HC Deb 18 March 1997 vol 292 cc588-9W
Mr. Alfred Morris

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) for what reason the Government have not imposed a ban on the use of organophosphates; [20337]

(2) what restrictions exist on the sale of substances containing (a) malathion and (b) other organophosphates.[20338]

Mr. Horam

Organophosphates are insecticides, widely used on crops, animals—including sheep dips— and have some uses in the home and garden. Additionally, malathion, an OP, is used for treatment of headlice. Use of OPs for any of these purposes is strictly controlled.

Pesticides, such as those used on crops or in the home, must be approved by Ministers before they can be advertised, sold, supplied, stored or used. The independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides—ACP—advises the regulatory Ministers on the granting, amendment or revocation of individual approvals. Applicants for pesticides approvals must show that their products are effective, humane and pose no unacceptable risk to human beings, non-target species or the wider environment before approval is granted.

For a human medicinal product to be marketed in the United Kingdom it must receive a marketing authorisation granted by the licensing authority on the basis of safety, quality and efficacy. Malathion is an authorised human medicinal product in the UK. There is no evidence to suggest that malathion when used for the treatment of head lice has led to any serious adverse effects. Its supply as a human medicine is restricted to sale in pharmacies only.

The Veterinary Products Committee is the independent group of scientific experts which advises the Government on veterinary medicines, including those containing organophosphorus substances. Before they can be marketed in the UK, all veterinary medicines must satisfy the statutory criteria of safety, quality and efficacy. Safety in this context includes the consumer of any product from the treated animal, the operator and the environment, as well as the health and welfare of the treated animal.

As to the reasons for not imposing a ban on OPs, I refer the hon. Member to the reply my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave him on 6 March 1997, column 707.