HL Deb 22 January 1985 vol 459 cc182-212

1. The Minister shall jointly appoint the members of the committee, and shall jointly appoint one of those members to be chairman.

2. The committee shall, at such time in each year as the Ministers may jointly direct, send to the Ministers a report with respect to the performance of the committee's functions.

3. The Ministers may jointly make provision by regulations with respect to the terms on which members of the committee shall hold and vacate office, including the terms on which any person appointed as chairman shall hold and vacate office as chairman.

4. The Ministers shall provide the committee with such staff and such accommodation, services and other facilities as appear to the Ministers to be necessary or expedient for the proper performance of the committee's functions.

5. The Ministers may pay to the members of the committee such remuneration (if any) and such allowances as may be determined by the Ministers with the consent of the Treasury.

6. The Ministers shall defray any expenses incurred with their approval by the committee.

7. The committee shall not be taken to be the servant or agent of the Crown or to enjoy any status or immunity of the Crown.

8. Regulations under this Schedule shall be made by statutory instrument and a statutory instrument containing any such regulations shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.").

I must apologise to your Lordships that these amendments have little of the original simplicity and charm of Amendment No. 99A, which was promoted by my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley and the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, in Committee, which I think simply said that the Government should consult the Advisory Committee on Pesticides. But this amendment, Amendment No. 42, is inspired by the same thought. I am glad to be able to say that the Government are very happy to bind themselves to consult the Advisory Committee on Pesticides in the preparation of regulations as well as the granting of approvals under this Bill. Then, of course, Amendment No. 66, which I am putting to your Lordships with this Amendment No. 42, is a schedule setting out the arrangements for setting up the Advisory Committee.

Our problem was that the committee had no statutory existence hitherto. Although I have rather a guilty conscience, in that I must admit that I did not exactly jump at the suggestion which the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, put to the Committee, which was all this ought to be put on a statutory basis, nonetheless I have to say to the noble Baroness that subsequently I thought better of it and felt it desirable, first, that the Committee ought to be set up formally, and then that it had to be given some tasks statutorily. Hence the length of the amendments. I should perhaps mention that we are giving the committee broader statutory functions than those sought by the promoters of Amendment No. 99A, as I have already said: to be consulted over the preparation of regulations as well as being responsible for the approval of pesticides.

The second main area of work for the committee, which of course it carries out most expertly at present, is that on pesticide approval. I think it is right that it should be referred to on a statutory basis. In doing so, we are giving status not just to the committee but to the principle of objectivity in the provision of advice to Ministers in the environmental field. That is not an easy principle to maintain in practice when passions are so easily aroused, but it is a principle which nonetheless I commend.

I should just say that the present chairman and the committee have served the public interest admirably. It is the Government's intention, if these amendments are approved, to invite the chairman of the committee to continue in office when the committee receives statutory status under this Bill. In saying that, may I express the hope that the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, might not press their Amendment No. 53. When we come to it, I shall be able to give an assurance that the Advisory Committee on Pesticides does and will continue to have three assessors with environmental responsibilities and they are from the Department of the Environment, the Nature Conservancy Council and the Natural Environment Research Council. The Department of the Environment is also consulted about the membership of the ACP.

So, having received advice, not least from the Opposition Front Bench, on the desirability of setting up the Advisory Committee on Pesticides in statutory form, and then, as my noble friend, Lord Stanley, was anxious that statutorily the Government should be enjoined to consult with the committee, I have come to move Amendment No. 42 and with it Amendment No. 66. I beg to move.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, we shall be delighted not to move the amendment in our name, which was put down before we had seen the Government amendment, which was, in company with some others, a bit late going in. I am delighted to hear that the new committee is to be the ACP. That removes a long list of questions which I had been proposing to put to the Minister on the composition and powers of the new committee. One assumes, and I hope it is right to assume, that the powers of the ACP will remain as they are. Although there may be just one or two residual questions which I should like to clear up, I can but welcome very warmly indeed the proposal which the Minister has made and the amendment which he has put forward. I assume, and I hope it is right to assume, that the annual report which he promised will be published as we thought and that all the things which the committee did before will carry on as before.

However, there are just one or two small questions about which I am not clear. This may be a shortcoming in my own knowledge, but I hope the Minister will bear with me if it is. The committee will offer advice to the Minister when consulted. Has it the power to offer advice, to initiate advice of its own accord? This seems to me an important power. Although I am not pressing the point tonight, I should like the Minister's comment on it.

I should also like to know what procedures lead to review of a product at the moment. Who can start a review? Would the committee have that power if they felt that it was necessary and if they had not had an approach from the Minister? Who decides when a review is necessary within the Ministry? How does that come about? Can members of the public, which includes members of the farming community, ask for a review to be carried out if they are uneasy about a particular pesticide? Can the advice of the ACP, or whatever the new committee is called, be sought on that? Finally, will the minutes of the committee be available for public scrutiny, or simply the annual report? As I say, I am delighted with the amendment which the Minister has put forward. So far as I am concerned, it shortens the debate by about 20 minutes.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I, too, should like warmly to welcome the Minister's reaction. I have very few points to make. The noble Baroness wants to know if the Committee can offer advice. Of course, committees can always offer advice; whether or not it is taken is a different point. Why do we say that the Minister may, by order, establish the committee, and then, the Ministers shall consult the committee? It is one of the oldest points, but I wonder why there is the difference there between the two. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, has some points on the composition of the committee so I shall not put them. I shall content myself with welcoming this excellent step on the part of the Ministry.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend for this amendment. At this stage I should say that I am not happy that the tasks that the Committee is being asked to carry out are wide enough. I was hoping to expand on this in my Amendment No. 43, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. I prefer to leave the expansion of the work, which I think the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, has in mind, too, and to discuss it perhaps on my Amendment No. 43. Meanwhile, I very much welcome this amendment from the Government.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness and to noble Lords for their reaction to this Amendment. No. 42, and, with it, to Amendment No. 66. The noble Baroness said that she assumed that the annual report would be published, as we have already decided is very desirable. That assumption is absolutely right. Broadly speaking, the committee's functions carry on with the additional statutory responsibilities laid on the committee about being consulted regarding regulations under the Bill. The noble Baroness asked whether the committee would be able to initiate advice. The answer is yes. I realise that this is a point that is often asked. It is important so far as committees are concerned. I am glad to put that on the record.

The noble Baroness asked about procedures leading to review. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and I had some exchange in Committee about how the review would work with regard to timing. If your Lordships will forgive me, I shall not go into that again. The question put by the noble Baroness was rather different. It was, "Who can press the trigger for review?" The answer is that this can be done by Ministers in the ways that I tried to set out in the exchange with the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, in Committee. But it can also be done by other people—by the committee itself and indeed by members of the public by expressing their views in correspondence and that sort of thing.

I think that publication of the annual report is highly important but I feel that publication of the minutes would not be something that a committee of this kind—or indeed any committee—would particularly wish. There is no secrecy. It is simply a question that what is stated in committee should occur between members of the committee, while the conclusions of what the committee intends to do and is doing will obviously go into the annual report.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, asked why there is the rather strange wording that the committee is set up by order. I have the horrible feeling that we are again into the situation where we found ourselves just before we broke for dinner about the drafting of the divulging of information amendments. The fact is that the parliamentary draftsman has advised us that the way to put this into the Bill is to say that, in pursuance of the general regulation-making power, by regulations the committee may be set up. However, in moving the amendment, I make clear that we are responding to views expressed in the House and that we intend to do this. Once the committee is set up, then it is right from a drafting point of view to say that it shall be consulted. Really of course to put the duty in the Bill means that the power is bound to be exercised. I hope that that is a satisfactory reply on that point.

My noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley would like to say more about the tasks of the committee. I would suggest that we wait perhaps until the next amendment to discuss that topic.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 43:

Page 14, line 30, at end insert— ("( ) The Ministers shall appoint a committee for the purpose of advising them on the exercise of their powers under this section and in framing the committee's terms of reference 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: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Belstead has kindly, and, as all of us, I think, believe, correctly accepted the suggestion of most Members of the House that the Advisory Committee on Pesticides should be consulted by the Minister. In doing so, he has accepted the important position that ACP, if I can so call it, has to play and, indeed, will play in the future. I could not agree more. In order to help the advisory committee to carry out its work, I am suggesting in this amendment that it appoints a sub-committee in line with the suggestion made by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, in their Amendment No. 120 in Committee.

In reply to the noble Baroness's amendment, my noble friend stated that such a quango was not necessary, as the advisory committee was fully equipped to deal with the problem. I obtained a list of the members of the advisory committee prior to the Committee stage. I was impressed by their expertise. As my noble friend Lord Belstead said, they were members from a range of medical and scientific backgrounds.

8.45 p.m.

This constitution was entirely correct when the scheme was voluntary. Now that it is to be statutory, a new problem confronts the advisory committee, one that has raised its head throughout discussion of this Bill from all sides of your Lordships' House. It is how we are to encourage new technology. For instance, how are we to make sure that new types of sprayers are developed and that, as they are developed, the correct formulation of pesticide is developed with them? How are we to ensure that tank mixes are efficacious and safe? We have already dealt with that matter today, and I am still not happy. How are we to ensure that the problem of catering for minor crops is dealt with? How are we to ensure that similar agrochemicals get rapid clearance? That we have also discussed.

My suggestion is simple. It is that the advisory committee should deal with these problems. However, in order to do so, its constitution, I believe, must be widened to include such organisations as the AFRC, the NIAB and the NIAE, ordinary practical farmers and, indeed, members of the agricultural machinery trade, which seems to be lacking here, hearing in mind that the sprayer is just as important as the spray if we are to achieve accurate and careful application of pesticides. If this was done—my amendment suggests a sub-committee of the advisory committee—all the problems of my noble friend Lord Belstead in respect of new technology, so important to the farmer and, indeed, to the conservationist (I much regret having to separate the two for the sake of convenience because, in 90 per cent. of cases, their interests are the same) would be over, at any rate all his problems on this Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Monk Bretton

My Lords, I wish to support my noble friend Lord Stanley on this amendment. I strongly believe that it is most important that someone is there to carry the flag for innovation in this organisation once it becomes statutory. When I say "carry the flag" I am referring to paragraphs (a) and (b) of my noble friend's amendment. The points that we have in mind are principally that, so long as safety is not put at risk, farmers should be given the maximum scope to improve cost-effectiveness, timeliness and flexibility. Without this, the important innovative role of farmers is at risk of being lost. That would bode no good for farmers, for reduced dependence on pesticides or, for that matter, for environmentalists.

Personally, I would leave to my noble friend the Minister how to incorporate our amendment with his. I am anxious to hear his opinion. I believe the idea of a sub-committee to be a good one. I wish to endorse the comments of my noble friend Lord Stanley about the contributions that could be made by the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering and the Agriculture and Food Research Council.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I was delighted when I found on the Marshalled List the Government amendment proposing a committee. I had not realised that it would be the Advisory Committee on Pesticides. It is none the worse for that. I was disappointed that the terms of reference of the committee related only to regulations and approvals of conditions. I feel that an opportunity would be missed if the Minister were not to consider the possibility of extending the remit of the committee to looking at some of the more creative things that need to be done in the control of pests and diseases if we are effectively to take care of both the farming community and the environmental interest.

If we are really concerned to achieve those objects, we must look at opportunities to encourage a positive role. I think that Amendment No. 43 and, indeed, Amendment No. 44, which have been set down in my name, among others, probably quite effectively outline the kind of things this committee ought to be looking at—either the committee as a whole or the committee through some form of sub-committee. One example is the scope for uses of pesticides to improve the cost-effectiveness, timeliness and flexibility of pest-control operations. In the small organisation which I run we employ an entomologist and we have discovered, in controlling one particular root fly, that by applying the granules which we use through a special applicator which we have designed we can apply them in bands. There are several alternatives more effective in the control of the particular insect pest, and at the same time we do not sterilise the whole of the soil but only a strip of the soil underneath the plant. It is a tiny example of the kind of thing which can be achieved with creative thought and imagination.

It is not particularly in the interest of the pesticide company to evolve this kind of technology. I believe it is the kind of technology that has got to be introduced in the interests of the farmer and in the interests of the country as a whole, through the environmental lobby, by some sort of national organisation which could be stimulated by the committee we are talking about. These are application techniques I am talking about, I suppose. The same applies also to the maximising of the range of chemicals available to minor crops and to substantially similar uses. I therefore ask the Minister whether he will consider including in the objectives, the alternative reference of the committee, a creative role of this kind.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, I should also like to support the idea behind the amendment. I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, has said about the importance of somebody taking a creative role in this process. It seems to me that that has been somewhat lacking in recent years. The very slow and difficult progress which CDA spraying has made would illustrate that, and the very real fears which the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, has expressed more than once about the prospects for CDA spraying under the regulations drawn up as a result of this Bill are an indication of the worry that nobody is going to be looking forward to see how policy on pesticide use should develop or what new initiatives should be taken to limit the use of pesticides, to develop new, more selective techniques, to develop safer techniques, and to develop cheaper techniques for the farmer.

It is that lack, or what at least appears to be a lack, of any mechanism through which anyone involved in this process now that it is going to be statutory and therefore possibly rather less flexible than the voluntary scheme that I think is worrying. I would hope that the advisory committee which will now be reborn in this statutory role—I add my welcome to that expressed by other noble Lords for the Government's amendment—will be able to take that forward-looking view of what is going to happen and not simply be there to comment on the minutiae of regulations and to clear particular chemicals for uses for which the chemical companies want them cleared. I strongly support the purposes of the amendment. I would hope that we could involve those with environmental expertise rather more strongly than the amendment appears to suggest, but I think that is a point of detail at this stage. I hope that the idea behind this will prove acceptable to the Government.

The Earl of Radnor

My Lords, I support this amendment, particularly because of those positive elements about which many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, have spoken. It just occurs to me that it is perhaps a bit cumbersome to have a sub-committee. I heard the word "quango" mentioned; I think it was in Committee. Perhaps there is a sort of compromise here, simply by going back to Amendment No. 42, which has just been passed, reconstituting it in such a way that its terms of reference are widened to cover the points which have been made by many noble Lords and widening its constitution, in regard to people, to include the sort of representation which has also been mentioned.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, I think we should all agree with the spirit of this amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, said he agreed with the amendment which we put down in Committee, which suggested a sub-committee. I have just gone through what we said on that occasion and I cannot find any word at all of a sub-committee. It was a plain amendment to make the ACP statutory, with powers that a statutory committee would be given. But I think there is no question about it: widening its powers might, if I may say so—I am not quite sure what the right word is—slightly dilute them. A sub-committee to deal with the matters which the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, mentioned, particularly the development of new techniques, etc. might not be a bad idea, because it is a specialised job which includes looking at sprayers and all the techniques that there are today, compared with the general principle we have been discussing today: the safety of pesticides, the testing of them, and everything else. I certainly should support the amendment along those lines.

Earl Peel

My Lords, I, too, should briefly like to support what my noble friend has said. The amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, covers the whole question perhaps more comprehensively than that of noble Lords on the Front Bench. It certainly provides an admirable opportunity for dealing with many of the problems we have actually failed to deal with in this Bill. One particular point in question was an amendment put down by my noble friend Lord Radnor on the question of suitable levels of pesticide. This presumably would be a golden opportunity for this committee to deal with problems such as that. The question of machinery has also been mentioned. It is specifically mentioned in this amendment that the committee would actively monitor and encourage the use of the most desirable machinery that was available.

