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Commons Chamber

Volume 81: debated on Tuesday 18 June 1985

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House Of Commons

Wednesday 26 June 1985

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Spain And Gibraltar

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement regarding frontier co-operation between Spain and Gibraltar.

During my visit to Gibraltar on 7 and 8 June I was pleased to learn at first hand of the excellent co-operation which exists between the Spanish and Gibraltar authorities at the border between Spain and Gibraltar.

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that helpful reply. Can he assure me that the arrangements are working mutually beneficially for the Spanish and Gibraltarian people? Does he agree that we continue to have a special responsibility for the people of Gibraltar, for their economy and welfare and to ensure their satisfaction with the arrangements?

I am glad to reconfirm to my hon. Friend that we undoubtedly have a responsibility for the future of Gibraltar. During my time there I frequently repeated the commitment contained in the preamble to the 1969 constitution. The arrangements for the border are working well. Since 5 February there have been over 1 million visitors each way, including many vehicles. That is about four times higher, without vehicles, than the number of visitors before the border was opened. The arrangements are providing a good foundation for growing economic co-operation and future prosperity in the region, including on the Spanish side of the border.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, although we appreciate the good and improving relations that will result from the visit by His Majesty the King of Spain to Britain, we still recognise our obligations to our own people in Gibraltar?

I can only repeat what I have just said. I endorse what my hon. Friend said about the importance of improving the excellent relations between ourselves and Spain and about our continuing commitment to the people of Gibraltar.

Dooge Committee

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the Dooge committee report will next be considered by the European Economic Community Council of Ministers.

The future development of the Community will be discussed at the Milan European Council on 28 and 29 June.

Will the Minister assure the House that the Prime Minister will this weekend stand firm on the three important reservations, to which the Minister himself subscribed, to the Dooge committee report? Will the Prime Minister maintain the Minister's position and report back to the House next week?

The reservations which I entered in the report by the Dooge committee represented, and continue to represent, the policies of Her Majesty's Government.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, following the enlargement of the Community, the section of the Dooge committee report which deals with easier decision-making by the Council takes on a particular significance if progress is to be made? Will my hon. Friend confirm that his suggestion that if there is any difference of opinion within the Council it must be defined at an early date will go a long way towards reconciling differences between the preservation of national interest and making progress within the Community?

Yes. We believe that the enlargement of the Community to 12 will make the existing procedures more unlikely to be capable of reaching early agreement on matters of importance. Therefore, we believe that there should be more majority voting, as long as the right of a member state to invoke the national interest provisions remains in a form which, while not being capable of abuse, protects national interest.

Is the Minister aware that the formula is vague? Will he confirm my impression of Dooge that the Government would oppose an intergovernmental conference following Milan? Does he accept that many of us would regret such opposition, and can he explain it?

The best inter-governmental conference is that of Heads of State. We hope that at Milan the Heads of State—I should say Heads of Government—will be assembled and will be able to agree a package of proposals which, apart from anything else, will make any other conference worthless. We see no need for the procedural device of an inter-governmental conference. We hope that the agreements reached at Milan will be sufficient for the progress that we all wish to see in the Community.

It appears from the well organised press coverage that the Milan summit will be dominated by the bright ideas coming from the Foreign Office, especially in the guise of the Foreign Secretary. Why have these allegedly bright ideas not been available to right hon. and hon. Members, certainly up until yesterday? The Foreign Secretary would not answer this question last night. When will we be told what the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister will propose at next week's summit at Milan?

First, I must thank the hon. Gentleman for his compliment to the Government and for his correct assessment of the Government's important and constructive role. He asked when he and his hon. Friends would be made aware of the Government's views on the Milan discussions. The Government's proposals were outlined at some length in the debate on the European Community which I opened last week and to which he replied.

Later

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have heard the exchange at Question Time when I asked the Minister of State about documents which were tabled last week by the British Government at the Foreign Minister's Council at Stresa, and which are to form part of the agenda for the Heads of Government summit in Milan this Friday. The Minister of State told the House that he mentioned the ideas that will be proposed in a debate in the House last Thursday. However, there are two documents related to this issue, one of which is called "The Draft European Council Conclusions: Decision-Taking" and the other "The Draft Agreement on Political Co-operation", which has two annexes. Those documents form a vital basis for what is being proposed at the Heads of Government summit later this week. They have been extensively used in press briefings in the Sunday and Monday newspapers throughout the country, yet they have not been made available in any form to hon. Members. They have not been deposited in the Vote Office and, until a few minutes ago, they were not in the Library.

Surely hon. Members cannot possibly assess what the British Government's position is to be at this vital summit of Heads of Government unless we, the representatives of the British people, know what the Government will propose in our name. Surely it is to treat the House with grave disrespect, if not contempt, to deny us the final proposals of this country at this vital summit meeting. Can you do something to protect hon. Members from the cavalier way in which the Foreign Office has treated us?

Order. No point of order arises from that because, as the hon. Gentleman knows, it is in order for Ministers to refer to documents. However, if they quote from documents, the documents must be laid on the Table. The hon. Gentleman has done what is necessary by making the position clear.

Cyprus

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent talks he has had about the reunification of Cyprus.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Tim Renton)

We keep in close and frequent touch with the United Nations Secretary-General and the parties concerned with a view to assisting progress towards a settlement in Cyprus.

Will the Minister make a declaration that he will do something about the re-unification of Cyprus? An assembly has been established in the occupied section, but is it not time that something was done to alleviate the 11 years of suffering of those who have been exiled from their area of Cyprus? Is it not time that the Government took a different line and implemented different action to put more pressure on the United Nations to ensure that the troops are withdrawn from the occupied section so that people can return to their homes, land and country?

I must emphasise that we have never recognised the Turkish republic of northern Cyprus. We do not recognise any of the so-called constitutional developments that have taken place in recent weeks. I hope that the way is now clear for the Secretary-General of the United Nations to resume his initiative, which we have supported strongly in recent months. It will be necessary for all sides to show some degree of flexibility for the initiative to succeed.

If talks on re-unification do not succeed, do not the people of northern Cyprus have an ultimate right to self-determination, which we should recognise?

Our aim is to achieve a unified, federal and prosperous Cyprus. That is also the aim of the Secretary-General. I think that both sides should show some degree of flexibility to enable the Secretary-General to get under way with his initiative.

When discussions have taken place, have the 1,600 missing persons featured in them? Is the Minister aware that 1,600 Greek Cypriots are missing from their families and loved ones, and what do the Government intend to do about it?

There have been frequent discussions in recent months between my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, both with President Kyprianou and the Turkish Foreign Minister. Most recently, my right hon. and learned Friend met the Turkish Foreign Minister during the North Atlantic Council meeting in Lisbon on 6 June. The main purpose of the discussions was to press on both sides the need to move towards a solution in Cyprus that would bring about a united island. If the hon. Gentleman would like to raise particular issues about the missing Greek Cypriots, perhaps he will write to me about them. If he does so, I shall see that they are pursued.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that a continuation of the present uneasy stalemate in Cyprus is in no one's interest? Therefore, will he go on using every possible endeavour to get both sides to accept the United Nations initiative to get negotiations going again so that we may have some progress in this matter?

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree, and the Secretary-General earlier this year created an important opening. It is up to all sides to see that that opening is made use of.

Mr Nelson Mandela

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations Her Majesty's Government have received on the continuing imprisonment of Nelson Mandela in South Africa; and what has been the response of those representations.

We receive many representations, from individuals and organisations, in accord with our view that Nelson Mandela should be released immediately and unconditionally. We shall continue to press for this.

Do those representations include the petition presented to the Prime Minister two weeks ago by 45 lord mayors and lord provosts, including the Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, Councillor John Birkin? They will no doubt be delighted to hear that the Government will continue their support for Mr. Mandela's release, but would be more cheered if the Government would take some action. Will the Foreign Secretary raise this issue at Milan and consider a joint initiative with European, EC and Commonwealth Heads of State to put some pressure on the South African Government?

I can confirm that the representations received include representations from local authorities, including those from the specific individual about whom the hon. Gentleman is so concerned. As to action by Her Majesty's Government, I remind the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister raised this issue with Mr. P. W. Botha when he was in the United Kingdom last year.

Have not the South African Government made it clear that they are prepared to release Nelson Mandela on condition that he renounces terrorism and violence? Is there to be a distinction so that some are to be allowed legitimately to pursue terrorism and violence as long as it is against South Africa? I remind my hon. Friend that South Africa is one of the 13 of the founder members of the League of Nations whose Governments have not been changed by force since the first world war.

Bearing in mind that Nelson Mandela has been in prison but was never convicted of any personal act of violence, and that it is somewhat unusual, to say the least, to impose conditions on the release of persons in prison, either in South Africa or any other country, neither I nor Her Majesty's Government believe that it is appropriate to require statements from Mr. Mandela before he is released.

Is it not unfortunate that there are Conservative Back Benchers who are far more concerned to see Hess released from prison than Nelson Mandela, who all his life fought against the principles on which Hess was convicted at Nuremberg? Is the Minister aware that we require from this Government and the United Nations, not simply words but determined action and pressure on the South African authorities, to ensure that Nelson Mandela, after 20 years of imprisonment, is allowed, without any conditions, to be released and to become a free man again?

I have already said that Her Majesty's Government shared the view expressed in the hon. Gentleman's latter question. As to his first question, that is a most unworthy comparison, which is both irrelevant to the questions under consideration and also, I am afraid to say, rather typical of the hon. Gentleman.

Did my hon. Friend have the opportunity to read the leader in The Times on Monday? Does he agree with its assertions that terrorism can never be given a political legitimacy no matter where it occurs, and that terrorism against civilian targets must never be justified? Is it not the refusal of Mr. Nelson Mandela to repudiate such acts of violence that means his continued imprisonment?

While I entirely agree that it would be inappropriate for the Government to have formal contact with an organisation that is committed to acts of violence of the kind described, given the very lengthy period that Mr. Mandela has already spent in prison I do not believe that further conditions need to be imposed before he is released. All those who are seeking a peaceful solution to the problems of South Africa ought to believe that Mr. Mandela's release might help in that direction, and might also help to persuade the ANC as an organisation to renounce the road of violence as a means of achieving political change.

Why do the Government not meet leaders of the ANC, who are denied any political role in their own country? While the IRA can fight elections if it wants, the ANC cannot, because it is excluded from national franchise. Is it not impertinent and unrealistic of President Botha to impose the pre-condition of disavowal of violence, when the South African authorities constantly carry out acts of violence against the black majority? Will the Government now press South Africa to allow Mrs. Winnie Mandela to leave her own country next month to attend the women's conference in Nairobi?

Of course we hope that Mrs. Mandela will be free to leave South Africa if she wishes, and we hope that the South African Government will act in a responsible and constructive way to any such request. As to the hon. Gentleman's general points, there is nothing I can add to the comments that I have already made.

