HL Deb 22 July 1977 vol 386 cc612-4

11.9 a.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government under what conditions aerial crop spraying is authorised, what are the restrictions against dangers and whether they can now explain why, on 14th July, children in their playground at Branston, near Lincoln, were endangered first by a low flying aeroplane and secondly by toxic spray.


My Lords, aerial crop-spraying is authorised by permissions issued by the Civil Aviation Authority under the Air Navigation Order. Operators are required to conduct their activities in accordance with requirements published by the Authority. Only chemicals cleared for aerial application under the Pesticides Safety Precautions Scheme may be used. The incident involving school children at Branston on 13th July is being investigated by the police. As these inquiries may disclose an offence, the House will not expect me to say more about that incident at this stage.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend most sincerely for that helpful, clear Answer, and I have no desire whatever to exaggerate the incident. Will he consider checking on the materials used in the spraying, particularly where, as in this case, it is carried out by a private contractor?


My Lords, certainly the chemicals are closely supervised, as my original Answer indicated. They are cleared under the Pesticides Safety Precautions Scheme, and these chemicals are constantly given the attention of the experts.


My Lords, can the Minister say how many children were harmed in this incident?


My Lords, I saw a report in the Press that 50 children, though not harmed, were taken to hospital for precautionary examination, but the facts have not yet been established; this is the point of the police inquiry. So I should not wish to be categorical about any of the facts.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say Whether the operators of these spraying flights are required to notify people in the area that they intend to carry out aerial spraying, so that people can take precautions if they wish to do so?


Yes, my Lords; there is a requirement that, wherever practicable, prior warning should be given to those people living in the immediate vicinity of the area to be sprayed. Moreover, the local police should also be informed.