HL Deb 11 December 1984 vol 458 cc203-65

House again in Committee on Clause 15.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 75:

Page 14, line 14, at end insert— (" ( ) In contemplating any regulations made under this section for the approval of pesticides, the Ministers shall have regard to the desirability of maximizing—

  1. (a) the scope for users of pesticides to improve the cost-effectiveness, timeliness, and flexibility of pest control operations; and
  2. (b) the scope for the development and adoption of new technologies, including pesticide application techniques, together with integrated pest management.")

The noble Lord said: This amendment is an attempt to ensure that the Bill will take a positive, progressive attitude to both new technology and new pesticides instead of being like Nanny and continually saying; "No". The first half of the amendment would ensure that the Minister through, I suppose, ACP—or maybe Lord John-Mackie's quango, suggested in his Amendment No. 120—would encourage new pesticides and formulations by stating on the label the range of the timing, the application methods and what I call the "wetters" that should be applied.

I am particularly worried about tank mixes. The problem here is that company 'A' will be inclined to recommend tank mixing only for their own product when it may be perfectly possible, or even better, to tank mix products belonging to company 'B'. This amendment would make it necessary for the Minister to state on the label "cross company" tank mixes. Perhaps I could give an example of the problem. The wetter, Frigate, which is produced by Farm Protection, mixed with Round-up, which is produced by Monsanto, cuts down the Round-up rate very, very considerably, Frankly, I cannot see Monsanto recommending such a tank mix. Yet it is to the farmers' benefit, and indeed to the benefit of environmentalists.

On the other side of the story I have to say—and this is what I put to my noble friend Lord Belstead—that there is a danger sometimes of some wetters making a perfectly harmless pesticide somewhat dangerous to those who handle the product when it is mixed. Under this amendment the label could also state whether chemical 'A' is more efficacious than chemical 'B'. I see an important role here for my noble friend in asking ADAS, NIAE, and indeed NIAB, about this particular problem.

The second half of the amendment will have a similar influence on the application devices—sprayers. We have discussed CDA and electrostatic sprayers and the problem of this Bill stifling further advances in more efficient application. I believe that at present there are only 20 products that are approved for CDA use although the farmer may at his own risk use other products. But after the passing of this Bill he would be breaking the law in so doing. I am asking who will buy a new-type sprayer—and I just cite CDA as an example—when he can only use 20 products? If that were to happen it would stifle innovation. I hope that this amendment will certainly help. It certainly allows me to raise the problem with my noble friend. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

Let me reassure my noble friend that the Government are conscious of the need of users to have as much flexibility as possible in their application of pesticides and our intention is that they should retain that flexibility. We are taking powers to control the use of pesticides and we shall impose conditions on use which are essential for the safety of users, other people, creatures and the environment. Our Statement of Intention at paragraph 11 gives an indication of our ideas on this.

There will be a general requirement on users to act safely. At the moment our ideas on what is safe use are conveyed through the labels on the pesticide products. If I may say so, my noble friend made an important point when he pointed out that so few products at the moment are said to be suitable for controlled droplet application. It would be fair for me to say on behalf of the Government that labels at the moment very often place too many restrictions and it is necessary to try to see that there are wider ways of application of products so that we may push the boundaries of technology forwards in order to improve safety and, indeed, to improve the operations of the farmer.

Over a transitional period we shall be reviewing labels to ensure that unnecessary restrictions are removed. We shall also be giving guidance on safe use through advisory booklets and codes of practice, on which of course we shall consult the industry. We hope that we can deal with new application techniques in this way.

Coming to another very important aspect of this amendment, we are also considering how to ensure that pesticides which are approved for only major crops can be approved for minor crops also. There are several options as to how this could be done and when we feel that we have hit on the right one we shall certainly be consulting the industry about it, and we shall certainly be receptive to any suggestions made to us.

The noble Lord asked me a direct question about mixing on the farm. From the outset of this legislation farmers will be required to act safely and they could be prosecuted for a blatantly dangerous mix. They must, therefore, act with care in their interests and in those of everyone else. Over time we shall evolve codes of practice and other illustrative material which will supplement product labels and express more clearly the established view of what is and what is not safe.

I welcome the objectives of my noble friend in this amendment. I hope that he will not mind my saying that I think that the terms of the amendment really are a bit too specific to be binding over the long term for legislation of this sort. Moreover, there are one or two expressions in the amendment which are probably not suitable for legislation. I would like in spirit to accept all that is said in the amendment, but I must confess that I would prefer not to write it into the Bill.

Lord Melchett

With a view to speeding matters up and as both noble Lords have touched on the availability of pesticides for minor crops, I should like to say a few words about my Amendment No. 108A, and then I shall not need to delay the Committee when we reach it in the Marshalled List.

Amendment No. 108A:

After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:

Testing of pesticides.

(". Ministers or the Advisory Committee on Pesticides may, for the purposes of determining whether to approve any pesticide, request such tests to be carried out by or on behalf of any person seeking such approval as appear necessary to ensure sufficient pesticides are available for use on minor crops.")

I listened to what the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said about the availability of pesticides for minor crops. I just want to put to him—and this is what Amendment No. 108A seeks to achieve—that the only sensible way in which to ensure that sufficient pesticides are available for minor crops will be to insist that the manufacturers do the necessary testing when they apply for clearance. I would not expect the noble Lord to give an answer to that point tonight. He has said that he will look at the best way in which to ensure the availability of pesticides. For myself, I cannot see any alternative other than to require manufacturers to submit the necessary test data as decided on by the advisory committee or by Ministers. I hope that the noble Lord will take that on board when looking at this point and I shall not then move Amendment No. 108A when we reach it.

Lord Belstead

I do take that point on board. This is a most important aspect of the Bill and one which, in the interests of horticulture, we must take with the very greatest seriousness. I should like to look carefully at what the noble Lord has said as well as at what my noble friend has been saying on this particular amendment.

Lord Northbourne

It seems that we are also dealing with Amendment No. 76, and it may perhaps be convenient to take that amendment now.

Amendment No. 76: Page 14, line 14, at end insert— (" ( ) In contemplating any regulations made under this section for the approval of pesticides, the Ministers shall have regard to the desirability of

  1. (a) maximising the range of crops and pests for which pesticides are approved; and
  2. (b) ensuring that approval is extended without delay to substantially similar uses.")

Minor crops divide themselves into two categories. There is the category of minor crops which has a great similarity to an existing crop which has approval. To give an example, we grow green broccoli or calabrese. I believe that certain chemicals have not been approved for those vegetables, though the same chemicals have been approved for brussels sprouts and ordinary cauliflower. In that case it would seem that something similar to the rapid approval scheme, which is being used for imported chemicals, might be appropriate. There are other crops which are perhaps more recherché which have no equivalents in the major crop approval list, and those are the cases where perhaps the manufacturers might have to be required to go to the expense of making special provision.

Lord Monk Bretton

Both Amendments Nos. 75 and 76 deal with a very difficult subject. I support in principle my noble friend Lord Stanley's amendment, Amendment No. 75, and Amendment No. 76 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. My noble friend the Minister has also expressed an excellent earnest of good intention about the whole matter. There is anxiety among many people that possibly something more might be included in the Bill to try to define matters a little further, which is a difficult thing to do. The fear is that the users will be too rigidly tied to equally rigid instructions on the can and, the wish is that instructions should be more in the nature of statements setting out limits within which pesticides may be used in order to keep flexibility. Again, that is easier said than done.

So long as safety is not placed at risk, farmers should be given the maximum scope to improve cost-effectiveness, timeliness and flexibility; the manufacturer's instructions should feature as part of a statement setting out the limits within which a pesticide may be used, the label specifying the complete range of timing, application methods, tank mixes, proprietary adjuvants, etc. Without flexibility of this kind the very important innovative role played by farmers could be lost. The test required of manufacturers should be broadened to produce results which enable new technology or practices to be immediately assessed to ensure that labels take full account of new developments such as integrated pest management, which may reduce dependency on pesticides.

For instance, who will say that this or that spraying machine should or should not come on to the market; or, particularly, who will have the duty to give effect to the Minister's willingness to encourage new technology? I believe it is most important that someone should be specifically in charge of this. I wonder what proposals the Minister may have as to who this will be.

Lord Belstead

Perhaps I may answer the specific question which my noble friend has put to me. It is a fact that we have been assuring the industry that we are conscious of the need to make allowances for the continued development of pesticides which are to be used by farmers and growers on minor crops, and we are considering various ways of implementing that assurance. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, in an amendment (Amendment No. 108A) which he has very helpfully taken with this one, has put forward one option, which is compulsion. Another would be in some way to provide farmers and growers with direct access to the approval process; in other words, so that growers could make direct representations to those who are responsible for giving approval, perhaps through the good offices of ADAS. Those are two suggestions as to how one might go about this.

However, what is certain is that we must try to ensure what my noble friend Lord Stanley said in moving his amendment: we must try to do away with the restrictions on products for the good of farmers and growers and indeed use in general.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

Would the noble Lord the Minister make clear to me what he means by that? Does he mean that before a farmer can innovate anything it must be on the label and approved and tested by the company or the commercial concern that produced it? That seems to me to be sensible. However, if that is the case, it rather does away with innovation.

Lord Melchett

As the noble Lord the Minister referred to me, perhaps I may make this point. The difference between what the noble Lord said about farmers and growers themselves having access and what my amendment suggests, which is that manufacturers should be obliged to do it, is not so much the difference between a voluntary scheme and a compulsory scheme, but the difference between farmers and growers paying the costs of obtaining the clearance, and under my amendment the manufacturers paying the costs. Surely that is the distinction that we need to bear in mind.

Lord Belstead

It may be; I think that we must see how we go. There are certainly two options and the noble Lord has put them very clearly. My answer off-the-cuff to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, is that he has put his finger on the problem in the sense that, as my noble friend Lord Stanley said, there are products where there is a restriction where perhaps there does not need to be a restriction. The obvious example is that a particular product may be said to be suitable only for use by controlled droplet application but it could also be suitable for use by hydraulic process, or the other way round. Here we must try to see whether we cannot extend the freedom and remove the restrictions wherever possible.

Perhaps I may return to the point which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, made. As to how we do it is for further consideration. We have spoken about two options this evening. Perhaps the answers lie there; perhaps they lie elsewhere. I freely confess that the Government have not yet made up their mind; they are still listening. This is an important area.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I am very grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and also for the fact that we have dealt with two more amendments: Amendment No. 108A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and Amendment No. 76, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, dealing with minor crops. I was particularly pleased to hear my noble friend Lord Belstead saying that there might be a case for farmers making a direct approach, say, to ADAS to clear certain chemicals.

I have in mind one other small problem that perhaps my noble friend could take away. It concerns old chemicals which nobody is particularly interested in having re-approved. I fear that these may go out of production and they may still be very useful in minor crops; yet if the charge is too high—and perhaps this is the point that my noble friend would take away—and the amount used is very small, no one will bother to register these chemicals. Perhaps my noble friend would consider that point along with the others.

I was particularly pleased to have my noble friend's reaction to this amendment. It was very helpful. I like the idea of wider recommendations on labels. This will be most important. I liked his remark—and I hope that no one will shout at me—that the purpose will be to limit blatantly dangerous mixes. Of course we all agree on that. It is the innocent mix which we want to continue to make. I now understand why my noble friend is proceeding through regulations. He spoke about a continuing dialogue with the industry. The further I go through the Bill the more I understand why he is having to do this. He has been most helpful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 76 not moved.]

Lord Mackie of Benshie moved Amendment No. 77:

Page 14, line 15, leave out subsection (4) and insert— ("(4) Where it appears to Ministers that substances approved for application under section 15(1)(g) above may affect the health or safety of persons at work they may require that such applications be made only by or under the supervision of licensed operators after a preparatory period of five years.").

The noble Lord said: The Minister's remarks in reply to the last amendment illustrates the need for a great deal of training and for some form of licensing of the operator. Every tractor driver must have a licence to drive his tractor, and that is not nearly such a dangerous occupation as spraying. We should progress towards definite training courses and towards a system of licensing the operator within five years, or some such period.

It seems illogical to have the discussion we have had here today and to say that anyone, untrained and unlicensed, may apply these chemicals which we are taking such care to discuss and to legislate on. It must come. It is probably the most dangerous operation on the farm. We have all admitted the difficulties. It appears to me logical that ultimately—and not in the far future, but within a number of years—we should have a training and licensing course for people who are operating with these dangerous chemicals. I beg to move.

Lord John-Mackie

Our Amendment No. 88 is on very much the same lines as my noble kinsman's amendment.

Amendment No. 88: Page 14, line 27, at end insert— ("( ) After a period of 4 years from the passing of this Act all spraying on areas over 0.5 of a hectare must be done by an operator trained and in possession of a certificate of his competence. It will be the duty of the Minister to see that training facilities are available.").

We spell it out and say: After a period of 4 years from the passing of this Act all spraying on areas over 0.5 of a hectare must be done by an operator trained and in possession of a certificate of his competence. That is essential. Then we add: It will be the duty of the Minister to see that training facilities are available.

Spraying is probably the most skilled operation on the farm in many ways, as well as being a dangerous one if not done properly. I do not think that any farmer could object to sending his tractor driver, or drivers, to be properly trained, so that this operation, which is important to us all and requires great skill, should be carried out by someone with that skill and a certificate for it.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Airedale)

I should have reminded the Committee that if either this amendment or the next is agreed I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 79 or Amendment No. 80.

The Earl of Onslow

It is worth pointing out that tractor drivers do not have to have a licence to drive a tractor except when on the highway. I think there is an age limit on children not being allowed on tractors, but in fact one does not have to have a licence to drive perhaps a caterpillar tractor towing a six-wheel, six furrow plough accross Leicestershire, when one may just fall asleep at a hedgerow and just trundle, trundle on, as happened to an acquaintance of mine.

It is important that there should be a high level of skill in the operative. Perhaps only craftsmen on a craftsman's scale of pay should be allowed to use machinery such as this. This might cover it without the necessity of going into a separate licensing and training scheme. That is just an idea which I float.

Lord Melchett

As I understand it, there is such a licensing scheme and training of operators in the United States and Canada which works well. This was one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, which, while recognising the high standard of operator efficiency on farms in the United Kingdom, recommended that a training and licensing system should be introduced to ensure that those high standards continue. I would certainly support this amendment.

I understand from looking at the Notes on Clauses that there is already power in the Bill to introduce such a training requirement. I am not clear whether the powers in the Bill would allow the Government to introduce a training and licensing requirement so that an operator, as the amendment suggests, had to be licensed presumably by the Government or some body acting on their behalf. I am not clear from what has been said so far whether the Government intend to introduce such a requirement. I understand the power is there at least to require training. Is the power there to require licensing of operators as well as training, and do the Government intend to do this, clearly after consultation with all concerned?

Lord Northbourne

I support the suggestion that there should be training and some form of licensing, but I should like to draw attention to the fact that on the smaller farming unit this might produce almost intractable practical problems. If you have two or perhaps three tractor drivers on the farm and one of them is licensed but happens to fall ill, does this mean that you cannot spray anything on your farm until he gets better again? It may be that the solution is somewhere on the lines of a licensed manager, rather in the way that you have to have a manager for heavy transport of goods, rather than simply a licensed operator.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

We cover that by saying: or under the supervision of licensed operators".

Earl Ferrers

Just for fear that one may be in a minority of one, may I say that I hope my noble friend will not accept this amendment. It is reasonable to want a high degree of skill; it is reasonable that people should be trained. But when you have to license individual farm workers for doing special jobs of work, that is carrying bureaucracy and interference to a degree which would be unacceptable and impractical, not least for the reasons which the last speaker mentioned.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I would support my noble friend Lord Ferrers on this and add: what about the unfortunate small farmer who does not have time to do all these things? There are probably 100,000 people spraying each day. It could be a fair bureaucratic madness. Having said that, I go along with the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie: they certainly should be trained, but paper qualifications, I doubt.

Lord Belstead

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Ferrers and to the noble Lords, Lord Stanley and Lord Northbourne, for their words of caution about making training and licensing mandatory. Although the answer to Lord Melchett's question is that the power is in the Bill for licensing, in their reply to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, the Seventh Report, the Government said that we did not propose to introduce official licensing arrangements.

However, I join with all your Lordships in believing that training is important even though, again, we would not wish to make it mandatory. The Agricultural Training Board, which is of course considerably supported by Government funds, last year trained some 2,648 trainees attending 371 ATB courses covering a whole variety of aspects such as legislation, records, handling of pesticides, storage and disposal, protective clothing, pesticides appropriate to horticultural crops, and so on, and including the problems of drift. Your Lordships will know as well as I do that there is the requirement for craft certificates for spraying courses.

