HL Deb 05 February 1985 vol 459 cc1032-54

  1. 10. The name of the holder of the licence.
  2. 11. The period of the licence.
  3. 12. The name of the owner of the vessel.
  4. 13. A description of the vessel.
  5. 14. The site at which it was intended to scuttle it.
  6. 15. The place from which it was intended that it should be taken to that site.").

Though extensive, the effect of these amendments is simple. It is to ensure that the details listed in Schedule 4, and which must therefore appear in the public register, are relevant to operations of scuttling as well as deposit and incineration. Some of them at present clearly do not apply, such as packaging, and some require changing slightly. The amendment creates another part of the schedule listing the details to be disclosed about scuttling licences. Because there are now two parts, this clause must be amended to tell us which part applies to which. I beg to move.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, there is just one question on these amendments, that concerns Amendment No. 33 refering to the schedule. There is a change in that the requirement to name the owner of the material to be dumped has been omitted. I wonder whether this is a drafting error or whether there is a reason for it. It would seem to me that it is fairly important that the name of the owner should be included in the register. Will the Minister please explain?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, with the leave of the House, in the original Schedule 4 we wanted to indicate the person responsible for the substances or articles to be dumped or the vessel to be scuttled. In practice "producer" referred to substances, while "owner" referred to vessels. But now that Schedule 4 has been cut into two halves this distinction is made explicit. The noble Baroness indicated the nature of her question, and therefore I prepared the answer.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 9:

[Printed above.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 10: Page 15, line 8, leave out from beginning to second ("pesticides") in line 9 and insert ("impose the specified prohibitions in relation to pesticides but exclude from them")

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 10, I should like to take with it Amendments Nos. 14, 15, 16 and 34:

Amendment No. 14: Page 15, line 20, leave out from ("in to end of line 21 and insert ("there has been a breach, in relation to any pesticide,—

  1. (i) of any of the specified prohibitions; or
  2. (ii) of a ")

Amendment No. 15: Page 15, line 33, leave out ("such prohibition on") and insert ("of the specified prohibitions or of any such")

Amendment No. 16: Page 16, line 9, at end insert— (" (2A) In this Part of this Act "the specified prohibitions", in relation to pesticides, means prohibitions of any of the following—

  1. (a) importation;
  2. (b) sale, offer or exposure for sale or possession for the purpose of sale;
  3. (c) supply or offer to supply;
  4. (d) storage;
  5. (e) use;
  6. (f) advertisement.")

Amendment No. 34: Line 7, leave out from ("regulate") to end of line 8 and insert ("pesticides and")

My Lords, having been persuaded by the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, and my noble friend Lord Craigton, who is unable to be here this evening, that we needed to take powers to control storage, advertising and the exposure for sale of prohibited pesticides, we have decided to do so, as we undertook, by amending Clause 15(2)(a) to refer to "specified prohibition" and then to list these prohibitions in the new subsection provided by Amendment No. 16. These changes in turn result in consequential amendments to Clause 15(2)(e) and (f)—that is, Amendments Nos. 14 and 15—and to the Title of the Bill; that is Amendment No. 34. These somewhat convoluted drafting amendments are to make sure that we get into the text the power to make regulations about storage which the noble Lord, Lord Gallagher, particularly raised, and advertising and exposure for sale, which were the matters raised by my noble friend Lord Craigton—no more and no less. I beg to move.

Lord Gallagher

My Lords. I thank the Minister for these amendments and for the explanation that he has given the House concerning them.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 15, line 17, at end insert—

  1. ("(ca) provide for the giving of consent by the Ministers or either of them to the doing of anything contrary to a specified prohibition;
  2. (cb) provide that a consent given by virtue of paragraph (ca) above may be given either without conditions or subject to such conditions as may be specified;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the intention of the wording of Clause 15(2)(c) was to permit Ministers to set both specific conditions on an approval and general conditions relating to such things as training of operators, codes of practice for professional suppliers or users and separate approval of adjuvants used with approved pesticides. Again and again your Lordships have heard the Government say, "Oh, that will be covered in regulations", and, almost always, we have been talking about Clause 15(2)(c). However, as sub-para (c) is drafted it is arguable that such general conditions would have to be attached to each and every approval. If we had wanted to impose general conditions on storage or advertising or use, we would have had to do so by applying standard conditions to each and every approval.

As the House can appreciate, this would have become a cumbersome process. To obviate these administrative difficulties Amendment No. 11 has been tabled which will enable the Government to grant consents, and particularly conditional consents, to particular types of activity, as distinct from approvals to individual chemicals. If I may repeat myself, we have been asked again and again during the course of this Bill whether we have powers to set conditions on application methods, storage, aerial spraying, the training of operators and so on. Always my noble friend Lord Swinton and I have replied, "Yes", and, almost always, we have meant Clause 15(2)(c).

This amendment puts beyond any doubt our ability to impose such general conditions. We were thinking that the wording did not quite fulfil the undertakings we were giving, and we are therefore putting it beyond doubt in moving this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I assume that this covers the ability of the Minister not only to specify what residues may be left but also, if it is found to be necessary, to specify what quantities may be applied, and to what acreage.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, with the leave of the House, so far as residues are concerned that comes in another part of Clause 15; but if the noble Lord is anxious that we should have the power to specify quantities (which is something that I know many noble Lords would like the Government to do) yes, there is the power, but we do not want to take it for the reasons which I went into at the last stage of the Bill.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 15, line 18, leave out ("for the review,") and insert— (" (i) for the")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move this amendment, and would take with it Amendment No. 13.