But there is a general point I should like to put to my noble friend on the Front Bench. This applies to both this committee and to the Government committee; that is the question—the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, touched on it—of the constitution of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides. Amendment No. 28, which my noble friend on the Front Bench moved earlier, mentions that the Bill shall have effect with a view to protecting the health of human beings, creatures and plants, and safeguarding the environment, etc. I hope very much that this particular amendment will be taken into account when the constitution of the committee is formulated, so that it will not simply be an agricultural committee but will also look after the interests of the environment at the same time.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I, too, should like briefly to support the amendment, if what it means is that the basis of the committee would in fact be broadened and it would not consist solidly of scientific boffins. It would be a great help if we could have on it an environmentalist, a farmer and an engineer, because the whole subject is not simply a question of the formulae or anything else; it is the whole field of the expansion of techniques to suit the whole of the industry and the environment. If that is what the noble Lord means to do, I shall support him.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, if your Lordships will forgive another short intervention from this side of the House, I ask whether, if the Minister finds the establishment of another committee unacceptable on grounds of expense, or for any other reason, he would consider establishing, at either a university or a farming institute, a research fund which might be able to do just what the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, has suggested, but perhaps in a cheaper way.

9 p.m.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the Government certainly share the concern expressed by your Lordships that the development of improved pest control techniques needs to be encouraged. From the point of view both of the environment and of the economic situation of pesticide users, whether they are farmers, food processors, wood preservers or public health operators, it is self-evidently beneficial to encourage the development of the most efficient pest control methods possible. The effect of my noble friend's amendment is to require the Government to appoint a committee to provide advice directed towards improved pest control techniques. I am reminded of the saying that if ever there is a problem to be confronted the Americans always initiate a programme and the British always set up a committee.

However, I would not wish to be flippant about this matter. At the same time I would not want this opportunity to slip without making the point that things are being done at present in this respect without the setting up of a special committee. The advisory service of the Ministry of Agriculture—ADAS—has for many years been advocating and encouraging the adoption of pest control techniques which involve the minimum application of pesticide and which fully exploit biological control. For example, integrated pest management is now practised in top fruit and in glasshouse crops and research is in progress to develop integrated pest management in field crops and for particular cereals. In addition, research is in progress to evaluate new pesticide application techniques that may contribute to the improved targeting of pesticides on the pests concerned. I say that because I feel very strongly that so often more is going on in this field than perhaps sometimes we realise.

The way in which I should like to respond to this amendment is to say that I assure your Lordships that we are already reviewing the scope of the various expert panels which assist the advisory committee in its work. Incidentally, the advisory committee does, of course, include the AFRC. If your Lordships would be prepared not to press the amendment, I give the assurance that I shall draw to the attention of my right honourable friend what has been said, and we shall most certainly take into account what has been said in this debate this evening in considering the need to review the scope of those various expert panels. Because a review is taking place of the expert panels of the ACP, I think it would be rather a pity to include in legislative form, and more or less for all time so long as the legislation lasts, a provision about one particular committee, because however important a committee of this kind would be, it is one of several upon which the ACP depends. In view of that assurance, I hope that your Lordships will feel that the amendment should not be pressed.

There is one final point that I should like to make and which I had forgotten. My noble friend Lord Peel in referring back to Amendment No. 28, which is the statement of objectives, said that he very much hoped that the constitution of the advisory committee panels would reflect the broad objectives of Part III of the Bill. I have no hesitation in saying to my noble friend that this will most certainly be taken into account.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I think it is necessary to say that most of your Lordships who have spoken this evening on the subject of this amendment are at the receiving end of the advice of ADAS on these subjects. It is possibly reasonable to assume that if we were all entirely satisfied with the advice that we received and the extent of the research which is being carried out, we would not have spoken as we have.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I am not quite sure what to do about this amendment. I shall start by saying that I was interested in the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Belstead, the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and my noble friend Lord Peel about encouraging new machinery. By chance, I was a member of your Lordships' sub-committee that looked into agricultural and environmental research. During the course of the proceedings of that sub-committee the director of AFRC, Dr. Riley, came up with the statement that they were actively involved in looking at CDA and electrostatic sprayers with a view to reducing inputs and outputs, which is something that we all want to do. That if fine, but I wonder how many people actually read the little booklets that your Lordships produce.

I am still worried whether the work being done at Rothhamstead does or will get through to the Advisory Committee on Pesticides which will in future hold the key to all these problems. Therefore, I repeat that the purpose of this amendment is to make absolutely certain that all the parties meet and that the right advice is given to the Minister. From the reply that has been given by my noble friend the Minister, he obviously thinks along the same lines. I am still not happy, and I shall read his remarks very carefully, that the method that he is suggesting—namely, a series of liaison committees—will work and so on. I am still not happy that it will achieve the aim.

It is not very often that I and the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, agree 100 per cent. But on this occasion I am glad to say that it looks as though we certainly do so. The noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, said that I misinterpreted his original Amendment No. 120. It may be that I misinterpreted the words, but I do not think that I misinterpreted the spirit. I have to tell him, with a certain amount of humility, that this idea was slightly pinched from his amendment, or the philosophy behind his amendment, or what I thought was the philosophy behind his Amendment No. 120.

I shall not go on. I may well have to come back to the matter on Third Reading. I could divide the House, but somehow or other my noble kinsman the Chief Whip might have a coronary if I did so. I do not think that it would be wise; it would not be sensible; and it certainly would not be responsible. Therefore, I shall leave the matter for the moment, but I do not guarantee that I shall not come back to it on Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 44:

Page 14, line 30, 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.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am still not clear—and this rather came out on the last amendment—that the clearance of agrochemicals for minor crops will be quick and cheap. My noble friend Lord Belstead referred to this problem in Committee on 11th December last year, at col. 205, when he said: 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". I need hardly say that I believe that the right one is my Amendment No. 43. However, I am now asking my noble friend whether he has made any further progress, but I am also suggesting that this amendment be tied in with responsibility on the advisory committee to activate. Again, it could be the answer.

Finally, I should like to repeat my request, which was made at col. 208, that old chemicals (as I referred to them), which are still suitable for minor crops, would continue to be approved even if no specific company applied for their re-approval. I beg to move.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I apologise to my noble friend Lord Stanley; I thought that we had dealt with Amendment No. 44 when we discussed Amendment No. 43, and that is why I did not move it. I think that my noble friend has moved this amendment in the most eloquent terms. It seemed to me that the Minister gave us extremely satisfactory assurances at the Committee stage, and I, too, was intending to ask whether any progress had been made in determining the kind of methodology by which clearance could be given for minor crops. I appreciate that there is a very grave problem because of the cost of clearance, and the question is: who will pay? If any further guidance can be given to us, it would indeed be words of comfort. If not, we must rely on the Minister's assurances given during the Committee stage.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, this is an important amendment and the Government attach considerable importance to growers of minor crops having access to the full range of pesticides necessary to them. For that reason we have been studying this issue with great care since the last stage of the Bill. Officials of the Ministry of Agriculture have discussed one or two ideas—it would be going rather far to call them proposals at this stage—with various sectors of the industry concerned. I believe it is fair to say that those on whom we have tried out our ideas have been reassured as to the Government's intentions in this area.

The possible solutions which were mentioned during the previous discussion on the Bill were either to require manufacturers to seek approval for all crops when making their applications for clearance for pesticides, or to give growers direct access to the approval process. Perhaps I may share with your Lordships some thoughts which the Ministry of Agriculture has not so far spoken about in public, but which I think it is quite right to discuss at this stage of the Bill.

