee and again this evening. On the whole, our discussions have been expressive of the concern that we all feel—that this area of pesticide use should be properly regulated. As a result, I feel that we have made progress in our considerations of this issue and I am grateful to all who have contributed.
Let me sum up the Government's position. We are very aware of the irritation and, indeed, distress that can be caused by spray drift from aerial applications. We are sensitive to the concerns and fears of those who live in rural areas and who feel themselves to be at risk from what can be, when it occurs, a gross nuisance. However, there is another side to the coin, and we should not forget it.
The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) made it clear that he is not talking about a ban on aerial spraying, and my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) has put the case for aerial spraying. Many aerial spraying contractors in this country are very aware of their responsibilities to the community and take great care to spray safely. What we have to do, as legislators, is to find a balance—to achieve a situation in which the aerial application of pesticides may continue to be used as an important tool of agriculture and forestry, but without endangering people or the environment.
In earlier debates I have described the ways in which the CAA's control last autumn has been tightened up in respect of distances from houses and roads and the threat of prosecution if operators do not distribute proper notification that aerial sparying is to take place. In response to points put to me in Committee, I have already asked the Advisory Committee on Pesticides to review the list of chemicals cleared for application from the air, and as a result of the concerns expressed in Committee, we have initiated a review of departmental responsibilities in controlling aerial spraying. We expect that in the autumn, because the results of that review will influence our proposals for implementing regulations later this year.
I have also explained that we see the controls provided by this legislation complementing those exerted by the CAA. In particular, it will become a criminal offence to spray from the air any chemical that does not appear on the permitted list. I recognise that some may argue that still further controls may be necessary. I respect their point of view, and to them I say that this Bill provides ample powers for Ministers, by regulations, to place any additional controls on aerial spraying that may, from time to time, be considered necessary. Precisely what controls may be necessary will be discussed in detail in our consultations on the regulations, and we will welcome the views and advice of all those with an interest in the aerial application of pesticides. As we shall be returning to Parliament with our draft regulations within the time envisaged by this amendment, I cannot see the need for a specific requirement to report on this in 12 months' time. I therefore ask the House to reject the amendment, which is unnecessary, given that we shall come before the House within the time specified.
The hon. Lady misunderstands the anxiety on both sides of the House. Regulations will be legalistic. They will reveal the Government's thinking, but not the state of knowledge that has led to that thinking. We would be happier if she could give an undertaking that she will make available the latest results of the CAA investigations into aerial spraying incidents. With respect, it is not sufficient to say that the regulations will take the place of the information and discussion that we want.
I tried to reassure the hon. Gentleman that the draft regulations, which will come before the House within the time during which he would like a report, will give an indication, being the result of consultations, of the review of departmental responsibilities and of any views expressed to us about the aerial application of pesticides. I was asked for information about the tightening up process of the CAA. I will see that a copy of it is placed in the Library.
Amendment No. 34 does not take enough account of the work that the Government already support and finance on techniques of pesticide application and integrated pest management. Furthermore, it implies that the Government's other actions—such as this legislation—have nothing to do with our declared policy of reducing pesticide use to the minimum, consistent with efficient food production.
With the Agriculture and Food Research Council, ADAs has been in the forefront of the development of integrated pest control in the United Kingdom. Programmes based on parasites, predators, selective pesticides and fungal pathogens have been developed to control the major pests of cucumbers and tomatoes, and these techniques are being used on 70 per cent. of cucumbers and 40 per cent. of tomatoes.
We have also developed a supervised control programme for apples, involving close monitoring of the crop and selective, rather than calendar, spraying. Other integrated control programmes are available for the control of potato cyst menatode, the major pest of potatoes. The PSPS has already cleared a number of biological pesticides and an insect virus. Our work at the Boxworth experimental farm to investigate the effects on the flora and fauna of pesticides used on cereals includes an area of cereals under an integrated control system for evaluation. Currently, we have 31 separate commissions with AFRC for integrated control research.
In collaboration with the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering, my Department is investigating the design of field sprayers and the control of spray rates, an issue which particularly concerns my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle). Work is going on to identify the physical factors which affect the formation, transport and deposition of spray droplets and to quantify how these factors affect spray deposit and spray drift.