Mr Anatoly Shcharansky

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations Her Majesty's Government have made to the Soviet Union for the release of Anatoly Shcharansky.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister raised the case of Anatoly Shcharansky with Mr. Gorbachev last December. Most recently Mr. Shcharansky's case was among those raised by our delegation to the conference on security and co-operation in Europe experts meeting on human rights in Ottawa.

I congratulate the Government on raising Mr. Shcharansky's case at a very high level, but does the hon. Gentleman feel that there is any thaw in the Soviet attitude towards dissidents and individual liberty? If not, what further steps beyond representation do the British Government propose to take to ensure that such a thaw occurs?

I regret to say that it is very difficult to discern any significant evidence of any change in attitudes by the Soviet authorities towards dissidents or questions involving human rights since Mr. Gorbachev's accession to power. Naturally, we hope that that situation will change, and we shall lose no opportunity to impress upon the Soviet Union that if, like us, it wishes to see an improvement in East-West relations, an improvement in human rights would make an enormous contribution towards the realisation of that objective as well as being in accordance with the Soviet Union's obligations under the Helsinki final act.

I thank my hon. Friend for his own strong commitment to this cause and for the heavy pressure that he has placed on the Soviet Government in an attempt to do something about it, but is he aware that, rather than getting better, things are getting worse? We must take every possible opportunity to press the cause not only of Shcharansky and other dissidents and refuseniks but of Soviet Jewry and other Soviet citizens who want the right to emigrate from that country.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his personal comments. We sought to use the recent Ottawa meeting to pursue the exact objectives to which my hon. Friend has referred. Next month is the 10th anniversary of the Helsinki final act, and therefore it is an appropriate time to remind the Soviet authorities of the explicit commitments which they undertook to honour at that time, but which, sadly, they have failed to do.

Is the Minister aware that the annual award of the all-party parliamentary committee for the release of Soviety Jewry went to Anatoly Shcharansky in a previous year and is this year to be awarded to Professor Alexander Lerner? Will my hon. Friend please emphasise to the Soviet authorities the importance to all hon. Members of respect for the rights of people accorded by the universal declaration of human rights and the Soviet Union's own constitution, so that people may leave that country in accordance with international law in a way that they are not permitted to do at present?

It was very appropriate that that award was made to Mr. Shcharansky, who, after all, was a member of the original Helsinki monitoring group in the Soviet Union. The fact that that monitoring group was persecuted by the Soviet authorities shows, I regret to say, how cynical is their attitude towards the obligations into which they have entered.

While it is understandable that hon. Members should raise in the House the question of Anatoly Shcharansky and Nelson Mandela, both of whom have been found guilty of crimes in their own countries by their own Governments, what are Her Majesty's Government doing about Graham Coveyduck, a British citizen incarcerated without trial in Nigeria?

Is the Minister aware that there would be more hope for the release of people such as Anatoly Shcharansky if the Soviet authorities allowed Russian brides out of the country to join their husbands who are working in the United Kingdom? Does he agree that that aspect should also be pressed on the Soviet authorities?

The hon. Gentleman is correct to emphasise that that, too, was an undertaking which was entered into at the time of the Helsinki final act and which has not been properly honoured. Her Majesty's Government do all that is required of them in terms of their obligations to their citzens to try to ensure that anyone detained without trial is released at the earliest opportunity.

Namibia

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made to the South African Government following their decision unilaterally to establish a transitional Government in Namibia.

We told the South African Government, both privately before their announcement and in a public statement following it, that we regarded the establishment of an interim Administration in Namibia as null and void. We have taken every opportunity to remind South Africa of its international obligation to implement Security Council resolution 435.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman concerned about the fact that the British Government's present posture on Namibia is causing Britain to become isolated in the Commonwealth and among much of the international community? Will he make it clear at forthcoming meetings of the United Nations Security Council that Britain will not automatically oppose the imposition of sanctions on South Africa? Will he also make it clear that Conservative Members who saw fit to attend the inauguration of the puppet Government recently were not there with the support or, indeed, silent blessing of the British Government?

The answer to the last part of that supplementary question is that I fancy that some of my colleagues who attended that occasion are not in the habit of seeking the blessing of Her Majesty's Government, silent or otherwise, and seem able to speak and act for themselves. I have already answered the earlier part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question about Her Majesty's Government's position. I must also make it clear that we do not believe that an advance in the direction on which the whole House is agreed—namely, the implementation of resolution 435 — would be most effectively secured by the imposition of economic sanctions. However, it is, of course, important to maintain pressure in the most effective way that we possibly can.

What progress is being made towards securing the withdrawal of Cuban forces from Angola, which is a necessary precondition for the fulfilment of the United Nations plan for Namibia?

As Opposition Members are pointing out, the withdrawal of Cuban forces does not form any part of resolution 435, as my right hon. Friend knows. Nor do we recognise it as a precondition for a settlement. The South Africans have made it clear that they will not agree to the implementation of resolution 435 unless a way of implementing the withdrawal of Cuban forces is found. It is to that end that the United States-led negotiations have been and continue to be directed—not helped by the recent incident, which we all deplored, at Cabinda.

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman taken the opportunity to express to the South Africans the disgust of the House about their behaviour of late and particularly about their invasion of Botswana and the terrorism that followed, which represented an affront to all decent standards of behaviour?

As was made plain at the time, we stongly condemned the blatant violation of Botswana's sovereignty that was involved in that affair. We deplored and deeply regretted the loss of life involved, and I summoned the South African ambassador immediately to see me and made clear the serious view that we took of that attack.

Why are the British Government not prepared to support an interim Government of national unity, representative of all the major political parties in Namibia, which are united in their determination to remove all vestiges of apartheid? Why are the Government not prepared to support them, as this in no way undermines the determination of that interim Government ultimately to hold elections under international supervision?

The answer is basically because the so-called interim Administration has no standing under the plan endorsed by United Nations resolution 435. The plan was accepted by the South African Government. We have made our view entirely clear to South Africa. Previous internal arrangements in Namibia have not proved of lasting significance.

When the Foreign Secretary this afternoon meets the President of SWAPO, Mr. Sam Nujoma, will he tell him two things? First, will he tell him that the Government do not have unlimited patience with South Africa and will not allow it to flout the wishes of the vast majority of countries in preventing resolution 435 from being passed? Secondly, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman try to explain to Mr. Sam Nujoma what the purpose is of having a transitional Government in Namibia if it is not to thwart resolution 435?

Although I am prepared to try to explain many things, it is not for me to explain the answer to the last question that the hon. Gentleman raised. This is a matter for those who are responsible for that action. I shall certainly make plain to Mr. Nujoma the importance that we attach to securing progress on resolution 435, and will leave him in no doubt about that.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider whether there could be an alternative to United Nations resolution 435 by bringing together all political parties in Namibia, and SWAPO, to agree on a constitution and a formula for holding elections? Given that the transitional Government obtain the essential reforms that are necessary to that country and the credibility that goes with them, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider whether support at that stage will be relevant to Namibia's obtaining independence through those means?

One starts from the universal importance attached even by the South African Government to resolution 435. Of course, one does not exclude the possibility of some means of help of the type that my hon. Friend has described. If SWAPO were involved in such talks and if those talks led to conclusions that would assist in the implementation of resolution 435, one would not exclude that possibility.

I refer to the meeting which the Foreign Secretary will have with Sam Nujoma, to which the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) referred. My impression from conversations this morning with Mr. Nujotna is that, while he recognises the positive nature of the statements which the Government have made—they were repeated today by the right hon. and learned Gentleman—about Namibia and the status of a transitional Government, he has the impression that neither the British Government nor the contact group have any practical proposals which are likely to have any effect on South Africa. How will the right hon. and learned Gentleman respond to that question?

One has to recognise — [Interruption.] I am sure that the House would like me to welcome the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) at this late stage in the afternoon. In answer to the question from which we have been diverted, the role that we can play is to identify the objective, which is resolution 435, and to recognise that the United States-led negotiations, for all the patience that they require, represent probably the most effective route towards making headway in that direction. We give our support to that and to any other measure which is likely to be effective and which does not cut across that process.

Is it not becoming just a little comical to see the number of times that the South African ambassador is called in for a ticking-off or a mauling from the Foreign Secretary, whatever the gravity of South Africa's actions? Even the Americans, for example, withdrew their ambassador over the Gabarone incident. Let me not say that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) can add respectability to anything, but does not the Foreign Office believe that the visit on 17 June of those Conservative Back Benchers to the inauguration of the new interim Government was unhelpful and is to be condemned?

I hear my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) expressing his view in his own characteristic fashion. So far as we are concerned, we have made our view quite clear that the establishment of that interim Administration is null and void, and we have nothing to add to that. Of course, it is necessary for us to make our position clear to the South African ambassador as we have done not just in relation to the Gabarone incident but also to the Cabinda incident. The hon. Gentleman points to the fact that the Americans have withdrawn their ambassador for consultations. It is our view that it is not helpful, if we are trying to get our views across to the South African Government, for us to take that step. Each country takes its own view.

Helsinki Final Act

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if there are any plans to republish the Helsinki Final Act in all signatory states on the occasion of its 10th anniversary.

The Helsinki Final Act and Madrid concluding document are already widely available in the United Kingdom and in other Western countries. Republication of the Final Act in all signatory states to mark the 10th anniversary of the Council on Security and Co-operation in Europe process would require unanimous agreement among the 35 signatories, which at present does not exist.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the failure of the human rights conference in Ottawa this month to agree indicates the most urgent necessity to revitalise the Helsinki process? Does not the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Act present a new opportunity for the citizens of each signatory state to be aware of the Act's provisions? Can he therefore confirm that it is Western states which are preventing the publication in all the signatory states of the Act, on the ground of cost?

First, I know the long-standing interest that my hon. Friend has taken in the implementation of the Helsinki Final Act. Let me make it quite plain that it is the Eastern bloc which has refused to consider the republication of the Final Act, not the West, and it requires unanimous agreement to achieve that. Of course, documents on the Final Act are fully available in the West. I wish they were more fully available in the East. Her Majesty's Government's commitment to the Helsinki Final Act is very strong. We would like to see a renewed sense of commitment on the part of all the members. Indeed, I should add that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary will be representing the British Government at the 10th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act.

Is it not misleading to suggest that the Helsinki Final Act is freely available in the West when the British Government, for example, in response to the signed agreement to publish it widely, thought that 5,800 copies were sufficient to cover the 55 million people in this country, that is, one copy per 10,000 citizens? There are only 300 copies left in stock, while the Helsinki Final Act was published in full in many millions of copies in the Eastern bloc countries.