Amendment No. 13: Page 15, line 19, at end insert— (" (ii) for the amendment of conditions imposed on an approval;")

These are largely drafting improvements designed to make it quite clear that Clause 15(2)(d) provides for the revocation, suspension or amendment of an approval. I was advised that the word "review" was a little ambiguous and might not include the concept of amendment. I therefore believe that the re-wording of Clause 15(2)(d) is necessary, and I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 13:

[Printed above.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendments Nos. 14, 15 and 16:

[Printed above.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move these amendments en bloc. They are consequential on Amendment No. 10.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 17: Page 16, line 21, leave out from ("advice") to ("and") in line 22.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that it will be for the convenience of the House if I also speak to Amendments Nos. 18 and 20.

Amendment No. 18: Page 16, line 26, at end insert— (" ( ) It shall be the duty of the committee to advise the Ministers on any matter which they may refer to it or on which it considers it should offer its advice in furthering the general purposes mentioned in subsection (1) above.")

Amendment No. 20: Page 16, line 32, at end insert— ("and in exercising their duties under this Part of this Act shall have regard to the desirability of consulting the committee on the development of pest control practices including integrated pest management.")

I believe these amendments to be very important. I shall say only a few words explaining the principle behind them, because if we who have proposed these amendments have got our act together, other noble Lords will spell out the detailed reasons, many of which appeared in the brief of the National Farmers' Union, which, as I had nothing to do with it, I may perhaps be allowed to say puts the case for these amendments so well.

May I therefore remind your Lordships that at the present time farmers are at liberty to develop new technology, mix chemicals as they wish, try out cheaper and integrated pest management methods and use chemicals for minor crops without fear of breaking the law. When this Bill becomes law, such innovations will, unless approved, be against the law.

These problems have exercised the minds of your Lordships since the Bill appeared and, to the great credit of my noble friend Lord Belstead, he has accepted many of the ideas put to him to further such innovations, not least the acceptance and upgrading (if I can use that word) of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides. Therefore I hope he will not think me churlish and ungrateful if I say to him, as I do in these amendments, that he has not gone far enough.

As I have said, the Government have decided to legislate to control experimentation in the pesticide field, and in so doing they will inevitably stop creative industry farmers and others from making progress. In this amendment I am therefore saying that, having stopped private individuals doing their own thing, it must be the responsibility of Government to encourage it themselves.

This amendment enables the ACP to adopt a creative role and actively to promote the objectives of Part III, which was put in by your Lordships at an earlier stage and which includes application technology, integrated pest management, tank mixes, minor uses and care of the environment. In fact my amendment, I believe, is really the answer to a maiden's prayer, and I hope very much that my noble friend Lord Belstead will adopt the position of being the maiden. I beg to move.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, we very much support the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, though we would not put it in the flowery language that he used. If the Minister is to have an advisory committee—and we discussed to a great extent what the composition of that committee should be—and if it is to be a fairly powerful one, full use should be made of it. It should not only be asked for advice, but should be able to give advice, always at the centre of things and not waiting to be asked. I support the amendment in every way.

Earl Peel

My Lords, I, too, should like to support my noble friend on these amendments. In relation to Amendment No. 18, it seems to me that, your Lordships having accepted the basic principle of an advisory committee, it would be somewhat halfhearted not to give it the strength to operate in a fully and thoroughly comprehensive role. This entails giving the committee the powers to approach and advise Ministers as it sees fit.

There is one point to which I should like to make reference and that is in connection with the freedom of information clause, which I was very grateful my noble friend incorporated in this Bill, although there were certain parts of it which somewhat worried me and I did not think it really went quite as far as it ought to have done. Therefore, I hope that it will be the role of this committee to monitor very carefully this particular aspect and I trust that the data on pesticides will be made available to the public, in a way that may not otherwise have been done, through the powers given to the committee by this amendment.

In connection with Amendment No. 20, I am of course aware, from what my noble friend the Minister has already said on Report, that he and his department will be considering very carefully the constitution of the advisory committee on pesticides and any subsidiary committees that may be formed accordingly. I also appreciate that the expertise of such a committee or committees, in order to achieve their purpose, will have to be very wide-ranging.

The duties of the ACP, as the Bill stands at the moment, are fairly clear and would not include this all-important role of monitoring and reporting to the Minister on the efficacy of low dosage techniques of pesticides and the biological alternatives. The significance of such developments from a farming and from a wildlife point of view are obvious in themselves.

This amendment would also cover the engineering side—a point which has been raised by several noble Lords—and, again, it must be of such advantage if the committee was required to review and report on the most efficient machines that could be available to achieve these aims. Therefore, I hope that the requirements in this amendment will result in the committee acting as a catalyst to encourage these new developments about which we all feel so strongly.