Having said that, may I make one plea on this amendment? For goodness sake do not lose subsection (4), which the amendment would strike out! It is helpful to have the requirement to consult the Health and Safety Commission on the Bill because of the closeness of the Commission's involvement in our present work and the major role of the Health and Safety Executive in the enforcement of Part III. I hope I have said enough to show that we are trying to pull in exactly the same direction as the noble Lords who have moved this amendment, even though I must admit I have not accepted it.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

The noble Lord has not even encouraged it. It is all very well to say that some 3,000 people have been trained to a degree, but there are many more farm workers and small farmers and large farmers who do not know nearly enough about the dangers of mixing, spraying, quantities, and everything else. As for the argument of the noble Earl that by all means let us train them but do not let us give them any certificates, I suppose he would like to go back in time and not even license commercial air pilots. If you followed the noble Earl's argument to its logical conclusion, you would not license anyone: you would simply say that if they are trained, that is all right.

In fact, a time must come quite soon when we have to license as well as train people. It is all very well to train them, but if the man is an absolute idiot does one say that because he has gone through the course and failed it completely he should then proceed to use these dangerous sprays? I think that the answer is not up to the usual standard of foresight of the Minister. Although I shall withdraw the amendment, I do not say that we will not bring it forward at a later stage.

9 p.m.

Lord John-Mackie

Before my noble kinsman withdraws this amendment, I should like to say that it seems quite ridiculous that all through this Bill there has run the thread of the great dangers of spraying; through every amendment that has been brought forward has been about the controls we must have and the dangers against which we have to do everything possible; but when it comes to the crunch, the man who has to put on that spray, oh no. You can train him if you like, but as my noble kinsman says he could be a complete idiot and fail the training; nevertheless, he may go home and work a spray. I do not think that the Government are being rational about this at all.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

If I may just take up a remark made by the noble Lord, it is not just the spray operator but the boss—he who tells the operator what to do. It is he who has to be trained, not the operator; the can falls on the farmer. If he is uneducated or poor he is poor, but not the operator.

Lord Collison

May I make one comment? It is a long time since I was chairman of the Agriculture Apprenticeship Council, and a long time since I had any close relationship with the Agricultural Training Board, but is this not the situation: if the Agricultural Training Board takes this as one of the items of training given to its candidates, they would receive a certificate at the end of the training indicating that they had been trained in this direction, would they not?

Lord Belstead

The certificate is, of course, for the craftsman's certificate. The noble Lord, Lord Collison, is correct. In addition to that there are the ATB courses. When I said that a number in excess of 2,600 had been trained last year, that is in one year. The training goes on year by year.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I am pleased to say that in about 40 years everyone will have been trained, but that might be a little too long. I still consider that the reply is rather unsatisfactory, but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment by leave withdrawn.

Lord John-Mackie moved Amendment No. 78:

Page 14, line 15, leave out subsection (4) and insert— (" (4) If any Regulations the Ministers contemplate making will, or are likely to, affect the health or safety of persons at work it shall be the duty of the Ministers to consult with and obtain the agreement of the Health and Safety Commission, the Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances Sub-Committee of the Health and Safety Executive and the Chemicals in Agriculture Sub-Committee of the Agriculture Industry Advisory Committee.").

The noble Lord said: I will not detain the Committee long on this amendment. It is simply an amendment to safeguard further the health and safety of people in relation to spray by extending the consultation and obtaining the agreement of the three bodies mentioned in the amendment. It is essential to obtain agreement. It is all very well to consult, but agreement should be obtained and the Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances Sub-Committee of the Health and Safety Executive and the Chemicals in Agriculture Sub-Committee should be consulted as well. I beg to move.

Lord Collison

I shall not detain your Lordships very long at this late hour, but I want to say a word about this amendment, which I strongly support. Perhaps I am the only one in your Lordships House who has worked as an agricultural worker, but it is certainly true that for many years I was general secretary of the National Union of Agricultural Workers—which is now the Agricultural and Allied Workers' National Trade Group of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

For many years the union has campaigned for a radical and far-reaching reappraisal of the current system to ensure the safety of those using pesticides and, in particular, of agricultural workers—especially necessary if one takes into account the huge increase in the numbers and the uses of pesticides, some involving, as we all know, toxic substances, both taken in through the skin and through breathing the air.

Your Lordships will agree that the union is a legitimate body to take up these issues in the interests of the health of agricultural workers. One of its major campaigns has been to get the use of the weedkiller 2.4.5-T banned. The Trades Union Congress overwhelmingly passed a resolution to that effect. It also called for the Health and Safety Commission to take over the responsibility of decisions on the safety and control of pesticides.

To date nothing has come of that, unfortunately, and nothing has been done about the use of 2.4.5-T, despite the evidence brought forward by the union and despite the fact, as I understand it, that its use has been banned in a number of other countries including Italy, Holland, the United States of America and Sweden.

The union contends and has brought to notice some evidence that 2.4.5-T has been known to cause cancer, birth deformities, liver damage and other ill effects. I should like to see what the amendment asks for, that is decisions taken under the umbrella of the Health and Safety Commission. Therefore, I strongly endorse the wording of the amendment which calls for, Ministers to consult with and obtain the agreement of the Health and Safety Commission"— and the other bodies mentioned in the amendment in making regulations. I believe and I hope that your Lordships will agree that the legitimate representatives of the interested groups should be consulted, and not least the Agricultural and Allied Trade Group of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

I promised not to take up your Lordships' time. I could make a long speech on this subject, but it is quite clear to us all, and I think accepted by us all, that health is a precious commodity and must not be jeopardised. Those involved in the use of these pesticides, the workers as well as the farmers and others, should have protection. In so far as these new regulations will give protection, I welcome them. For those brief reasons I fully support the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord John-Mackie.

The Earl of Onslow

It appears to me that not only the amendment but the clause itself has something rather odd about it: If it appears to the Ministers that any regulations which they contemplate making are likely to affect the health or safety of persons at work … ". This means to me that they will make a regulation which will make people sick or be unsafe. That is what it means to me in plain simple English. They should not be making regulations like that at all. Could my noble friend explain?

Lord Melchett

I have two amendments down on the same point—Amendments Nos. 79 and 80. Needless to say, my noble friend Lord John-Mackie and my noble friend Lady Nicol have a better amendment so I shall not be moving my two amendments when we get to them. I strongly support their amendment. The answer to the noble Earl is that if the Government were taking a much more stringent look at pesticides, for which some of us have been arguing throughout the course of this Bill so far, they may not need to make use of this. But they are going to be approving a number of things which will be very dangerous. They will be dangerous if people happen to be standing under an aeroplane which is spraying them and they will be dangerous for the operators.

There will be rules requiring the operators to wear rubber gloves, to wear overalls, to wear rubber boots, eye goggles, respirators, and so on. On our farms, as I am sure the noble Earl is well aware, we use a number of substances which are extremely dangerous and extremely toxic. That, unfortunately, will have to continue. I accept that at least some of that will have to continue although, I think that a good deal less needs to continue than the Government currently contemplate. But in those circumstances, they need to consult with those concerned about the health and safety of people at work. I believe that we still have large gaps in our knowledge about the effects of these sorts of substances on people who handle them frequently. There is the long-running campaign about 245T, the fact that it has actually been banned in a number of other developed countries, though not in this.

I accept that scientists of reasonable goodwill have looked at this question but they have come to different conclusions in different industrialised countries about the same chemical on the basis of very much the same—if not identical—data. We are therefore not dealing with certainties but with a great deal of uncertainty, uncertainty which affects people's future health, their children's health and the health of the general public. In those circumstances, the wider the consultation and the wider the measure of agreement about dangerous chemicals, the better. I hope for that reason that the Government will, at long last see fit to accept at least one amendment on this part of the Bill.

Lord Belstead

I do not think that there is any mystery about subsection (4) so far as the question asked by my noble friend Lord Onslow; that is, that if you are dealing with (as Lord Melchett says) products which are toxic, then under subsection (4) it will very frequently be the case that the Health and Safety Executive will need to be consulted. As that subsection is drafted in the way it is, there will be a duty therefore to consult the Health and Safety Commission. That would not prevent the Commission from itself consulting its own subcommittees or indeed anyone else.

Therefore, if I may say so, I do not see the need to list the other various bodies here. I would go further than that and point out that if these amendments were to be made they would give the Commission greater powers under this Bill than they enjoy under the Health and Safety at Work Act itself. Particularly in view of the fact that we have subsection (4) firmly in the Bill, I think that the balance so far as consulting the Health and Safety Commission is about right.

If your Lordships will forgive me, I shall not embark on 245T this evening although I have listened carefully to what the noble Lords, Lord Collison, and Lord Melchett, have said and even though I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Collison, on this because the Advisory Committee on Pesticides has looked on more than one occasion at 245T and has not reached the same conclusion as the union. Nonetheless, it is a pleasure to have the noble Lord taking part in our debates. The noble Lord's experience is probably greater than that of anybody else in the Committee. I wish that I was not speaking at variance with him on this particular amendment.

Lord John-Mackie

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 79 and 80 not moved.]

Lord John-Mackie moved Amendment No. 81:

Page 14, line 18, at end insert— ("( ) The regulations shall provide for the prohibition of non-agricultural uses of pesticide preparations formulated for use in agriculture.").

The noble Lord said: We have been approached by various people that pesticides, in the full use of the word, are rather too available to anybody who cares to use them. I must confess to doing something which this amendment would prevent me doing. The noble Earl in the middle of summer asked me if I knew how to get rid of couch in his garden. I went home and filled a bottle of Round-up, put a label on it and gave him a list of instructions. Then I realised that I had given him enough to do all the gardens in the town in which he lives. I am not sure that this amendment would apply to me but there is something to be said for some regulation that prevents anybody from buying pesticides without giving a good reason for it. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

One thing that has worried me far more than the use in agriculture, although our methods are improving, is the totally unrestricted use which may be made of pesticides in gardens all over the country. They are much more likely to be over-used there by people who get sore backs from weeding than they are in agriculture. I do not know the answer to how this is going to be controlled. Certainly, one can insist (and indeed there are regulations) that everything is labelled and all the dangers are pointed out. The Minister's thoughts on this will be extremely interesting and I have no doubt that his accumulated wisdom will provide an answer to what I regard as this highly dangerous situation of the unrestricted use in gardens.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Belstead

I make no secret of the fact that the Government take the point that both noble Lords have made so far as safety is concerned. This amendment clearly touches very closely upon the possible dangers of breaking down large packs of agricultural pesticides and putting them into containers or bags so that sometimes users have little idea as to how strong the pesticides are or even sometimes what they are and how they should be used. There is a difficulty—and I think that in a way the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, in moving the amendment, indicated it—in that sometimes there are genuine reasons why one wants to include the non-agricultural use of pesticide preparations. Perhaps I may go on from the noble Lord's particular situation to say that there are the institutional but non-domestic users of pesticides, like local authorities, transport undertakings and indeed forestry concerns and so on. They would be affected by this amendment. So, with respect, I do not think that the amendment, as drafted at the moment, really will do. If the noble Lord wishes to give further thought to the very important aspect of safety, perhaps we can return to it at another stage.

Lord John-Mackie

In view of the Minister's reply, I think we should return to it at the next stage of the Bill. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord John-Mackie moved Amendment No. 82:

Page 14, line 18., at end insert— ("( ) The Minister shall consult with the manufacturers of pesticides and the manufacturers of spray equipment on any aspect of the regulations that may affect them.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment says that, The Minister shall consult with the manufacturers of pesticides and the manufacturers of spray equipment on any aspect of the regulations that may affect them. We put down the amendment because the manufacturers of spray equipment make the very real point that you can have all the sprays you like, but if you do not have suitable machinery for putting it on, the sprays are not worth a lot. They were slightly miffed that they were not consulted during the consultations undertaken before this Bill was drafted. The main point I want to make is that the manfacturers of spray equipment must be consulted along with the manufacturers of the actual pesticides. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

If I may say so, if we have in any way slipped up with the manufacturers of spray equipment in particular, the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, has certainly made sure that we put that right by ensuring that the consultations which I keep saying we are going to hold—I thought it was for the second time round—will most certainly be held. I think, with respect, there is a difficulty about this amendment, because it is not just the manufacturers of spray equipment who are involved. There are many other people who we are genuinely consulting and if we were to include them, we would need an enormously long list. I except from that, of course, the Health and Safety Commission, which we have already been talking about. They are in an important position with regard to this Bill, both on grounds of safety and because the commission officers are going to be responsible for the enforcement powers in Part III. But, with that exception, if we then start to pick out particular private interests, we get into difficulties.

Lord John-Mackie

I thank the Minister for his reply and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 83:

Page 14, line 18, at end insert— ("( ) In any regulations that the Ministers contemplate making under subsection (1) above they shall ensure that, subject to their approval in each case, any person engaged in research and development relating to pesticides shall be exempt from any prohibitions on the import, sale, supply and use of pesticides so far as may be necessary for those purposes.").

The noble said: The wording of this amendment is, I think, fairly self-evident. It is obvious that research establishments would have some sort of exclusion under the Bill, and the purpose of this amendment is to make it clear that, subject to the approval of the Minister, others who are legitimately involved in creative research on pesticides and their application should also, through some formula, have similar exemption. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, for expanding this amendment and I assure him that, in drafting the Bill, we bore in mind the position of research workers. I believe that Clause 15(1)(a),(b) and (c) together already enable us to cover this issue. I believe it is fair to say that since Amendment No. 83 was tabled, we circulated our statement of intention on the regulations which explains, in paragraph 2(c), how we propose to deal with this factor.

In the first instance, it is our intention—subject to what your Lordships and another place have to say on this Bill—that persons testing substances for possible pesticide activity on their own premises will not be required to seek approval for those tests, provided the materials are handled by their own staff only. Secondly, it would be our intention that persons who have discovered a possible new pesticide or new uses for an old pesticide and who wish to try out their ideas on a larger scale will be required to seek approval for the use that they propose. Persons in those circumstances would normally be granted a trials permit which will specify how much of the pesticide they could use on how much land, and what safety precautions must be taken. Additional conditions—such as the burning of any plants treated with the material—would be imposed where appropriate.

This amendment has I hope provided an opportunity for the Government to lay out in rather more detail what it is that we intend here. I hope the Committee do not mind me saying what it is that we intend because at the same time of course we are endeavouring to listen to what is being said to us.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

Before the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, replies, if my noble friend Lord Belstead is referring to paragraph 2(c) of the intended regulations—which I believe he was to some extent—then, from what he has just said, it seems to me that that regulation will be too narrow. Perhaps my noble friend will reconsider that particular part of the regulations to see if it should not be made a little wider.

Lord Northbourne

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for his assurances and, subject to the point which the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, has just made, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Earl Cathcart)

In calling Amendment No. 84, I should advise your Lordships that if it is agreed I cannot call Amendment No. 85 or 86.

Lord John-Mackie had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 84:

Page 14, leave out lines 19 to 21 and insert— (" (5) Either the Ministers, the Accepting Departments or persons or organisations having an interest in or involvement with pesticides may require to be made available information by importers, exporters, many acturers, distributors or users—").

The noble Lord said: I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, wished to deal with Amendments Nos. 84, 86, 105 and 112 together. However, before I received the Minister's note, we on this side had decided not to move Amendment No. 84 because we were happy with the amendment of my noble kinsman and the noble Baroness, Lady Robson; that is, Amendment No. 86.

[Amendment No. 84 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 85 not moved.]

Lord Mackie of Benshie moved Amendment No. 86:

Page 14, line 19, leave out ("provision") and insert ("publication").

The noble Lord said: We regard this as being an important amendment because subsection (5) is very important in itself. Quite simply, we do not see why only Ministers should require the provision of information. We believe that such information should be widely available to responsible and irresponsible bodies if they want to check on the safety of any product.

There seems to be no reason for restricting that information, outside a commercial reason. Yet surely all these processes must be protected by patent. They take a long time to formulate; the tests go on for years. They are mostly protected, I would have thought, and at any rate a firm in opposition can, once a successful product comes on to the market, discover by analysis and other means exactly how it is formulated. I therefore see no objection to publication of the information required.