Further discussion has made it clear that the first possibility—that is, to require manufacturers to seek approval for all crops when they apply for clearance—would involve some considerable problems, partly because it would be difficult to predict in advance the full range of crops on which a material might be used and partly because problems of liability for crop damage would mean that most of the "extra" uses would still not appear on the product label. We could hardly blame the manufacturers for that. The front-runner, if I may so express it, therefore seems to be the possibility of giving growers direct access to the approval system without requiring them to generate expensive data, and in a manner which would place liability for the minor use of the product on the grower. We shall, of course, gladly give consideration to any other ideas on the subject during our consultations, which are continuing.

I understood from the remarks of my noble friend Lord Stanley when we last debated this subject that he was reassured about the Government's intentions that we were determined to try to ensure that growers of minor crops were not placed at a disadvantage. I have tried to take your Lordships a little more into the confidence of the Ministry this evening. I hope that you will feel that I have not been inactive since the last stage of the Bill and that my noble friend will think that it was worthwhile for the exchange of this information to table this amendment.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for those remarks. Let me assure him straight away that I have never—nor I think has any Member of your Lordships' House—considered him to be inactive. He may be many things, but he is certainly not inactive. I know that he has worked extremely hard on this Bill. I am grateful for the progress that he has made. I was interested in running out the first alternative; I can clearly appreciate that, although it was a starter, it would probably have come up against a few hurdles. I must admit that I like the idea of the second solution. I expect that when I leave the House many people will come to me and say for some reason or other "No, that is not a starter, either". I am most grateful to my noble friend for following this up. I am sure that with his endeavours and with everyone's help we shall come to the right solution. I think that we have moved along this path satisfactorily. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Gallacher moved Amendment No. 45:

Page 14, line 34, at end insert— (" ( ) After a period of four years after the passing of this Act all spraying on areas over 5 of a hectare must be done under the supervision of a person carrying a certificate of competence in all spraying operations and it shall be the duty of the Minister to see that training facilities are available.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we discussed this amendment in some detail at the Committee stage and, although there was some support from your Lordships for the thinking behind the amendment, there was certainly direct criticism of the fact that, by requiring every operator to be trained, we were putting an undue burden upon farmers. Therefore, in resubmitting this amendment we have made an important change in the wording so that the obligation for training now rests with a person who is supervising the operation and not with every operator who may be undertaking spraying. We feel that to be a reasonable compromise and one which I hope will commend itself to your Lordships.

I think it is common ground that, however careful one may be about this whole subject, unless the final operation—that is, spraying—is done with due care and attention and with some skill, then much of the previous care will be negated. Therefore, we feel that it is reasonable in those circumstances to require a supervisor to have a certificate of competence so that he may train others in the skilled work which is necessary in order to spray properly.

9.15 p.m.

We feel that it is not unreasonable to ask the Minister to see that training facilities are available. We feel, also, that the Agricultural Training Board is a body ready, willing and able to undertake the kind of training which the amendment proposes. I think it is also true to suggest that in due season the Commission of the European Communities will probably think in terms of extensive harmonisation covering member states in respect of this whole business of environmental and food protection.

Undoubtedly, if their thoughts turn in that direction it is reasonable to assume that they too will insist on a degree of training for those who are directly concerned in this operation. There are certainly precedents for that in the harmonisation proposals requiring a certificate of competence in road transport for those who are supervising commercial vehicles.

Also in question here is the health and safety of workers, because, although the Bill makes provision for consultation with the Health and Safety Executive, undoubtedly even a competent worker is himself at risk if he has not been properly trained in the use of the spray, and he may also put at risk those who are in his vicinity at the particular moment when he is misusing the apparatus he has been given to spray with. I hope that we have suitably amended our original proposition and that, as it now stands, this amendment will commend itself to your Lordships. I beg to move.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, I think that this particular amendment has a large number of holes in it. First, the gentleman who is to do the spraying may not spray more than half a hectare without a certificate of competence. Half a hectare when? Between lunch and dinner? Before breakfast? Does he have to leave a gap? Under what circumstances may he spray half a hectare? That seems to me unreliable.

Who is going to issue the certificate of competence? Is it going to be the farmer concerned? Is it going to be the Agricultural Training Board? Is it going to be the European Commission? Is it going to be the United Nations Food and Agricultural Association? The thinking behind this is fairly doctrinaire, and we should avoid, if we can, too many driving licences or MOTs. We should leave it to the farmer to allow the person to spray, provided all the other regulations are in force, and leave it to him to make sure that his own machinery is used properly. This amendment is full of holes, and I have endeavoured to demonstrate just a few of them.

Lord Walston

My Lords, there may be some holes in this amendment, but I cannot go along with the argument of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, in this respect. I think we have all agreed, particularly having listened to the various debates we have had on this general subject, that agricultural sprays are potentially toxic substances. They are dangerous to wild life; they are dangerous to plants; and they are dangerous to human beings.

They are being used on an ever-widening scale and it is right and proper that they should be, but surely we have the analogy of, for instance, the motor car. In the days when it was hardly used at all anybody could get on a motor vehicle and drive it, a potentially lethal weapon. When it became widespread in its use and it was realised that it was a potential danger, it was seen to be necessary to introduce regulations so that only those who had a certain skill in driving—regrettably a very low skill in many cases—were allowed to do so. I would suggest to your Lordships that toxic chemicals now come within that range. It is right that those who employ them should have some understanding of what damage they can do, how they should be used, and how they should be used to the best and most efficient advantage.

Therefore the amendment, even though it may have a hole or two in it, attempts to do something that the Bill should do. It is similar to the amendment which my noble friends Lord Mackie of Benshie and Lady Robson of Kiddington and I put down at Committee stage. It is not necessary for everybody who gets on a tractor with a spray behind it to have some qualification; I do not think that would be realistic. However, it is necessary, and will become increasingly necessary, that those holdings, other than the smallest ones, which employ sprayers and spray their crops, should carry out spraying under the supervision and the responsibility of somebody who has a little more than a smattering of the elements of what spraying involves and what sprayers are.

I do not believe that this amendment suggests that people should go on a six months' course to an agricultural college to qualify for this certification. About three or four nights spread over a winter period would give adequate training on the elements of proper spraying and proper control of these admittedly toxic substances. So long as there is one person on the farm who takes responsibility—be it the farmer himself, his son or the spray operator on a large farm—that is a step forward which sooner or later we shall have to take. I think it is wise that we should take it at this time. I therefore support this amendment.

Earl Peel

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that pesticides are dangerous. I also agree with what my noble friend Lord Onslow has said. I cannot possibly imagine how this sort of legislation ever sensibly could be put into practice. It seems to me that if we are to move forward in this direction—there is certainly merit in it—surely the way forward, as has been done with straw burning, is for a code of practice to be introduced through the NFU. I do not know whether a code of practice on the spraying of pesticides exists. I suggest to your Lordships that if we are to move forward in this direction that is the way to do it.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, before the noble Lord finishes, perhaps I should point out that a code of practice is not mandatory. We only dealt with straw burning effectively when it became a by-law and was enforceable by law. I do not think his analogy is worth tuppence.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, I should also like to support the amendment. I strongly agree with what my noble friend on the Front Bench has just said about by-laws on straw burning. I do not remember the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, describing that as draconian when we were urging the Government to introduce the by-laws. Quite the reverse; I believe that he supported it, as he did in taking some steps towards improving the skill of people operating machinery applying pesticides. When we discussed this at the Committee stage, he came up with the suggestion that only craftsmen should be allowed to spray. I shall not suggest that that is draconian. However, I hoped that in return he would not suggest that this modest amendment was draconian; but he has just done so and quite unfairly.