It is too important a subject to be left to the whim of a Minister as to whether or not he wishes to have this type of advice available. We know the very enlightened approach that we would expect to find from my noble friend on the Front Bench, but it does not necessarily follow that his successor will wish to take this information. I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Stanley will press Amendment No. 20, but I would say to my noble friend on the Front Bench that, if my noble friend Lord Stanley is not going to press it, I hope he will go away and think again about this and will see fit to incorporate into the constitution of this advisory committee experts in both the intergration of pest management and the development of new and more acceptable machinery.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I, too, very strongly support these amendments, which are enormously important. I am sure that the Minister, far from going away to think about them, must find it in his heart simply to accept them, because they produce that essential thing—a committee which is not simply a tool of the Minister, but is also a genuine adviser of the Minister. It not only speaks when it is spoken to but it speaks when concerned or when looking forward in ways which Ministers sometimes do not. I also think that the composition of the committee is enormously important and must include all the proper aspects of pesticides, the environment, farming and engineering. All these groups must work together to reduce the dangers, as the Bill is designed to do.

These are very sensible amendments. The Minister has shown a great deal of good sense during the passage of the Bill, and I am sure that these amendments, with one purpose, must commend themselves to the Minister. I strongly support them.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I speak in support of these amendments. During the Report stage the noble Lord the Minister referred to the work being carried out by ADAS to develop and encourage methods of pesticide and fungicide application which are less damaging to the environment. I am sorry to say that, since the Report stage, I have received some evidence that that programme is not being wholly effectively implemented.

It so happens that our own farming operations required a new sprayer. Fired with enthusiasm by the discussions in your Lordships' House, I encouraged my colleagues to look into the question of a CDA sprayer. So we consulted with ADAS and we were referred to two senior ADAS officers specialising in machinery. The first told us: CDA is not totally proven. The only literature available is a simple explanatory leaflet. No trial results or information are available concerning use on horticultural crops. Although bits and pieces of internal ADAS information are available, a balanced picture is not forthcoming". He also warned: Proposed Parliamentary legislation makes the future of CDA uncertain. If label recommendations are all that the grower is legally allowed to carry out. CDA would require separate testing and licensing for each product". He cited a manufacturer who has already applied for clearance for a CDA machine in combination with a number of chemicals. This clearance, he said, would not apply to any other manufacturer's machine even if it was used with the same chemicals. Judged against the criterion of encouraging farmers to use environmentally efficient methods, I reckon that this answer scores about nought out of ten.

The second officer said: We now have a clear picture of what CDA can and cannot do". This is all perfectly fair and correct. The chief application seems to be for soil acting herbicides using large droplets. In this context it is very effective and gives rise to low levels of drift. CDA is also effective for coverage of exposed surfaces with small droplets. Where penetration through a canopy is required it is generally unsatisfactory. No information is available on the use of CDA for horticultural crops or for soil acting insecticides…. At present the use of CDA without a label recommendation is at user's risk. In the future it may be illegal". I submit that these replies scarcely suggest that ADAS is at present strongly committed to encouraging the use of environmentally efficient methods of spray application, or that the AFRC has a clear commitment to pressing ahead energetically with research in this area. I believe that the proposed amendment would go some way towards ensuring that someone has a duty to press for these things to be done. It is particularly to be supported because it has the support of both the NFU and, as I understand it, all the environmental lobbies. I understand that the Minister is sympathetically disposed towards this amendment. If he is not, I hope it will be pressed to a Division.

Lord Monk Bretton

I set great store by this matter. It is most important that the advisory committee has an innovative role. We have already heard from the committee sufficient about the rigidities that inevitably come with a statutory scheme that we have to accept, and about the importance of the techniques that might be stifled. I will not say any more about those aspects, because I am sure the House is aware of them, my Lords.

10 p.m.

The amendment would link the duties of the advisory committee to the objectives which are now written into Clause 15. These were inserted at Report stage and were originally instigated by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, and others. I am sure that noble Lords are all aware of them; they occur at the beginning of Clause 15.

If we do not adopt these amendments, I would ask your Lordships to consider what would happen. I say at once that the intentions of my noble friend the Minister are excellent. I am sure one could assume with confidence that he would see to it that suitable sub-committees and working parties were appointed by the advisory committee, to ensure that the innovative role continues. Some of those bodies would be ad hoc; it is the degree to which they would be ad hoc that would be the problem if we did not adopt this amendment. It is the degree of permanence of these arrangements that concerns me. It is important that this matter of innovation is taken up permanently.

This matter is too important for an ad hoc approach. One is aware that the advisory committee has had various sub-committees which inevitably, up till now, have changed from time to time. I dare say that they will continue to need to change. Ministers may change. Therefore, not only the Minister but also the advisory committee should be identified with the objectives of Clause 15.

I am uncertain what my noble friend the Minister will do. He may accept these amendments, and I shall be very pleased if he does. If he is to arrange that the advisory committee carries out these roles anyway, then any additional cost of administration should be very small—even if this amendment is accepted. If my noble friend says that the amendment is unnecessary, I would not be happy. I hope that I have explained to the House why.

If my noble friend gives assurances that something will be done later, before the Bill becomes law, then such assurances should be cast iron. What I really think is that the House would do well to agree to this amendment if it can, and so draw this important matter to the attention of another place. I am quite certain that it is important enough to warrant that action. If any variations were justified or required thereafter, doubtless that could still be arranged before the Bill finally becomes law.

I believe that the amendment now before us is better than that we had at Report stage. My noble friend asked us not to legislate about sub-committees; that was when we debated this matter at Report stage. We have avoided doing so with this amendment. I am very glad that the amendment received the wide degree of support that it did at Report stage.