I see no reason why other bodies should not be able to check on the safety of products as well as official bodies. It surely must be right that we have freedom of information in a matter that vitally affects everyone in this country. Far more information is available in the United States on tests and formulations. In fact, information can be obtained in the United States which is restricted in this country. I look forward with great interest to hearing the Minister's reply as to why the word "provision" should not be left out and the word "publication" inserted. I beg to move.

Lord Melchett

I believe it is the intention to take my Amendment No. 105 with this amendment, according to the note which the noble Lord the Minister sent round. If so, I am happy to agree and it might be for the convenience of your Lordships if I speak to it now.

Amendment No. 105: After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:

("Disclosure of pesticide test data.

.—(1) Ministers shall disclose on request, any data and information supplied for the purposes of securing or retaining approval of a pesticide, where—

  1. (i) it concerns the objectives, methodology, results, or significance of any test, experiment or survey conducted for the purposes of determining the efficacy of any pesticide or the effects of any pesticide or of any ingredient, impurity or product of the degradation of any pesticide, upon health, flora or fauna or the environment, including information relating to the persistence, metabolism and fate of the pesticide in the environment; and
  2. (ii) it is supplied to a department or authority for the purpose of obtaining or retaining any safety clearance or registration, required by or under any enactment or otherwise, permitting the sale or use of any pesticide, or for the purpose of obtaining or retaining any official approval or certification of efficacy given by a department or authority, whether or not required by or under any enactment or otherwise.

(2) Any department or authority responsible for the granting of any clearance, registration, approval or certification referred to in subsection (1)(ii) above shall not grant any such clearance, registration, approval or certification based on information of the kind described in subsection (1)(ii) above, unless—

  1. (i) the information is the product of tests or experiments conducted by or on behalf of or at the expense of the person making the application; or
  2. (ii) the person making the application has obtained the consent to use the information of the person by or on whose behalf or at whose expense such tests or experiments were conducted; or
  3. (iii) the information has previously been made publicly available without restrictions of any kind, other than information supplied as described in subsection (1)(ii) above and disclosed under the provisions of this Act.").

With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, I think that my Amendment No. 105, while aimed at exactly the same objective, makes a serious attempt to safeguard the information which would be of commercial importance to manufacturers. Amendment No. 105 does that in subsection (2), which makes clear that anyone who attempts to pirate information which has been disclosed under the provisions of subsection (1) would not be able to use it to gain any commercial advantage; in other words, such information, if it was gleaned by a competitor, could not be submitted to the authorities to gain clearance for a rival product.

That is an important point because it should be stressed—and the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, said this himself—that all of those who support greater access to information on this subject accept the need for commercial interests to be safeguarded. I do not think any of us want to see those interests damaged. Certainly no farmers do, because all that that would be likely to do is put up the cost of pesticides or dry up the provision of new products, many of which promise to be safer and of more benefit to the environment than are existing pesticides.

The purpose of my amendment in particular is to allow for the controlled disclosure of the data submitted by manufacturers to the Government in order to obtain approval for their pesticide product. It would have the effect of providing the public and independent scientists outside the Government machinery with the information they require to form a view about the safety and efficacy of a pesticide. It would place a duty on the Government to disclose such information on request. However, as I have said, it would safeguard genuine commercial interests.

I accept, as the statement of intention from the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, says, that there are powers in the Bill as it stands, described in paragraphs 4 and 14 of the statement of intention, to make available to the public information obtained by them. The Government say that the degree of disclosure would be a matter for consultation with all the interests involved. It is fair to say that that has been the story of the Bill so far, but this is too important a matter to be left to those outside Parliament. Disclosure of information to the public about dangerous and toxic substances is not, with respect to the noble Lord, something which can be left to consultations with the industry, agricultural interests, environmentalists, and so on, outside Parliament. It is surely a matter of such public concern and importance that Parliament should be allowed to make a decision on it, and the degree of disclosure. Indeed, the threat to commercial interests is such that Parliament should be given an opportunity to ensure that those are safeguarded on the face of the Bill.

The need for statutory provision seems to be two-fold. First of all—the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and I had a brief exchange on this, and the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, supported what I had to say—many pesticides are extremely dangerous and toxic, and will continue to be so. Many substances are subject to considerable public controversy, and 245T has already been mentioned in that respect. Many of the substances are a subject of disagreement between different national governments; for example, between West Germany and ourselves, and between ourselves and the United States. Different decisions are taken about the same substances, about the good sense of using them in the environment and about the likely effects on the health of human beings today and in generations to come.

9.30 p.m.

In those circumstances it seems to me vital that as much information as possible is made available to the public so that they can make a decision. It is, after all, an extremely closed system. Manufacturers submit data to a small group of scientists, albeit independent of the Ministry but serviced by Ministry officials, who then make decisions on these matters.

The second argument in favour of such a proposal as I have suggested in Amendment No. 105 is that a good deal of that information is slowly but surely becoming available from the United States, because there there is such a provision. So far as I know, it mirrors more or less exactly what I am putting in Amendment No. 105. It is possible for interested individuals or organisations in this country to apply to the United States and to obtain that data, some of it on chemicals which are used in this country and some of it, indeed, data which have been used to gain clearance of chemicals used in this ountry. In those circumstances it seems to me to be vital for Parliament to say that that should happen here, and on what basis it should happen. That is what Amendment No. 105 would do. I hope that an amendment along those lines will prove acceptable to the Government.

Earl Peel

I should very much like to support what the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has just said. In doing so, I am technically speaking, I suppose, to Amendment No. 112 to which I have put my name.

Amendment No. 112: after Clause 16, insert the following new clause:


(1) The Ministers shall require such organisation as they consider appropriate to maintain (in accordance with regulations) a register containing prescribed particulars of any—

  1. (a) application for approval made under section 15(1)(b);
  2. (b) notice of such approval and the conditions to which the approval is subject;
  3. (c) notice of review, revocation or suspension of any such approval;
  4. (d) details of the findings of any review under paragraph (c) above;
  5. (e) levels of pesticide or pesticides residue permitted in crops, food or feeding stuff under section 15(1)(g); and
  6. (f) physical, biological and toxicological properties of any pesticide subject to testing for the purposes of determining whether or not to approve it or whether any conditions should be imposed in relation to it.

(2) The Ministers shall secure that—

  1. (a) a register maintained in pursuance of the preceding subsection shall be open to inspection by the public free of charge at all reasonable hours; and
  2. (b) members of the public may obtain, on payment of reasonable charges, copies of entries in the register,")

I see that there is one potential misunderstanding on that amendment. It says: The Ministers shall require such organisation as they consider appropriate …". I suppose that it is always possible that they may not consider any organisation appropriate. In that case, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, certainly has an advantage over Amendment No. 112. But I think that at this stage we are not really discussing the merits of individual amendments but the whole principle and range of freedom of information, if I may call it such.

I think that it is far too important a point to be in the regulations and it must be in the Bill itself. The great thing is that that is strongly felt by everybody involved in countryside matters, right across the board. The CLA is in favour of something along those lines, as indeed are all environmental groups. They feel that the public should have access to the relevant data on the physical, biological and toxicological tests that have been carried out on pesticides. As the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, said—and again I think perhaps his amendment is stronger on this point than the one to which I have put my name—no one is attempting to obtain disclosure of the basic manufacturers' formulations. We simply want to be able to find out what a particular product has been tested against and what the results of the tests reveal.

As matters stand at the moment any organisation or individual wishing to find out information about safety test data on a particular pesticide is in the hands of the manufacturing company. If that company does not wish to disclose the information, it does not have to do so. I am sure that that secrecy breeds a fear and mistrust which we must try to overcome. The establishment of a register would, I think, help to allay such fears. It would also result—I think that this is a very important point—in companies competing more aggressively to produce products which are less environmentally damaging.

Very little research has been carried out by Government agencies. That means that the chemical companies themselves have virtually all the relevant data. That information would be of enormous benefit not only to farmers but to all the statutory and non-statutory bodies involved in the countryside.

On Second Reading the Game Conservancy was mentioned by several noble Lords. I should like to draw to your Lordships' attention the fact that under the cereals and game birds project, which is being conducted by the Game Conservancy, a particular pesticide (an organo-phosphorous product) which currently has been cleared for use in this country by PSPS has been used for controlling mildew in barley and been shown to have exceptional insecticidal properties in addition to the properties that would be expected from a pesticide being sold as a fungicide. If this information had been available, everyone would have known what its capabilities were and a great deal of duplicated research could have been avoided. Equally—and perhaps even more important—advice could have been given to the farmers by the advisory bodies. The farmer would then be in a position to choose more readily which pesticide he felt that he would like to use.

I have already said that there is wide range support for this freedom of information but I should like to finish by quoting from the British Agrochemicals Association who recently stated: The public's right to know the basis on which safety assessments are made by the Advisory Committee on Pesticides is appreciated and we believe that more detailed information on this would be in the public interest. That speaks for itself. I would go so far as to say that from a political point of view I would have thought that the Government really cannot ignore this extremely important point. I hope that my noble friend will consider what I think is very wide support for our basic freedom of information clause in this Bill.

The Earl of Onslow

I should like very much to support what my noble friend Earl Peel and what the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, have said on this matter. It is essential that there is some form of register which is open to the public and tells us test data, toxicological data, etc. It might be worthwhile to read to the Committee what the American Act says. I have given my noble friend a copy of this. It is absolutely right. I have obtained it through the help of the United States Agricultural Attaché. It says: All information concerning the objectives, methodology, results or significance of any test or experiment performed on or with a registered or previously registered pesticide or its separate ingredients, impurities, or degradation products, and any information concerning the effects of such pesticide or any organism or the behaviour of such pesticide in the environment, including, but not limited to, data on safety to fish and wildlife, humans and other mammals, plants, animals, and soil", incidentally, and studies on persistence, translocation and fate in the environment, and metabolism, shall be available for disclosure to the public: provided, that the use of such data for any registration purpose shall be governed by Section 3 of this Act. One cannot go much wider than that. It seems that if one can be bothered to fly to the United States, one can look up the information on numbers of chemicals that are sold in this country. This seems to me rather a waste of time. Would it not be much wiser to have a similar clause in our regulations? I should like to see it actually written into the Bill in some form or another.

I absolutely understand the point of the worry about the protection of patents. If somebody has spent £10 million, £15 million, £20 million, or whatever it costs to develop a new and special chemical which will be of great use to mankind, one does not want that data to go via Brazil to a backyard still in South Korea and be produced immediately afterwards by somebody copying it. That does not necessarily mean that it is going to come into this country, because it probably will not; but it will go to some other country and the fruits of somebody else's research and hard work will be lost through totally unscrupulous means. There are pages of the American legislation. I do not think that it is reasonable to go on reading it because I find it quite hard to understand, anyway, but it goes on to put in lots of limitations for the protection of patents. If it exists in the United States, and the Germans have not quite the same system, but a system whereby you can go and ask for the information, it is there somewhere in the world. Surely, we should have it here as well.

Lord Walston

I would certainly support anything that moves towards freedom of information. That is a valuable step to take. I should like to take up the final point of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. It is something that we must look at carefully. Our own manufacturers are guarded by patent law in this country and in many other countries, but not in all countries throughout the world. While this informa tion should be made available for those who are seriously interested in the matter, which means a wide range of people, it should not be of a kind that enables a backyard still in South Korea or even in North Korea to profit from the years of research work done by European firms.

If the noble Lord the Minister can assure us that by some means, possibly similar to the German laws or the United States laws, we can make this information available without running that risk, I am wholeheartedly behind such a move whether by means of the present amendment, Amendment No. 105, or Amendment No. 112, to which I have put my name. I do not know which is the better of those.

Lord Belstead

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Walston, for those words of caution. I am also grateful to your Lordships for agreeing to take together these amendments which all have one common theme; namely, disclosure of information that is received in the process of scrutinising applications for the clearance or approval of pesticides for safety. Although the amendments have that common theme, they are all a bit different. Amendment No. 86, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Robson, appears simply to require publication, despite the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, wisely said that we had, of course, to be very careful about commercial confidentiality.

Amendment No. 105, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is a more complete affair involving, as it does, the insertion of a new clause after Clause 15, but granting the same right of access to safety data on request and without restriction. It is a more complete amendment because, as the noble Lord explained, it addresses itself to the concern that has always inhibited the Government in this area; namely, commercial confidentiality. I have to point out to the Committee that it is also a campaigning amendment. It appears in identical form, word for word, in a draft Bill, the Environmental Pollution Information Bill, being circulated now by the 1984 Campaign for Freedom of Information.

Amendment No. 112, in the names of my noble friends Lord Onslow and Lord Peel and the noble Lord, Lord Walston, and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, would create the register. My noble friend Lord Peel has spoken to it. Again, the difficulty here is, surprisingly, that, although my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Walston, have spoken firmly and wisely about the need for commercial confidentiality, Amendment No. 112 seems to make no provision at all for the defence of commercial confidentiality.

Having said that, the Government cannot fail to be impressed by the generality and the quality of the concern expressed on this subject in the last 10 minutes; nor, I accept, can the Government ignore that there are arrangements made in other parts of the world. In particular, there is the case of the United States where test data on pesticides registered with the Environment Protection Agency are now made available to inquirers who, however, have to sign certain quite stern undertakings. All your Lordships are, I think, aware of the American precedent, although you have not perhaps read it word for word. There are dangers in comparisons. There is, as yet, virtually no experience of the day-to-day working of that system, of its costs, or of its environmental or commercial implications. I cannot help but notice that none of your Lordships has included in amendments a comparison with the American system. Your Lordships have not attempted to borrow from it, perhaps (if I may say so) wisely.

9.45 p.m.

Perhaps I may be a little more constructive. In another place a little while ago my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary in the Department of the Environment, Mr. William Waldegrave, said for the Government that the presumption must be in favour of openness in environmental matters. Indeed, the British Agrochemicals Association, speaking earlier this year for Britain's manufacturers, said that in this matter the public does have the right to know about data upon which an agrochemical registration is granted. It must be clear from what I am saying that the Government are prepared to take very seriously the issue of disclosure in this and similar sectors.

From the point of view of the main environmental concerns, we are already publishing regular surveys of pesticide usage and pesticide residues, and we plan to make these more timely and, particularly in the case of usage surveys, more topical. The powers to require information in Clause 15(5) of the Bill will, if necessary, be prayed in aid for this purpose, and we plan that the Advisory Committee for Pesticides will, from now on, publish annual reports of its work. The year 1984 will be the first of its activity so reported. The aim in doing this is two-fold. The first is to create a wider understanding of a task which we have grown accustomed to see performed with diligence and judgment but which has so far been performed almost entirely in private. I accept that. Secondly, we shall be asking the committee to describe as a matter of public record the decisions it has taken each year in relation to the principal chemicals approved, and to publish the characteristics of those products and the results of the safety and efficacy testing to which they have been submitted.

That is what we have been doing. I must tell your Lordships that despite the impression that your Lordships' speeches have made on the Government—and it is inevitable that when all noble Lords get up and speak in the same vein there is an impression created; I accept that absolutely—there really are practical problems with each of these amendments.

I have not yet spoken about commercial confidentiality, and perhaps I may do so very briefly. If it is no longer to be a reflex action on the Government's part to cite the commercial interest as a ground for withholding, there will still surely be cases where a manufacturing process must genuinely be protected if a valuable development is to be fully exploited. Nor are all such cases suitably protected by patent law. Moreover, safety data themselves have a commercial value, and conditions must be laid down which prevent competitors from seeking clearances on the basis of work which they have neither done nor paid for. This, it seems to the Government, is the fatal flaw, if I may be forgiven for saying so, in the otherwise very elegant design of Amendment No. 86. I am bound to say, as I have already said, that I do not see that it is catered for in the scheme for the register in Amendment No. 112.

I quoted from the BAA on the subject a few moments ago, and it is only fair also to record that they said at the same time that it is the financial value of the data that industry wishes to protect, not the information it contains.

If I may say just a word about the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, my concern is rather different. It is that the amendment is, in my view, for this type of legislation and for the current state of development of our policy on disclosure, really too specific and too clear. I know I have spoken on many occasions during the discussions on this Bill of the second round of consultations which the Government will be conducting with a full range of interested groups before the implementing regulations are presented.

Like other details of the forthcoming regulations, any detailed arrangements on disclosure must heed the outcome of those consultations and need to be based on the broader provisions of this Bill. If I may take as an example the difficulty which one gets into if one goes into really fine detail on this, of all subjects—I am drawing attention to the provisions of the second part of the proposal by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, which seeks to protect the manufacturers' interests after disclosure—there we find provisions which are in some respects a good deal less liberal than those currently being operated in the United States.