It may not be practical to limit the area sprayed in the way which the amendment suggests. It is important, and agreed by all of us at the Committee stage that people operating machinery with dangerous chemicals—not potentially dangerous, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Walston, but actually dangerous—should be properly trained and should be as skilled as possible. That is in the interests of everybody concerned, and I hope that some form of encouragement, if not requirement for training, will be supported by the Government.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, at Committee stage I acknowledged the importance of training and mentioned the considerable contribution made by the agricultural training boards supported by Government funds. A large proportion of pest control operators both in agriculture and in the industrial and public health sectors have received training and I go along with all that your Lordships have been saying about the desirability of that. Users of pesticides must have an interest in ensuring that they and their employees know how to use those pesticides effectively and safely. The responsibilities put upon them by our legislation is going to make this all the more necessary. But if the Government need to do more in legislation, the authority is there in the Bill in our power to impose conditions on use.

Our statement of intention in paragraph 10 which I circulated before the Committee stage makes it clear that the Government will consider training and certificating as conditions of approval, although I was at pains to make it clear on that occasion that we would be extremely careful to consult about this and not to place unreasonable burdens upon the individual farmer. I may say in passing that several trade associations have stressed the need for adequate training and have offered to organise training schemes. I am grateful to them for their constructive suggestions. But the main difficulty, I think, is that we really need to do a lot more talking with all the interests involved on the needs and practical possibilities before we can legislate.

My noble friend Lord Onslow picked some holes in this particular amendment and I must say that I think that each of the holes that my noble friend picked was by no means unreasonable. My noble friend Lord Peel made the point, which I think is a valid one, that something in the nature of a code of practice would be exceedingly helpful. If I may add the difficulty from the Government point of view, it is this. What does one do, for instance, if one has a situation of a two- man operation—not unusual in agriculture at all—and the fully-trained operator is then unavoidably absent through illness at the exact moment when the spraying has to take place? I am not saying that that should preclude us from thinking that at the end of the day we have to make some more definite arrangements about training. But I am saying that a consideration of that kind should lead us to give a good deal more thought than simply saying, as we do in Amendment No. 45, that training shall be mandatory.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, if I may say so, I did not say that the suggestion of the noble Earl, Lord Peel, was not helpful. I said that his analogy was not good. That is a slightly different thing.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I shall not venture into the exchange between the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie and my noble friend Lord Peel on that point. I shall content myself with ending by saying that we shall be continuing our consultations once this legislation is on the statute book. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, will not mind me resisting this amendment on the grounds that I have given. I think that we, all of us, are trying to pull in the same direction. It is a question, however, of exactly how far one can go. With respect, I think that this amendment really goes too far.

Lord Gallacher

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord the Minister for his observations and no less grateful to those noble Lords on all sides of the House who have seen some merit in this amendment. In that spirit, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 14, line 43, leave out ("any of its international obligations") and insert ("any international obligation to supply information; or (c) 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.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, during earlier discussions of this Bill your Lordships, really from all parts of the House, expressed concern about the need to inform importing developing countries about the nature of the pesticides which they are importing and the extent of any risks attached to the use of those pesticides. On behalf of the Government I said then—and I should like to repeat it now—that the Government share the concern and have been wholehearted supporters of international initiatives in this area. In fact, as your Lordships will be aware, the United Kingdom has agreed in principle to the United Nations environment programme proposal on information exchange, and it was with that agreement in mind that we included in our Bill the power to obtain information from exporters and others in order to meet our international obligations, as my noble friend Lord Swinton explained at the previous stage of the Bill.

9.30 p.m.

However, during our previous discussion on this topic I was asked whether this Bill included the power to put "prior informed consent" into effect; that is, for the export of a pesticide to be banned until the intended recipient government had indicated its consent, if such an obligation were agreed internationally. I can now answer that question; and I have to admit that I did not give very much of an answer at the previous stage of the Bill.

The first point that I should like to make in answer is that there exists the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939, which I understand enables us to restrict exports where, on grounds of policy, we find it necessary. Indeed, to come up to date, there is an order in being at the moment, the Export of Goods Control Order 1981, which has been made under the 1939 legislation and which subjects a great many goods to controls. Although that legislation dates from 1939, it is, I am advised, entirely appropriate to use it if necessary. I am pleased to reassure your Lordships that this issue has recently been tested in the courts and my advice is that these powers under the 1939 Act and the 1981 order are appropriate for use.

I was not entirely sure that your Lordships would be particularly pleased if I came to the House and simply said that, so I am bringing forward for your Lordships' consideration Amendment No. 46, by which it is intended to make it clear that under this Bill the Government could obtain information not only in order to pass it on to other countries, but also to enable us to decide on any other action which we might need to take in order to fulfil our international obligations. If our international obligations were to involve prohibition on an export, then the power exists under the 1939 Act.

I should like to make one more point, if I may. I would not wish anything that I have said in moving this amendment to be construed as Government approval for the principle of prior informed consent. That issue is being discussed in the FAO at the present time. However, I am confident that taken together these two measures give us a wide range of powers to control exports of pesticides. My Lords, I beg to move.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, it is true that the big exchange in Committee took place on whether or not the Bill gave power and one is now satisfied that that power exists, be it under the 1939 Act of by virtue of this amendment. But the other remarks of the Minister have to be disappointing for those of us who were concerned that we should wish to follow the policy of prior informed consent. I know that there are difficulties. I know that perhaps it is at this moment not a perfect way of doing things. I know that there are many governments who might find difficulty in understanding the requirement and who therefore might not be capable of, if you like, getting full value from that particular agreement. Nevertheless I think it would have been greatly to our credit if we had taken an initiative on this line, and not simply waited for international obligations to make us do it.

I must say that of course I welcome the amendment as far as it goes. I am merely saying that I wish it had gone a bit further. I wonder whether the Minister can give us some idea of how the Government see the outcome of the FAO requirements after they have been debated with the United Kingdom; what our Government are hoping to achieve and what will be our attitude if the final agreement is not entirely to our liking. Can he also give some idea of how he sees the timetable of these discussions? Are they likely to reach a conclusion this year or next year, or will it be in our lifetime?

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, as one of the noble Lords who moved at Committee stage an amendment to include the words "or export", I can do nothing but totally welcome the amendment. It seems to me that we have now got the balance absolutely right. All these third world countries said with perfect justification that they did not want to be governed from Whitehall and that they would rather go their own way. It is therefore totally inappropriate for us to say, "You shall not have this from us because we do not think it is good for you". It is exactly the same as us saying to the Nigerians, "It is wrong for you to execute an armed robber or postpone his execution for 24 hours because you want to use the polo pitch for another game of polo", which is what they did the other day. It is not our business.

We must make absolutely certain that we have the powers to fulfil our international obligations and we must make certain that they are in the Bill. What we must not do is to say, "You, oh third world country, need Whitehall to look after you." I am not sure that Whitehall's writ runs to Guildford or Yorkshire, let alone Nigeria. I suggest to your Lordships that that is the attitude which we should take towards this amendment and I also suggest to your Lordships that the amendment strikes exactly the right balance between correct control and nanny-ing somebody else.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I too should like very much to welcome the Government's attitude in this matter. I should like to back up the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol: what constitutes an international agreement? Do we have wholly to agree and sign on the dotted line that this is an agreement, or will a resolution passed with us agreeing with some points constitute an international agreement? I think that this is quite an important point and I should like the Minister's reply to it.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, as somebody who also joined at some length in these debates at Committee stage, I should like to welcome the Government amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, may not be surprised to hear that I do not entirely agree with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that the balance is now exactly right, but the Government have taken a significant and important step in the right direction.

