Amendment 52

Part of Environment Bill - Report (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 13th September 2021.

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Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Labour 6:00 pm, 13th September 2021

My Lords, I have to tell the Minister that I am deeply disappointed by that reply. He started out well by indicating that there is an historical problem that we need to tackle, but he then defended the current system as being adequate. He took almost the same line as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. I ask both of them: if the present system is pretty much adequate, how come a number of cases of serious inducement of disease are still turning up in our GPs’ surgeries and our hospitals—and, in relation to pollinators, why are whole populations of bees and other pollinators in serious decline? If the present system worked, at least broadly speaking, we would not see these phenomena.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, says that we will wipe out large parts of food production if we do this, but that is not the case. We are saying that we should protect the areas where people live and are vulnerable, and we propose that regulations should be introduced to do that. We were fobbed off during the passage of the then Agriculture Bill in a number of different ways, such as being told to put things in the Environment Bill instead or that it would be in the national action programme. There is hardly a word in that programme, as currently drafted, about the vulnerability of residents and other populations.

I feel sorry for the Minister in many respects, because I happen to know that, in a previous life, he strongly supported strengthening regulations regarding the exposure of rural populations, and indeed the effect on pollinators. I find it odd that, having recognised the problem and doing so again now, he is not prepared to respond to the appeals from the Front Benches of the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party to say something new or give a bigger commitment. At the beginning of his response, I sort of expected that we would at least get something. We got nothing. I regret that.

The Minister is in an impossible position, but he must accept that he needs to do something immediately to consider new regulations in this area, because it is palpably obvious that the present regulations are not working. To go back to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who suggested that the spraying of pesticides does not occur during the day or close to where children are, we recently saw a film about pesticides being produced perhaps 10 yards away from where children were playing. The system is not working; the Minister has to recognise that. He can look at what the precise details of the regulations should be, but he should accept the principle in my amendment now.

With regret, I am going to test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 52, Noes 174.