The regrettable thing is that the copies of the Final Act are not adequately available in the Eastern bloc. I assure the hon. Gentleman that adequate supplies of the Helsinki Final Act are available in this country through various sources.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is not republication of the Helsinki Final Act that is required, but implementation? Is it not time for the West, and for the United Kingdom Government in particular, to get much tougher? Should we not publish a list of all the named prisoners of conscience suffering in Soviet gaols or in the gaols of the satellite countries so that there oppressors know that we have not forgotten them?

I think that my right hon. Friend, who has taken a constant and prolonged interest in the question of human rights and in the Final Act, has put his finger on it. The matter that I am sure concerns everybody in the House and outside it is the implementation of that Final Act. There has not been satisfactory progress, and there have been six weeks of discussion in Ottawa in which we as a Government have been able to focus attention upon the very issues that my right hon. Friend has raised. But there must be a renewed sense of vigour in which the British Government can play a leading part.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is more likely that the Soviet Union would implement the Final Act if the Western Allies were not so exhuberant in giving the impression that the Soviet Union is the source of all the evil in the world?

It would be wrong to say that the Soviet Union is the source of all the evil in the world, but we have been discussing very fully this afternoon the deep concern felt by all parties about the lack of real respect for the rights of the individual in the Soviet Union. A large number of cases have been drawn to our attention and it is only right that the Government should be vigorous about pursuing these issues under the procedures of the Final Act.

Spain And Gibraltar

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what restrictions imposed by the Spanish Government on access to Gibraltar by land, air and sea, respectively, in 1967 have been removed following his recent discussions with the Spanish Foreign Minister, and which remain.

The then Spanish Government imposed a series of restrictions on land, sea and air movements between Spain and Gibraltar over a period of several years, culminating in the complete closure of the border in 1969. Subsequently, some of these restrictions were eased until, on 5 February 1985, all abnormal obstacles to land, sea and civil air traffic were lifted. The flight path for military aircraft, however, remains subject to limitations, about which we are in discussion with the Spanish authorities.

In view of the rosy picture painted earlier this afternoon by the Foreign Secretary of the state of British-Spanish relations, what possible legitimate reason can Spain have for continuing to impose restrictions on British aircraft wishing to use the Gibraltar airfield? Is not Spanish policy inconsistent with her obligations under the terms of the NATO treaty? As Spain is a candidate member of the European Community, will my hon. Friend arrange for her to be told that her policy is unacceptable and unfriendly?

I agree with my hon. Friend that we have a strong interest in developing further the civil use of the Gibraltar airfield on a mutually beneficial basis. On his point about NATO, Spain is not a full member of NATO in the sense of participating in the military arrangements of the Alliance. However, I can assure my hon. Friend that we have made our position about the movement of aircraft very well known to the Spanish authorities.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most serious actions taken in 1967 by the Spanish was the cancellationof the extradition treaty? Can he say what progress is being made to reimplement the treaty?

Considerable progress is being made over the extradition treaty between Spain and the United Kingdom. We hope that it can shortly be finalised.

Cuba

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he or other Foreign Office Ministers have any plans to seek to visit Cuba.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that there has been no ministerial visit of any kind, Foreign Office or otherwise, to Cuba since 1975, and does he agree that such a visit now would do a power of good? On his attitude to such a visit, will he assure the House that he will not be swayed one way or another by anything that is said in Washington?

Following his visit to Cuba in January of this year, I understand my hon. Friend's interest in this matter. It is not a question of being swayed one way or another by Washington. Commercial relations between the United Kingdom and Cuba are developing well, but we have been unable to make plans for a visit within the heavy schedule of ministerial visits. However, this will be kept under review.

Surely this is an important area to visit. Is not Britain being left behind by events in Central America? Cuba is building up strong links with all the Latin American countries, including the new democracies. Is the Under-Secretary of State aware of the Cuban proposal that Western Governments should take over from the banks responsibility for external debt, amounting to £360 billion in the case of Latin America? Since British banks have a large involvement, what is the British Government's response and what action are the British Government taking?

This question has nothing to do with taking over the debt responsibilities of Latin American countries. The hon. Gentleman is mistaken if he does not believe that there has been an improvement in our relations with Cuba. Last year our exports to Cuba greatly increased and Cuba is now Britain's fifth largest export market in Latin America. However, as I said, we are not at the moment considering a ministerial visit.

Turkish Peace Association

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations Her Majesty's Government have made to the Turkish Government regarding the prosecution of members of the Turkish Peace Association.

We have been in close touch with the Turkish authorities about a range of human rights issues, including the Turkish Peace Association trials. They can be in no doubt about our opinions. I spoke personally to the Turkish Foreign Minister on these issues when I met him in Lisbon on 6 June.

I am very grateful to the Secretary of State for his answer and for the continuing attention which he is obviously giving to this important matter. Quite apart from representations on the specific issue of the Turkish Peace Association prisoners, what pressure does the Secretary of State believe can be brought to bear on Turkey, which, after all, is a NATO ally, to try to change its ways regarding the serious limitations on personal freedom, which many people in this country would consider inconsistent with the type of free society which NATO is supposed to be defending?

I think that the measures that can be taken include, beyond exhortations of the kind that the hon. Member has just indulged in, encouragement and acknowledgement of progress when it has been made. It is important to note that not only have there been the national elections in 1983 and the local government elections in March 1984, but there has been a steady reduction in the number of areas subject to martial law. When I visited Turkey in February of this year about half the provinces were still subject to martial law. Since then, 17 provinces have been freed from that. It is important, therefore, not only to bring matters to the attention of the Turkish Government, but to acknowledge progress when it is made.

Is there any limit to the extent to which her Majesty's Government might seek to interfere and intervene in the internal affairs and judicial systems of other countries? What would my right hon. and learned Friend's reaction be were the Head of Government of the Soviet Union, South Africa or Turkey to approach him with representations on what we should do about our judicial system?

My hon. Friend is not as perceptive as he customarily is. He must acknowledge that questions of this kind are a matter of natural discussion between, for example, fellow members of the North Atlantic Alliance or of the Council of Europe. Indeed, progress by Turkey towards securing fuller recognition of its position in the Council of Europe is one of the matters that Turkey understands and discusses with us. In that context, we welcome the changes that I have described. We welcome, for example, the transformation from a scene in which there were 20 political killings a day—which was the situation that the Turkish Government had to grapple with—to one in which the number of people in military gaols dropped from 43,000 in 1981 to 8,000 in February 1985. It is in that context that we welcome and encourage progress towards democracy by a fellow member of the North Atlantic Alliance.

Does the Foreign Secretary not think that there will have to be a considerable improvement in the human rights situation in Turkey, particularly in relation to the treatment of trade unionists and opposition political parties, before a Turkish application to become the 13th member of the Common Market could be favourably considered?

I think that the general validity of observations of that kind has been acknowledged by the Turkish Government throughout the years that we have been talking about. It would be helpful in this context if some hon. Members who are always ready to criticise the Turkish Government were equally ready to give encouragement and approval when steps are taken in the right direction.

The Foreign Secretary cannot level an accusation at me for not giving encouragement to the small, tentative steps that have been made back towards Turkish democracy. But surely it is unacceptable that 8,000 people should still be held in military prisons by a fellow member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and that some of the curtailments of martial law should be accompanied by the suggestion of new, repressive laws. Surely that that must be met with more forthright economic sanctions from the EEC, rather than mere pious words of hope that democracy will return to Turkey.

All these matters have to be looked at in perspective, against the situation with which the Turkish Government was originally called upon to deal. It must be recognised, for example, that some of the changes that the hon. Gentleman has been talking about have been the subject of vigorous debate and analysis in the Turkish Parliament and press in a way that would have been quite unimaginable some years back. So, progress is being made. It is right for us to keep a watchful and interested eye on this and leave the Turkish Government, as I made clear in my original answer, in no doubt about our concern.

Central America

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the United States Government on the possible consequences for East-West relations of instability in Central America.

We regularly discuss the situation in Central America with the United States Administration. We share with the United States the objective of an early return to peace and stability in the region on the basis of the Contadora principles.

When the Secretary of State met the President of Mexico, did he express concern about the pressure that the United States is exerting on Nicaragua? Did he, perhaps, suggest that it would have quite the opposite effect and would drive Ortega into the arms of Moscow, rather as happened with Castro? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree with that analysis, and, if so, what views is he expressing to the United States Government?

Obviously, because of Mexico's important part in the Contadora process, the position in Central America was one of the subjects discussed with the Mexican President and, indeed, during my talks with the Mexican Foreign Minister when he was here. We were both willing, ready and enthusiastic to endorse the Contadora process, anxious to assert the principles underlying that — that the utmost restraint must be exercised on all sides in Central America—and to draw attention to those aspects of Nicaraguan policy that are causing anxiety in the region.

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that, from the point of view of Western Europe, the roles of the United States, with its massive power, and the minor power of Nicaragua—even in Central American terms—are unequal? Has not the role of the United States been almost totally unhelpful in the Contadora process? Indeed, it is almost certainly designed to sabotage that process.

United States general policy is that it wants to see political reform and stability in Central America through peaceful means. We support that objective. We also urge on Nicaragua the need for it to avoid those actions that are causing anxiety in neighbouring states, which threaten the stability of neighbouring states, and the need for it to engage in a more genuine dialogue with all parties in the country to try to achieve more progress towards true democracy.

My right hon. and learned Friend has spoken warmly of Western European support for the Contadora process. What steps might now be available to Western European countries to make progress in that direction?

There is, of course, a continuing aid relationship. We held a conference in San José in September last year. Arrangements are now being discussed for a future meeting of that kind, but not necessarily in the region, together with arrangements for a possible association agreement.

May I begin by reciprocating the right hon. and learned Gentleman's courtesy to me and congratulate him on surviving President Reagan's displeasure at his comprehensive critique of the star wars programme?

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman point out to the United States Administration that by organising and financing the most inhuman type of terrorism against the citizens of a friendly state he is undermining the attempt, which I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman would support, to organise some international action against terrorism in general?

Secondly, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman point out to Mr. Shultz, who has threatened to invade Nicaragua if terrorism fails to overthrow its Government, that such an invasion would create the deepest breach between the United States and its European allies since the war and, moreover, would unite the whole of Latin America in a wave of anti-Yankee imperialism?

If we are to continue these friendly personal exchanges, I must say that it is strange for the right hon. Gentleman to congratulate me on surviving a speech that I made about two months ago. I congratulate him on having woken up and returned to our proceedings.

Of course, there is a need for restraint on all sides in the light of the present position in Central America. President Reagan recently gave a written assurance to an American Congressman that he is not seeking the military overthrow of the Sandinista Government. The American Government want political reform and stability in Central America through peaceful means. It is important that restraint should be exercised on both sides, and that Nicaragua should undertake an internal political dialogue.

European Community Policies

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further proposals he intends to place before his European Community partners for the development of Community policies.