I hope that the negotiating stance at the FAO and in other places where prior informed consent has been discussed will be to favour it, although I do not as yet get that impression from the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. I should not want to delay the proceedings at this stage by doing anything more than welcoming the significant step that the Government have taken.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am grateful to your Lordships for the general welcome that has been given to Amendment No. 46. I am not being as helpful as I perhaps might be to the noble Baroness, who asked me several questions about the FAO negotiations, in that I must explain first of all that I am not going to say that we have been supporting prior informed consent in that particular forum, because we have most certainly not been saying that in public. But at the same time I must remain silent as to what our view exactly is because I should not want to do anything to jeopardize our negotiating position. What is certain—I hope that this does give an indication of what the United Kingdom's view really is—is that I did record in my opening remarks that in the United Nations environment programme we had agreed in principle to the proposal on information exchange. We were very ready to do that.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie, asked what constitutes an "international obligation"—that is the wording in the Bill. If I may say so, I think it means exactly what it says. It would be an obligation to which we were committed because we had signed in whatever way we needed to do as fully as possible and we had shouldered the obligation. Under those circumstances, when the obligation had been fully accepted by this country, then of course the full effect of Amendment No. 46 would come into play.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 47: After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:

("Misused pesticides

No pesticide shall be approved under section 15(1)(b) above if it appears to the Ministers, on advice from 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 persistently misused, whether wilfully or accidentally.").

The noble Lord said: This is a new and I hope improved version of an amendment that I moved at the Committee stage and which was then criticised by a number of noble Lords on two grounds in particular. First, the original version made mention of pesticides which were being persistently misused and which were likely to be so. In the amendment before your Lordships, I have removed the words, "or likely to be so". In addition, a number of noble Lords were not happy at the idea that anyone other than Ministers, as defined in the Bill, should be in a position to remove the approval, or not approve, a pesticide that was being persistently misused. I hope that this amendment will therefore commend itself to your Lordships to a greater extent than did the amendment I moved at Committee stage.

At Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, rested his arguments against the amendment as it then stood—apart from the two grounds that I have mentioned—on the basis that there was already a body of law that made a criminal offence the persistent misuse of pesticides of the kind that I was concerned about. He mentioned in particular the Wildlife and Countryside Act. It is true that for many years before the Wildlife and Countryside Act, under the Protection of Birds Act, deliberate poisoning of protected species, and more generally deliberate poisoning of birds of prey which are protected, has been a criminal offence. Nevertheless, there has been and continues to be a large number of incidents of specially-protected birds of prey being deliberately poisoned.

For example, since the Wildlife and Countryside Act was implemented in September 1982 and until September 1984, of the two chemicals which have in recent years been most persistently misused, there were 28 incidents involving alpha chloralose—all of them against the law, as the noble Lord the Minister said before. The incidents involving misuse of that chemical continue. Those incidents affected, for example, 11 buzzards, a golden eagle, and a peregrine. Mevinphos—the other chemical persistently misused in recent years—has been involved in 18 incidents since the passage of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Again, those incidents involved buzzards and one human being.

Over the years, the problem has been that although it is a criminal offence to use a pesticide that is lethal to wildlife to deliberately set out to poison protected species, poisoning incidents have continued at a high and very worrying level—particularly those affecting vulnerable species such as buzzards, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds takes most of the prosecutions which are brought in this area. It is not an area where the police tend to be particularly active, although co-operation between them and the RSPB has been very good in recent years. The RSPB and the RSPCA take most of these cases, and their view consistently has been that where a chemical is persistently misused, it should be withdrawn from use if the damage being done through that misuse is so great as to justify such a step being taken; that is despite the existing law on the subject.

It has been the case with a number of other dangerous substances which have had a legitimate use and an illegitimate use that if the criminal law was not sufficiently effective to prevent the illegitimate use of that substance, then it was sensible for society to remove it from circulation for ever, or at least for some time. I believe the same should apply to a limited number of pesticides, and that it is likely to continue to apply to a limited number of pesticides in future years. I feel therefore that a power of this kind should be provided by the Bill. At the moment, I believe that such a power does not exist among the powers which the Government are taking under the Bill and I did not hear anything in Committee to suggest otherwise. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, the Government and your Lordships will accept the amendment. I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Renton

My Lords, there seems to be no need to repeat at any length an argument which we have had to the effect that if we pick out one example of something that we wish to prevent we may be frustrating ourselves by excluding others. I am beginning to think that the road to legislative hell, which is unnecessary complexity, is paved with good intentions. So often we have well-intentioned amendments which have, or might have, exactly the opposite effect to that desired.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, I follow that argument which the noble Lord has made previously this evening, but surely it only applies in those cases where the power to do what the amendment seeks already exists in the general powers in the Bill. I do not believe that that applies in this case.

Lord Renton

My Lords, it seems to me, rightly or wrongly—and perhaps we shall be told by my noble friend Lord Belstead whether it is right or wrong—that where Ministers are given a discretion of the very wide kind contained in, for example, Clause 15 (1)—which is to become subsection (2)—(a), (b) and (c), to leave them with that wide discretion may be very much more sensible than trying to pick out certain spheres of anxiety. Once we pick out one sphere of anxiety, we may make it more difficult for other spheres of anxiety to be enforced. Therefore, my humble advice would be not to accept this amendment but to leave the matter to the general powers contained in the Bill.

Lord Walston

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is very persuasive, but I am afraid that he has not persuaded me and I hope he will not persuade your Lordships. The intention is, of course, admirable. But, as I understand it, it could mean that a chemical of great value to food production which is illegally used to destroy some golden eagles could, on the advice of the Nature Conservancy Council, the Health and Safety Executive, the Department of Health and Social Security or the Department of the Environment, but, significantly, not the Ministry of Agriculture, be denied for the use of food production. That does not seem to me to be the right way to set about it, any more than I would consider it to be right to abolish the use of alcohol because in certain cases it has been misused by a minority of its consumers. Therefore, I hope the Government will not see fit to accept the amendment.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, I rise only to put to your Lordships that if one uses wood and wire netting one can make a trap to catch peregrines. That does not mean we should not use wood or wire netting. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that if someone in the Nature Conservancy Council says, "Please do not do it", the Minister is then obliged not to do it and must ban the chemical concerned. I believe that that would be very unwise.

Finally, we do not ban motor cars, although they kill 6,000 people a year. We have to be very careful before we accept these forms of legislative straitjacket. Of course, we should be very vigilant and, if people misuse chemicals, it is the people who do the misusing who should suffer rather than those who use them legitimately.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I think from what has been said on this amendment that we ought clearly to be wary of it. I think that there are three main reasons for that. The first, as the noble Lord himself said, is that misuse is already an offence under other legislation. It would also be an offence under regulations to be made under this Bill. That leads me to the second reason. Surely what is really needed is good enforcement. I very much hope that the efforts of the new enforcement officers authorised by Ministers, and the continuing action by other organisations, will make a major contribution in the future.

I shall say nothing about the point which was so well put by the noble Lord, Lord Walston. He made that case without the need for any repetition by me. But-there is a third point which, if I may, I wish to put on my own behalf. It arises from what my noble friend Lord Renton said. We have the powers in the Bill. In setting up the structure of the new enforcement arrangements we shall of course be looking closely at the problem of misuse. Undoubtedly, enforcement arrangements will depend on the Advisory Committee on Pesticides, on which of course all the four organisations listed in the noble Lord's amendment are present as assessors.

Before I finish, let me give one example. The noble Lord is well informed and in his speech he gave several examples of where misuse had occurred. Whenever there is misuse, it is always a tragedy. For instance, I notice that he mentioned the product Mevinphos. If the advice that I was given about that is correct, it is an insecticide, is highly toxic, and at one time was used for poisoning carcases to kill foxes. On advice, the Advisory Committee on Pesticides insisted on a change in the formulation. That was done. We are not talking about an organisation in the ACP which has no teeth and is not prepared to take action.

