Pesticides

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th July 1989.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Peter Thurnham Mr Peter Thurnham , Bolton North East 12:00 am, 27th July 1989

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps the Government are taking to ensure the safety of pesticides used in agriculture.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Under legislation introduced by this Government pesticides are banned for use unless approved on the basis of independent scientific advice. Once approved they may be used only as specified in their approval.

Photo of Mr Peter Thurnham Mr Peter Thurnham , Bolton North East

First, I welcome my hon. Friend to his new office. Will he begin his new responsibilities by ordering a review of the way in which pesticides are approved—both new and older products, some of which may be taken for granted—so that the public may have full confidence in the approval system, knowing that the best scientific evidence is used?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

My hon. Friend will be aware that it is only three years since we introduced the new statutory arrangements, which are among the best in the world for approving pesticides. We have a continual review system, and if there is any problem, the pesticides concerned are called in for review. The independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides is recognised as offering the best scientific advice in the world.

Photo of Mr Patrick Duffy Mr Patrick Duffy , Sheffield, Attercliffe

Is the Minister aware that I have made several representations to the Ministry over the past year or so on behalf of people in Sheffield and in South Yorkshire generally, who are worried about a possible linkage between their water supplies—25 per cent. of which are drawn from the Derwent—and the use of pesticides, as well as nitrates, on the Vale of York? Their anxieties have heightened during the summer. Will the Minister comment?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I shall certainly look into the hon. Gentleman's point. Responsibility for the quality of the water supply rests with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. However, I shall be delighted to consider the matter to establish whether there is any agricultural involvement—in which case I may be able to assist the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

Is my hon. Friend aware that in Scotland, where raspberries are grown substantially to serve the needs of Europe, the Government have shown great understanding in their handling of the dinoseb problem? The costs involved have been phased over a year, and the Government are also giving grubbing-out assistance, so that fresh varieties other than Glen Clova can be planted. All that shows how sensibly the Government tackled the problems.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. We are delighted to assist, where we can, by ensuring that the safest possible use is made of pesticides while at the same time not damaging or destroying the agricultural industry, which has the prime responsibility for ensuring that the nation has good, safe and wholesome food at a reasonable price.

Photo of Dr David Clark Dr David Clark Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

On behalf of the Opposition, I welcome and congratulate the new Ministers and I hope that they have a rewarding time at the Dispatch Box. We shall make sure that they work hard at making certain that the British public is protected.

Concern has been expressed by right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House about the review of old pesticides. Some pesticides are as much as 40 years old, yet it may be another 10 years before they are reviewed. Is the Minister aware that no new and, one would hope, safe pesticides have been approved under the new scheme because of a lack of resources? Will he examine the problem to ensure that public health and the environment are better protected than they are at present?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I thank the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) for their kind words.

I am, of course, aware of concern that pesticides are not being reviewed quickly enough, but I do not accept its validity. I have no evidence to suggest that the Department is being tardy in its attitude to the review. We are considering the matter of resources and recruiting scientists to continue the work of the review. If the hon. Gentleman is worried about any pesticides, and if he draws his concern to our attention, we shall pull the pesticides concerned forward for instant review. Pesticides are reviewed under an ongoing programme, and we are determined to ensure that there is no tardiness.