UK Bee Population

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:50 pm on 14th November 2017.

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Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Conservative, Hornchurch and Upminster 4:50 pm, 14th November 2017

Absolutely. I cannot claim to be a bee expert, but I know that my dad often gets very concerned about the winter months, and I agree with what he says.

Beekeepers feel that part of the answer when it comes to varroa mite is to have as many people keeping bees as possible, rather than treating bees with varroa-control chemicals and then allowing natural selection to produce varroa-resistant bees. We therefore need the next generation to become beekeepers, and to try to promote bees to young people. However, that can be wrapped up in bureaucracy, such as beekeepers who want to go and talk to schools requiring Criminal Records Bureau checks. What plans do the Government have to help education in schools, and is sufficient research being funded into the effects and control of varroa mite?

Secondly, as we know, the next big threat is the use of pesticides, and I reinforce colleagues’ comments that there is no united opinion on the damage being done by these pesticides. Some beekeepers see existing scientific research as inconclusive and fear that, if these pesticides are banned, farmers may go back to using more harmful spraying chemicals. I should therefore be grateful if the Minister expanded on the Government’s current view on whether better research is required into the potential unintended consequences of the ban. Finally, the Asian hornet has been found in the UK and our Government have launched a destruction policy. Does the Minister believe that that policy is working and is properly funded?

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham for raising this important subject, which is central to the proper functioning of any future environmental policy. I am really excited by the energy and vivacity of the ministerial team and its desire to set out such a positive and ambitious post-Brexit environmental agenda. If we are to ensure that there is depth and credibility to that agenda, bee health must surely lie at its heart.