The Earl of Radnor

My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend's amendments with a few brief comments. One has here a committee of great strength and power, but it seems to have an entirely negative series of terms of reference. It would seem very right and proper that it should have the power to innovate and to suggest to the Minister, so that we can be seeking the whole time better ways of doing things—for the sake of both the farmer and the environment itself.

I should like particularly to support Amendment No. 18. It seems wrong to leave innovation entirely in the hands of the manufacturers or even the farmers. They must, by definition, have different terms of reference in their mind. I feel that to make the best use of its powers this third body of people should be allowed to act in the way described in this series of amendments.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I shall reply to Amendment No. 18 first. I certainly agree that there is a good case for specifying in the Bill that the advisory committee should be consulted and may offer advice on all matters connected with the objectives of this part of the Bill. My noble friends who have moved the amendment have made a very strong case, but the noble Baroness who has her name to the amendment seems to have been excluded. I hope that I have not been too quick on my feet, but perhaps the case has been so good because the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, has been giving good advice behind the scenes. At any rate, this amendment, which is in the names of the noble Baroness as well as my noble friends, is a good amendment. It makes clear the independence of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides and its control of its own agenda. I welcome it. I am, therefore, very happy to accept Amendment No. 18, and Amendment No. 17 which goes with it, in principle.

I tried this afternoon to get parliamentary counsel to agree that the wording is impeccable. However, at first glance, I think there are certainly a couple of difficulties. For instance, I am advised that it is wrong from a drafting point of view to lay a legal duty on a committee to give advice on subjects where the committee considers that it ought to give advice. From a drafting point of view that would be inconsistent. Provided that one gives the power to the committee to give advice, the committee will then be free to give the advice. That is one drafting point which should have attention.

The other is that whereas my noble friends and the noble Baroness have very rightly said that the advice should be in furthering the general purposes mentioned in the general objectives in subsection (1), which we put in at the behest of the noble Lords, Lord Mackie of Benshie and Lord Walston, nonetheless the amendment uses the words "any matter" and I am advised that in legal parlance "any" is literally unrestricted. Again that would lead to a difficulty in drafting.

I am not trying to slide out of it, but if I give an absolute undertaking that the Government accept the general principle of the amendments, I ask your Lordships, as we have done on previous stages, to allow the Government to put down an amendment. It will have to be in another place, although your Lordships will see it when Commons amendments come to your Lordships' House.

That deals with Amendments Nos. 17 and 18. I beg your Lordships not to try to put Amendment No. 20 into the Bill. I do so for a well-established reason—I see my noble friend Lord Renton nodding. If the committee is advising the Government on all matters connected with the objectives of Part III, where is the need to pick out one particular facet of the general objectives for particular mention, however important? As my noble friend Lord Renton has reminded us, to list specific attributes already covered by a general provision is not only superfluous, but also actually restrictive in effect.

Clause 15 gives what your Lordships want in every possible way: a free exchange of information without let or hindrance, within the objectives of Part III, between the Government and the advisory committee and between the advisory committee and the Government. But if we put into the Bill Amendment No. 20, we may find that we place that free exchange of information in jeopardy. Therefore, with respect, I accept Amendments Nos. 17 and 18, but beg your Lordships not to put Amendment No. 20 into the Bill.

Let me say as a valedictory word that if by any chance anyone in the advisory service actually said—and I feel sure that it must have been reported speech to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne—that this admirable legislation will put controlled droplet spraying into jeopardy, I here and now say that there is not a word of truth in it. Although this Bill gives enabling powers to Ministers, it is only going to give us the power to ban things which are not safe and not efficient. I feel sure that controlled droplet application in general does not fall within that very severe judgment.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I listened with interest and sympathy to what was said by noble Lords in support of these amendments; but, having heard my noble friend, I feel bound to agree with what he said. I feel that the supporters of Amendment No. 20 in particular may well have overlooked the great advantage that they have in Clause 15(1). I wish that there were more subsections like that. It is what we call, in effect, a statement of purpose. It governs the whole of the provisions in Part III of the Bill dealing with pesticides.

If we take that on board and realise the value of subsection (1), we can be sure that Ministers, the Committee and all concerned in applying and interpreting the provisions of this part of the Bill will be aware that they have to be applied: with a view to protecting the health of human beings, creatures and plants, safeguarding the environment and securing the safe, efficient and humane use of pesticides". Those are overall governing words in which we should rejoice.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, the reason that I did not rise earlier was that noble Lords were doing such a splendid job that they did not seem to need help from me. I support everything that has been said on the amendments, but I take the point made on Amendment No. 20. I hope that my co-signatories will be prepared not to move it. It seems to me that the matter is well covered in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said. I support the feeling behind what has been said. I am sure that the Minister means what he says in his undertaking to have a suitable amendment put down in another place.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I am grateful to your Lordships for the support that I have received throughout the House and indeed from the Front Bench on these amendments. I made notes on all the important points that noble Lords raised, but as my noble friend has accepted them there is no need further to draw them to your Lordships' attention.

