Amendment 52

Part of Environment Bill - Report (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 13th September 2021.

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Photo of Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:45 pm, 13th September 2021

My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 53 in my name and shall speak to Amendments 52 and 123. All the amendments deal with different poisons that should be banned, or at least controlled. I thank the Bill team for its time and useful briefing on Friday. We have debated at length the impact of pesticides on both the population and pollinating insects during the Agriculture Bill and in Committee on this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, spoke passionately, as always—as did others—about the impact of pesticides on humans unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity of spraying. That is a serious matter, and I hope that the Minister will have concessions to offer the noble Lord and other signatories to that amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, gave the excellent example of the promotion of DDT. There should not be another example similar to that witnessed with the use of organophosphate sheep dips, when it took a huge campaign on the part of those affected before the substance was banned. Pesticides have detrimental effects on humans, and the Government should acknowledge that.

I now turn to Amendment 53, relating to the effect of pesticide use on pollinators, particularly bees. I am grateful to Buglife for its briefings. I am sure the Minister will refer the House to the integrated pest management strategy, which covers some of the ground. However, this does not provide the safeguards needed. The widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides resulted in a reduction in the overwintering success of honey bee hives, significant declines of 40% in wild bee species studied and was implicated in butterfly population decline. This resulted in reduced pollination services and crop yields. However, despite the acknowledgement by the then Minister in 2010 that the pre-approval tests for pesticides were inadequate to protect pollinators, and the production in 2013 of a testing guide document by the European Food Safety Authority, the UK has yet to introduce any new tests to help ensure that future pesticides are pollinator-safe. In order to comply, an independent, competent authority is needed, as detailed in proposed new subsections (1) to (4) of Amendment 53.

I acknowledge the national action plan on pesticides and its aim to reduce the need for chemical pesticides, but it does not mean that they will be phased out. The Future Farming scheme will help with transition to a non-pesticide control, but this is yet to have effect.

The public are passionate about bees. One needs only to see the many products on sale with the symbol of bees and their honeycombs to acknowledge just how popular they are. Those can range from miracle face creams through to cushions and scarves, from socks through to high-fashion items, kitchen utensils and even furniture. There is also the huge popularity of honey—a truly natural product. The bee is popular, and the public wish it to be protected and wish to be consulted on anything which might have an impact on pollinators. This amendment ensures that that could happen.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has referred to a 30% to 40% reduction in crop yield if PPPs are not used, but if crops are not pollinated because of the decline in pollinators, there is likely to be a similar loss in yield.

With reference to proposed new subsection (9), the devolved Administrations have a significant role here, and the Minister should consult them. Authorisation of use includes derogation. As a nation, we must strive to avoid a similar circumstance to where a Minister, overriding the advice of his officials, authorises the use of glyphosate-based herbicides, which can cause high levels of mortality in bumblebees. This came to public attention only due to an FoI. The public need to have confidence that the Government will do the right thing.

Different groups of pollinators are affected by pesticides in different ways, so it is important that a range of pollinators is included in the pre-approval testing process. This amendment would ensure that tests are undertaken on acute and chronic effects on honey bees, bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hover-flies, but also that independent science relevant to any pollinator is considered.

I regret to say that, despite the assurance of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that everything is tested, on Friday, officials said that it was impossible to test everything. The various mixtures of chemicals—the so-called cocktails—are unlikely all to be tested. There may be a shift to less toxic mixtures, but insufficient research on their effect has so far been done, and it is important to protect honey bees and wild pollinators.

Turning briefly to Amendment 123, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, who spoke passionately about it, phasing out the use of lead ammunition has been slow. In Committee, we heard powerful evidence of the effect of lead poisoning on the health of both children and adults. No matter how careful you are in the preparation of game for the table, lead shot often escapes notice and is unwittingly eaten. I was very interested in the example given by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, of lead shot in millet. The noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, spoke from vast experience of shooting. Alternatives to lead shot are available. I fully support the transition away from lead to safer alternatives. This amendment, if added to the Bill, would ensure that that would happen sooner rather than later. I look forward to the Minister’s response to those three very important amendments.