I think that it would be very difficult to accede to this amendment which in some strange way would be taking the power to give advice and to take action out of the organisation which we have put in statutory form this evening in the Bill and put it only in the hands of the four organisations whose representatives are present as assessors on the ACP anyway. For those reasons I would add my voice to those of other noble Lords and hope that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, will not press the amendment.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, no, I will not press the amendment. I should like to make two points, if I may. I accept that it would be sensible to operate some system of this sort through the statutory body. But the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will appreciate that I had to re-draft this amendment before having the advantage of seeing Government Amendment No. 42, I think it was, which set up the advisory body as a statutory committee.

There is one other point that I should like to make. There has been something of a history of attempts to legislate on this problem. The most recent attempt before this was made during the passage of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, when exactly the same point as the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, have made about the importance of enforcement and of catching those responsible was accepted by your Lordships' House, and an amendment was made to that Bill which would have placed a limited degree of liability on landowners on whose land such poison was illegally placed. That was accepted by your Lordships' House as a whole, but unfortunately not by the Government, and the amendment was removed from that Bill when it was in another place. I think that your Lordships' House at least made an attempt to improve enforcement in this field by making it easier to bring prosecutions against those responsible, but that did not survive the passage of the Wildlife and Countryside Bill in another place. It is really for that reason that concern is continuing, and I am afraid the problem will not go away.

I should like to see what the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said, when I read Hansard tomorrow. As I understood it, his reply to his noble friend Lord Renton behind him was that the general powers provided in Clause 15 would allow Ministers to restrict or indeed remove from use a pesticide which was being persistently misused, if they felt, on advice from the advisory committee, that that was desirable. If that was the case, I am inclined to agree that a specific power of this kind is not necessary. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 48: After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:

("Control of advertising

Ministers may make it a condition of an approval given under section 15(1)(b) above that any person causing or permitting any advertisement for a pesticide to be published, broadcast or otherwise disseminated ensure that the advertisement carries a statement of any restrictions imposed by Ministers on the pesticide's use.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this also was an amendment at which we looked during the Committee stage of the Bill. At that stage I moved a similar amendment and I received a sympathetic response from the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. This is in Hansard, col. 241, of 11 th December. In particular the noble Lord said that the Government had 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". The noble Lord made the point that there were already sufficient powers in the Bill to achieve that, should they wish to do so. I am therefore not intending to press the amendment on the assumption that that remains the case, that sufficient powers are available in the Bill. However, I should be interested to know whether the noble Lord has had the opportunity to take his thoughts any further forward and whether it will now be the case that Ministers will make it a condition of approval that a supplier should ensure that advertising material will carry a statement of the restrictions placed on the product's use by Ministers. The noble Lord said that that was the point he was going to consider; that it might happen. I wonder whether he can take it any further forward and tell us that it will happen.

The final point on this is that I think there is really quite widespread concern, as I said at the Committee stage, about some of the advertisements that appear for certain pesticide products. There has been correspondence in the farming papers from farmers concerned about the nature or the style of advertisements. I recently received some correspondence about an advertisement produced by ICI in a trade journal, for a weedkiller for use in parks, which the advertisement claimed, killed very nearly every wild flower which I sowed in a paddock on our farm a couple of years ago from a wild flower seed mixture to get a herb-rich meadow on the field". It is that kind of advertising which I am afraid is doing the pesticides industry no good at all. It is why I think that some indication in advertisements that there are restrictions on the use of certain products would be a valuable step forward. I beg to move.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, in this amendment. I think it seems a very sensible thing to do. I should say this to the noble Lord the Minister. When he considers producing regulations along these lines, if there are long and complicated restrictions on the use of the chemical, it might be difficult to get in a half page or quarter page advertisement for that chemical in a farmers' magazine the whole of a detailed list of what the actual restrictions are. It might be difficult to have a very detailed and complicated list of restrictions. However, I think there is certainly merit in what the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is trying to achieve.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I must say I was in agreement until the noble Lord gave his example. I personally do not desire to grow a great deal of wild flowers in a pasture. Normally I sow a pasture in order to provide food for animals. In that case, I do not look on the wild flowers with a tremendous amount of respect. The buttercup is not my favourite food for cows or any other beast. While I do not deny that the noble Lord has a perfect right to grow every form of wild flower, I grow grass for cattle and/or sheep to eat. If I want a certain number of herbs it is very sensible to sow herbs in the strip. However, I would not say that the noble Lord's example would encourage me to vote for the amendment.

10 p.m.

Earl Peel

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Melchett. This is a sensible amendment. It is almost a natural conclusion to all this complicated legislation that your Lordships have been discussing and enacting. If we can have stated on a packet of cigarettes that smoking can dangerously affect your health, there is no reason why we should not have a warning on a fungicide that it can seriously affect the health of insects. It is a sensible amendment. I support the noble Lord.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, we agree, I think, that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is on to an important point. I should like to give a more friendly reply than I gave last time, because there is no doubt that this is a serious issue. All pesticides cleared for use in the United Kingdom have restrictions placed on their use at the present time. Their use is restricted to specified crops and restrictions are placed on the timing of application. Some may only be used in agriculture while others are available to gardeners. Some may not be sprayed from the air; some may only be used under licence by trained operators. And so one could go on.

If this amendment became law, all advertisements would have to carry all those restrictions. It was, I think, my noble friend Lord Onslow who made this important point. Not only do I think that this would be impractical; it would also, I believe, defeat the object of the exercise. Even if room was found on the label to list all the restrictions, such a mass of instructions would only confuse the reader. Surely, the aim is to warn a potential purchaser of factors that might affect his choice of pesticide. In my view, this would best be done if, in the regulations, we require the inclusion in advertisements of important restrictions which might, for instance, state, "This material may not be applied from the air", or, "This material may not be applied within so many metres of water". Those are just two suggestions of the way we could go.

It is a familiar argument that this is best left to regulations. I believe, however, that, in this case, the power is there to require such restrictions in the conditions provided in Clause 15. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, will feel that this responds to what he was saying. The noble Lord was, in essence, asking, "Can this be done?" and, "Has the Government's thinking gone any further?" My answer to both questions is "Yes" and "Yes, again". Our thinking has gone further. I hope that I have been able to outline some of the ways in which we are thinking.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has been very helpful. I agree with his arguments and those of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. It would probably be counter-productive to insist on every advertisement containing every single restriction. It would detract from the importance of the significant kinds of restriction that the noble Lord mentioned. That sounds to me a sensible argument. I am grateful for the positive response to both questions that I asked. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 [Enforcement powers]:

Lord Gallacher moved Amendment No. 48A: Page 16, line 15, after ("Ministers") insert ("or a local authority within the meaning of section 72 of the Food Act 1984 (hereinafter in this section referred to as "the 1984 Act)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment, in a sense, echoes our discussion on Amendment No. 1 at the beginning of the Report stage. There is still concern at the exclusion of local authorities as such under the Bill, even though it is accepted that officers of local authorities may be designated under Part III as enforcement officers. I presume that this designation will take some form of attachment. It would be helpful, when the Minister replies, if he can make clear whether the officers from local authorities who are to be so designated will be drawn from the ranks of the trading standards officers or if they will be exclusively environmental health officers.

The view has been expressed that the Bill, good as it is and necessary as it is, constitutes an erosion of power to a centralised national administration. It is accepted that that erosion is not deliberate, but it is still a matter for regret. That is one reason why, in this amendment, an attempt is made to restore the local authority as a body capable of appointments under this clause.