I do not know why. Was it intended? If so, on what grounds, and what do the various environmental and industrial groups think of that particular thrust of the noble Lord's amendment? I do not know, and I cannot—and I do not think I should—try to divine, during the process of broad, enabling legislation, what exactly is the balance here because I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is genuinely trying to seek a compromise where it is very difficult indeed to get a compromise if we start going into the fine detail of legislation.

Your Lordships may say to me, "This is all very well, but what do the Government intend actually to do?" May I say two things? First of all, we are getting on with what I endeavoured to set out before your Lordships in regard to the reporting systems of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides, and also the activities which we have in looking into pesticide usage and pesticide residues. In addition to that, we are very shortly going to be replying to the tenth report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and will be making our proposals for progress in that area.

But to the promoters of these amendments I should like this evening to offer three firm undertakings. The first is that it is the Government's firm intention that there will be provisions in the regulations on disclosure of information gathered under Clause 15(5). My second undertaking is that those provisions will take into account the outcome of a most detailed consultation with all concerned, if this legislation reaches the statute book. Thirdly, it is our intention that in the meantime the Government will develop further their reporting on residues and on usage and on work of the advisory committee. If I may say so, I believe that this work will be done better if these amendments are not pressed. I hope that perhaps we may all be able to read what has been said in what I admit has been a rather longer debate than I had intended. I apologise for speaking at some length; but these amendments are important.

The Earl of Onslow

I am slightly disappointed by that reply, not because of what the Minister says he is going to do, not because of his emphasis—and justified emphasis—on the commercial property and commercial secrecy—because obviously there is a very serious problem there—but because he does not want to see it written into the Bill. I happen to think that this is one of the most important aspects of this Bill that we are discussing. I should like to see a broadly drafted amendment. I quite concede that our amendment has things wrong with it; the amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, has things wrong with it, as the amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has things wrong with it. But surely it is not beyond the wit of man, or, above all, beyond the wit of the drafting officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, to put in an amendment which says that information shall be made as public as possible in the regulations, subject to commercial secrecy; or something like that. I am not a draftsman, but I should like to see something in the Bill before it leaves this House.

Lord Melchett

I am very grateful to the noble Lord for taking such trouble to respond to my amendment in particular and needless to say to the debate as a whole. However, having listened to his comments on my Amendment No. 60 which dealt with footpaths in a very general way, and having heard him say that it was not nearly clear or specific enough, and having now heard him say that this amendment is too clear and too specific, the noble Lord will excuse me for feeling slightly confused about the Government's line in dealing with amendments to this Bill. I am even more confused when we bear in mind that the noble Lord suggested that my amendment was not liberal enough because it did not go so far as the United States legislation. I was trying, as the noble Lord rightly said, to be realistic. When it comes to disclosing information, I do not think that this Government are going to be as liberal as the United States Government. It would be foolish for any of us to pretend that they will be. Therefore it seemed sensible to pitch an amendment rather below the highest standards being set by the United States Government.

I should like to make one point to the noble Lord in response to what he has suggested about the United States experience. He said that enough was not yet known about how it will work. There have been some outstanding examples of the type of dangers which environmentalists and other people concerned about the safety of pesticides feel will be covered up if we do not have adequate access to the detailed data upon which clearances are based. That is what we are after. I accept the usefulness and the utility of all the other points that the noble Lord mentioned about annual reports and statistics on use which are very helpful. But all these amendments are designed to get at data which has been submitted to get clearance. That is the information that people are after.

It was the case in the United States that the Environmental Protection Agency found, for example, that one particular laboratory, the Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories—IBT—had been carrying out tests which were faked, and a large number of chemicals, including the most widely used herbicide in the United States, were found to be carcinogenic and had to be withdrawn. They had been cleared on the basis of faked tests. I think that the noble Lord's department admitted earlier this summer that at least one pesticide in use in the United Kingdom was cleared on the basis of test data from that particular laboratory—from IBT. So the noble Lord will understand if I say that I think that there are a great many people who would feel that the American experience of disclosure has already proved valuable.

A number of people would be interested to know how many pesticides in this country have been cleared as a result of data provided by IBT, which has now been discredited: how many of those pesticides have had to have new data submitted; whether that has been done, and how long it took. So a number of serious questions arise when secrecy is maintained.

I still think from a personal point of view that it is necessary to have a provision in the Bill which ensures that access to test data, with safeguards for commercial companies, is available. If we have to do it on a less liberal basis than the United States to get all party agreement in this House on it, then so be it; but we should still do it.

Earl Peel

I am grateful to the noble Lord for having answered the many questions that were put to him; but I must confess that I am extremely disappointed by his response. It is getting late and one does not want to analyse the situation any further. However, I must say that surely it is possible to distinguish between the testing data on pesticides without revealing the detailed compound breakdown of a particular chemical. I simply cannot understand why this cannot be done. The noble Lord has given us assurances that the Government will be asking further questions—or at least that they will be in a position to ask further questions—and therefore that more comprehensive answers will be available to the Government. But my response to that is: will they be available to the general public? I fear that from what the noble Lord has said the answer is no.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

This has been a very good debate and I have listened to the arguments put forward for the other excellent amendments that have been tabled. However, I must say that I come back to the view that our very simple amendment on publication is eventually the one which must be adopted. Several noble Lords cited commercial pirates in various parts of the world and indeed in specific parts of the world. But if a nation or a company is sophisticated enough to produce the pesticides and the chemicals about which we are talking, then as soon as a successfully tested pesticide gets clearance, if there is any information available at all, they will surely be in a position very soon to manufacture that pesticide.

10 p.m.

This is a highly technical question and I shall consult again about it. But if information is available in the United States, which is probably as commercial a country and as keen to protect its manufacturers as anyone, I do not see why we should not have that information available here. I think that the simpler it is, the better. If we have simply a publication and a clause inserted about commercial protection, we might be going a long way towards reaching an agreed insertion in the Bill, which would please noble Lords who have expressed such tremendous concern.

I have, of course, formally to withdraw my amendment, at the same time giving notice that we shall certainly be consulting to obtain a more satisfactory response from the Government. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 87:

Page 14, line 27, at end insert— ("(5A)(a) In deciding whether or not to grant exclusion of approval under section 15(1) of this Act the Minister shall have regard to tests of a type to be specified in the regulations designed to assess—

  1. (i) the effectiveness of the pesticide for the purpose for which exclusion or approval is being sought;
  2. (ii) effective application rates and methods of application in relation to a range of soil and climate conditions;
  3. (iii) the effect of the pesticide upon the environment including man, animals, plants and soil ecosystems;
  4. (iv) the economic or other justifications for the use of the pesticide by comparison with other pesticides available for the same purpose which may involve less risk to the environment;
(b) When exclusion or approval is granted in respect of any pesticide the Minister shall procure that information in respect of that pesticide in relation to all the matters set out in paragraph (a) shall be made available in a simple clear format accessible to the general public and also in detail for the specialist.").

The noble Lord said: I think that almost the last word has been said on information, but I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to two aspects of Amendment No. 87, in my name, which are marginally different from those raised in the discussion which has taken place so far. First, the amendment requires the Minister to disclose the generalised information rather than the detailed clearance information, which some speakers in the previous debate suggested is what is really needed by the public, although the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, did not agree.

I very much incline to and admire the views put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Peel. I believe that what is needed is greater disclosure of information, not so much to the public but to the farmers. There is a terrible dearth of information; there is a lack of resources for research to produce the information that farmers need in the decisions that they have to make about the application of pesticides. Yet a great deal of this information is available in the hands of manufacturers. Surely somehow it could be passed from A to B.

The second point I wish to make on this amendment, which is an important one, is that the parameters of the tests should be laid down by the Minister and not merely be left to the manufacturers. I am told that the Pesticides Safety Precaution Scheme often clears for safety only those recommendations that the manufacturers of the pesticide chooses to specify. If that is true, clearly it does not secure that every pesticide is thoroughly and adequately tested, or ensure that the information is secured at the time the tests are being carried out, so that both the farmers and the general public know what the pesticide is all about. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

Our intention would be to publish under the regulations a document which would set out the type and standard of tests and experiments to be carried out. The document would be continually updated, so that we might take advantage of any scientific developments in the fields of toxicology and environmental biology, risk assessment and other areas without delay. To enshrine the tests in regulations could impede that progress. I do not think it is possible to establish a definitive list of tests which all pesticides must go through. Some tests would be appropriate only to one type of pesticide and not to another. In some cases the need for a particular test may come to light only after we have seen the results of other experiments. So that is why I would not want to see them enshrined in the regulations. But I have seized the opportunity to try to indicate our intention, and I think that it is very similar to the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne.

Lord Melchett

My name is down to this amendment, and I think that the Minister has given us a very helpful reply. I want to ask him one question, because I may have missed what he said. He intends to publish guidance notes under the regulations, setting out the tests that would be appropriate. What would be the status of that guidance note, document or whatever it will be? Would it be the case that in practice people submitting pesticides for clearance would have had to have taken them through the tests set out in the document?

Lord Belstead

I think that the status would be that which those who were responsible for the clearance procedure would be expecting. If those who were submitting the applications had not complied with that guidance, then the chances of getting a clearance would be that much less.

Lord Northbourne

On the basis of the assurance that the Minister has given, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 88 not moved.]

Baroness Nicol moved Amendment No. 89:

Page 14, line 27, at end insert— ("( ) Either of the Ministers shall ensure that labels for pesticides for export be submitted for statutory approval and that they are written in the most common language of the country of destination, whether that pesticide is approved for the use in the United Kingdon or not.")

The noble Baroness said: We discussed the content of labelling earlier. This amendment refers primarily to the kind of labelling, the description of the label itself. The labels are of prime importance in any country, even more so where back-up advisory services may not be available, and they must be in language that is understood in that country.

I recently had the pleasure of a visit to Reckitt and Colman's factory, where they produce mustard for 54 countries in the world. I saw their export department, where they had tins of mustard in something between 30 and 40 different languages, including dialects. If it can be done for mustard, how much more important it is that it should be done for lethal products of the kind we are talking about. There is a call for symbols to be used as well as the language of the importing country, and that seems entirely sensible. I should like to hear the Minister's views on that.

The rationale for using regulations instead of writing intentions into the Bill is that regulations can be updated more easily. But surely we would not wish to change this particular piece of legislation often, and it seems more important that it should be on the face of the Bill. The intentions of the amendment would surely not change, and we feel they are sufficiently important to be in the primary legislation. I beg to move.

Lord Rea

I have been a fascinated observer of, rather than a participant in the several debates we have had in the Committee so far. Sadly, unlike most noble Lords present, I am not a farmer. I am, however, a former lepidopterist and anisopterist. If any noble Lord does not know what that means, I used to be very interested in dragonflies. I am also a partaker of, and I take a great deal of pleasure in, the enjoyment of our special countryside. More particularly, as a doctor I am interested in the health and welfare of people who live there. Therefore, I wholeheartedly support this amendment.

I have an example here of how terribly wrong things can go if the precautions outlined in the amendment are not taken. I quote from a book called. A Growing Problem, Pesticides and the Third World Poor, which was written by David Bull. It is an Oxfam publication. It concerns the import into Iraq in the 1970s of seed which was already treated with fungicide. It says: The use of treated seed for food led to one of the worst epidemics of pesticide poisoning. This occurred in Iraq in 1971/72. Wheat and barley seed was imported which had been treated with a methyl mercury fungicide. Warnings issued to farmers not to eat the grain were insufficient or went unheeded. Warnings on some sacks appeared in English and Spanish only [in an Arabic speaking country] and in some cases, the seed arrived too late for planting. Many farmers' families ate the treated grain or fed it to their animals". Edward Hughes, who is a journalist, visited Iraq in 1973, and his investigations and discussions with experts led him to estimate the true scale of the catastrophe at 100,000 injured and 6,000 dead, which is something like two to three times as great as the recent Bhopal disaster in India. Therefore, it is small wonder that I support this amendment wholeheartedly. This is not the only example of where things have gone wrong because the population concerned could not read the instructions. It is very important that the pitcograms—which is the proper name for the symbols that are being suggested—should also be put on the containers of the dangerous chemicals concerned.

Lord Belstead

I think there may be some misunderstanding on the part of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, a misunderstanding which I shared before I had advice on this. A high proportion of pesticides are exported either as concentrates or in bulk for formulation in the country where they are to be used. Scrutiny of the labels with which they are to be shipped would do little to influence the labels on the packs finally getting to the people who will use them. I think that one has to take that into account in formulating an amendment.

The second point is that in scrutinising labels officials in government departments in London really are not equipped to appraise pesticides in relation to crops, climates and conditions of use overseas. Thirdly, the language of a label needs to be what the target user will understand. The official language of the country, which is the way in which the amendment has chosen to make the requirement, may not be the language of the ultimate user. This again is an issue which cannot easily be adjudicated from here. I think, with respect, that this is one of the many topics that are best addressed through a code of conduct such as that which is being developed by FAO. I hope that the noble Baroness will accept my assurance that our own officials will be bearing in mind very much the intentions behind her amendment in the part that we are playing in the FAO negotiations.

Baroness Nicol

I am grateful for the reply and I note paragraph 9 in the Statement of Intention with regard to the regulations, which to a certain extent covers what the Minister has said. But I still feel we are being a little feeble in the sense that the Government surely have a responsibility to see that the next stage on, even if it is a bulk delivery, is clearly labelled in the language of the country to which it is going. The Government need to discharge their responsibilities at least up to the receiving port, wherever that may be.

I do not go along with the suggestion that it would be beyond our officials to deal with it. Surely we have enough expertise available, or we could make it available, when a matter as important as this is dealt with. I am not satisfied with the answer on that count. This is something I should like to pursue a little further, but not tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Rea

Before my noble friend withdraws the amendment I should like to bring up something which the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, mentioned on several occasions on the previous night when the Committee sat. This concerned his statement that we in this country do not know what is required in the other countries; it is for them to say. I submit that in this country there is a greater concentration of expertise in tropical agriculture than exists anywhere else in the world, with the possible exception of the acre or so that contains the FAO headquarters in Rome.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Nicol moved Amendment No. 90:

Page 14, line 27, at end insert— ("( ) Either of the Ministers shall ensure that packaging standards for pesticides for use within the United Kingdom apply equally to pesticides for export.").

The noble Baroness said: The same arguments apply to this as to the previous amendment; that is that we have a responsibility to see that the packaging of pesticides for use in countries other than the United Kingdom, as well as within our own boundaries, is suitable for the conditions in those countries. This amendment was drawn up before the Statement of Intention, which I see covers this point. I am glad to see there that label conditions could include storage and handling requirements, which would be a step forward. I still think that we should see that the actual packaging in which pesticides leave this country is adequate for the job at the port of arrival, and also that this requirement should be written into the Bill itself because it is something we would not wish to see changed by regulations in the future. It is far too important for that. I beg to move.

10. 15 p.m.

Lord Belstead

A rather different argument applies here. The effect of the noble Baroness's amendment is that packaging standards for sending pesticides overseas shall be the same as packaging standards within the United Kingdom. I am advised that the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code of the International Maritime Organisation, which would deal with sea transport, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation's technical instructions which deal with air travel impose, broadly speaking, packaging requirements in accordance with the class of substance—in other words, toxic substances—and the degree of risk which would be more stringent than those which would be expected for the home trade.

The PS clearance of a product includes clearance of its container. The standards expected for clearance here may have no relation to the demands on packaging found in overseas markets. It is rather a different argument and I am advised that one finds that the standards for sending pesticides abroad are probably more stringent than they would be for the home trade which, I think, is not what the noble Baroness is after. Yet again, I would say that this is a topic appropriate for a code of conduct and I understand that the industry is taking this matter very seriously in this respect.

Baroness Nicol

I accept what the Minister has said. The wording of the amendment does not carry the intention, which was that the packaging for more stringent conditions would be equally as good as the standards we apply in this country. I shall have to find other wording. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 91:

Page 14, line 29, leave out ("or fails to comply").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 91 and to speak also to Amendments Nos. 92, 93, 94, 95 and 97.

Amendment No. 92: Page 14, line 31, leave out ("or fail to comply").

Amendment No. 93: line 32, leave out ("with")
Amendment No. 94: line 33, leave out ("with")
Amendment No. 95: line 35, leave out ("with")

Amendment No. 97: Page 15, line 3, at end insert— ("( ) In subsection (6) above "contravenes" includes "fails to comply with" and "contravene" has a corresponding meaning."). These are drafting amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendments Nos. 92, 93, 94 and 95

[Printed above.]

