HC Deb 17 February 1997 vol 290 cc425-7W
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the outcome of the review of organophosphorus sheep dips carried out by the Veterinary Products Committee; and if he will make a statement. [16274]

Mr. Roger Evans

The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is set out in the table:

Mr. Douglas Hogg

The VPC has carefully and thoroughly examined the effectiveness of the certificate of competence scheme and other issues relating to the use of OP sheep dips. It confirmed earlier advice that, provided that they are used safely and in accordance with the manufacturers' instructions, there is no scientific justification for withdrawing OP sheep dips from the market.

The VPC recommended that the certificate of competence should apply to the use of OP sheep dips as well as their purchase. This objective will be achieved by strengthening measures to secure compliance with existing statutory duties. New guidance will be issued by the Health and Safety Executive which will explain and emphasise the duties placed on farmers under the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1988, and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 and the linked codes of practice to train and instruct their dippers and to maintain their competence. The guidance will contain information about the certificate of competence scheme operated by the National Proficiency Tests Council and will commend certification as a structured approach to these duties and as valuable evidence that adequate training had been given and competence achieved.

The VPC had found some evidence to suggest that a small minority of veterinarians were occasionally supplying OP sheep dips to clients who did not hold a certificate of competence. We will be asking the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to make a clear reference to the undesirability of this practice in its guide to professional conduct.

We also accept the VPC's advice that the reclassification of OP sheep dips from pharmacy and merchants list to prescription-only status would be unnecessary as it would not improve the protection of human safety and, if it deterred farmers from using OP dips prophylactically, it could lead to increased levels of ectoparasitic diseases in sheep.

Officials at the Veterinary Medicines Directorate will examine the current labelling requirements for OP sheep dip products and will submit proposals to the VPC, the objective of which will be to make the information simpler to follow.

The VPC has advised that, in order to improve controls over the disposal of sheep dips, including both OPs and synthetic pyrethroids, there should be a mechanism whereby farmers should notify the water regulators-the environment agencies-that they are using dips and of their proposed methods of disposal. We accept this advice, and the Government are considering what improvements should be made to existing mechanisms for control over the disposal of sheep dips. Any eventual proposals will be subject to public consultation.

The VPC has advised that further basic research into OPs should be carried out, and we accept this advice. We shall be seeking to establish research projects with the further help of the VPC's sub-committee, the medical and scientific panel.

The VPC has suggested that a review of non-OP sheep dips should be conducted to consider whether existing controls on OP dips should be extended to these products. We have asked the VPC to proceed with this review, not least because dips in which the active ingredient is a synthetic pyrethroid are intrinsically hazardous to aquatic life and great care is needed in their use and disposal.

In addition, we have asked the VPC to review the safety of veterinary medicines other than sheep dips which have an organophosphate as the active ingredient.

I would like to thank Professor Aitken, his predecessor Professor Sir James Armour, and the committee for the care and diligence with which they have considered these important issues and all the information put to them, and for their clear advice.

The report setting out the VPC's recommendations to the licensing authority-Agriculture and Health Ministers-is today being placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what research is currently being undertaken or financed by his Department into the treatment of sheep dip waste in the context of its disposal in an environmentally safe manner; what recent representations he has received on this matter; and if he will make a statement. [16007]

Mrs. Browning

The Ministry has commissioned no research into the treatment of sheep dip waste and we have received no recent representations on this matter. No veterinary medicine is authorised for use unless it meets stringent statutory criteria of safety, quality and efficacy. Safety includes risk to the environment. Applications for marketing authorisations must be supported by information to satisfy the statutory criteria, including details of relevant research. Product labels include warnings about the safe disposal of sheep dips and guidance is available from the agriculture Departments.