I am interested in the fact that my noble friend cannot exactly accept my amendment. My experience with parliamentary draftsmen is that one can never beat them so you might as well join them. However, I noticed with great interest that at the Bar of the House was my noble friend Lord Avon. I am sorry that he is no longer there. On one occasion in the Wildlife and Countryside Bill parliamentary draftsmen decided to redraft one of my amendments, and, if I may make a rather bad pun, my noble friend got into very deep water at the end of it. However, I shall leave that for the moment.

I think that I shall move Amendment No. 20 when we come to it so as to keep within the rules of the House and just ask my noble friend Lord Belstead to confirm that what he is saying on Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 will cover the points raised in Amendment No. 20. I should just like to have that repeated when we come to Amendment No. 20. I understand that the parliamentary draftsmen do not think that Amendment No. 17 is correctly drafted, so I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

10.15 p.m.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 19: Page 16, line 28, leave out ("any").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 20:

[Printed earlier: col. 1037.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall just repeat my question to my noble friend. From what I gathered when he replied to my Amendments Nos. 17 and 18, the points that we raise in Amendment No. 20 will be covered when he re-drafts my Amendments Nos. 17 and 18. I was a little worried that these points were not covered by the first part of Clause 15 that my noble friend Lord Renton raised. If my noble friend can just confirm that, I should be very happy to withdraw this amendment. In the meantime, I formally beg to move.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, may I, in a way, repeat what I have said? If the committee is advising the Government on all matters connected with objectives in this part of the Bill, there is really then no need to pick out for particular mention one specific facet of the general objectives. The advance that my noble friend Lord Stanley, who has done so much work on this Bill, has achieved by persuading the Government to accept, in principle, the effect of Amendments Nos. 17 and 18, is that, on all matters connected with the objectives in this part of the Bill, there will be a free exchange of information. Therefore my answer to my noble friend is that there is no need for Amendment No. 20; indeed, on the thesis of my noble friend Lord Renton it could jeopardise that free exchange of information.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

Then, my Lords, we can assume that this time the committee will be able to advise that if it is desired to restrict the amount of residue, it might be sensible to restrict the number of applications.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply on this amendment. He may be amused, but I was being too greatly pressed by the conservation element in these amendments to worry about Amendment No. 20. However, I am happy to say that I hear through the grapevine that they, too, are happy. I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 21: Page 16, line 33, leave out ("any")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is similar to Amendment No. 19. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Nicol moved Amendment No. 22:

Page 17, line 8, at end insert— ("( ) The Ministers may jointly prohibit the export of a pesticide unless the importing country has given its consent, having been informed of the United Kingdom regulations applying to that pesticide and the reasons for them.")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall try not to keep you too long at this hour. We did not pursue this particular subject on Report, though we had discussed it at earlier stages of the Bill, because there were being moved Government amendments which referred to international obligations. In view of the co-operation which had been shown on most topics we wished to consider whether the new wording on international obligations would meet our point.

We are satisfied that the power to control exports exists if the Government wish to exercise it. We are less confident about the situation relating to the provision of information in respect of importing countries. In the absence of an international obligation, for example, does the Bill permit the passing of information?

May I briefly remind the House of the background? Support for the idea which is contained in this amendment has been expressed on a number of occasions by international bodies. The United Nations Environment Programme, an ad hoc working group of experts for the exchange of information on potentially harmful chemicals, in March 1984 met to consider a set of guidelines for information exchange. This idea was included in the guidelines. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, in April 1984 made a recommendation on information exchange on banned and severely restricted chemicals and produced a set of guiding principles, so that importing countries can make timely and informed decisions concerning the chemicals in question.

The European Parliament, in October 1983, passed a resolution calling for the amendment of the relevant EEC directives to include the principle of prior informed consent, and the resolution was passed unanimously. The United Nations General Assembly in 1982 also supported the principle of prior informed consent and, in order to assist with the provision of information, requested the preparation of a consolidated list of products that had been banned, withdrawn, severely restricted, or not registered.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, in November 1984, also passed a resulution on pesticides calling upon governments to provide notification of regulatory action to all other governments and to prohibit the export of any banned, restricted, voluntarily withdrawn or never registered pesticides. The United Kingdom Government supported all these initiatives and United Kingdom members of the European Parliament voted for the parliamentary resolution.

The difficulty is that none of these expressions of concern, supported by so many countries internationally, is binding and could be considered an international obligation in the terms of the Bill before us. The only obligation that we have so far is a moral one. The discussions at present going on that might lead to an international obligation concern the seventh draft of the FAO code of conduct. The Minister referred to this at Report but he was reluctant to publicise matters then being discussed. That is understandable. I understand, however, from another source, that the section dealing with this problem—that is Section 9—is being resisted by Her Majesty's Government. And even if it is agreed, would it be binding in the terms of the Bill?

There is no doubt about the need for the kind of undertaking outlined in this amendment. The value to third world countries of some of the pesticides no longer approved for use in this country can be argued. We are not asking for a ban on exports. But there is evidence of considerable misuse of these and, indeed, of more acceptable pesticides. We are asking that, at the very least, the United Kingdom Government should be prepared to ensure that the governments of the importing countries are aware of the hazards—that is all we are asking—and have taken responsibility for them. I would have thought that this was very appealing to the Government.