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Mackie of Benshie had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 96:

Page 14, line 38, after ("subsection") insert ("(1)(hh) and")

The noble Lord said: I cannot remember what this amendment is consequential on. I had better not move it.

[Amendment No. 96 not moved.]

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 97:

[Printed above.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Walston moved Amendment No. 98:

Page 15, line 20, at end insert ("or animals")

The noble Lord said: In order to give Lord Mackie of Benshie's memory a rest so that he may recover it, I should like to speak to this amendment. It is not of enormous significance, but it seems to us that this part of the Bill should apply not only to the various purposes that are mentioned here, but also certainly with regard to regulating growth to animals as well as to plants. Your Lordships well know that there are certain growth-promoting products which are used in intensive animal rearing—and not only in intensive animal rearing. They surely should come under the same regulations as all those we have been discussing. I therefore beg to move that "or animals" be inserted on page 15 at the end of line 20.

Lord John-Mackie

This is rather an important amendment because there is a tremendous lot of implantation of animals and there is also quite a lot of dressing of animals, for instance, for warble fly and so on. I think it is essential that animals should be included, and we support this amendment.

Lord Belstead

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, that this is an important amendment. As I understand it it is one on which there is quite a lot of pressure of public, and indeed of professional, opinion. No doubt that is what has prompted the noble Lord, Lord Walston, to put down this amendment. However, I am worried as to whether this is the right way to proceed on this Bill. What is needed on the whole issue of animal medicines is a comprehensive approach, dealing with all veterinary medicines and addressing itself to the issue in full knowledge of the powers already available under the Medicines Act and with a clear view of the remedies which are needed. I think there are difficulties with these amendments which, in a sense, are saying "Me too" for certain veterinary products, to provisions specifically designed for pesticides. I wonder quite what the effect would be.

May I just go on from that to say that perhaps there is a misconception here about the meaning of Clause 15(8), which may have contributed to this amendment and indeed to the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie. It is true that we refer here to preparations which protect animals against ectoparasites as falling within this definition. In fact, our intention is that any substance which is administered directly to an animal, whether to an animal's interior by means of a syringe or dosing-gun, or to an animal's exterior, like sheep dips or pour-on insecticides, should continue to be treated as veterinary medicines.

The reference to ectoparasites in Clause 15(8) is related to pesticides which kill ectoparasites but are not applied to the animal host. An example of what I am trying to explain would be an insecticide which is painted on the structure of a livestock building in order to kill flies. Your Lordships will see that it was our intention that only a very small range of ectoparasiticides should be covered by this definition, and following the convention already established by existing arrangements.

I wonder whether I might ask the noble Lord to look in the record at what I have said. I am not trying to be deliberately obstructive at all, but there is a genuine concern here that we may, with the best of intentions, be getting into territory which is in fact Medicines Act territory. I think that is really all I can say on the subject this evening.

Lord Walston

I am quite sure that the noble Lord is not trying to be obstructive; indeed he is being most helpful. If, as he suggests, these matters are covered already by other legislation dealing with veterinary practices, then I would agree with him that there is no reason for this amendment. But if on further examination it appears that this is not the case, it will always be possible to come back. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackie of Benshie had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 99:

Page 15, line 26, at end insert ("or endoparasites").

The noble Lord said: I am very grateful to the Minister for explaining the clause dealing with ectoparasites. It was a very necessary explanation because it could have referred purely to medicines applied to the animal for dealing with lice, as against dealing with worms. That is why we put down the amendment. But, as he has explained, it deals with the treating of wood to keep down pests and so on. We appreciate the explanation, and I will not move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 99 not moved.]

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 99A:

Page 15, line 26, at end insert:— ("( ) In contemplating any regulations to be made under this section for the approval of pesticides, the Ministers shall consult the Advisory Committee on Pesticides.")

The noble Lord said: In the note on Clause 15 in the Notes on Clauses it states that the Government rely for their advice on the Advisory Committee on Pesticides. Unfortunately, when the Bill becomes law, these Notes on Clauses will carry no weight, and so this amendment makes it a duty of the Minister to consult the Advisory Committee on Pesticides. I suspect my noble friend will say that of course the Government will consult and therefore my amendment is unnecessary.

I cannot agree, for two main reasons. First, the purpose of this Bill is to make what was a voluntary code under PSPS a statutory one. Therefore, while the scheme was voluntary, it was entirely correct for advice to be taken voluntarily. But now that it is a statutory scheme, the advice should be statutory. Therefore, I say that the Government should abide by the rules they are making for us, and abide by their own rules, and should take advice.

Secondly, my noble friend has told your Lordships more than once that the regulations will be subject to affirmative order in Parliament. He has made quite an issue of that; and so we shall have a chance of looking at these regulations. I say to him that when the Government bring those regulations before your Lordships for approval they will carry more weight if the Minister is known to have consulted a body so responsible and so respected as the Advisory Committee on Pesticides. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

To my mind, it is unthinkable that the Advisory Committee on Pesticides should not be consulted. Also, if we write into the Bill that it shall be consulted, one wonders what the legal sanction would be. With deep respect to my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley, for whom I have great sympathy in this matter. I doubt whether it is right that we should legislate in order to compel consultation in circumstances in which it is bound to take place and in which it cannot be enforceable.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I accept the logic of the first argument but not of the second. The noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, put the case in a way which makes it almost impossible for the Minister to refuse.

Lord Belstead

The Advisory Committee on Pesticides is indeed a body of exceptional importance, which has given expert and independent advice to successive Governments for many years. The present Government have full confidence in that committee. We will most certainly consult the committee in preparing the regulations. My noble friend Lord Stanley is right in saying that I feel, therefore, that his amendment is not wholly necessary.

Nonetheless, my noble friend has made a very persuasive case this evening. I should like to offer to consult my noble friend with a view to accepting his amendment, but it is necessary to have consultation in order to ensure, from a statutory point of view, that we are not doing anything which, from a statutory point of view, would be inadvisable. I say that because of the intervention of my noble friend Lord Renton, which I take seriously. If my noble friend Lord Stanley will accept my offer, it is that, in principle, the Government would like to do what he is suggesting but we need to consult with him to see whether it would be right to do it in the statute. If it is right, we will do it.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I must say that in what he said there was a lovely sentence from my noble friend on the Front Bench. However, I am very grateful for his remarks. I will study them in the cool light of day, and meanwhile I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 15 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Melchett

I have given the noble Lord notice of two matters which I should like to raise briefly. Both have been raised during the course of debates on amendments to Clause 15, but in none of those cases have we been able to spend any time on the specific points I have in mind. First, I will deal with the question of research. In a number of amendments, noble Lords have stressed the importance of research into future alternatives to current pesticides, of research which aims to reduce the level of pesticides and reduce dependence on pesticides, and so on.

The Committee will know that a Select Committee of your Lordships' House examined the question, at least as far as it was affected by the overlap between environmental and agricultural research, earlier this year. In the course of that Select Committee's investigation, in which I participated together with a number of other noble Lords in this Committee, considerable concern was expressed about cuts which were contemplated or which were actually taking place in the Agricultural and Food Research Council's budget and the resulting cuts in agricultural research organisations such as the Reed Research Organisation.

Since that period I have been told that further cuts are taking place at the Plant Breeding Institute. In particular, they are cuts which will affect the development of resistant strains of wheats. I am told that work at the University of East Anglia, which is based on experimental observation of Plant Breeding Institute wheats and computer simulations, suggests that varietal resistance could reduce growing aphid infestations on wheat by 75 per cent. Some very useful work has been done at the Plant Breeding Institute. However, I understand that that work is now being brought to an end due to the redundancy of the scientists involved. In addition, cuts announced last month at the Plant Breeding Institute include work on breeding for disease resistance on potatoes and beans.

10.30 p.m.

It has been pointed out to me that even if we manage to keep current pesticide levels and the effectiveness of pesticides, we are in great danger of resistant diseases of fungus and other organisms developing and that the only sure way in the long run of reducing the level of pesticide use and overcoming many of the problems which we have discussed throughout the amendments on Clause 15 will be to ensure that research continues at a high level. I think that members of the Select Committee who visited, for example, the research station at Rothamsted were impressed by the standard of research being done by agricultural scientists and their commitment, in the forward-looking work that they are doing, to move to a situation where we are much less dependent on pesticides than we are now.

Another matter on the research side which gives me great concern is the future of the soil survey. A number of noble Lords referred to that work when we discussed earlier amendments on soil, but we did not raise with the Government the question of the future of the soil survey. I understand that the noble Lord recently visited the survey and that the Government are considering its future. It seems to me to be vital that if we are to continue to safeguard the long-term health of the agricultural industry, that sort of work should be continued. Whatever we do in the Bill may well prove to be rather insignificant if that long-term research is not continued. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to tell us something more positive than we have so far been given by the Government about the future of the soil survey.

I now turn to a separate point—the continued use of DDT. The noble Lord said on Second Reading that DDT and Dieldrin were to be withdrawn from 1st October this year. I take that point. However, my understanding is that DDT was still being advertised; for example, in the Crop Chemicals Guide, which is up-dated annually. Although it was published in August this year, which was just before the announcement of the withdrawal of DDT was made, there had been widespread consultations leading up to its withdrawal. It is undesirable that the product should continue to be listed as available in that guide, with its price and other matters given in full, with no mention of the fact that it has been withdrawn.

The International Pesticide Directory, published in September and October 1984, advertises a DDT product at about the date when DDT, according to the Government, was withdrawn. I hope that it will be possible under the regulations which are drawn up under Clause 15 to stop the advertising of withdrawn products after they have been withdrawn. I should be grateful if the noble Lord could give me advice on that point, too.

Lord Belstead

The noble Lord raises points about research on Clause 15 stand part, which is the clause which has occupied us for the whole of today. The noble Lord asks particularly about the priority we are giving to the development of integrated pest control systems. I am most grateful to the noble Lord for letting me know in advance the questions he intended to ask. Here we are following a programme of research and development. We hope that it will contribute to reducing pesticide use to the minimum level consistent with efficient food production, as recommended by the Seventh Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

On the other hand, the work of the Plant Breeding Institute, which was started more than 10 years ago and aimed at producing varieties with greater resistance to pests and diseases, has had to be ended so far as the resistance of cereals to aphids is concerned. It had become evident that it would not be possible to obtain complete resistance, and therefore insecticides would still need to be applied. Against that background, the work could not be afforded high priority, and we felt that it was necessary to terminate it.

The noble Lord asked me about the soil survey, which I visited only about a fortnight ago. It is a survey which is the responsibility of the Agricultural and Food Research Council, with the Ministry of Agriculture paying for the work entirely, at just under £2 million last year. We are indeed currently reviewing our future funding levels. In making a decision the Government will be taking into account the views of the AFRC, of the Priorities Board for Research and Development in Agriculture and Food and of other bodies.

On that I do not think that I can say more, except finally to answer the question which the noble Lord asked me about the advertising of DDT. I would only repeat that the uses of DDT are no longer allowed under the PSPS. If it is being either supplied or used in this country, that underlines the necessity for this Bill.

Clause 15 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 100 not moved.]

Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 101:

After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:

("Control of advertising.

.—(1) A person who broadcasts or publishes or otherwise disseminates or causes or permits to be published or broadcast any form of advertisement or supporting statement or information, or who provides any such information to another person, which—

  1. (a)(i) is false in material particular; or
    1. (ii) makes or contains a statement or claim which contravenes or misrepresents or fails to comply with any provision of the regulations or any condition of approval; or
    2. (iii) fails to meet any requirement imposed by virtue of this Act;
  2. (b) is calculated or likely to cause or permit any other person to contravene or fail to comply—
    1. (i) with any provision of the regulations;
    2. (ii) with any condition of approval of a pesticide; or
    3. (iii) with any requirement imposed by virtue of this Act;
  3. (c) advertises a pesticide or provides information regarding a pesticide, which causes or permits any other person to apply or use amounts of pesticide in excess of limits to be specified in the regulations,
shall be guilty of an offence.

(2) Ministers shall require any person causing or permitting any advertisement for a pesticide to be published, broadcast or otherwise disseminated, to ensure that a statement of the pesticides' known and likely effects on health, safety and the environment of human beings, livestock, crops, flora and fauna, is included in that advertisement in accordance with a manner specified in the regulations.")

The noble Lord said: I am afraid that we now come on to rather a long list of new clauses to be moved by me. I shall try to take them as quickly as I possibly can in view of the time of night at which they have been reached.

Amendment No. 101 deals with advertisements. It would enable Ministers to tackle the growing problems of pesticide advertising. It is certainly not aimed at restricting the more responsible advertisements. Paragraphs (a) and (b) would extend the power to make regulations to cover the content of advertisements and the supporting information, such as graphs and tables, with which pesticide firms frequently bombard users and which, I have to say, are partial and sometimes actually misleading.

Paragraph (c) would give the Government a capability to prevent the overuse of pesticides—for example, by applying limits to the number of times a crop may be sprayed—and prevent agricultural chemical companies encouraging overuse by selling products over-enthusiastically and exploiting fears of pest problems, which I am afraid occasionally happens. For example, the use of insurance spraying is now widely regarded as something which should not have happened in the agricultural industry but undoubtedly did and still does on occasions.

Lastly, the amendment would require an advertisement to include a statement of the risks of the pesticide, much as advertisements for cigarettes carry a health warning—including, for example, whether the substance is likely to be poisonous or carcinogenic, and so on.

There has been in recent years considerable criticism in the farming press of advertisements for chemicals and suggestions that those are doing nothing to enhance the image of agriculture; indeed, quite the reverse. The sort of names that are applied to pesticides, with the connotations that they carry, have led to considerable criticism.

Most recently the pesticide Missile, which has provisional commercial clearance under the PSPS as a fungicide, has attracted a good deal of criticism. In particular, as the noble Lord mentioned on an earlier amendment, although it has provisional clearance as a fungicide, it is almost 100 per cent. effective as an insecticide. As I understand it, it is more effective as an insecticide than it is as a fungicide. Successive issues of Farmers Weekly in the Spring, in April this year, carried an advertisement for Missile which gave no indication that it had only limited clearance under the PSPS at this stage.

For example, it gave no indication that only 50,000 hectares could be sprayed with Missile, as I understand was the case under the limited clearance which had been granted. It was only in subsequent advertisements for Missile later in the summer, in June, that in very small print it was acknowledged that only limited clearance had been granted. Needless to say, none of the advertisements for Missile made the point that as an insecticide the product was more effective than or as effective as many insecticides available on the market. My understanding is that it was not granted safety clearance for use as an insecticide and subsequently was granted provisional clearance as a fungicide.

That sort of advertising cannot do anything but harm the image of the agricultural industry and lead to severe environmental and other problems. It is for that kind of reason that I hope this new clause will find some favour with the Government. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

As I am sure the noble Lord will be aware, there are various controls on advertising in this country, all of which apply to the advertising of pesticides. There is the British Code of Advertising Practice, which is administered by the Advertising Standards Authority. There are a number of provisions also in common law and in statutes which can determine the formal content of an advertisement, and—possibly of most general application—there is the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 which prohibits, among other things, misleading statements about goods and services made in advertisements.

I repeat that all those controls relate to advertisements on pesticides. I shall certainly look with care at what the noble Lord has said. That is no mere form of words because I do have it in mind that Ministers might make it a condition of approval that a supplier should ensure that any advertising carried a statement of certain restrictions which Ministers had imposed on the product's use. There is a serious point there. But I believe that the powers to set conditions, taken together with the general controls over advertising already in existence, are enough to ensure that advertisements are informative and do not lie or mislead.

If the noble Lord will forgive my saying so, I think the final part of the amendment, requiring an advertisement to state all the known and likely effects on health, safety and the environment, is totally impractical, unless the advertisement is to go on for ever. I do not feel very attracted to that recommendation.

Lord Melchett

I am grateful to the noble Lord for going at least some way with part of the amendment. In particular, I very strongly support his view that there is something to be said for restrictions on the use of a pesticide, once it is cleared, being made clear in the advertisement. It does seem to me extremely undesirable in this field that advertisements should appear with general injunctions to wipe out and kill everything without any mention being made, of restrictions—particularly when they become statutory—placed on the pesticide's use.

