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 Dr David Clark Dr David Clark Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 3:46 pm, 26th June 1985

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.