We have made several positive proposals, including ideas for the completion of the internal market by 1992, improvements in decision-making, the development of political co-operation between the Ten, and other matters, which we look forward to discussing at the European Council in Milan.

Can my hon. Friend explain how Community economic policies can be developed while Britain remains outside the exchange rate mechanism of the European monetary system?

The United Kingdom has not been a member of the exchange rate mechanism of the EMS for several years, and I do not believe that that has significantly held back the development of Community policies. Indeed, it is significant that the use of the ecu is more freely available in the United Kingdom than it is in many states which are members of the exchange rate mechanism of the EMS.

Will the Minister ensure that, in Milan, the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister raise the serious problems that are developing in southern Sudan? Food is being held up at the ports, and there are no means of getting it through by road. Is there not a great need for a European initiative to try to achieve an air lift? An EC initiative in this area would be much welcomed.

I cannot say whether that item will be on the agenda at Milan, but I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Community has a deep and abiding interest in Sudan and hopes to make a constructive contribution to that problem.

At Milan, will the Prime Minister be discussing Lord Cockfield's plan for 304 changes to achieve harmonisation? May we have a clear assurance that no British Government, until they have put the case to the people, will concede any such harmonisation involving the imposition of VAT on food, and that they will not restrict their right to decide internal taxes?

Although we agree with the broad thrust of Lord Cockfield's proposals, we have made it clear, as have several other Governments, that the case for tax harmonisation has not been proven. We do not believe that the achievement of an internal market requires the harmonisation or approximation of taxes, and we have pointed to the example of the United States, many of whose 50 states have different direct and indirect taxes, which in no way impedes the operation of a free internal market there. I assure my hon. Friend that the Government have no intention of introducing VAT on food.

Nicaragua

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the Government's current attitude toward the Government of Nicaragua; and if he will make a statement.

We share the concern of many Central American states at Nicaragua's build-up of arms and increasingly close contacts with the Soviet Union and Cuba. Our future relations will depend on Nicaragua establishing genuine democracy, scaling down her armaments, and putting an end to support for subversion in the region.

Why does the Minister persist in putting all the blame on Nicarague? Would not our relations with Nicaragua and peace in Central America be significantly improved if the Government said categorically that they did not support the American policy of giving money to the Contras, and that they do not support President Reagan's avowed aim of getting rid of the Sandinista Government by peaceful or other means? Is that not the right policy for us?

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that the $27 million recently voted by Congress was specifically an appropriation for non-military aid to cover food, medicine, clothing and other humanitarian purposes. It is not a case of putting the blame entirely on Nicaragua. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, the emphasis of our policy and, indeed, of the policy of the Contadora group is to persuade all countries in Central America to scale down their military spending and to withdraw their forces from other countries. That is the only way to achieve peace in the region.

Is it not a fact that Nicaragua could make the best possible contribution towards a generally more acceptable atmosphere for its country if it followed the example of other dictatorships, such as Uruguay and El Salvador, and held genuinely free elections, not the sort of bogus elections, which were so bogus that Her Majesty's Government refused even to send observers to them?

Yes, Sir. One of our aims is to persuade Nicaragua to move towards a genuine pluralist democracy.

Royal Assent

I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified Her Royal Assent to the following Acts:

  • 1. Enduring Powers of Attorney Act 1985.
  • 2. Ports (Finance) Act 1985.
  • 3. Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Act 1985.
  • 4. Hill Farming Act 1985.
  • 5. Rating (Revaluation Rebates) (Scotland) Act 1985.
  • 6. Nottinghamshire County Council Act 1985.
  • 7. King's College London Act 1985.
  • 8. Leicestershire Act 1985.
  • 9. Associated British Ports Act 1985.
  • 10. Nottinghamshire County Council (Superannuation) Act 1985.
  • Bills Presented

    Sporting Events (Control Of Alcohol Etc)

    Mr. Secretary Brittan, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Younger, Mr. Secretary Edwards, Mr. Secretary Jenkin, Mr. Secretary Ridley, Mr. Giles Shaw and Mr. Neil Macfarlane, presented a Bill to make provision for punishing those who cause or permit intoxicating liquor to be carried on public service vehicles and railway passenger vehicles carrying passengers to or from designated sporting events or who possess intoxicating liquor on such vehicles and those who possess intoxicating liquor or certain articles capable of causing injury at designated sports grounds during the period of designated sporting events, for punishing drunkenness on such vehicles and, during the period of designated sporting events, at such grounds and, where licensed premises or premises in respect of which a club is registered (for the purposes of the Licensing Act 1964) are within designated sports grounds, to make provision for regulating the sale or supply of intoxicating liquor and for the closure of bars: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 173].

    Tenants' Protection (Scotland)

    Mr. Bruce Millan, supported by Mr. David Marshall, Mr. Jim Craigen, Mr. Michael Martin, Mr. John Maxton, Mr. Gregor MacKenzie and Mr. Norman Buchan, presented a Bill to give further protection to tenants in Scotland: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 5 July and to be printed. [Bill 176].

    Wildlife And Countryside (Service Of Notices)

    Dr. David Clark, supported by Mr. Andrew F. Bennett, Mr. Jim Callaghan, Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours, Mr. Ron Davies, Mr. Peter Hardy and Dr. Mark Hughes, presented a Bill to apply section 283 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 and section 269 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972 to notices and other documents required or authorised to be served or given under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 5 July and to be printed. [Bill 174].

    Environmental Pollution Information

    3.34 pm

    I beg to move,

    That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide a public right of access to information concerning the discharge or disposal of substances into the environment and the presence of certain dangerous substances on premises, held by certain government departments and other authorities and by persons responsible for such substances; and to require certain government departments and authorities to notify those affected of hazards to their health or safety, or danger to their property likely to be caused by such substances; and to establish the office and powers of the Environmental Information Commissioner.
    I apologise for the length and complexity of the long title, but I hope to show that there is need for such legislation and that my proposal would meet that need.

    The aim of the Bill is to ensure that the public have access to full information about pollution of the environment and attendant risks to public health. Too often that information is treated as confidential when it need not be. Unnecessary obstacles may be placed in the way of people who want to know about environmental hazards and the corrective action that may or may not be taken to deal with them. In some cases that is because the law prevents a pollution inspector from disclosing information. In other cases, information is withheld on the grounds that it may alarm people or that people would not understand the technicalities. Inevitably, in those circumstances there is suspicion that secrecy exists to protect those who create environmental hazards or to conceal official inaction. That secrecy and the public mistrust that it can create is a problem which has long worried the Royal Commission on environmental pollution.

    In 1972, the Royal Commission reported that the need for commercial secrecy seldom required information about pollution to be withheld. It therefore called for a more open approach to such matters. It has repeated that call on a number of subsequent occasions.

    Although some progress has been made, when the Royal Commission published a major review last year of the availability of information on environmental pollution it concluded that unnecessary secrecy continued to frustrate legitimate inquiries and it recommended that the public should be entitled to
    "the fullest possible amount of information on all forms of environmental pollution, with the onus placed on the polluter to substantiate claims for exceptional treatment."
    The Royal Commission went on to make the overriding recommendation that
    "a guiding principle behind all legislative and adminstrative controls relating to environmental pollution should be a presumption in favour of unrestricted access for the public to information which the pollution control authorities obtain or receive by virtue of their statutory powers, with provision for secrecy only in those circumstances where a genuine case for it can be substantiated."
    I am glad to say that that is a recommendation which the Government accepted in principle in paragraph 21 of their response to the 10th report of the Royal Commission, and my Bill would implement that recommendation.

    The Bill provides the public with a right of access to information about pollution while exempting from disclosure some categories of information where a genuine case for confidentiality can be made out. It gives people the right to see and copy any official documents about pollution unless the document contains exempt information. It applies to information held by central and local government and by any other public authority with responsibility for pollution matters.

    The Bill would enable anyone to see information, such as monitoring data, hazard assessments, research findings, cost-benefit analysis of various pollution control strategies and a wide range of other relevant material. It would also require a pollution control authority to provide information to anyone whose health or property was put seriously at risk by pollution or by the storage of dangerous chemicals. That is a duty which factory inspectors already have in relation to people at work. It seems right that the general public should benefit similarly.

    Furthermore, the Bill requires that those who create pollution should disclose relevant information on request. That is necessary because it would be unrealistic and unreasonable to expect the pollution control authorities to possess complete information on all pollution problems which might arise.

    Some categories of information would be exempt from disclosure. The exemptions are designed to protect four main interests. The first is the interest of national security. The disclosure of information which would jeopardise our defence or foreign relations would therefore be exempt. The second interest is that of legitimate commercial secrecy. For example, the Bill would not require the disclosure of information which might prejudice the protection of vital commercial interests, such as sensitive product testing data, or give an unfair advantage to competing firms. However, that exemption could be waived in those rare cases where the public interest in disclosure was deemed to be paramount.

    The third interest is that of individual privacy. For example, information on the health of someone adversely affected by pollution would not be made publicly available. The fourth category is the interest of pollution control. Polluters would not be able to use the legislation to gain advance notice of what should otherwise be an unannounced inspection by the relevant pollution control authority.

    Equally, pollution control authorities might sometimes depend upon information given to them voluntarily and in confidence but which they have no legal power to demand. It would, therefore, be unwise to require them to disclose such information if as a result that information was no longer forthcoming. However, where the authority has the legal power to require the information or where there is a positive incentive for a firm to supply it—for example, if this is done in return for the granting of a licence or to influence draft legislation—the public disclosure is unlikely to cause the supplier to withhold it and the information would, therefore, not be exempt.

    In cases of dispute the Bill provides for the establishment of an environmental information commissioner with legal powers to ensure that the legislation is enforced and with the power to require or prevent disclosure in a particular case. However, there would also be a right of appeal to the High Court on a point of law.

    In connection with wider considerations, I stress that the Bill provides a legal right of access to information which can be enforced by the commissioner if the authorities fail to comply. It does not leave disclosure simply to the discretion or good will of the pollution control authorities. Experience has shown that the latter approach is not adequate.

    For example, the English water authorities have decided to make use of their newly acquired discretion to exclude the public from their meetings. The local authorities have power under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 to obtain information about air pollution in their area. Any information so obtained must be published. However, in practice most local authorites obtain such information informally without using their powers and thereby circumvent the obligation to publish the data.

    I stress that the Bill will provide what the Royal Commission has called for—unrestricted access to information held by pollution control authorities. That is not the same as specifying one or two items of information which will be available, perhaps on a register, while leaving the rest of the information as difficult to obtain as before.

    We want to get away from the approach suggested by the Health and Safety Commission in its recent discussion document. It suggested that access should be given only to very limited information held by Health and Safety Executive inspectors, that disclosure should normally be at the discretion of the employers, that information should be available only to those with a demonstrable "need to know", and that instead of full access to complete data the public should make do with
    "some relatively simple account of the type of hazard which might occur."
    I hope that the House will agree that the HSC approach is unsatisfactory and that progress along the lines of my Bill would be infinitely preferable for the cause of environmental protection.

