HC Deb 06 July 1988 vol 136 cc613-4W
Mr. Crowther

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the measures he has taken, under powers granted to him under the Food and Environmental Protection Act 1984, to protect members of the public using public footpaths against the harmful effects of pesticides.

Mr. Donald Thompson

Pesticides are strictly controlled under the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986, with the effect that no pesticide may he used in the countryside which poses an unacceptable risk in use to operators, members of the public, wildlife or the environment generally. The agricultural inspectorate of the Health and Safety Executive is actively enforcing this prohibition, and prosecutions have resulted. However, we believe that safe use of pesticides also requires a high standard of information and training amongst operators. All new-entrant spray operators in the agriculture industry will accordingly have to show a certificate of competence from 1 January 1989, as will contractors' staff; and we are developing a detailed code of practice with the help of both the industry and the independent experts of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides. In the most recent draft, which is publicly available, growers are advised that theyshould avoid overspraying public rights of way (including roads, footpaths and bridleways) and consider, after reading pesticide labels, the need for warning notices".

The reference to pesticide labels follows advice given by the ACP that only a small number of pesticides carry any risk to walkers who come into contact with the crop after use. The labels will normally identify such products as "Irritant" and contain advice to exclude people from fields for a period after spraying. Where a right of way exists the grower's obligation to protect human health may, as the draft code indicates, be achieved more effectively by avoiding overspraying of the right of way. The advice given in this edition of the draft code will be the subject of renewed consultation at the end of this growing season.

Aerial application is subject to additional controls, including the legal requirement to confine the application to the land intended to be treated, and to notify occupants of nearby buildings in writing before spraying takes place.

Mr. John Evans

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to protect public footpaths from aerial spraying of pesticides.

Mr. Gummer

The aerial application of pesticides has been subject, since 6 October 1986, to the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986. This legislation imposes more stringent controls in aerial application than on any other type of pesticide use, and requires the application of pesticides to be confined to the land intended to be treated. In the most recent draft of the code of practice on use, farmers and growers are advised that in order to meet their legal obligations they should avoid overspraying public rights of way.