The noble Lord has kindly said he will look at that point. It does not go nearly so far as I should like but it goes some way. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 102:

After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:

(". Objectives—

In drawing up regulations to ensure the safe and effective use of pesticides under this Act, Ministers shall ensure—

  1. (i) the progressive reduction of pesticide pollution of all kinds;
  2. (ii) the conservation of flora, fauna and semi-natural ecosystems;
  3. (iii) the health and safety of consumers, and people living and working in or visiting town or country;
  4. (iv) the health and safety of livestock and domestic animals;
  5. (v) the health and integrity of the soil ecosystem, its flora and fauna;
  6. (vi) the elimination of practices leading to excess use and over use;
  7. (vii) the elimination of practices leading to increased pest resistance, with or between species of pest;
  8. (viii) the progressive reduction in pesticide use;
  9. (ix) the availability of an adequate number of appropriate pesticides for agricultural and other use;
  10. (x) the furtherance of alternative methods of controlling pests, other than through the use of chemical agents.")

The noble Lord said: I tried to have this amendment discussed with Amendment No. 46. I dare say there are some noble Lords who wish I had succeeded. However, the noble Lord on the Government Front Bench suggested that it should be taken seperately. We discussed Amendment No. 46 some considerable time ago. The noble Lord will remember that he was in a sunnier frame of mind in those days and he kindly said to the noble Lord who moved that amendment that he agreed that some general statement of objectives should be included in the Bill.

10.45 p.m.

I move this amendment only because I think it would be very helpful to those who believe strongly that a general statement of objectives is needed if the noble Lord could indicate whether he finds any of the general objectives I have included in Amendment No. 102 thoroughly unacceptable. That might give us some guidance, first, about how the Government are thinking on a general objectives clause, and, secondly, if any of us want to come back with another amendment of Report, in what direction we should aim to try and secure Government satisfaction with our efforts. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

This is a little more than just a matter of style, but our preference is for a brief and pointed statement if we are to have a statement of objectives. We also have to consider whether any benefit derives from the addition of a very long statement of the kind that we have here. It is, of course, one thing for my right honourable friend to aim to achieve the elimination of over-use, pest resistance, and so forth, but quite another for him to ensure such an effect by regulations. That is one absolutely concrete reason why I find difficulty with this amendment.

When the noble Lord asks what attracts the Government to a statement of objectives, the answer is Amendment No. 46, which was in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Walston and Lord Mackie of Benshie, and which we took last week. What particularly attracted us was that the noble Lords had taken the preamble to the pesticides safety precaution scheme. We felt that it may well have been that those who drafted the introduction to that scheme some years ago had the same thoughts in mind as those that I endeavoured to put forward a moment ago; namely, that our preference is for a brief and pointed statement. At any rate, that is how Amendment No. 46 appeared to us. That is what attracted us to it, and that is why, on that occasion, I said that we accepted that amendment in principle although we wanted to discuss the detailed wording with the noble Lords who had sponsored it.

Lord Melchett

I am grateful for that response. I agree with the noble Lord that the words used in the PSPS as the general objectives have considerable attractions. Whether they cover all the points is something that it would be useful to examine between now and Report stage. I hope that the Government may be able to give us some advance warning, as Report stage is some way away, about their intentions and whether they plan to produce an amendment on objectives. But I am still very pleased to hear that the noble Lord is in favour of this. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 103:

After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:


.—(1) The Ministers may require manufacturers, distributors and retailers of pesticides to ensure that information in written and pictogram form is included on container labels, such that known or suspected health, safety and environmental hazards are specified in a manner to be stated in the regulations.

(2) The Ministers may require manufacturers, distributors and retailers of foods or foodstuffs to ensure that, in cases specified in the regulations, and wherever there is under any Act a legal requirement to declare food additives, colourants, or preservatives on food labels, the label shall include notice of pesticide residues, in a manner to be specified in the regulations.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with a rather different aspect of labelling compared to amendments moved a little time ago by my noble friend Lady Nicol when she was trying to persuade the Government, rightly, that pesticides for export should be labelled adequately.

This amendment aims to enable Ministers to require manufacturers to inform the public and users about pesticides which are known or suspected agents of cancer, birth defects, mutations or whatever. There are a number of those, some recently discovered as a result of the freedom of information on pesticide-testing in the United States, I should emphasise again. The amendment suggests that this information should be available in both written and pictogram form, mentioned by my noble friend beside me when we were talking about labels for export. It is important, even in this country, that the labelling should be both written and pictorial. I hope that the noble Lord and his officials will not see the same difficulty in securing that labels on products for use in this country are clear and accurate, written, as they will be, in English.

The second aspect of the amendment is to enable those consumers who wish to purchase pesticide-free or organically grown food to exercise that freedom of choice by introducing a system of labelling of food according to the actual or likely pesticide residue levels. We already have an extensive system of labelling of food that many people find useful. The "E" numbers which are listed on a number of food products illustrate if additives or colourants have been used. But we do not have any procedures in our current legislation which ensure, if pesticide residues are likely to be left in food products, that the consumer is made aware of that.

I am not suggesting that we should try to get rid of all pesticide residues from food. I think there are bound to be some as a result of some operations, but surely it must be right that the consumer should be informed if that is the case and have the freedom of choice to buy food which will not have pesticide residues in it.

I think a number of us would feel that it might help some farmers who are going to find it increasingly difficult to make a living out of, say, milk production or intensive cereal production, to move into a field knowing that consumers will be able to exercise choice in favour of organically grown food or food grown without the use of pesticides. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

I think the noble Lord is absolutely right in the first part of his amendment; and, if he will forgive me for saying so, not right in the second part. I think there is an unarguable need in the first part of his amendment to provide this type of information on product labels, and I can assure the noble Lord that these powers are already available under Clause 15(1)(c).

But when we come to the second part of the noble Lord's amendment, I really do think it would be impractical. After all, pesticide residues are not additives introduced by manufacturers of food in known quantities and analysis of all raw materials would be extremely costly and time consuming. Nor would food label information on pesticide residues be all that useful to consumers. Some foods are already advertised as residue free and legislation exists to deal with any falsity in making such claims. But, for the rest, this Bill continues the work of ensuring consumer safety, and in view of what I have said about our surveillance of pesticide residues in food I hope that the Committee will agree that this second half of the amendment would be unnecessary and, I must say, also enormously difficult to impose.

Lord Melchett

I am not sure from the farmers' point of view that it is tremendously desirable that all food which is not marked pesticide free should be assumed by consumers to have pesticide residues in it; and to some extent that seems to me the effect of what the noble Lord has said. I would like to consider that again before the next stage of the Bill. But I am grateful to him for his assurance on the first part of my Amendment No. 103, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 104:

After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:

(" Company Representatives and Salesmen.

Ministers shall require any person to obtain, before visiting any farm or household or other place or type of place specified in the regulations, for the purposes of selling or advertising or making available for sale any pesticide or of providing supporting information, the consent of the owner or occupier, in a manner to be specified in the regulations.").

The noble Lord said: I hope I do not need to say that this is a probing amendment. I move it with two purposes in mind: first of all, to see whether the noble Lord agrees that the practice of company salesmen calling on farmers has become really quite a problem. It is, of course, fairly frequent now in the countryside to see notices at the entrance to farms saying that no representatives are to call without an appointment. How effective notices of that sort are on representatives, I have no personal experience. But, more seriously, I hope that the Government will be able to give me an assurance that independent advice on the use of pesticides will continue to be available to farmers so that they are not wholly reliant on salesmen and representatives of chemical companies.

I should say straight away that, as a farmer, my own experience of the representatives of the chemical firms with which we deal has been extremely good. But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that on occasions the representatives of the manufacturerers and retailers of pesticides will not be giving absolutely impartial advice and I suspect that that problem is likely to increase as the cost price squeeze on agriculture increases in coming years, and the sales of pesticides inevitably come under pressure, and salesmen come under equal pressure to maintain their level of sales.

Noble Lords may have seen in recent days reference to the incentives given to agricultural machinery salesmen to achieve sales against the very difficult outlook which they face, given the Government's changes in taxation provisions. I hope the noble Lord will be able to assure us that ADAS will continue to give independent advice without charging large sums of money, which would inevitably affect the smallest and poorest farmers, so that there is source of independent advice on the sensible use of pesticides and their safety and efficacy. I beg to move.

Lord Rea

I should like to say that there is a very close parallel here in the promotion of drugs by pharmaceutical firm representatives to doctors. Many of us appreciate the visits by these ladies and gentlemen, who are always charming and often offer lunches and dinners, with alcohol, to help persuade us maybe to go down their line of thinking. I think the Department of Health and Social Security is to be congratulated on keeping us supplied with a continuous flow of information of an independent kind. This is just what my noble friend Lord Melchett has been trying to persuade MAFF to do for farmers.

Lord John-Mackie

This is a rather interesting amendment, and I feel we want to look at it very carefully. Farmers are not altogether fools and I think that they should judge for themselves whether or not a representative of a spray firm should be allowed about the place. Personally, I find them, on the whole, very helpful. You can always check their advice with ADAS. I should be loath to support my noble friend on this amendment.

Lord Belstead

If I may say so, I think those are wise words of caution. Apart from a rather strange situation where, as a nation of shopkeepers, we are deterring our salesmen, I think, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, that the amendment would have a rather odd effect, because whereas it would have the purpose of requiring pesticide salesmen to have to ask permission before coming and selling on the doorstep, it would mean that, in order to ask that permission, the pesticide salesmen must come on to the doorstep, anyway. It does not seem to me, therefore, that one would get very far. The householder who would prefer, as I understand the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, would prefer, not to have a whole series of salesmen coming to see him would still find that a whole series of salesmen would come to see him to ask permission to come to see him, if I am making myself clear. If I am making myself clear, I am not in favour of the amendment.

Lord Melchett

The only area where the noble Lord did not make himself clear was on the likely future of ADAS, and I am afraid that is something which is going to continue to hang over the agricultural industry for a while. Is it, or is it not, going to be another candidate for a British Telecom type of sell-off? That raises in my mind another point which I would put to the noble Lord. Most farms were already on the telephone before British Telecom was in private hands and it was possible for somebody to ring up and make an appointment. The noble Lord may know something about rural phone services which the rest of us do not, and it may be that in future the only way of contacting most people in the countryside will be by going to see them, as those sorts of phone services disappear. But I take the noble Lord's general stricture that this is not a particularly desirable amendment, and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 105 not moved.]

Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 106:

After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:

("Misused pesticides

. No pesticide shall be approved where it appears to either of the Ministers, or to the Nature Conservancy Council, the Health and Safety Executive, the Department of Health and Social Security, or the Department of the Environment, that it is being, is likely to be, or has been persistently, misused, whether wilfully or accidentally.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with a much more serious point; namely, that there should be a power in the Bill to ensure that Ministers can remove from use pesticides which, even if in their approved use do not give rise to environmental dangers, are nevertheless being consistently misused in a way which causes very serious problems.

Over the years there have been a number of chemicals which have been misused—for example, and in particular, to poison protected birds. In the period between 1979 and 1984, two chemicals—alpha-chloralose and mevinphos—were involved respectively in 141 and 123 incidents where they were used illegally in attempts (successful, unfortunately) to poison, on the whole, rare birds of prey. Alpha-choralose in those years, for example, was used in incidents which involved 43 buzzards, five red kites, 10 golden eagles, two peregrines, and so on. Mevinphos involved 34 buzzards, three golden eagles, a sea eagle—and incidentally the sea eagle is the subject of an extremely expensive and long-running reintroduction programme funded by the Government through the Nature Conservancy Council—one red kite, three marsh harriers and one human being who was accidentally poisoned by bait put out to kill a rare bird. There are a number of other chemicals. Strychnine is the other major example. It is available legally only to poison moles, but in fact in those five years it was involved in incidents which killed seven buzzards and 18 dogs.

11 p.m.

So there are examples over the years—and I have figures going back over the previous five-year period and again mevinphos and strychnine feature high on the list—where chemicals have, unfortunately, been persistently misused in ways which are illegal, and where the law has not been adequate to prevent that misuse.

One of the arguments up to this moment, until we had a statutory scheme, against banning particular chemicals of this type, is that people would simply turn to another one and use some alternative chemical. But it seems to me that if we had a statutory scheme and a provision such as that which would be provided by this amendment, it would be possible at last to place some check on these deplorable and consistently occurring illegal poisoning incidents.

Of course it is not just rare birds of prey and people's dogs that might be affected. There are, for example, chemicals which are used persistently by human beings when attempting to kill themselves. If that arose as a serious problem it seems to me all the more important that the Government should have some power to prevent such a chemical being used in future even if, as I say, its legitimate use gave rise to no grounds for complaint. If a chemical is persistently misused to cause widespread environmental damage, death to human beings or whatever, there should be a power to enable the Government to control and regulate its use. That is what this amendment would provide. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I must say that if a chemical is being persistently misused something ought to be done about it. But I do not think that it should be dealt with by the single action of "either the Ministers, or" for it appears to me that it would require consultation. I feel that the amendment is too widely drawn because too many people can act without the approval of others.

Lord Belstead

I must say that I would be very reluctant to go along with this amendment in the sense that it refers not only to misuse, but to the potential for misuse. Secondly, I am mystified that the noble Lord in talking about persistent misuse does not mention the existing law—the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Protection of Animals Act 1911, which are both relevant in this particular respect. I do not think that this is necessary.

Lord Melchett

I am very sorry, but I do not think that that is an adequate reply to what seems to me to be a very serious and continuing problem. I entirely accept what the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, has said about the need to change the amendment so that the individual organisations listed here could not act individually, and that there should be some such phrase as "Ministers after consultation".

But the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, relying on existing law, would be satisfactory if the existing law had shown any ability whatever to reduce the incidence of these poisonings. But that is not the case. In fact in recent years there has been increasing concern abut the number of children at risk. Not long ago there was the case where a child picked up some eggs on a hillside and took them home and cooked them. It was only by luck that the family's pet dog ate part of one of the eggs before the child ate the cooked eggs. The dog fell dead immediately. The eggs had been illegally poisoned with alpha-chloralose or strychnine in an attempt to kill a bird of prey on a hill.

There have been some very close shaves by human beings who have very nearly lost their lives. In those circumstances, it does not seem to me to be enough to say that the existing law covers this. In particular, it does not seem enough to say that when the incidence of such poisoning appears to be, if anything, on the increase, and certainly not on the decrease.

I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will address his mind more seriously to this point. It is one of major concern. As far as I can see—and it would be helpful if the Minister could at least confirm this—there are no powers in the Bill as it is currently drafted to allow for the withdrawal of a product on this basis; in other words, where its authorised use causes no problems but it is being persistently misused. If the noble Lord could simply answer that question, it would at least allow me to make a judgment about whether I need to return to this point on Report.

In the meantime, I hope that the noble Lord will look at this matter again, because I think that there is a serious problem here. We have not found a way in legilation of tackling it yet; and it seems to me that if a chemical is being used for very minor uses and is misused on a grand scale, causing widespread damage, the Government should have power to get that chemical withdrawn.

Lord Belstead

I have referred to other legislation first and foremost because the noble Lord persistently will not refer to it. The fact of the matter is that there is other legislation. I have mentioned the 1981 Act and the 1911 Act. If the noble Lord would look at those two pieces of legislation, that would help us.

There are also, of course, the restrictions on getting hold of poisons through the poisons legislation, which I should have thought would have had some reference to the very last and tragic example which the noble Lord gave to the Committee. I think that we are in an area where we are talking about enforcement of the law and not necessarily making new law, and not, in particular, making law which is drawn quite as widely as this amendment is, where we are talking about the potential for misuse.

The Bill will, of course, make misuse an offence, and heavy penalties are provided. The efforts of the new enforcement officers authorised by Ministers and the continuing action taken by organisations, such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, would help to make a major contribution in this area. So the Bill is not entirely inert on this subject. But what I do not like is the particular amendment which the noble Lord has produced, for the reasons that I have given.

Lord Melchett

Again, I will look at the question of potential for misuse. I think that the noble Lord may well have a good point there in saying that the amendment is drawn too widely. I am quite happy to refer to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 at great length if the noble Lord wants me to, and I am well aware that there are powers in that Act which make these incidents illegal. I said right from the start that this was the illegal use of particular chemicals. I do not think that the Committee would like a long dissertation on the efficacy of the Wildlife and Countryside Act at this time of night, and, with respect, the noble Lord should not tempt me onto that ground, because I am all too easily tempted.

