HC Deb 02 May 1962 vol 658 cc1006-7
15. Sir Richard Glyn

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has studied the Second Report of the Joint Committee of the British Trust for Ornithology and other bodies, a copy of which has been sent to him, on the widespread effect, both direct and indirect, of the use of poisonous seed dressings, including their effect on reproduction; if he is satisfied that their use can have no harmful effects upon the human population; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Soames

My Department is studying this Report and intends to discuss it with the wild life societies concerned. The advice of the Medical Research Council is that the use of these seed dressings presents no hazard to human health.

Sir Richard Glyn

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is still considerable public concern about this? Will he ensure that the public, particularly members of county agricultural committees and their officers, know where dead carcasses of birds and beasts should be sent for analysis so that the full extent of this threat can be established?

Mr. Soames

Yes, Sir. That has been done. The area of investigation has been very much wider this year than last and the results so far, with the voluntary ban which was imposed last year, are satisfactory.

Mr. Lipton

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether or not this activity is harmful to human beings? Is he aware that these dressings are having a deplorable effect on bird and insect life in the countryside, possibly altering the balance of nature in due course? How long are these studies to continue?

Mr. Soames

It was because it was appreciated last year what effect this was having on bird life that this voluntary ban was imposed. It appears on the evidence so far available that the voluntary ban has been satisfactory, although it is too early to make an accurate estimate.

Sir G. Nicholson

Is my right hon. Friend really satisfied that what he calls this "voluntary ban"—which is, of course, a contradiction in terms—is likely to be effective? Has not the Ministry been a little slow on the uptake on this? Is it not perfectly clear that these major poisonous chemicals should be forbidden not by a voluntary ban, which is impossible, but by a ban?

Mr. Soames

These chemicals are of great value in certain circumstances. It has been shown that their use in the autumn has done little harm to wild life and that the advantage to agriculture and food production has been considerable. It was in the spring that damage was done to wild life, and an agreement was reached—which carried with it the agreement of the wild life societies concerned and the like—that these should not be used in the spring but that they could be used in the autumn.