Part of Orders of the Day — Food and Environment Protection Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 7:02 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) 7:02 pm, 26th June 1985

I join the Minister in welcoming the Bill in principle. It is much improved on the Bill that entered the other place many months ago. It spent a long time in Committee, but I do not think that anyone who served on that Committee would deny that it was anything but workmanlike. We graciously acknowledge that the Government were prepared to accept a number of points argued by the Opposition. In a sense, the Bill marks the end of an era. Parliament has recognised the feeling in the country that something should be done about pesticides, and we commend the Government's approach.

The whole basis of the Bill, especially part III, will be the regulations. We appreciate the Minister's offer that Members of Parliament and others will be consulted about the regulations. As they cannot be amended, it is vital that there is maximum consultation with interested parties. It is by the regulations that the Government's intent will be judged.

A number of markers about the regulations should be put down immediately. The first arises out of the Minister's television appearance on 11 June. I hope that when the Bill is implemented the EEC will confirm that the regulations about residues will be adhered to. We understand that to be the Government's position and hope that that will be enacted in the Bill.

We are especially concerned about 2,4,5-T. I do not want to labour the point, but I hope that the Minister will take the Egan incident into account. That case was reported in the Daily Mirror on 13 June and, tragically, involved the termination of a pregnancy. In the mind of the gynaecologist, that was linked with 2,4,5-T.

Thirdly, the regulations must take into account the pesticides and chemicals that are regarded as not suitable for use, but are nevertheless sold. I am especially thinking of DDT. We must acknowledge the point made by hon. Members on both sides of the House that the Friends of the Earth has done a great deal of work in that respect. It has brought out examples which, perhaps, have surprised bureaucracy and surprised us, but we are all the better for knowing about them. I hope that the Government will give an assurance that, under the regulations, it will be illegal to sell pesticides that have been withdrawn.

I wish to mention also Dieldrin and heron deaths in the river Avon area. We are receiving a great deal of information that pesticides that have been withdrawn are still being sold. We expect the Government to take steps to prevent that. Therefore, we await the regulations with a great deal of interest.

We do not wish to disagree to any great extent with the Minister about part II, but my reading of the Royal Commission report is considerably different from hers. Part II replaces the Dumping at Sea Act 1974. It tightens the licensing system. We hope and look for Government action on that aspect.

It may be right that, overall, atmospheric and river pollution adds greatly to the pollution within the oceans, but it is in localities and where the concentrations are greatest that the greatest damage is caused. I sent a document to the Minister's hon. Friend earlier this week which has been compiled by the fishermen of Cullercoats and South Shields. It shows that the dumping that takes place between five and 12 miles off the river Tyne has reduced the catches of fishermen in my constituency by 90 per cent. in 15 years. It is their view that that is due to the fact that chemicals are dumped from Teesport off the river Tyne, and we cannot accept that. I give that merely as an example of the Government action that we expect under Part II to deal with concentrations of dumping.

We hope that we have converted the Government and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on environmental matters. It is a pity that we could not convert them several weeks ago when we were discussing the Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Bill. We very much welcome the Government's efforts on Halvergate marshes. I wonder whether they will give us the same commitment with Swaveney fens, which are about to be drained with the help of almost £500,000 of Government grant. Many of us do not regard it as satisfactory only to protect small isolated parts of the countryside. We are not happy with having only isolated SSSIs. We want to keep the living rural environment, not just a sterile cereal area. I would welcome a Government statement on that—if not today, in the near future.

However, I do not wish to end my speech on that note because we have debated a constructive and worthwhile Bill. The key factor is the regulations, and we shall be watching the Government's actions on them with great interest. In principle, we welcome the Bill.