[Valerie Vaz in the Chair] — Neonicotinoids on Crops

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:43 pm on 7th December 2015.

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Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland Office) 5:43 pm, 7th December 2015

I am sure the Minister will answer that question when he sums up. Today’s debate has proved that many Members are interested in bees, and we want to work in a cross-party way. I am glad to see that the APPG has been set up, and I will be joining it.

Like the hon. Member for Bath, I am not an expert on bees, but we all wish to learn about this issue. As Danny Kinahan said, the issue is about education—educating ourselves and young people in schools. We have heard throughout the debate that the moratorium should stay in place. Farms and farmers need more information from Government. One question raised was about the best time to spray crops, which can perhaps be answered.

This is an international and European Union issue. We need a varied response from the UK Government. We need to look at the scientific research and do more research. We heard that we need an open, transparent, evidence-based approach and that we must interrogate the evidence in turn. It is clear that lots of MPs have attended this debate because of the amount of lobbying they have received.

Tristram Hunt made the point that this issue is not just rural but urban as well. We need to look at environmental resilience and climate change—the bigger picture—and at the length of time that pesticides are exposed in the air and around crops. There are alternatives, but the issue is all about evidence and building an evidence base. We heard that 20 species of bees have already been lost because of habitat change and climate change, so we need to look at that. As I mentioned, in Scotland we have a ban in place, and we have to keep that. It is too soon for a decision, but we need to take a science-based approach. The situation is still confusing and a few people are saying that the UK Government are still not listening on this complex issue.

One of the best interventions we heard was from Neil Carmichael, who said that bees were the gift that keeps on giving to parliamentarians. It is also important to keep the stewardship schemes in place in rural areas. We may need to pollinate crops if we lose bees.

Rebecca Pow said that we cannot take risks and looked back to the ’80s and the effects of sheep dip on human health. There are issues to do with people’s health, so we need to be very careful. We heard from her that bees spend longer foraging, but are not as effective, and how that has impacted on apple trees. Interestingly, she said that bees’ memories were being affected and asked whether neonicotinoids were why. Again, it all comes back to us wanting to produce food in a healthy fashion and to take an evidence-based approach.

My hon. Friend Drew Hendry mentioned that he had had a hive in his bedroom, which was very interesting to hear. Perhaps he could get involved in the APPG in Parliament as well. The hon. Member for South Antrim mentioned that we need to look at the joint Irish approach. He said that we should not take risks and that we should take decisions once we know enough. He added that we should all learn together and work together to find out more.

I would like a couple of questions to be answered. Will the UK Government undertake to adopt the same sensible, cautious, evidence-based approach shown by the Scottish Government? Will the Minister also address some of the concerns raised, such as the suggested link between pesticides and depression? Everybody has contributed fully to the debate today. It has been great. All constituents and the people who have signed the petition will see that we are taking their concerns forward.