    The Government make clear in paragraph 22 of their response to the 10th report of the Royal Commission that they also hope to find a uniform way of implementing the commission's recommendations on confidentiality. The search for such a uniform regime is now the responsibility of an interdepartmental working party which will have to report to Ministers by the end of the year.

    I stress that the Government have taken a positive line throughout and remain firmly committed to the principle of greater openness in environmental matters. I am also glad to say that I have received messages of support for the Bill from the National Consumer Protection Council and the National Association of Local Councils.

    A uniform regime on confidentiality would be achieved by my Bill since it applies equally to all bodies with official responsibility for controlling pollution. At present there are too many anomalies. Some pollution control authorities are required to disclose certain information about discharges, others are prohibited by law from doing so. Employees have explicit statutory rights to information about work place hazards, but the general public is often denied that information even when equally at risk.

    Order. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that he has been speaking for just over 10 minutes.

    I am coming to the conclusion, Mr. Speaker.

    My Bill would also be of benefit to the pollution control authorities themselves since they are sometimes exposed to needless criticism because of the restrictions on disclosure prevent them from explaining properly the steps which they have taken to control a pollution problem

    However, my Bill's most vital contribution would be to enable people to find out for themselves the risks which they face from pollution, to discover whether everything necessary has been done to control it, and to press for greater public protection where it is necessary. I therefore hope that the House will approve my initiative and will give me leave to introduce the Bill.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Nigel Forman, Sir Hugh Rossi, Sir Bernard Braine, Mr. Sydney Chapman, Mr. Kenneth Warren, Mr. Nicholas Lyell, Mr. Kenneth Carlisle, Mr. Tom Clarke, Mrs. Virginia Bottomley, Mr. Derek Conway, Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory and Dr. Ian Twinn.

    Environmental Pollution Information

    Mr. Nigel Forman accordingly presented a Bill to provide a public right of access to information concerning the discharge or disposal of substances into the environment and the presence of certain dangerous substances on premises, held by certain government departments and other authorities and by persons responsible for such substances; and to require certain government departments and authorities to notify those affected of hazards to their health or safety, or danger to their property likely to be caused by such substances; and to establish the office and powers of the Environmental Information Commissioner: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 5 July and to be printed. [Bill 175.]

    Orders Of The Day

    Food And Environment Protection Bill Lords

    As amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.

    Clause 15

    Control Of Pesticides Etc

    3.46 pm

    The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
    (Mrs. Peggy Fenner)

    I beg to move amendment No. 21, in page 15, line 14, after 'effect', insert '(a)'

    With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 22, 26 and 56.

    The Committee had a full and detailed debate about the public disclosure of information relating to pesticides during which I explained at some length the Government's intentions. In the drafting of subsections (2) (j) and (5) of clause 15 the Government believed that they had struck the right balance between the public interest in access to information and the protection of the commercial interests of those who supply the information. My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) raised this very issue when introducing a few minutes ago his Bill on environmental pollution information. I have no doubt that the balance is weighted in favour of public access, but the feeling in Committee was that more could be done in the Bill to favour the public interest as the Royal Commission recommended.

    The Government have reflected carefully and in response have tabled the amendment to the first subsection of clause 15 on the general purposes of this part of the Bill. If accepted, the amendment would have the effect that the following provisions of part III
    "would have effect with a view to making information about pesticides available to the public".
    This would apply to safety data about chemicals and to other information and to information about the controls exercised over pesticides in the Bill. I believe that this addition to clause 15 further strengthens the presumption in favour of public access. We cannot adopt the Royal Commission's use of the term "unrestricted access" in a legal statute because that would nullify the effect of subsection (5), which protects the legitimate interest of manufacturers. Again, that is an issue to which my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington referred in introducing his Bill.

    We are moving public information into the highest category of purpose of the Bill, which, because of the widespread public concern about pesticides, is the appropriate place. Moreover, we are maintaining the balance between the public interest and the respect for commercial interests in the body of clause 15. That seems to us to be a significant improvement.

    Will the Minister explain the difference between summaries and the general principle of far wider access to all the information that is made available? What is the Government's position on that consideration?

    We believe that the public's access to information should have a high priority and should be an integral part of these provisions. By moving the relevant provisions to the first part of part III we have highlighted the emphasis that we attach to the principle. The Government believed that they had struck a perfect balance between subsection (2)(j) and subsection (5), but it was made clear in Committee that those considering the Bill felt that something more could be done to emphasise the importance that is attached to public access to information. It is in that spirit that we have moved the emphasis on public access to the beginning of part III to make it the top priority.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for that explanation, which was suitably brief. I am also grateful to the Government for accepting the principle of the three amendments moved in Committee, Nos 98, 99 and 100, which we think were of great significance to the Bill. The Government could easily have reversed the three amendments, and those of us who voted in favour of them in Committee are grateful that they have been retained, more or less as they are. We congratulate the Government on their wisdom.

    Clause 15(1) is an important part of the Bill. As the Bill is now, subsection (a) speaks of the need
    "to protect the health of human beings".
    That can be understood, but my hon. Friend's amendment will mean that there will be two subsections lettered (a). That will serve only to make a complex Bill more complex.

    Apart from that, I welcome what my hon. Friend has tried to do. We are grateful to her for preserving the spirit and the quality of amendments tabled in Committee. However, I ask my hon. Friend to give some clarity to the drafting of these amendments.

    I always want to be helpful to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, and I hope that she will think that by tabling amendment No. 56 I am being so. She gave an impressive television performance recently in which, in answer to a journalist, Penny Junor, in a programme on Thames Television, she said that when regulations come out, it is her wish that all the details will be available. I hope that we can move in that direction. I am not suggesting by my amendment that we should have all the details, but we can go a little further in trying to reconcile the interests of the public and those of the manufacturers.

    I had a discussion with the director of the British Agrochemicals Association only yesterday. He assured me that he supported my amendment, which goes rather further than that on which my hon. Friend is anxious that the House should agree.

    It must be in the interests of the public to be able to see the data submitted by the manufacturer about the safety of the pesticides and their effect on the environment. When I speak of the public, I put in a word for our working farmers, who deal every day with pesticides. There is growing anxiety among them about the pesticides and to what extent they should use certain of them. That anxiety is increased when they read about how other countries forbid the use of the very pesticides that they are using. Therefore, it is right that a small organisation with which I am associated, the Smallfarmers Association, should have access to the data in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and then be able to engage its own scientists to investigate that data to see to what extent the testing has been carried out satisfactorily.

    Equally, it is in the interests of the manufacturers that rivals, particularly countries such as Korea and Thailand, which are getting into the pesticide business, should not be guilty of piracy. Therefore, my amendment is couched in such a way as to ensure that there can be no piracy, nor any danger to any manufacturer. I would welcome my hon. Friend's comments on that. That would enable those concerned, either on behalf of farmers or environmental lobbies—even doctors, because many of them are concerned about this—to have access to the data so that they can assess it.

    My hon. Friend may say that it is intended to produce monographs on these different pesticides that will give a summary of the data, but that will not be enough. I am sure that she will realise that. They will not recite the methodology or the kinds of tests that have been carried out, nor will they give details of the sorts of animals that have been used.

    My hon. Friend knows that the tests on these pesticides are almost entirely carried out on rats and mice. If the pesticide is mutagenic, we must know whether the tests have been carried out for at least two years on three generations of rats and mice. One will not know whether a pesticide is mutagenic unless such data are given.

    I understand that what is made available by the Ministry will not include that information. If a pesticide is carcinogenic, the tests must be carried out for a certain time. We must also question whether, if it is carcinogenic in respect of rats or mice, it will be the same on humans. I do not want to repeat the thalidomide story, but that was tested on rats and was perfectly satisfactory, yet we know only too well what the effect was on humans.

    There is a question mark over the use of only rats or mice when testing such pesticides. The public should therefore be told what animals are being used so that they can judge the extent to which the tests are valid.

    I stress that, because in the United States, as my hon. Friend knows only too well, people are beginning to realise that by themselves tests on rats and mice are not sufficient and that other tests should be carried out. The Minister and I know that a number of pesticides have been called into question in the United States and will now be prohibited, yet their use will still be allowed in this country. Is there a difference in testing between the United States and the United Kingdom? How will we know if all we are to get are monographs? Will they contain the kind of information that will be sufficient to enable people to pass their own independent judgment?

    My hon. Friend will be familiar with the name of Professor A. E. M. McLean, who until recently was a member of the scientific sub-committee of the Government's own Advisory Committee on Pesticides. I hope that his views will not be dismissed as those of a crank but will be acknowledged as the views of someone who has had an inside knowledge of the subject. Professor McLean was joint author of a book entitled "Safety Testing of New Drugs. Laboratory Predictions and Clinical Performance", which was published only last year. He said:
    "the ordinary criterion of scientific reliability (that the results are reproducible in other laboratories) does not operate".
    He added:
    "When the methodology of conventional test procedures is discussed it becomes evident that quite small differences in procedure can have large effects on the outcome, and so on the inferences which may be drawn from them".
    4 pm

    The Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate, therefore, that the summaries will be useless to the public, to farmers and to the members of environmental groups and others who want to probe these issues unless they have some understanding of the methodology and what led up to the data being provided. Unless that information is forthcoming, we shall not satisfactorily solve the problem.

    Let us suppose that the boot were on the other foot and a manufacturer, having produced a new type of pesticide, had to have it tested by an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Let us suppose that the Ministry then published only a summary of the data, such as that which my hon. Friend has in mind. What, then, would be the feelings of the manufacturer? Say that the new pesticide was condemned by the Ministry and the manufacturer was not permitted to obtain the full data comparable to what I have in mind should be disclosed to the general public. The manufacturer would be in an impossible position.

    The United States has its Freedom of Information Act. We have the chance now to go to Washington and find out the full details of how the same pesticides have been tested in that country. Indeed, officers of Friends of the Earth tell me that they have been to America and seen the very data that they will not be allowed to see in Britain.

    I fear that the Government's not allowing the same information to be available here—remembering that we are concerned with circumstances in which some pesticides forbidden in the United States will be permitted here—will cause ugly statements to be made, and such a state of affairs will not be helpful to anyone.

    I hope, therefore, that the Minister will give careful consideration to my amendment No. 56 and will agree that, if it is right that people in the US should have this information, it is right for the people of Britain to have it. It is wrong that we should have to cross the Atlantic and go to Washington to get the sort of information that should be available to us here. If it is not made available, the worst suspicions will be aroused, and I fear that we in Parliament will not do well as a result.

