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 Kenneth Carlisle Mr Kenneth Carlisle , Lincoln 3:46 pm, 26th June 1985

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.