This cannot be an infringement of sovereignty, as the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, suggested at Report. In fact, it is an acknowledgment of the sovereignty of the importing countries in that they are being asked to give their consent. Other exporting countries are moving in that direction. I have before me a letter from the British Agrochemicals Association circulated, I believe, to many noble Lords at an earlier stage of the Bill. It states: BAA supports the proposal that the Government should advise other governments of the regulatory decisions it has taken and the reasons for taking them. The purpose of the exchange is to enable importing governments to make their own risk/benefit assessments concerning products subject to banning or severe restrictions elsewhere". The association goes on to say that it would not wish to see the delays that might be caused by waiting for the consent of the importing country. But there is no doubt that it supports the principle of informing the importing country. As I say, other exporting countries are moving in this direction. It would be greatly to our credit if we were to take a lead in improving legislation at this time. The opportunity presented by this Bill should not be missed. I hope that the Minister will agree at this late stage to take it on board. I beg to move.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, I have enormous sympathy as the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, will be aware, for the thinking behind the amendment. We have had a great concession from my noble friend the Minister in the Bill as it stands at present because it says: to enable the government of the United Kingdom to determine what action it should take in order to fulfil an international obligation of any other description". That is a great advance.

I suspect that this amendment is, in effect, double legislation, because it is probably in the Bill already. I am also absolutely sure that we should proceed only when there was full international agreement on this matter. We should press for prior informed consent. I hope that my noble friend will resist this amendment, first, because it is double legislation, and, secondly, because possibly it might put us at a disadvantage as compared with other people, and I would not like to see that happen. This is a question which has to be sorted out at the United Nations and with the Food and Agriculture Organisation. If everybody does the same thing, we shall get proper and reasonable international behaviour; otherwise, it could become chaotic.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I strongly support the spirit of this amendment and very much admire the complete picture which has been given by the noble Baroness in moving it. We have talked about this matter before, and I have been heartened by the Minister's pledge that the Government will fulfil all international obligations. However, that may take rather a long time. In my view, this country could well take the lead on many occasions. The noble Lord has said that they have the powers to do so, but that again obviously they do not wish to write particular powers into the Bill. However, it would be nice to hear him repeat his pledge that international obligations will be fulfilled. It would be even nicer to hear him say that we might take the lead in setting an example to other exporting countries, as suggested by the noble Baroness.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, during our last debate on this issue I sought to make clear that the power which this amendment seeks is, indeed, already available to the Government under the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939. Therefore, my noble friend Lord Onslow is right about that particular point. Indeed, on the previous occasion the noble Baroness said that she was now satisfied that that power exists, albeit under the 1939 Act. Your Lordships may well ask, "Why not, therefore, accept the amendment?" The reason is that the effect of this amendment would be explicitly to give the Government power to adopt the principle of prior informed consent ahead of other exporting countries, for as your Lordships know the principle has not been agreed internationally.

Therefore, I am saying that the amendment is unnecessary. However, I am going further than that. The amendment would explicitly go much further than the principle of prior informed consent as it is being debated at the moment in international fora. The international debate has centred on the idea of preventing the export of banned or severely restricted pesticides until the consent of the intended recipient is received. But this amendment would apply to any pesticide, and not merely to banned and restricted pesticides. Although that power is technically in the Bill, I really do not think that it would be a welcome power to use so far as either the producers of pesticides or, indeed, the purchasers of pesticides are concerned.

I do not think that this is the moment to go into the rights and wrongs of prior informed consent. If we have an international obligation which this country accepts—and I say this in response to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie—we have accepted that we have the power, which we have deliberately put into the Bill, to prohibit the export of pesticides in fulfilment of an international obligation accepted by this country. But to take a sweeping power of this kind which would explicitly write into the Bill prior informed consent for any pesticide, whether banned or not, is something which I think the House may perhaps understand the Government would be very hesitant even to consider. I am afraid that it is an amendment which I must resist.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, I have read this amendment and discussed it with my noble friend Lady Nicol. It refers to prohibiting "the export of a pesticide". It is not the case, as the Minister suggested, that every pesticide has to be examined. It involves a pesticide which has something wrong with it. The amendment refers to "a pesticide" and not "pesticides".

Lord Belstead

My Lords, with the leave of the House, may I say that the noble Lord, from his side of the House, is putting his finger on the absolute breakpoint in regard to this amendment? What I am suggesting is that in the international debate the countries which are debating these matters are concentrating upon the idea of preventing the export of banned or severely restricted pesticides until the consent of the intended recipient is received. The effect of this amendment would be to give a power simply to ban the export of a pesticide without prior informed consent, whether or not the pesticide happened to be not cleared in this country. That is going very much further than the way in which the international debate is centring.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, I am sorry that the wording of the amendment does not find favour with the Minister. The intention of the amendment was certainly not that all pesticides should be subject to this control. It is an enabling amendment, in the terms of the Bill. It says: The Ministers may jointly prohibit the export of a pesticide". The intention of the amendment was just that. I am very reluctant to withdraw the amendment because this is the very last occasion on which I can test the feeling of the House. In view of the strong views which were expressed from all Benches during earlier discussion on the Bill, I feel that at this stage I should like to test the feeling of the House.

10.32 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 22) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 24; Not-Contents, 29.