    I apologise in advance for the fact that I shall have to leave at 4.15 to attend a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, where I wish to deal with an important item on the agenda. I shall then return to the Chamber, but I may miss the Minister's speech in reply to this amendment.

    Like the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body), I fear that the Bill, in the way in which it will be amended, will not clarify the position and may, instead, disguise the intention of the Government. The result will be that the public will be denied information about pesticides. The Government amendment contains the words
    "with a view to making information about pesticides available to the public".
    What it does not say, but should say—because that is the intention—is that it will be restricted information. All the information available to the Department will not be made available to the public. In Committee, the Parliamentary Secretary said:
    "I assure the Committee that we shall seek to ensure that the public will have every opportunity to judge for themselves whether the Government have reached a reasonable decision about a chemical … information will not be kept under wraps unnecessarily."
    Who will decide on what is unnecessarily being kept under wraps? Will it not be the Department? It is unreasonable that those who wish access to information will be denied the right to determine whether something should be made available. A bureaucrat will take the decision.

    It was clear from the debate in Committee that there are divisions of opinion about what should constitute information being "kept under wraps unnecessarily." The Government are totally misreading the representations of Campaign for Freedom of Information, the environmental groups and all others interested in these issues. They are demanding that full information be made available.

    In Committee, the Minister said:
    "it is our intention to ensure that the information released will enable an informed judgment to be made by the public".—[Official Report, Standing Committee H, 30 April 1985; c. 334.]
    What does the Minister regard as an "informed judgment"? What she regards as an informed judgment may not be what environmental groups and researchers believe it to be. All the time we are leaving subjective judgments to be made by officials who make recommendations to Ministers. The Minister is misreading the sense of environmental outrage that is felt by the public on this issue.

    We dealt at length in Committee with the position in America. I pointed out that the Environmental Protection Agency there found that IBT—Industrial Biotest Laboratories — had fabricated data. Some of those studies were submitted in the United Kingdom and were accepted by the Advisory Committee on Pesticides, and decisions were taken based on the ACP's recommendations. The same officials will decide to what extent information should be restricted.

    The Minister should take on board the American experience and ensure that United Kingdom researchers are given full access to information. After all, often no alternative information about hazards is available.

    That information should be available, for example, to those concerned with the effects of pesticides on their employees and to persons affected by spraying. Otherwise, it will be difficult for them to obtain information relevant to the problems with which they must deal and with which doctors are concerned. Indeed, medical practitioners may wish to research into the effects of certain products. They should not be denied information which is available to the Department but which will be under lock and key.

    The full disclosure of safety data under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rhodenticide Act in America works well. FIFRA has shown that it is possible to combine full disclosure with the protection of commercial interests. The amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Holland with Boston would not alter a company's indefinite right to the exclusive use of such data.

    To deny information on the ground that the public is not competent to make correct use of it is unacceptable. The British Agrochemical Association accepts the principle of "the right to know." Disclosure would increase public confidence, prevent amateur research being carried out by other organisations and, to some extent, prevent the need for duplication of research. Public anxiety increases when people are denied the facts.

    Even at this late stage, the Parliamentary Secretary, should heed the substantial representations that are being made by people inside and outside the House. In particular, she should heed the remarks of her hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston, who has great knowledge of these matters. He is in contact, through an organisation representing small farmers with which he is associated, with many people in Britain who are involved with the use of pesticides. I am sure that he brings to the House through that association the value of their experience.

    All Committee Members received persistent demands from a number of organisations to set up a more open regime with respect to freedom of information. The Parliamentary Secretary must respond to those demands and be fair.

    The Government should accept the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body). I pay tribute to the Government for responding to pressure and to the other place for having moved forward. They have accepted that there should be a move towards giving people the right to know about pesticides.

    The Parliamentary Secretary's words a fortnight ago on television are important because they highlight not only the possible advantages of the Government's amendments but the gap that will exist if we go only as far as the amendments take us. The hon. Lady said:
    "The Bill empowers Ministers to make information available to the general public regarding the safety of pesticides."
    She went on to say:
    "The details will all be available."
    Those two statements are not consistent. Government amendment No. 22 states:
    "with a view to making information about pesticides available to the public".
    The criteria are set out, but the Government retain the right to determine exactly what will or will not be included in that information. If the Parliamentary Secretary is to give the House the assurance that she gave the nation via television—
    "The details will all be available"—
    she must logically accept the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston. It provides that information will become available automatically and naturally and not simply in a conditional sense because of what the Government's regulations impose.

    Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that my amendment does not go as far as the statement on television by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary? I am only going 90 per cent. of the distance.

    Yes. We are constrained by the fact that the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston goes as far as we shall be able to go today. He has imposed a condition too. He has restricted disclosure relating to commercial interests, for reasons that I understand although I may not entirely share them. If the Parliamentary Secretary accepted that premise, we would be making progress. She said that she was satisfied

    "that the preponderance is on making information available to the general public."
    We must not have battles year after year when Governments always resist and have to be dragged through the hedgerows until they are forced to give a concession. Countries that learned democracy from us have long before us established the right to know. The High Court has decided that councillors have the right to know. That means that not only officials but the people who are concerned with the issues have the right to know. They include farmers, business men, researchers and legislators. I ask the Government to say that those people need to know now.

    I give one bizarre and important example which shows how ridiculous the position is. I am told that research is being conducted in London university on lemons sold in shops in London. After they are harvested, a fungicide called hydroxydiphenyl 2 is sprayed on them. That fungicide is governed by World Health Organisation limits, because it is dangerous when used above a certain limit. WHO says that the acceptable limit for that fungicide is 10 parts per million. The fungicide on lemons sold in London shops regularly measures 200 parts per million.

    4.15 pm

    This is what happens to the lemons. They are harvested and then scrubbed to remove the pesticide. They then look a little withered and as though they will not appeal to the consumer, so they are dipped into a wax fungicide mixture to make them yellow, shiny and appealing. When one washes those lemons there is no problem because the fungicide does not react in any way. The water runs off them because the skin is protected. However, if one regularly dips a lemon into one's gin and tonic, alcohol causes a chemical reaction.

    One might need to drink a few gins and tonics in a day for this to have any effect. I may have vices, but that is not one of them, although there may be some hon. Members present who are worried about this information. The chemical reaction dissolves the wax and releases the fungicide into that drink at nearly 20 times the recognised international level.

    This research was conducted by an eminent and respected group of people at London university who thought that they should ascertain whether the Ministry knew about this. They telephoned the Ministry and asked about its findings. The answer was, "I am sorry. We cannot tell you. It is governed by the Official Secrets Act." Here were researchers offering the Government information, which may save Conservatives more than any others by protecting them when over-indulging in gin and tonic—yet the Government could not say whether they were researching the same issue.

    That is an amusing example, but it is an example of a fundamental point. If science is to be of benefit to our society, it must be of benefit to everyone in our society and not selectively of benefit to those who take unto themselves the rights that go with being in the Civil Service.

    I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give the House an assurance in exactly the same terms as the assurance that she gave on television and consider what the Government would do to go even further than the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston.

    Amendment No. 26 provides that, on payment of "reasonable fees", information will be made available. I accept that there must be a reasonable fee, but the Parliamentary Secretary knows that we are again considering the question of definition. What is "reasonable"? It is clear that, since the last stage of this Bill was considered, the Treasury has been at work on it. We are considering several small amendments that quietly emanated from the Treasury and add little money-recouping measures. This is one of them. I do not object to the Treasury suggesting that a reasonable fee is required. Of course we must pay for photocopying and the like, but we cannot have fees that reflect the cost of the work going on and partly pay for the research and the officials. They are there anyway. The officials' time is given in the public service, for which they are paid. Members of the public, who may not be on big salaries paid by the British Agrochemicals Association or any other firm, need to be assured that we are talking about matters of pence, not pounds, and that the fees are reasonable at all stages. If the Government are committed to access and to freedom of information, they must not put up barriers, whether of cost or of bureaucracy.

    I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to think again and ask her—reflecting in the glory that she is partly enjoying by having pulled her Government from resistance to a welcome of freedom of information—to go the whole way and do the job properly.

    The hon. Members for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) and for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), who spoke in a most amusing fashion, have identified one lacuna. I want to touch briefly on another omission, although I welcome the measure as it is at least a move towards freedom of information. It touches on the question of public confidence and the processes by which we come to decisions on pesticides which are covered in the Bill and which have been established for some time.

    I refer in particular to the constitution of the advisory committee. In a written question to the Minister in column 58 of Hansard on 18 June this year, I asked her in what way declarations of interest on the advisory committee are stated. This is relevant because the amendment states that information about pesticides is required to be made available to the public. I point out to the Minister that it is also important to have information about the decision-making process made available to the public. This is a matter of concern to me and, I believe, to other hon. Members, and I hope that the Minister will see fit to touch on it. With regard to the declaration of interests by members of the advisory committee, the members at present are required only to sign a piece of paper which says:
    "I have no commercial interest which might make it undesirable for me to receive confidential trade information."
    In relation to freedom of information, it seems curious to me that members are not required to make—

    Will the hon. Gentleman tell me to which amendment his remarks relate? I find it difficult to see such a link.

    It is amendment No. 22,

    "with a view to making information about pesticides available to the public".
    My case is that this should include information about the way in which the decisions on pesticides are made. It is on that matter that I wish the Minister to comment.

    It is difficult to see the relationship between the two that the hon. Gentleman draws.

    I ask the Minister to consider accepting as more appropriate amendment No. 56 tabled by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston, which is broader and may well allow for members of the advisory committee on pesticides to nominate their interests in a more specifc fashion. We are dealing with decisions taken in secret about products which could cost £1 million to bring to market. It is important that members of the public should have full confidence in how the decisions are taken. Therefore, a broader declaration of interest would be more appropriate if the Minister is indeed interested in following through full freedom of information effectively in the Bill.

    It is necessary to comment only shortly upon the debate, in view of the long discussion on the subject in Committee.

    We started from the premise that as full information on pesticides as possible should be available on the basis that public concern relates to the concealment of information. This gives rise to fears which, although they may be groundless to the experts, are nevertheless real because members of the public are unable to comprehend fully.

    I welcome amendments Nos. 21 and 22 as a move from what is provided in clause 15(5), dwelling exclusively upon confidentiality and commercial considerations, towards a presumption that full information shall be available.

    I understand the fears expressed by hon. Members about the face of the Bill, but we must be clear that the mechanism provided by the Bill on this matter, as on so much else, is little evident on the face of the Bill. Little on the face of the Bill is adequately covered by amendment No. 22. Regulations will follow under clause 15(2)(j) which will provide for the type of information required. I believe that here we must be vigilant to ensure that summaries are not perfunctory and the information provided is not sketchy. We must ensure that the sort of information mentioned by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston is incorporated in those regulations. It will be for us at the stage of consideration of the Government regulations to make sure that that is so.

