HC Deb 13 April 1988 vol 131 cc155-6W
Dr. David Clark

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many incidents of suspected poisoning of bees by pesticides his Department has investigated since the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 received Royal Assent; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Donald Thompson

Since the Food and Environment Protection Act received Royal Assent on 16 July 1985 the Ministry has investigated a total of 191 incidents of suspected poisoning of honeybees in England and Wales. Of that total 132 were confirmed to be incidents involving pesticides. Several of the complaints clustered on particular periods and in particular vicinities and the figures may therefore represent a more limited number of spray applications.

Dr. David Clark

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will outline the procedures for protecting bees from the misuse of pesticides.

Mr. Donald Thompson

The system of official approval of pesticide products and the progressive introduction of strict controls over their use give considerable protection to bees and other wildlife.

General protection from the misuse of pesticides has been provided since October 1986. Each user of pesticides is required to take all reasonable precautions to protect the health of human beings, creatures and plants, to safeguard the environment and in particular to avoid the pollution of water. Employers and employees must meet additional requirements to ensure that people who apply pesticides are competent for their tasks. Aerial application of pesticides is further regulated, and aerial operators must give at least 48 hours notice to beekeepers of intended operations.

The pesticides approvals process takes full account of the need to protect bees and, where appropriate, additional conditions of use are specified for individual products. Since 1 January 1988 any such conditions have had the force of law.

Beekeepers themselves have an important role to play in ensuring that the safeguards provided by the legislation are fully effective: all keepers ought to be members of local spray warning liaison schemes so that information about aerial and ground operations can be communicated to them.

The Ministry investigates any wildlife deaths in England and Wales that might have been caused by pesticides. Similar arrangements are operated in Scotland. Information about harm to wildlife caused by pesticides is fed back into the pesticide approvals system. Cases involving possible misuse of pesticides are investigated with a view to detecting and prosecuting the offender.

In the case of honeybees, for England and Wales, deaths are investigated by bee experts at Luddington experimental horticulture station. In certain cases, particularly if disease is ruled out as the apparent cause of death, a field investigation by officers authorised under part III of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 and an analysis for traces of pesticides follow.