In further justification of the amendment, it is argued that local authorities have valuable local knowledge and experience of areas in which they operate. This is especially so as regards the inspection of records of pesticide usage, and it is felt that this could be made use of by incorporating the amendment into the clause. The amendment, broadly speaking, advocates the concept of power-sharing and it does so in the interests of speed and enhanced protection for producers and consumers alike, especially from the build-up of experience which local authorities inevitably have, and will have, of users of pesticides. I therefore beg to move Amendment No. 48A.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am happy to be able to assure the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, that Clause 17 gives the Government sufficient powers to authorise local authority officers to undertake an enforcement role. I know, from my talk the other day with the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and the representatives of the AMA who were with her, that officers are anxious to have a role to play, and indeed I know they will have a role to play. We are going to be consulting them on the nature and extent of their participation as we prepare the regulations.

The noble Lord asked if enforcement officers would be trading standards officers or environmental health officers. This I think would be a matter for local authorities to decide. I would add the point that Schedule 2 sets out in considerable detail the powers of enforcement officers, and at paragraph 4(c) there is included the power to take samples, which, if I may say so, means that the reference to being a sampling officer in the second of these two amendments would not be necessary. I hope the assurance that I have given the noble Lord on these two amendments will be sufficient for the noble Lord not to press them.

Lord Gallacher

My Lords, given that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Renton)

My Lords, I have to explain that Amendment No. 49 should read: leave out from second "for" to end of line 28".

Lord Belstead moved Amendments Nos. 49 and 50.

[Printed earlier: col. 142.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, both Amendments Nos. 49 and 50 are consequential upon Amendment No. 28. I beg to move.

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, I propose to take these two amendments together.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 51:

Page 17, line 12, 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: My Lords, I can be brief because I know my noble friend will not accept this amendment. However, I must tell my noble friend that I have been approached this evening, since I moved Amendments Nos. 5 and 6, by a number of Members of your Lordships' House who are still expressing concern over the whole question of compensation; and therefore I intend to reserve my position. I beg to move.

The Earl of Radnor

My Lords, I should like briefly to support this amendment in the words my noble friend Lord Stanley has used. Here again, once more, it seems that the farmer might incur loss and have no sensible or practical redress. That seems wrong. I should like to reinforce what my noble friend has said: that the whole area of compensation seems at the moment a little bit unsatisfactory. We spoke about it earlier on. In point of fact, Amendment No. 6 was withdrawn, so that was not spoken to. I, too, must reserve my position, possibly to look at it very closely, and also to look very closely at the whole spectrum of compensation and think about it with a view to bringing it forward at Third Reading.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the Health and Safety Executive's inspectors are an experienced and responsible body of men not given to the reckless distribution of unnecessary notices, as I am sure the farming community would agree. I simply say to my noble friend in answer to this amendment that really the amendment would mean that these officers would be forced to seek a conviction when the public interest might be better served if they did not do so. It would also mean that it would be impossible to serve notices under subsection (6) because that relates to the risk of the commission of an offence and, therefore, is a preventative measure.

Everything that I have heard said on this Bill leads me to believe that surely it is better to have the power in the Bill to prevent an offence rather than to be forced to wait until one is committed and then prosecute the offender. The damage to health and the environment would already have occurred, and if we accepted the amendment, that would be the situation. It is on those grounds that I feel that I cannot accept the amendment.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 52.

[Printed earlier: col. 142.]

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

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 53 not moved.]

Clause 20 [General defence of due diligence]:

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 54: Page 19, line 7, leave out ("or")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I put this point at the Committee stage, at some unearthly hour of the night, and failed to understand the answer given by my noble friend Lord Swinton and so I have tabled it again. My amendment would allow the farmer to use the words "due diligence" as a defence, as originally appeared in the Bill until the Government took it out. As this is a lawyers' argument and I am not a lawyer, perhaps your Lordships will allow me, for I hope the first and last time, to resort to reading the argument put to me by my legal advisers.

This defence was removed as a valid defence to an offence under Part III of the Bill at Committee stage. It is now proposed that the defence be reintroduced to apply to Clause 15(6)(a) of Part III of the Bill. It has been suggested that as a matter of law the defence can apply only to offences which would otherwise be strict liability offences in so far as there is no defence available to them. However, I am advised that there is no reason in law why the defence of due diligence should be restricted to such offences. Certainly there can be no logical reason to include this defence where there is a prescribed mens rea attached to the defence. Thus, no attempt is being made to vary Clause 15(6)(b) which states, for example, that a person must not make a statement "recklessly".

However, Clause 15(6)(a) states that the individual who has allegedly committed the offence shall not be liable so long as he has a reasonable excuse. "Reasonable excuse" has not been defined in the Bill, and so the question is left unanswered as to the meaning of the phrase. A "reasonable excuse" would probably apply where an event occurred which was totally outside the control of an offender. An excuse which could reasonably account for why the offence came about may be acceptable; as an extreme example, if an illiterate person cannot read the instructions on a can of pesticide, would that be reasonable excuse for the commission of an offence being created under the Bill? It may be a realistic one. It would seem unreasonable that while a person has an excuse which is regarded as reasonable by some unknown standard and therefore has a valid defence, a person who has exercised all due diligence may not.

It is therefore imperative that the matter be clarified and that the defence of due diligence should be restored as a defence to Clause 15(6)(a). The range of offences created by Parts I and II of the Bill are not so different as to render the application of the due diligence defence inappropriate to Part III. Indeed, as a matter of consistency, and for the avoidance of confusion, due diligence should be reintroduced as a defence to Part III.

Perhaps I should add in my own words that, as a run-of-the-mill schoolboy, I was frequently accused—of course, unjustly!—of not being diligent. Therefore, I think that the words make some sense to the layman, particularly the lazy and rather slapdash operator or farmer. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, as the noble Lord's two amendments are being taken together, I should point out that there is a misprint on page 19, line 7 of the Bill, where "91(1)(a)" should read "9(1)(a)". That refers to Amendment No. 55.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for tabling this amendment. I am advised that the phrase "without reasonable excuse" is wider than the general defence of due diligence, so it would be rather illogical to apply both defences to the offences in Clause 15(6)(a), but not necessarily impossible. However, I think that I understood about as much from the noble Lord's legal brief as, by the sound of it, he did reading it himself. Therefore, I should like to reconsider this amendment in the light of the offences and defences in the Bill, and hope that my noble friend will withdraw it.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I think that I understood my noble friend to say that he would reconsider this matter. If he did so, I shall withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 55, not moved.]

Clause 22 [Interpretation]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 56: Page 20, leave out line 31.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is consequential on Amendment No. 4. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 57 not moved.]

Schedule 1 [Emergency prohibitions]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendments Nos. 58 and 59:

[Printed earlier: col. 117.]

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 60: Page 25, line 17, leave out ("or feeding stuffs")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendments Nos. 61 to 64:

[Printed earlier: col. 117.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, these amendments are consequential on Amendment No. 4. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Officers and their powers]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 65:

[Printed earlier: col. 137.]

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

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Particulars to be contained in registers]:

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 65A:

Page 31, line 31, at end insert— ("4A. The results of any toxicity tests carried out for the purpose of determining whether a licence should be issued or the provisions to be included in one.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the Committee stage I undertook to look at an amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, concerning the disclosure of the results of toxicity tests. Your Lordships may recall that these are already, and will continue to be, disclosed; but I agreed on that occasion that there ought to be specific mention of them, which was the case that the noble Baroness was making. The present amendment is in response to the noble Baroness and refers to "any" tests. Since, as I explained in Committee, not all applications require them, it allows us to consider results of tests carried out by others, and it describes the purpose of the tests. I have discussed the text with the noble Baroness and I believe that it meets her concerns. I hope so. I beg to move.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to rise once more and thank the Minister not simply for this amendment but for his courtesy and helpfulness throughout the Bill.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 66:

[Printed earlier: col. 182.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is consequential. May I thank the noble Baroness for those kind words, and the rest of your Lordships for your help throughout a long day. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

House adjourned at twenty minutes past ten o'clock.

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