    I am glad that the Government earlier in Committee stated that hon. Members would be involved in the consultation process on the draft regulations and would be able to make the necessary representations. I believe that, if we are not satisfied with the draft regulations, we will make those representations.

    What is included on the face of the Bill is a major step forward. For the first time in consideration of the Bill the Government are saying that the provisions shall have the effect of providing information. In my view, that general statement of intent must be followed up by adequate information being provided for in the regulations. Parliament will scrutinise the regulations closely and, if they are inadequate, will be accordingly critical. I believe that the fullest information possible should be available and the exemptions allowing secrecy should be kept to a minimum. The public will be more reassured by information being available than they will by its being hidden.

    Secondly, I wish to take up the point made by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). It is one thing to have information available, but it is another if it is available, as some farming booklets are, at a price of approximately £15. Price can be a determinant of how widely knowledge is disseminated. If there is an entry of the type mentioned by one of my hon. Friends in the case of the Environmental Protection Agency in America dealing with particular chemicals, that should be done at as nominal a sum as possible. I underline that, although I am sure that the Government have it in mind. In this way, those who are interested in obtaining the information will have it freely and without undue expense.

    I welcome the Government's amendments on this matter as meeting a point that was widely canvassed in Committee as a source of anxiety.

    I welcome the acceptance of the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) of amendments Nos. 21 and 22 and the motives of the Government in tabling them. The amendments make clear the purpose of the Bill. Concern has been expressed that the purpose should be made clearer, and that the amendments seek to do. I understand that hon. Members will scrutinise the regulations carefully to be sure that they live up to that objective.

    I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body). I had intended to refer to amendment No. 26 to try to prevent a misunderstanding of the kind which has arisen in the mind of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). I am glad that the hon. Member for Pontypridd understands what we are trying to do.

    The amendment to clause 15(2)(j) is a technical one to enable Ministers to recover the costs of copying and postage, if necessary, from those who request information about pesticides. The Government's intention is to provide in part III a measure similar to that already contained in the last three lines of paragraph 13 of part II. Parliamentary counsel have drafted the amendment with some care to ensure that the provision covers only the incidental costs of providing copies of the document. I assure the Committee that this will not have the effect of inhibiting the public's access to information. Equally, we must not run the risk of becoming an unlimited source of free material at public expense.

    I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston, who has tried to table an amendment that meets the needs of all concerned with disclosure of information. Amendment No. 56 is admirably drafted, but it has one serious disadvantage from the Government's point of view. The amendment does not provide for the release of raw data, but our advice is that Ministers will be constrained to provide access to raw data to anybody who requests it. I explained in Committee that it would involve great administrative effort and that the advantage would in practice be small. The amendment would prevent the provision of summaries of data.

    4.30 pm

    I have already explained that summaries have been prepared for the meeting of the advisory committee. They include methodology, details of tests, the different kinds of animals and periods of time. Carcinogenicity, mutagenicity and teratogenicity are described in the summaries, and the questions surrounding pesticides are also listed. Therefore, I assure him that the summaries include all the details that he said are not included. They are lengthy, amounting to about 20 pages.

    The Freedom of Information Campaign agrees with the Government that the summaries would satisfy the overwhelming majority of inquiries. The raw data on each approved product stand about 3 ft high. It would be a waste of time and effort to make that information available to everybody. Access to raw data may be of use to those engaged in research, and we are prepared to consider granting access to it if a scientific case can be established. We shall discuss the matter when we consult all the relevant interests about the proposals.

    The Bill would not prevent either this Government or any other Government from providing access to raw data. I have explained the problem of providing an extreme degree of public access to raw data. My hon. Friend's amendment constrains Ministers to provide access to raw data to anybody who requests it. I hope that I have reassured him about the contents of the summaries and that he will therefore withdraw his amendment.

    The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey made a serious point about lemons in London. The pesticide residue working group survey found that lemons in London have exceeded the codex limit of 10 parts per million. Between 1981 and 1984 the level occasionally found was 18 ppm. However, hon. Members who consume large quantities of gin and tonic are much more likely to contract cirrhosis of the liver and to be put at risk than they are if they consume lemons.

    It appears that research shows that there may be other sale points at which the danger level is much higher. Can the Minister assure the House that it will be provided with that information, whether in the form of raw data or a summary, before the Bill is enacted so that protection may be provided?

    We monitor residue levels not only in individual items but in the complete diet. The levels found over many years have been well below the level that is internationally regarded as safe, and the levels are declining. The Bill provides for action to be taken on residue levels.

    I appreciate hon. Members' difficulty about understanding how far the Government have moved on this issue. I become a little agitated when I am told that I am being dragged screaming into the 20th century. We have sought to enact a good Bill. The Government are not being dragged into the 20th century. The legisation permits disclosure in full about safety data, but in practice that must be subject to consultation and practical considerations—how long it will take, how much it will cost and how much information is required. We must attempt to reach consensus within the ordinary practical constraints of commercial secrecy. We shall make available all the information that is necessary to reassure the public about the safety of the pesticide in question.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendment made: No. 22, in page 15, line 19, at end insert—

    'and (b) with a view to making information about pesticides available to the public;'.—[Mrs. Fenner.]

    :I beg to move amendment No. 23, in page 15, line 19, at end insert—

    'and references in this Part of this Act to the general purposes of this Part of this Act are references to the purposes mentioned in this subsection.'.

    With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 30 and 44.

    These are purely drafting amendments. Their effect will be to remove subsection (8) from clause 17 and to insert it at the end of clause 15, to remove superfluous words from subsection (7) in clause 15, and to provide drafting improvements that are consequential upon the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body).

    Amendment agreed to.

    :I beg to move amendment No. 25, in page 15, line 41, at end insert—

    '(ff) provide for the payment of compensation to beekeepers who incur financial loss as a result of the use of pesticides;'.
    This amendment tries to create a statutory compensation scheme for beekeepers who incur financial loss by using pesticides. In Committee and on Report we have spent many hours talking about birds. It is perhaps appropriate that we are now talking about bees. They are very much affected by the misuse — I emphasise the word "misuse"—of pesticides.

    Bees are a valuable national asset. They provide us with a considerable amount of honey and serve a useful agricultural purpose. It is therefore in the interest of nobody that bees should be killed by pesticides. Nevertheless, there are about 36,000 colonies of bees in this country and according to the Beekeepers Association there are between 100 and 200 incidents each year of bees being affected by pesticides. About 1 per cent. of beehives are affected each year by pesticide poisoning. We ought to try to reduce it and, if it occurs, we ought to be able to offer compensation to the beekeepers. Aerial spraying in particular is responsible for poisoning bees and causing most of the damage.

    Another cause for concern is the increase in the cultivation of oilseed rape. If oilseed rape is incorrectly sprayed, many more bees die. We are aware that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food issues guidance to both beekeepers and farmers each year and urges the farmers to keep to a code of conduct.

    If I heard the hon. Gentleman aright, he was talking about the spraying of oilseed rape and the fact that many bees die. Surely he would acknowledge, though, that the vast acreage of oilseed rape that is now grown is of direct benefit to beekeepers. Indeed, much honey now comes from oilseed rape, although it is not as tasty as honey from lime trees and other sources.

    I did make the point that I was talking about the misuse of pesticides. If the hon. Gentleman wants to follow that particular analogy, looking at the benefits to beekeepers of oilseed rape, I would refer him to a very useful article in Farmers Weekly of 12 April by a beekeeper who produces a great amount of honey from oilseed rape. However, without going into the technical aspects, as the hon. Member knows, one should not spray oilseed rape when it is in flower because that is the time when the bees are killed. I am very much aware of the point raised.

    It is worrying that bees are killed, but what is perhaps also worrying is the great difficulty that beekeepers have in claiming compensation. I will quote a particular case to the House because it exemplifies the problem very clearly. It concerns a Mr. Houldey of Hartpury in Gloucestershire. I know that the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland), who is here today and has been of assistance to Mr. Houldey, will not mind my quoting the case because I think he accepts that it raises a very serious point.

    Mr. Houldey has had a number of spraying incidents. In 1984 alone, in four separate incidents, he lost 47 hives of bees. He estimates his total financial loss to be about £9,000. The interesting point is that, in spite of the fact that Mr. Houldey received compensation in one case, in one of the other cases the contractor was successfully prosecuted but compensation was still refused by the NFU Mutual Insurance Company, which said to Mr. Houldey, "Sue us." Of course, no small farmer or beekeeper is going to take on a massive insurance company; he just has not got the financial assets to risk. I think it is a matter of shame that the NFU Mutual Insurance Company, which by and large has a very good reputation, is refusing to pay compensation in this case.

    I raised that example to show the difficulties that beekeepers face. The difficulties come from two main points: first, the failure of farmers, but mainly of contractors, to give notice and to abide by the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service recommendations and code of conduct; and, secondly, the question of getting compensation even when the claimant is able to bring a successful case for compensation.

    We believe that there is need to compensate beekeepers. We emphasise that we wish that the code of practice and the Ministry of Agriculture recommendations were more strictly adhered to by contractors and farmers. However, we accept that accidents will happen and that there will be misuse of pesticides. We believe that in such cases there should be compensation paid to the beekeepers, and that is what we call for in this amendment.

    The Government cannot accept this amendment, which singles out one sector of the community for right to compensation in law. Such a provision might prejudice the position of others, if they found themselves in dispute with users of pesticides.

    The proper course of action for such grievances is to seek redress in the courts, and I know from a recent case that aggrieved beekeepers have been successful in such actions. The case to which I refer was brought to court before we introduced this legislation to enable Ministers to control use of statute. In finding against the farmer, the judge relied on the considerable advice already made available to users of pesticides both from my Department and from the pesticide manufacturer about the effects of pesticides on bees. I shall explain the action taken by my Department in this area.

    4.45 pm

    When pesticides intended for use in agriculture are submitted for clearance under the PSPS, information on their toxicity to bees is invariably taken into account. By their very nature most insecticides are toxic to bees to a greater or lesser extent; but an unacceptable level of risk would in itself be sufficient grounds for denying a particular clearance. Such decisions have been taken in the past. The withdrawal of clearance in 1978 for the aerial application of triazophos to oilseed rape was such a case. Cleared products may carry labels with warning phrases, such as "Dangerous/harmful to bees. Do not apply at flowering stage. Keep down flowering weeds."

    To back up the warnings on product labels, my Department provides a great deal of advice to farmers and growers about the use of these pesticides. We give warnings on the general incidence of pest attack and the circumstances in which spraying should be, or is unlikely to be, cost-effective. When we advise that spraying is worth while we recommend farmers to use wherever practicable pesticides that are least toxic to bees, to spray early in the morning or late in the evening, when bee activity is minimal, and generally to take care and to think of others when spraying. We issue a considerable amount of publicity' literature. All this is supplemented by advice to individual farmers.

