Control of Pesticides etc.

Part of Orders of the Day — Food and Environment Protection Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 26th June 1985.

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Photo of Mrs Peggy Fenner Mrs Peggy Fenner , Medway 5:45 pm, 26th June 1985

As the Bill has proceeded through Parliament, a great deal of time has been spent discussing aerial spraying — in the other place, during Second Reading, in Committee and again this evening. On the whole, our discussions have been expressive of the concern that we all feel—that this area of pesticide use should be properly regulated. As a result, I feel that we have made progress in our considerations of this issue and I am grateful to all who have contributed.

Let me sum up the Government's position. We are very aware of the irritation and, indeed, distress that can be caused by spray drift from aerial applications. We are sensitive to the concerns and fears of those who live in rural areas and who feel themselves to be at risk from what can be, when it occurs, a gross nuisance. However, there is another side to the coin, and we should not forget it.

The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) made it clear that he is not talking about a ban on aerial spraying, and my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) has put the case for aerial spraying. Many aerial spraying contractors in this country are very aware of their responsibilities to the community and take great care to spray safely. What we have to do, as legislators, is to find a balance—to achieve a situation in which the aerial application of pesticides may continue to be used as an important tool of agriculture and forestry, but without endangering people or the environment.

In earlier debates I have described the ways in which the CAA's control last autumn has been tightened up in respect of distances from houses and roads and the threat of prosecution if operators do not distribute proper notification that aerial sparying is to take place. In response to points put to me in Committee, I have already asked the Advisory Committee on Pesticides to review the list of chemicals cleared for application from the air, and as a result of the concerns expressed in Committee, we have initiated a review of departmental responsibilities in controlling aerial spraying. We expect that in the autumn, because the results of that review will influence our proposals for implementing regulations later this year.

I have also explained that we see the controls provided by this legislation complementing those exerted by the CAA. In particular, it will become a criminal offence to spray from the air any chemical that does not appear on the permitted list. I recognise that some may argue that still further controls may be necessary. I respect their point of view, and to them I say that this Bill provides ample powers for Ministers, by regulations, to place any additional controls on aerial spraying that may, from time to time, be considered necessary. Precisely what controls may be necessary will be discussed in detail in our consultations on the regulations, and we will welcome the views and advice of all those with an interest in the aerial application of pesticides. As we shall be returning to Parliament with our draft regulations within the time envisaged by this amendment, I cannot see the need for a specific requirement to report on this in 12 months' time. I therefore ask the House to reject the amendment, which is unnecessary, given that we shall come before the House within the time specified.