There are parallels with human medicines. For example, it was the fact that barbiturates were widely abused by people, and in those cases doctors limited their availability. In one particular case in Ipswich doctors stopped prescribing them altogether. That reduced the incidence of suicide and dependence on barbiturates very dramatically. I am suggesting that exactly the same sort of step should be taken here. It was the case that the abuse of some of those drugs was against some other provision or had some other means of enforcement, but they did not work because the drugs were too easily available. I am afraid that that is the case here. Although putting poisoned eggs out on the hillside is illegal and is a criminal offence for which people can be arrested and prosecuted, the fact of the matter is that while the poisonous substances are readily available incidents of poisoning continue to occur.

Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will look at that point. I shall certainly bear in mind the points that he has made about the drafting of the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackie of Benshie moved Amendment No. 108:

After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:

(" Packaging and labelling.

. It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State for Trade to amend the Packaging and Labelling of Dangerous Substances Regulations 1978 so that—

  1. (a) they apply to substances supplied for use as pesticide, and
  2. (b) they apply to a pesticide supplied for export, and
  3. (c) they require that pesticides that are to be exported from the United Kingdom are labelled in a manner and contain such information as to their hazards and the way in which they are to be applied as to be easily understood by those who will apply them in the country to which they are being exported, and
  4. (d) the supplier of a pesticide for export shall certify its chemical composition.")

The noble Lord said: This amendment follows closely the reasoning of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, on a previous amendment, but it is rather different in that we specifically refer to pesticides supplied for export as pesticides. There are a lot of horrifying figures, some of which were given by the noble Lord behind me, as to the misuse of pesticides supplied overseas. We cannot shelter behind the fact that it is up to any country to make its own regulations and that all we have to do is to comply with them. Where we know so much about the troubles that can occur through the misuse of pesticides, we should let it be known.

If we are going to have regulations in this country about clear labelling, then we must follow the lead of the big firms. For example, Shell are doing a tremendous amount of work on producing good pictograms, and they are at the point of trying to agree with FAO that there should be a universal code. We in this country should give a lead and insist by regulation that all pesticides supplied abroad are labelled, whether by pictogram or in the language of the country, as clearly as they are labelled here.

There are too many examples of enormous harm being done in third world countries, by techniques which are unclearly understood, for us to try to dodge our responsibilities. I should like the Minister to give a rather more positive reply than to say that when a code of conduct is produced we shall comply with it. It is up to our Government here, with our vast experience from colonial and other days, to give a lead in this, and I cannot see what harm it would do for him to say that we shall in fact insist that exports of pesticides for use as pesticides shall be labelled quite clearly with the dangers explained in pictogram form or in the language of the country. I cannot see anything but credit devolving on this country for that. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

Although the Marshalled List does not say it, I think I should now say: Amendment proposed, to insert the new clause as printed on the Marshalled List.

Lord Belstead

The difficulty this amendment places me in is that the regulations which the amendment mentions, namely, the Packaging and Labelling of Dangerous Substances Regulations 1978, have been replaced by the Classification, Packaging and Labelling of Dangerous Substances Regulations 1984. The regulations the amendment mentions do not exist any longer. The new ones implement a series of European Community directives which are intended to apply identical safety rules in each member state. The purpose of this is to eliminate barriers to trade which would arise if each country went its own way. Pesticides are excluded precisely because we and other member states preferred to take our own decisions on labelling requirements so far as pesticides are concerned.

The noble Lord says to the Government that, if this is the case, we ought to give a lead. I know that the noble Lord does not wish me to say it, but I think that this is an area where the FAO code of conduct, which we are deeply involved in so far as negotiations are concerned, should be the vehicle we use in deciding on labelling or sending pesticides overseas. That is the stance of the Government at this time on this particular matter.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I shall speak severely to my advisers about the out-of-dateness of the matter of the regulations. In the spirit of the matter, I do not see what is to prevent the Government from saying that when the code of conduct comes in they will make a regulation applying the code of conduct. However, I am glad to hear that the Minister is keen on a code of conduct, is actively engaged in promoting it within FAO, and I look forward to its coming out. I shall consider his reply and see whether we should do something on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 108A not moved.]

Clause 16 [Fees]:

[Amendment No. 109 not moved.]

11.15 p.m.

Lord John-Mackie moved Amendment No. 110:

110 Page 15, line 37, at end insert— (" ( ) In order to prevent the expense of duplicating tests the Minister shall give consideration to providing an observer to check on commercial tests and give approval on this basis.")

The noble Lord said: With a view to saving the Government money and with a view to helping the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, which follows this (in which he is worried about the fees) we think that in many cases in which a commercial company is going through tests of a pesticide or, for that matter, any substance, it should be sufficient for a Government observer to be there to observe the tests and give approval on that basis. I know that there are probably difficulties about this and I am putting it forward as a probing amendment in order to see how the Government are to do their tests for approval. I beg to move.

The Earl of Swinton

I am grateful to the noble Lord for proposing this amendment which, on the face of it, would appear to save money. However, I do not think that the amendment is necessary, though the aim undoubtedly is. Clause 15 (5), which deals with the provision of information by manufacturers and others, is already broad enough to permit Ministers to require an applicant for approval to carry out tests under the observation of a Government representative, if Ministers felt that was necessary. The option which the noble Lord proposes as an economy measure is therefore already available to us under the Bill.

Moreover, the code of good laboratory practice, which the DHSS has recently announced is being extended into the pesticides areas, also provides for the regular inspection of research premises to ensure that they come up to scratch. The power provided in Clause 16 (2) is, in effect, a safety measure to ensure that, in the rare event of Ministers deciding that it was necessary for tests to be carried out by the Government, the costs can be recovered. I hope that with that assurance the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord John-Mackie

It is an assurance which says that a lot of things are available under the Bill. The noble Earl is right—many things are available under the Bill, but he is unwilling to write them into it. However, in view of what he said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Monk Bretton moved Amendment No. 111:

Page 15, line 37, at end insert— (" ( ) In determining the level of any fees that either of the Ministers may require an applicant for the approval of a pesticide to pay, that Minister shall have regard to the level of any fees that an applicant for the approval of a pesticide may be required to pay in other member states of the European Economic Community.")

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the level of fees is such that agrochemical prices in the United Kingdom should not exceed, but should be broadly comparable with, those in the European Community. My hope is that my noble friend the Minister will see the virtues of this and possibly that he will see the desirability of writing something into the Bill, particularly if the fees will have a substantial impact. There is some concern about it within the farming industry.

If my noble friend the Minister can tell us about what happens with these fees in other EEC countries, it will be most helpful. The European Community's objection to our present voluntary regime was that it was restrictive of trade. As I see it, the European Commission have a desire to see fair competition within the EEC. British farmers also desire fair competition within the EEC and I know well that they wish to see much stress laid upon this.

The sparkling clear water of this concept tends to get muddied from time to time, we know only too well, and this proposal is something towards preventing that happening again. It is a principle that needs pretty constant defence.

There is one other thing that I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister, and that is whether he can give us some sort of estimate of the amount it is now costing the Government to approve agrochemicals. This would give a broad indication of how much the total of the fees is likely to be. It would be a helpful guide to know how significant an impact this is likely to have. I will say no more now but await the reactions of the Committee, and particularly of my noble friend. I beg to move.

Lord Melchett

I should like to support this amendment if only because I think it would establish an extremely desirable precedent, although I am not sure that it is one that the two noble Lords who put their names to the amendment really want to establish. As I said on an earlier amendment, it is a fact that in some European countries, and in particular West Germany and Denmark, there are much stricter controls on pesticides and far fewer products available to the farmer than there are in this country; in other words, we already enjoy, as farmers, considerable advantages over some of our European competitors.

Were this principle to be established in the Bill, I suppose it would only be a small step to go one further and say that we should not have available to us in this country pesticides which are banned in other countries of the Common Market; we should not be allowed to put pesticides on the land in circumstances in which farmers in other countries in the Common Market were prohibited from doing so. I do not know whether that is what the noble Lords, Lord Monk Bretton and Lord Stanley of Alderley, had in mind, but it is certainly a principle that I find quite attractive.

Lord Monk Bretton

I certainly did not ask for that. I merely wanted some clarification because I know that the industry in this country would be grateful for it. This is very much a probing amendment.

The Earl of Swinton

I am grateful to my noble friend for explaining this amendment. It is common to member states of the European Community to levy a fee for the registration of pesticides. In fact, with the exception of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, all other member states charge for this service, and it is my understanding that the Irish intend to change their system in due course. The charges raised by our European neighbours vary considerably, and so do the services provided by their pesticides approval schemes. I am sorry, but we do not have details of precise charges, just the general information that they vary widely from country to country as to the services which they are designed to pay for. However, I could endeavour to get the information and write to my noble friend if that would be helpful.

It would therefore be impossible to base our charges on theirs unless our procedures also mirrored theirs exactly. Our intention would be to levy fees on a system broadly similar to that employed under the Medicines Act for the control of human and veterinary medicines. The aim would be to generate sufficient income to meet the Government's costs of adminstration and the new arrangements—no more and no less. I understand that at present the costs of approving agrochemicals are roughly of the order of half a million pounds, but we suspect that when this new, enlarged scheme comes in the costs might be in the region of about one million pounds. Experience has shown that fees levied under the Medicines Act do not have an adverse effect on our trade since the fees themselves are insignificant when compared with the costs of developing a product. We will in any event certainly consult all interested organisations before we introduce any charging system.

Lord Monk Bretton

I should like to thank my noble friend on the Front Bench for that most informative reply. I think that in view of what he has said it is pretty unlikely that one would wish to proceed further at a later stage. I will await what he may write, nevertheless. May I thank him for offering to write. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 16 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I should like to ask one very simple question. I want to ask my noble friend: who are "the Ministers" referred to in line 28, I think it is, at the beginning of Clause 16(1), as opposed to "the Ministers" who are referred to on page 20, which mentions the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State? Previously we have been talking about nine Ministers. I wonder whether my noble friend could clarify this point?

The Earl of Swinton

I understand it is either the Minister of Agriculture or the Secretary of State.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

In both cases is that? Both on page 20, where it refers to "the Ministers" as meaning the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State, and in this clause, it means either? Is that correct?

The Earl of Swinton


Clause 16 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 112 not moved.]

Clause 17 [Enforcement powers]:

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 113:

Page 16, line 1, at beginning insert— ("( ) Either of the Ministers may authorise any person, subject to such limitations as may be specified in the instrument authorising him to enforce this part of this Act; and the following provisions of this Act shall be construed, in reference to a person so authorised, as subject to any such limitations.")

The noble Earl said: With permission, I should like to take Amendment No. 113 and to speak to Amendments Nos. 114 and 119 at the same time.

Amendment No. 114: Page 16, line 2, leave out ("authorised by either of the Ministers") and insert ("so authorised").

Amendment No. 119: Page 17, line 7, leave out ("exercise the powers conferred by this section") and insert ("enforce this Part of this Act").

These amendments are very similar to the amendment tabled by my noble friend last Thursday, on Part II. They make clear that Ministers have powers to authorise officers to endorse Part III and will bring this part into line with the rest of the Bill. Amendment No. 113 is the main change, and the other two amendments are consequential. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

In calling Amendment No. 114, I must say that if it is agreed I cannot call No. 115.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 114:

[Printed above.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 115 not moved.]

Lord Craigton moved Amendment No. 116:

Page 16, line 4, after ("pesticide") insert ("or delivery device").

The noble Lord said: With the leave of the Committee, with this amendment I should like to discuss also Amendment No. 117. Amendment No. 117: Page 16, line 13, after ("pesticide") insert ("r delivery device"). This subsection refers to obtaining evidence of an offence, and, in obtaining evidence of an offence, a delivery device and its condition might be an essential part of the evidence. I believe that, as such, it is no wit different from a vehicle used for applying a pesticide under subsection (2)(a). If a vehicle for applying a pesticide requires special mention in order to be produced as evidence, then a delivery device should itself be specially mentioned. I beg to move.

The Earl of Swinton

I really do not think I have anything to add to what my noble friend said on Amendment No. 57, when the noble Lord moved a very similar amendment.

Lord Craigton

I am not at all happy about that reply. I was asked by the Minister to put all my amendments together. My amendments—all with the same words, "or delivery device"—were an attempt to get delivery devices mentioned in the Bill; and here it has nothing to do with previous replies. This is proposed so that a delivery device could be used as evidence in obtaining a prosecution. That has nothing to do with the previous replies I received, and I regret to say that I do not at all like the reply which has just been given. If the Minister has nothing to say, I shall leave it until the next time, and beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 117 not moved.]

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 118:

Page 17, line 5, at end insert— (" ( ) Where any person has incurred loss or damage in consequence of the service of a notice under subsections (4) or (5) above, but is not subsequently convicted of an offence under section 15(6)(a), the Ministers shall be liable for the loss or damage.")

The noble Lord said: Clause 17 would allow a Minister to control, indeed to halt, agricultural activities if he suspects a breach of regulations. I am certainly not objecting to such a power, but I want to ask what will happen if it turns out that there was no breach of the regulations and that the farmer has, through this Bill, been put to unnecessary expense. This amendment would make it possible for the farmer to claim compensation for such an error. I beg to move.

11.30 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton

This amendment would severely inhibit enforcement officers in their first duty—to prevent and remedy dangers. It would also place undue emphasis on obtaining convictions. Furthermore, notices served under subsection (5) relate to the risk of the commission of an offence, so a conviction might be impossible.

Procedures for serving notices of this kind are already a well-established feature of arrangements under the Health and Safety at Work Act, and work perfectly satisfactorily without provision for compensation. However, in case my noble friend feels that a farmer or contractor has no means of redress against a prohibition or improvement notice which he feels is unreasonable, I would remind him that such a farmer would have the right to invoke the remedy of judicial review—which permits any person aggrieved by a decision of a public authority to have such a decision reviewed by the High Court.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I have listened to my noble friend but am not sure that I am happy with his answer. However, I will consider it and meanwhile beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 119:

[Printed earlier: col. 254.]

Lord Mackie of Benshie

It might be appropriate at this point to question why, if we have to enforce this part of the Act, it would not be suitable at times to appoint representatives from the local authority—who are in fact responsible for public health in many cases and who know the ground. I question why they would not perhaps be more suitable than representatives appointed by the Ministry, in certain cases. Perhaps the noble Lord the Minister would care to refer back to his reply to the previous amendment and tell us why this cannot be so, under this amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 17, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I shall try again. I want to know from the Minister why it is unsuitable for a representative of the local authority to be appointed. It appears to us that the local authority has a responsibility for public health and knows the ground. In many cases, it might be quite suitable for the local authority to authorise a person to enforce the Act.

Lord Belstead

With respect, it is not impossible and it is not necessarily inappropriate. Where it is appropriate, it is possible for local authority officers to be those who are authorised by Ministers to act under the Act.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

But it is not for the local authority to appoint them—they have to be authorised by the Minister.

Lord Belstead


Clause 17, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness Nicol moved Amendment No. 120:

After Clause 17, insert the following new clause:

(" Advisory body.

.—(1) The Ministers shall establish an advisory body consisting of such members as they may from time to time appoint, provided that these members shall include three nominees of the Secretary of State for the Environment.

(2) Subject to subsection (3) below, it shall be the duty of the advisory body to advise the Ministers on any question which they may refer to it or on which it considers it should offer its advice—

  1. (a) in connection with the administration of this Part; or
  2. (b) otherwise in connection with the control of pesticides.

(3) It shall be the duty of the Ministers to seek the advice of the advisory body before—

  1. (a) giving approval under section 15(1)(b);
  2. (b) providing for the imposition of any conditions under section 15(1)(c); or
  3. (c) specifying under section 15(1)(g) how much pesticide or pesticides residue may be left in crops, food or feeding stuff.

(4) The advisory body may regulate its proceedings in such manner as it may itself determine, provided that it shall report annually to the Ministers on the performance of its duties under this section and cause such a report to be published.

(5) Before appointing a person to be a member of the advisory body the Ministers shall consult the Secretary of State for the Environment and such other persons or bodies as they see fit.

(6) The Ministers may, out of moneys provided by Parliament and to such an extent as may be approved by the Treasury, defray or contribute towards the expenses of the advisory body established under this section.")

The noble Baroness said: I shall be as brief as I can; but this was—and still is—a rather important amendment. We seek to place on a statutory basis the Advisory Committee on Pesticides. We have heard a lot this evening about how valuable that committee is, and we have heard with great pleasure from the Minister that, in future, an annual report will be published. However, we feel that it should be on a statutory basis. The Royal Commission for Environmental Protection recommends this in its Seventh Report, at paragraph 3.106. It states: We accordingly recommend that the appropriate Ministers should take general reserve powers which would enable them to make regulations for the control of pesticides"— that is being done— and to appoint such advisory bodies for that purpose as they see fit. We see the latter provision as a form of statutory recognition of a body such as the ACP.