Birk, B. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. McNair, L.
Collison, L. Molloy, L.
David, B. [Teller.] Nicol, B
Dean of Beswick, L. Parry, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Ewart-Biggs, B.
Gallacher, L. Raglan, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Underhill, L.
John-Mackie, L. White, B.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Winstanley, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Ampthill, L. Mountevans, L.
Bauer, L. Onslow, E.
Belstead, L. Peel, E.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Radnor, E.
Cox, B. Rankeillour, L.
Craigmyle, L. Skelmersdale, L.
De La Warr, E. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Glenarthur, L. Teviot, L.
Henley, L. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Long, V. Trumpington, B.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Ullswater, V.
Monk Bretton, L. Wynford, L.
Morris, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

10.40 p.m.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 23:

Page 17, line 26, at end insert— ("(12A) It shall be a defence in proceedings for an offence—

  1. (a) under section 8(b) of the Protection of Animals Act 1911;
  2. (b) under section 7(b) of the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912; or
  3. (c) under section 22(2)(b) of the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 1972,
(each of which restricts the placing on land of poison and poisonous substances) for the person charged to show that he acted in accordance with an approval.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment seeks to remove any possible conflict between the provisions of the Bill and the Protection of Animals Acts. I am sorry that it is presented so late in our consideration of the Bill, but it is a matter of some complexity and we have had to consider carefully how to deal with it.

Very briefly, at present it could be argued that certain uses of pesticides, though fully controlled under the new legislation and within the spirit of the Protection of Animals Acts, might not be fully in accord with the latter. The kinds of approved uses which we are thinking of are, for example, the use of slug pellets in private gardens and the application of herbicides in public parks and on roadsides. Clearly we need to remove any areas of doubt as to the application of the old legislation in the context of the new. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 16 [Fees]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendments Nos. 24 and 25:

Page 18, line 18, after ("anything") insert ("by virtue of this Part of this Act")

Page 18, line 21, leave out ("so") and insert ("it")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, these amendments make it clear that Ministers would only be able to recover expenses incurred in exercising the particular powers of Part III. They should not, for example, be able under these powers to recover the costs of prosecution, which are a matter for the courts under other legislation. The second amendment is a minor drafting alteration following the first. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 26 not moved.]

Clause 20 [General defence of due diligence]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 27: Page 21, line 19, leave out ("section 1(5)(a), 2(4)(a) or 9(1)(a) above") and insert ("this Act")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 30 and 31:

Amendment No. 30: Page 21, line 23, at end insert— ("(1A) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, a person is to be taken to have established the defence provided by that subsection if he proves—

  1. (a) that he acted under instructions given to him by his employer; or
  2. (b) that he acted in reliance on information supplied by another person without any reason to suppose that the information was false or misleading,
and in either case that he took all such steps as were reasonably open to him to ensure that no offence would be committed.")

Amendment No. 31: Page 21, line 26, after ("person") insert (", other than the giving of instructions to the person charged with the offence by his employer,")

The amendments restore the position which existed when the Bill was originally introduced and about which my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley complained.

The amendments do two things. First they extend the "due diligence" defence. The House will recall that my noble friend Lord Stanley previously asked why this defence should not apply to the main offence in Part III. My noble friend Lord Swinton, in an interesting legal exchange with my noble friend Lord Stanley, explained at Report stage that we were not convinced that it was logical to apply both "due diligence" and "without reasonable excuse". I am not sure whether we have completely solved that problem but I am happy to confirm that we see no reason to exclude due diligence from Part III. That was the concern of my noble friend Lord Stanley. At the same time noble Lords will see that we have taken the opportunity to extend "due diligence" to all the offences in the Bill.

The second objective of the amendments is to reinstate two defences from the Dumping at Sea Act. In consultations on the Bill, the Merchant Navy and Airline Officers Association suggested that Clause 20 might not afford the same degree of protection as there had been in the 1974 Act. These amendments will remove any doubt on that score. I beg to move.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Ampthill)

My Lords, before putting the Question I should point out to the House that if these amendments are agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 28 and 29.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I had prepared a suitably lucid lawyer's speech to my Amendments Nos. 28 and 29—far superior, I might say, to that delivered by my noble friend Lord Swinton at Committee stage and even better than the one that I delivered to him at Report stage! However, I am afraid that I cannot now deliver that superb speech, and on this occasion I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Belstead, who seems to have chosen the easier path and did not go into such lovely lawyers' language as did my noble friend Lord Swinton. I am most grateful to him for accepting anyway 70 per cent. or 90 per cent. of my amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker

Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 cannot therefore be moved.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 30:

[Printed above.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is consequential on Amendment No. 27. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 31:

[Printed above.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is consequential. I beg to move.

On Question amendment agreed to.

Clause 23 [Northern Ireland]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 32: Page 26, line 14, at end insert ("and references to a statutory instrument shall be construed accordingly")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Particulars to be contained in registers]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 33:

[Printed earlier: col. 1032.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is consequential on Amendment No. 8. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

In the Title:

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 34:

[Printed earlier: col. 1035.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords this amendment is consequential on Amendment No. 10. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

An amendment (privilege) made.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

The hour is late and so, in the space of literally two minutes, may I just thank your Lordships for the extent of your work on this Bill. Each of the three Parts deals with important environmental issues and my noble friend Lord Swinton and I most certainly acknowledge that the Bill has made a very valuable start in your Lordships' House. It might interest the House that we have agreed to over 100 amendments in Committee and on Report, and of course there are a further 34 amendments today. Many of those, as we all know, are drafting or very small amendments. But during the successive stages of the Bill your Lordships have made a number of important amendments on Part II, on provisions for licensing, on remedial action and on details in public registers, for which we have to thank the Opposition as well as noble Lords on my own side of the House.

