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.