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 John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North 3:46 pm, 26th June 1985

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.

5.30 pm

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.