Information from the analytical and laboratory studies of the design and development of field spraying equipment is made available to engineers for the design of equipment. My Department publishes an annual report on our research and development work which is available from the Stationery Office.
As I said at the beginning of my reply, the legislation in part III of the Bill is a major part of our strategy to ensure pesticide usage consistent with efficient food production.
I have not read the whole list, but it is clear that innumerable complaints are received daily by Friends of the Earth. In view of that, will the Minister give an undertaking that when the regulations are introduced, she will, in effect, be setting up a regime on aerial spraying of pesticides which will effectively end what is happening now? That would give some assurance to hundreds of thousands of people who live in rural areas of Britain and who are looking to the Minister for reassurances to relieve them of their concerns about the future.
I reiterate that we are concerned about some aerial spraying and that we believe that it should be regulated. I said that the regulations would come before the House in 12 months' time. For that reason, I said, the amendment was not necessary.
We shall continue to give a high priority to the work that the Government are supporting into alternative and improved methods of pest control. I do not, therefore, see the need for a special report to Parliament on this aspect of pesticide policy, as the whole purpose of the Bill is to support our strategy to ensure pesticide usage consistent with efficient food production. I hope, therefore, that the amendment will be withdrawn.
I was disappointed with the Parliamentary Secretary's reply. While the House is anxious not to go over ground that was trodden in Committee, there are certain aspects that we must consider. For example, there is the question of regulations as against a report, for which the amendment calls.
I would describe regulations as legislative icebergs; they are what emerge into the public's gaze, not the totality of what occurs in their production. About five sixths of the consideration that goes into the framing of legislation never becomes known outside the conferences with advisers about which the Minister will know well.
On subjects of this nature, however, I should have thought that there was every virtue not only in making the regulations known — with their necessarily exact and spare use of English to make them legally enforceable—but for making known to the House, by means of an explanatory memorandum or by some other means, exactly what information impelled the Government to take the course of tabling regulations.
If the Minister would be prepared to do that, we would be reassured about the Government's intentions. I therefore ask the Parliamentary Secretary to accept amendment No. 34 on an integrated strategy for pest control. I have heard much about what is going on in specific projects, but nothing about an overall strategy, whereas we are asking for such a strategy.
Unless the Parliamentary Secretary can, by way of regulations in respect of the aerial spraying issue, reassure the public, their anxiety will not go away. The Government may avoid parliamentary bother—in that they will not have to produce an explanatory memorandum and explain why a hundred and one cases are not apposite or borne out by the facts—but in so doing they will be building up anxiety that many people feel about aerial spraying, either through incidents of which they are aware or of which neighbours have told them.
That anxiety will not disappear if the Government avoid dealing with it now. Thus, when the regulations are being published, I urge the Minister to publish at the same time an explanatory memorandum setting out an analysis of the incidents that have occurred and her conclusions on them.
I beg to move amendment No. 35, in page 17, line 38, leave out from 'of' to 'or' in line 41 and insert
'controlling pesticides in the United Kingdom'.
During our examination in Committee of clause 15(11) the Opposition expressed concern that its present wording may not enable us to collect the information that we need to determine whether an approval should be reviewed, revoked or suspended. I agreed to consider this and, as a result, have decided that this amendment would be appropriate. Although short, it leaves no doubt that the power to require information may be exercised at all stages of pesticide supply and use controlled by part III, so that Ministers can exercise those controls properly. It therefore ensures that the Minister can have both information to approve and information to revoke or suspend pesticides, as the Opposition requested.
I welcome the amendment. We are looking at words that effectively limit the provision to controlling pesticides in the United Kingdom. Page 18 of the Bill refers to complying with international obligations. Do we consider at this stage our obligation with respect to the export of pesticides, which may not be governed simply by our international obligations? I know that these are matters of convention. We are making certain provisions with respect to information from manufacturers and users of pesticides in the United Kingdom. Are we referring also to information that will be available when we export pesticides?
This is one of the underlying issues of the debate. We are ensuring that we do not include within pesticides for export properties that are undesirable, unacceptable or dangerous and which we would not allow to be used here. Will it be possible to deal with that issue in this clause, or will it be dealt with elsewhere?