That seems an entirely sensible approach. The present composition of the ACP recognises the need for wide consultation and I have here the present composition of the ACP. I shall not read it in detail at this late hour but perhaps I should mention, for the benefit of those who do not know, the number of bodies who are represented on it. They are: the Agricultural and Food Research Council; the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland; the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland; the Department of Education and Science; the Department of the Environment; the Department of Health and Social Security; the Department for Trade and Industry; the Health and Safety Executive; the Laboratory of the Government Chemist; the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; and Medical Research Council; and the Natural Environment Research Council. They all attend meetings of the ACP. Therefore, it seems to me that the credentials of this body cannot be in doubt. Indeed, many noble Lords have said so this evening.

There is perhaps a question mark over whether the chairman and members who are appointed by the DES should continue. It might be more appropriate if the Minister of Agriculture or the Department of the Environment were to appoint them. That is a matter which can be discussed later.

We seek to ensure that advice is sought in those important areas outlined in Amendment No. 120: that the Department of the Environment input will be safeguarded—hence, the first subsection which asks for three members from the Department of the Environment—and that an annual report will be published, which the Minister has this evening told us will be the case. The statement of intention in relation to the regulations, paragraph 4, assumes consultation with the ACP. We wish to see that consultation made mandatory. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

The noble Baroness has explained the amendment but perhaps I may be permitted to say that it is not necessary. I agree that an advisory body giving expert advice to the Government on pesticide matters is essential. As the noble Baroness knows, such a body—the Advisory Committee on Pesticides—already exists and has done so in various guises since 1954. This independent and expert committee consists of members from a range of medical and scientific backgrounds. Like the noble Baroness, I shall not run through them except to say that of the various members the Department of the Environment is most certainly one.

Members are appointed by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, on which the noble Baroness had some doubts, but I believe it is right that my right honourable friend should make those appointments. It is very much in line with the Secretary of State for Education and Science making appointments to the research councils. There is consultation with other Government departments in the making of these appointments, and once again the Department of the Environment is one of the departments consulted.

We shall certainly continue to take advice from the ACP, and paragraph 4 of our statement of intention makes that absolutely clear. The terms of reference of the ACP on pesticides already commit it to keeping under review all risks that may arise from the use of pesticides, veterinary chemicals not directly administered to animals, and any other potentially toxic chemicals specifically referred to the committee, and to make recommendations to my right honourable friend. These duties have been carried out most successfully. I do not think that the record of successive Governments in relation to that suggests that there is any need to go further than we have gone before.

To come back to the beginning, the position of the Department of the Environment so far as the ACP is concerned is most certainly assured. Indeed, if I am able to respond in full to the amendment of my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley and put the Advisory Committee on Pesticides into legislation, then the Department of the Environment will be a member, as indeed the other members will be, of a statutory body. I would have thought that that would satisfy all of us.

Baroness Nicol

Will the Minister clarify this? Will he then have a statutory obligation to consult the ACP on everything?

Lord Belstead

That is the effect of the amendment of my noble friend Lord Stanley.

Baroness Nicol

In that case, I should like to know why there is resistance to making it a statutory body. What advantage is to be gained for the Minister in making it a statutory body?

Lord Belstead

It has worked extremely well since the 1950s in its present guise. I think that it makes it a more flexible body. If it is made a statutory body, presumably in statute the next step will be to start saying exactly who should be members and who should not. I think that we should do best to continue in the way that we are. So far as putting consultation with it on a statutory basis, we have already discussed that. It is something to which I think I am attracted, although I do not think that it is absolutely necessary. I am committed to discussing that with my noble friend Lord Stanley.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

As my amendment, Amendment No. 99A, has been mentioned, may I ask my noble friend, when he takes it away to consider it—and I am grateful to him for saying that he will do that—whether he will just consider the position of an engineer on this august body? I went through it, and could not see many engineers.

Lord Melchett

We are having a statutory scheme, which is going to be almost wholly reliant on an advisory committee, the ACP, which is going to carry out all the testing, issue the approvals, be the body which gives advice to the Government on the whole range of the way that these statutory procedures will work, and indeed now, possibly, as a result of the noble Lord's response to Amendment No. 99A, actually be referred to in the legislation as a body which there will be a duty on Ministers to consult. Surely it is pretty strange for that body not to be a statutory body.

The noble Lord says that the system has worked perfectly well for a long period of time. Some people feel that the voluntary system has worked well for a long time, but that, with respect, is not what we are legislating about. We are introducing new legislation. The whole system is being put on a statutory basis. I know that the Government have been anxious to pare down these clauses to the absolute minimum that they needed to put in the Bill. But it is quite without precedent, so far as I know, that a scheme which is going to rely on a particular body to carry it out is not mentioned in the statute and not set up by the statute. I would have thought that that really is wrong. It is irrelevant that the system has been on a voluntary basis for years. The whole thing has been on a voluntary basis for years, but we are now legislating and it is all going to be on a statutory basis. Surely the advisory committee should be a statutory body now.

Lord Belstead

We will consider it. I cannot honestly see what the advantage would be. I will consider it, but I have not yet discerned an advantage.

Baroness Nicol

This is about the third or fourth occasion on which I am left feeling puzzled by the reaction from the other side to what is apparently a reasonable amendment and appears to put into law what the Government wish to do. However, I accept what the Minister has said. I suggest that public confidence would be greatly enhanced by having the ACP as a statutory body. That might perhaps weigh a little in the noble Lord's deliberations. But at this point, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.45 p.m.

Baroness Nicol moved Amendment No. 121.

After Clause 17, insert the following new clause:

("Annual report.

. The Ministers shall after the end of every year prepare a report detailing the applications to and proceedings of Ministers under the foregoing provision of Part III during that year, and shall lay a copy of it before each House of Parliament and shall cause it to be published.")

The noble Baroness said: The workings of the ACP have been subject to the strictest confidentiality. Reports have been published, but very infrequently. They are now going to be published, we hope, with more regularity. We welcome the Government's statement of intent, which was repeated in Lord Belstead's comments on Second Reading at column 736. However, such a report must be the statutory duty of the ACP. As I understand it, this is the matter the Government are taking away in order to look at it. I therefore formally move this amendment in order to hear their reassurance on that. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

I give the reassurance that the first report of the ACP covering 1984 will be published next year, and copies will be available in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament. Information on all applications considered by the advisory committee and all reviews carried out by it during the year will be included in the report.

Baroness Nicol

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord John-Mackie moved Amendment No. 122:

After Clause 17, insert the following new clause:

("Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

. Nothing in this Part shall prejudice the provision of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 or of any regulations or approved codes of practice made under that Act.")

The noble Lord said: This is really a probing amendment. It is not clear to what extent there will be overlap between the provisions of the Bill, or, more particularly, the regulations, the Health and Safety at Work Act, or the Agriculture (Poisonous Substances) Act 1952 which it incorporates and which provides for protection of employees against the risk of poisoning, etc. I should be glad to know whether there is an overlap and how it affects the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Lord Belstead

It is certainly not our intention to do anything under Part III which would prejudice the provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act. As safeguards to that assurance, the Committee should note that the Health and Safety Executive is jointly responsible, with the nine other departments, for the operation of the PSPS and will continue to fulfil that role in the new arrangements.

Secondly, the Bill already requires, in Clause 15(4), that Ministers should consult the Health and Safety Commission on any regulations which are likely to affect the health or safety of persons at work.

So I think that the provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act are completely preserved so far as this Bill is concerned. The workings of that Act are in no way jeopardised by the provisions of this Bill as drafted.

Lord John-Mackie

I thank the Minister for that reply and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 2 [Officers and their powers]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 123:

Page 26, line 22, leave out ("exercise the powers conferred by section 11 or 17 above") and insert ("enforce Part II or III of this Act").

The noble Lord said: This is a drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 123A:

Page 26, line 35, leave out ("the cargo of") and insert ("any substances or articles on board").

The noble Lord said: If I may move Amendment No. 123A and at the same time speak to Amendments Nos. 124, 125 and 126, these are all drafting amendments.

Amendment No. 124: Page 28, line 42, leave out ("and Northern Ireland").

Amendment No. 125: Page 29, line 2, leave out ("the issue of warrants to") and insert ("warrants for").

Amendment No. 126: Page 29, line 8, leave out ("to") and insert ("in").

I beg to move the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendments Nos. 124 to 126:

[Printed above.]

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 127 not moved.]

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 18 [Crown land]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

In proposing Amendment No. 127A I must point out that the first word in subsection (4) shoud be "Subsection" and not "Subject".

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 127A:

Leave out Clause 18 and insert:—

("Application to Crown etc.

.—(1) An emergency order operates in relation to land in the designated area in which there is a Crown interest or a Duchy interest.

(2) Subject to subsection (3) below, a person to whom this subsection applies may perform any functions under this Act in relation to land in which there is such an interest.

(3) Such a person shall not perform any functions—

  1. (a) in relation to land in which there is no interest other than a Crown interest or a Duchy interest; or
  2. (b) in relation to land which is exclusively in Crown occupation.

(4) Subsection (2) above applies—

  1. (a) to an investigating officer;
  2. (b) to an enforcement officer; and
  3. (c) to a person authorised to enforce Part II or III of this Act.

(5) In this section— Crown interest" means any interest belonging to her Majesty in right of the Crown or belonging to a government department or held in trust for Her Majesty for the purposes of a government department; Crown occupation" means occupation by Her Majesty in right of the Crown or occupation by a government department; and Duchy interest" means an interest belonging to Her Majesty in right of the Duchy of Lancaster, or belonging to the Duchy of Cornwall.")

The noble Earl said: This is a technical amendment dealing with Crown land. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

New Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 [Offences—penalties etc.]:

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 128:

Page 18, line 17, at end insert— ("( ) Proceedings in respect of any offence under section 15 of this Act shall not be instituted except by either of the Ministers or by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.")

The noble Lord said: I believe this to be an important amendment. It has many precedents and ensures that unnecessary and unjustified prosecutions and indeed harassment do not take place. We are today, in all walks of life, subject to pressures and harassment from extremists. This amendment would prevent the unbalanced extremist from rushing about, entering farms and instituting or threatening to institute legal proceedings under the Bill.

It is quite apparent to me that throughout this Committee stage there has been a conspicuous lack of support for extremists be they farmer or eco-nut as we call them these days. This amendment is in line with that moderate, middle-of-the-road philosophy. Of course, any citizen can always protect himself or herself from consequential damage through the normal process of the law and can report the farmer to the appropriate authority if he or she suspects that an offence has been committed under the Bill. It will then, as my amendment reads, be up to that authority to decide whether to submit that alleged offence to the Director of Public Prosecutions. I beg to move.

Lord Melchett

I strongly oppose the amendment. Even at this time of night, for the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, to try and get away with a suggestion that it is only extremists who go to law and no one else, seems a little far fetched. Even worse is the suggestion that the taking away of the right of individuals to go to the courts is a moderate amendment. It is nothing of the sort. It is, if I may say so, a rather extremist amendment. It attempts to remove from private individuals their right to go to the courts and to have recourse to law. That is not something that should be lightly set aside. It is certainly not something that most moderates, I hope, would support. Indeed, I hope that the moderate line would be to leave the Bill as it is.

No one has anything to fear from the courts, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, would agree, unless they have broken the law. If they have broken the law, Parliament should not prevent them being taken to court, prosecuted and found guilty if that is the case. There are a number of provisions in the Wildlife and Countryside Act—the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, referred me to it earlier—that enable private prosecutions to be taken. They have proved extremely valuable and important powers. Most of the prosecutions taken for the particular misuse of poisons to which I referred earlier—the illegal poisoning of birds of prey—have been private prosecutions. I am delighted to say that the police are taking rather more than they used to take. Nevertheless, most of the prosecutions in those fields are taken either by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds or by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It would be very undesirable if that right of private prosecution was lightly cast aside by moderates or anyone else.

Lord Belstead

It is normal under the law in England and Wales for any person to be free to prosecute any crime. Obviously, the Crown takes the large majority of prosecutions, but the right of anyone to take prosecutions is normal. I have to say that despite what has been said to the contrary by my noble friend Lord Stanley, I do not believe that it is necessary to place a restriction on the right in this area.

I recognise what my noble friend says about his worries, but I really do not believe that any responsible and capable user of pesticides (our safety record in this country shows such people are the majority) have anything to fear from this legislation—certainly not enough to overturn the normal right of the citizen to bring a prosecution if he or she feels that that is necessary.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I do not agree with my noble friend and I certainly do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Melchett. I am not saying that a person cannot bring a prosecution. What that person does is that he or she draws the attention of the Minister to an offence. It is then up to the Minister to decide whether an offence has been committed. My noble friend says that I am worrying unnecessarily about this. I can tell the Committee that I have had experience of people wandering into my farm saying, "Do not spray." This is the sort of person I am trying to prevent causing more trouble in this manner. I am just saying that it should be up to the Minister. There is precedent for this and my noble friend must know it. It is under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965. It is also under the Highways Act—blocking of rights of way. I am not happy with this and I may well come back to it if I can get more support from the House. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 [General defence of due diligence]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 129:

Page 18, line 21, leave out ("this Act") and insert ("section 1(5)(a), 2(4)(a) or 9(1)(a) above")

The noble Lord said: This amendment would amend a drafting defect in Clause 21. The due diligence defence which is provided under Clause 20 is intended to apply only to offences which have no other mental element; it is not intended for offences which already contain their own mental element, such as those set out in Clause 15(6). Indeed, the defence is inconsistent with offences which contain their own mental element and could not be applied to them. This amendment would therefore clarify the extent of the defence by specifying the offences to which it would apply. I beg to move.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I think this is the question where my noble friend is cutting out the words "due diligence", is it not? I am correct, am I not?

Lord Belstead

Yes. My noble friend is correct. For the reasons which I gave in introducing the amendment, we are cutting out the due diligence offence because these particular offences have their own mental element as a defence.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I am sorry to delay the Committee. It is rather a legal question. I am advised that my noble friend is incorrect again. I am sorry to disagree with him over the last two amendments. I am advised that there is a great deal of difference between "due diligence" and "reasonable excuse". "Reasonable excuse" can be made when perhaps an accident occurs and the person cannot go on spraying, or he falls over and he spills the spray tank. However, "due diligence" is another matter, I am told—I am afraid I am speaking from hearsay; I am not a lawyer—and this would be a case when the person has taken all care to fulfil the instructions on the label, etc. Therefore, I find it rather difficult to understand why my noble friend has taken out the words "due diligence".

Lord Belstead

I am sorry. I owe my noble friend a little more of an explanation. The reason is that we only want the defence of due diligence to apply to those offences where there is strict liability, and by moving this amendment I would achieve that objective.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 130:

Page 18, leave out lines 24 and 25 and insert ("the commission of the offence.")

Amendment No. 131: Page 18, line 27, leave out first ("the") and insert ("an")

Amendment No. 132: Page 18, line 27, leave out ("act or omission") and insert ("commission of the offence")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 130. As this amendment and Nos. 131 and 132 are all drafting, perhaps I may deal with them as well. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment No. 130 agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendments Nos. 131 and 132:

[Printed above.]

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 20, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 21 agreed to.

Clause 22 [Interpretation]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 133:

Page 19, line 1, at end insert— (" "agricultural" is to be construed in accordance with section 109(3) of the Agriculture Act 1947, section 86(3) of the Agriculture (Scotland) Act 1948 or section 43(1) of the Agriculture Act (Northern Ireland) 1949;")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

12 midnight

[Amendments Nos. 134, 135 and 136 not moved.]

Clause 22, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 23 [Northern Ireland]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 137:

Page 22, line 25, leave out paragraph (f).

The noble Lord said: If I may, I should like to deal also with Amendments Nos. 138, 139, 140 and 141.

Amendment No. 138: Page 22, line 30, after first ("to") insert ("Northern Ireland or").

Amendment No. 139: Page 22, line 33, after ("or") insert ("one or the other of").

Amendment No. 140: Page 23, line 1, leave out subsection (4).

Amendment No. 141: Page 23, line 13, leave out ("this Act") and insert ("section 18 above").

These are all drafting amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

With the leave of the Committee, I shall now put Amendments Nos. 138, 139, 140 and 141 en bloc.

[Printed above.]

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 23, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses and schedules agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the amendments.

House adjourned at two minutes past midnight.