HL Deb 11 April 1989 vol 506 cc128-9

2.46 p.m.

Baroness Sharpies asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made in the biological war against the Dorset Fly.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Skelmersdale)

My Lords, the Government have approved an application by the North Dorset District Council for a small-scale trial of the biological insecticide BTi against the Dorset or Blandford Fly, as it is more commonly known. This trial will take place in a side channel of the River Stour as soon as conditions permit.

Baroness Sharpies

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. If this attack on the Blandford Fly is successful, will there then be a full-scale attack launched next year on a larger area of the River Stour?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, if this trial is successful urgent consideration will be given to a future larger scale trial, possibly encompassing the whole river. It will depend on this year's trial.

Baroness Turner of Camden

Is it a fact that this fly has had the effect of polluting and depleting a number of the Dorset rivers? If that is the situation can the Minister tell the House whether privatisation of water will help in that regard?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the noble Baroness has taken an excellent opportunity but I am afraid that her premise is wrong. This particular fly prefers fast-flowing rivers.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, can my noble friend assure the House that this insect, which is clearly most unpleasant, is not on any list of endangered or protected species, and that its total extinction far from being lamented would be the cause of celebration, not least in Dorset?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I can confirm to my noble friend that it is not an endangered species. It is a very nasty little piece of work indeed.

Lord Carter

My Lords, the Minister referred to the control of the Blandford Fly by insecticides. Is there any work being undertaken on the control of the fly by the use of insect predators?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I referred to what is described as a biological insecticide which is in fact a spore ingested by the fly which then eats up its insides, as it were.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, can the Minister say what are the bad effects on people bitten by the fly?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, it can produce large bites which can cause very nasty side effects. They have been reported as nausea, diarrhoea and arthritis-like symptoms.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, does my noble friend think that this fly might respond to the same treatment as that given to its celebrated European cousin, the Spanish Fly?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, that would have to be the subject of another trial. I think that we should deal with this one first.