Control of Pesticides etc.

Part of Orders of the Day — Food and Environment Protection Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 3:46 pm on 26th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Brynmor John Mr Brynmor John , Pontypridd 3:46 pm, 26th June 1985

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.