Then, in Part III, your Lordships have provided the clear statement of intent in the new Clause 15(1) and within the Part we have provided for disclosure of information on safety and efficacy, we have clarified the Government's powers in relation to exports, and we have just improved the legal status given to the Advisory Committee on Pesticides which my noble friend Lord Stanley, the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, the noble Baroness opposite and the noble Lord, Lord Monk Bretton, were instrumental in moving.

One final word. Many of your Lordships have asked about the future. The Government intend to issue a consultation paper on the details of the regulations and to get down to drafting the regulations when we have received the responses. Copies of that consultation paper will most certainly be made available to the House so that your Lordships will be able to comment as your Lordships think best before the regulations are formally laid. Again, I should like to thank your Lordships for the work put into sending what I believe is a much improved Bill to another place. I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Belstead.)

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, at the beginning of our proceedings on the Bill, my noble friend Lady Birk made the point (and I thought she made it very well) that this was a Bill we all thought was necessary and that we would do everything necessary to help its passage through the House. I think we have done that, although we have had a couple of votes tonight that may have enlivened the proceedings and perhaps given the Government Chief Whip some degree of worry over the second one.

I had a few pages of well-chosen words, but at this hour I shall content myself by just saying that it is a very necessary Bill. When one looks at Parts I and II and sees, for instance, the article in The Times today that there are 4 million tonnes of chemicals to be disposed of every year, it seems an appalling tonnage. I do not know whether they get all of it, but it is absolutely necessary that Parts I and II should control that.

Perhaps there is a little disappointment over one or two of the items that the noble Lord has had to take back and has not agreed to, but on the whole we appreciate his efforts very much and the way he has attempted to meet some of our wishes. We thank him very much indeed. I do not want to say any more. Part III of course is the part that I am personally interested in and, although I am disappointed that we did not manage to persuade the noble Lord that training should be certified (if that is the right word to use), he has assured us that it will be looked into.

I would just finish by saying that the amendment of my noble friend Lady Nicol is really emphasised by some of the figures—although admittedly it may not have been well worded—given by Oxfam of the enormous number of casualties and of the mistakes that have been made with spraying and the use of pesticides in developing countries. I do not know whether the figures are accurate but it is said there have been 400,000 accidental poisonings, 10,000 of which have been fatal. If that is the case, I think the noble Lord would agree that although the amendment may have been badly worded, the control of pesticides in these countries is necessary. We can only hope that the international agreements that he put forward as being in place of any amendment in this Bill will work. In the meantime, we give this Bill a fair wind and hope that another place will appreciate what we have done and will not mangle it too much.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, it is not nearly my bedtime yet, so I could give some considerable length to my intervention. However, out of consideration to your Lordships, I shall keep it short. But I think that what we have done in this Bill is to recognise that this is a matter of total concern. It is not a party matter; and the undoubted blessings brought by the discovery of new chemicals and new pesticides of all sorts bring with them enormous dangers. Time and again we have seen in the history of the world new discoveries which turn out to have distinct disadvantages when they are pushed too far. In this modern world, one of the things we must do is to use the knowledge that we have to investigate the ultimate destination of the residues which we put into the soil, into animals and into everything else. There is a widespread concern among many people around the country, backed by figures from responsible charities in the Third World. They may or may not be accurate but they must be an indication, as my noble kinsman has said, of the dangers as well as the blessings that can flow from the use of chemicals.

I must say, without any snide remarks, that the conduct of the Minister during our work on this Bill has been exemplary. It should be an example in connection with all Bills of this sort. We have made a great deal of progress, and I am sure the Minister is right when he says that the Bill is going to the other place as a very much better Bill than it was when introduced here. I think that this House has shown how one should study and deal with legislation of this sort.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I have one pleasant comment and one unpleasant one. The unpleasant comment concerns Government resources for this Bill. The Government have decided to take into their hands the regulation of pesticides, their application and their approval. This will inevitably mean money, and research money, and I just pray that the Government have accepted this point. I am somewhat doubtful, bearing in mind the recently announced cuts in the AFRC budget and indeed the reluctance to widen the essential role of the ACP. Maybe I am being unfair on that. I hope that we are not following the same path as we did in the Wildlife and Countryside Act, when much responsibility was put on the NCC without equipping it with the necessary human ability or financing it to do its new job.

The pleasant comment is that, as in the Wildlife and Countryside Act, there has been in your Lordships' House the usual degree of consensus between farmer and conservationist, even between arch-farmer and arch-conservationist, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, liked to call us. Of course, this consensus is always there, but the media spend most of their time trying to ignore it.

My last point concerns my noble friends Lord Belstead and Lord Swinton and with them their department. I know that I am always accused—and I do not mind being accused—of being a Ministry of Agriculture admirer. But during this Bill the expertise, the care, the trouble and indeed the kindness shown by my noble friends and their department have surpassed even my best hopes of my "Top of the Pops" ministry. If we have improved this Bill, I am sure that is mostly due to my noble friends.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

House adjourned at three minutes before eleven o'clock.

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