    Furthermore, our scientists are ready to investigate any incidents involving the suspected poisoning of bees by pesticides whenever the beekeeper concerned is able to provide a sample of the bees for chemical analysis. The Ministry also arranges meetings at both the national and the local level between representatives of the National Farmers Union, the beekeepers associations and spraying contractors. Our objective is to get the people involved to discuss common problems and to agree on the measures necessary to prevent bee losses from crop spraying. I believe that advice, consultation and communication are the best way to ensure that growers and beekeepers are aware of each other's problems and needs and aware of how to co-exist.

    Our legislation will add another dimension. During our consultations on its implementation we shall need to consider very carefully how to protect bees by legal control—for example, by making application at the flowering stage of certain crops an offence. But this is the kind of detailed control on which we must consult all interests affected, so I speak without commitment.

    I hope that with this explanation the hon. Gentleman will feel able to withdraw this amendment.

    I must admit that I find the last comment from the Minister very helpful and I take the point that she is talking only about the possibility. If the Ministry of Agriculture is about to consider that possibility in the future, that is somewhat reassuring. There has been movement in law and in the case to which the Minister referred—which I think was a case in Sussex where a number of beekeepers combined and were paid damages of about £7,000 for loss of honey crops—the High Court judge did clarify the ruling as to what exactly a bee was, whether a bee was trespassing, and so on. I think that as a result we have moved forward.

    I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Amendment made: No. 26, in page 16, line 21, at end insert

    'and to payment of such reasonable fees for furnishing copies as the Ministers may with the consent of the Treasury determine,'.

    I beg to move amendment No. 28, in page 17, line 16, leave out

    'when consulted in accordance with subsection (9) below, and'
    and insert
    ', either when requested to do so or otherwise,'.

    With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 29.

    These amendments are minor drafting improvements suggested by the parliamentary draftsman to the new subsection 15(7), which was adopted in Committee. My hon. Friend said in Committee that they might be necessary and I hope that the House will accept them.

    I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for tabling this minor amendment and also for her letter to me on this matter. There is certainly no weakening of the Committee's intention in the amendment. The key to the amendments made in Committee was that the advisory committee should offer advice upon matters that concerned it without being asked, and that has been preserved intact. The House regards that as an important point, and it probably deals with some of the points that we discussed earlier about the provision of information and so on. If the advisory committee feels that additional information should be made available, it can proffer advice to the Minister without being asked. Therefore, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what she has been able to do.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendments made: No. 29, in page 17, line 18, leave out

    'on which it considers it should offer its advice'.

    No. 30, in page 17, line 20, leave out

    'mentioned in subsection (1) above'.—[Mrs. Fenner.]

    :I beg to move amendment No. 32, in page 17, line 26, at end insert—

    '(aa) as to the extent and implications of resistance to pesticides among pests in Britain;'.
    This amendment brings us back to a point that was raised in Committee, but which, for one reason or another, was not responded to in full.

    For a long time there has been considerable anxiety that the very objects for which pesticides are designed are developing immunity to them. Therefore, the pesticides which in minute quantities could kill and control the pests, can no longer do so.

    The Royal Commission on environmental pollution mentioned that factor, but said that it found it difficult to get an exact picture of both the seriousness and the scope of the problem. Many scientists throughout the world are concerned that constant use of pesticides is developing strains of pests immune to their toxicity. There is anxiety that what I call the first world war mentality—that is, if there is resistance we put forth even more to overcome that resistance, which develops more resistance—should be avoided at all costs.

    The Ministry acknowledged the problem but put it on the governmental back burner by saying that, although there was a problem, it would not occur until the end of the century. But, of course, even the end of the century is only 15 years away and we are talking about a development of other sources of pest control that are effective during that short time.

    I think that we all agree that pesticides should be used at the minimum level consistent with being effective. Because there is resistance to a certain pesticide, we do not want to engender the philosophy that the farmer should add a little extra in the hope that it will kill the blighters.

    The Minister said that there were 25 strains resistant to 28 pesticides. We have also been told that both fungicides and herbicides are finding resistant strains. The Farmers Weekly on 15 March noted:
    "Earlier drilling of winter cereal and widespread use of fungicides may lead to a sudden rise in MBC-resistant eyespot."
    People are worried because in the ADAS eastern region the resistant strains had risen by 90 per cent. in the year 1984–85. There are similar quantum leaps in resistance in other crops.

    The Big Farm Weekly of 11 April said:
    "The first signs of herbicide resistance in blackgrass have been recorded by scientists at the Weed Research Organisation, Oxford."
    When I was looking at the fairly daunting forecasts for the size of this year's harvest—that is, if we ever get any warm weather—the problem of blackgrass was central to the question of cereals. Blackgrass is now becoming resistant to herbicides, so a major problem is arising.

    The amendment seeks to ensure that the Ministry consults the advisory committee about pesticides so that it can express its view on this increasing problem. There is no doubt that a resistance will occur, that it will take different forms, that it will apply to a wider spectrum of crops and that it will cause many problems.

    In Committee, a similar amendment was moved as one of a large group. I am sure that that is why the Minister replied to it with less than her usual thoroughness. I counted about six lines in Hansard—and I was being generous—when I read her reply. But such is the importance of the subject that it warrants a reply. The Government should refer the problem to the ACP at the earliest possible opportunity to determine how it may be overcome and what may be done to avoid resistant strains growing. I hope that the Government can reassure me on that.

    I tabled the amendment not to make a party political point or even a point of sharp difference, but to try to make the legislation—as the hon. Lady wishes—as good as we can possibly make it.

    This amendment is a watered-down version of an amendment tabled in Committee, but it is effective. The amendment tabled in Committee asked for a report to Parliament on resistant pests, but it was negatived.

    The most serious problem of pesticides is that they can lose their effectiveness due to the appearance of tolerant strains of pest. The pesticides create selection pressure on pest populations that invariably have a genetic pool of widely differing susceptibility to the poison. Certain strong individuals survive the pesticide to breed the next generation. The tolerant pest strain is so serious because there is a real danger that the appearance of such strains will obstruct the production of effective pesticides. The outcome is that we are led to increase the amount of pesticides used to counter the resistance, and that is at the heart of much of our concern and underlines the need to table the amendment.

    If we are to respect the policy of minimising the use of pesticides to a degree compatible with efficient farming, a thorough consideration of the implications of resistance is of the utmost importance. The Minister said in Committee that resistance did not necessarily lead to a breakdown of control because there were alternatives. It would be a necessary function of consultations with the advisory committee to determine — based on an appreciation of the extent of the resistance — the implications for the implementation of alternative measures. It is only within the past 10 years that any progress has been made in collecting the data necessary to formulate strategies to control the spread of resistance. Many opportunities have been missed and research has been largely limited to listing occurrences and investigating inheritance patterns and biochemical mechanisms. That is unsatisfactory. We need to understand all the processes, including the evolutionary ones, that lead to a failure in pest control. If we wait until there is a control failure it will be far too late. The alternative attitude is to assume that resistance will eventually arise everywhere and to treat it with larger and larger doses. Our amendment seeks to avoid such an approach, which would be environmentally and economically unsound. It would certainly be most unpopular and damaging to everything that we hold sacred in the countryside.

    5 pm

    I support the amendment and endorse the arguments for it. If the amendment is accepted and included in the three specific matters on which the advisory committee should be consulted, the importance of the increasing resistance that exists because of the genetic process of pesticides will be highlighted.

    I know that the Minister made a response in Committee. I know she is aware of the problem and I accept that the advisory committee will consider the issue, but the question is whether it will regard the matter as sufficiently important to devote some of its members' time to it.

    The most graphic example that I have seen recently—the Minister will have seen it also—is the super-rat, which is resistant to all rat poison and rat removal operations known to local authorities which deal with rodent control. Small rats are difficult and frightening enough to deal with, and we wish to remove them from our communities, but now we have super-rats, which cause great alarm where that species is found.

    I ask the Minister to reconsider the matter and incorporate the amendment as a specific task for the committee.

    My Department already undertakes a considerable amount of work on resistance to pesticides in agriculture, horticulture and food storage and among houseflies and rodents. I apologise if my response in Committee was brief. I am trying not to be too wordy now, but I feel compelled to inform hon. Members about the work that is carried out.

    The Ministry has a small team at Harpenden monitoring crop pest and disease resistance on a regular basis, and at present its work is directed to monitoring eight aphid species of economic importance. As the answers to many questions show, resistance has been confirmed in three of these species. Our regional laboratory at Wye is responsible for monitoring resistance in pests of protected crops for which the problem is most acute, but which have benefited from considerable work on integrated pest control.

    Resistance to pesticides for storage pests and houseflies is monitored by the Slough laboratory in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland and Ministry advisers. The pests covered include seven species of storage pests, houseflies in poultry houses and in intensive animal-rearing units, beetles in poultry houses and mites in cheese stores. Resistance to malathion has been demonstrated in one grain beetle and resistance to the fumigant phosphine occurs in stored grain beetles. Flies in animal houses developed resistance to a pyrethroid insecticide which was withdrawn, and the laboratory was instrumental in developing alternative controls. Mites in cheese stores are now resistant to available pesticides, and the Slough laboratory is investigating fumigation techniques to achieve control of pesticide-resistant cheese mites.

    The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) referred to resistance in rodents. Work on the extent and implications of anti-coagulant resistance in rodents has mostly been undertaken by the Ministry's agricultural science service, although some studies have been carried out in universities. Monitoring of the extent and incidence of resistance has also been carried out by the Ministry. Staff at the agricultural science service central laboratories are researching two methods of controlling anti-coagulant resistant rodents, alongside work to screen candidates for new rodenticides submitted by the pesticide manufacturers.

    I hope that I have given hon. Members some idea of some of the programmes relating to resistance to pesticides. I should say to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey that the advisory committee already considers the problems of resistance to individual pesticides, and with the widening of its terms of reference as a result of this legislation, it will be given powers to examine the extent and implications of resistance to pesticides. Therefore, there is no need for the amendment. We are very conscious of the problem and are already devoting considerable resources to investigating and overcoming it.

    I knew that, given a little encouragement, the Minister would give vent to the self-expression which was denied to us in her six-line answer in Committee. I am reassured by her comments on the work that is continuing, and especially by her confirmation that the widening of the terms of reference of the ACP will mean that its task of solving the problems will be far easier. Given her assurance that it is unnecessary, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    I beg to move amendment No. 33, in page 17, line 34, at end insert—

    '(10A) Within 12 months of the passing of this Act the Ministers shall jointly review the extent of and necessity for aerial spraying of pesticides and shall report to Parliament with proposals for reducing the use of this method of application.'.

    With this, it will be convenient to consider amendment No. 34, in page 17, line 34, at end insert—

    '(10A) Within 12 months of the passing of this Act the Ministers shall jointly review the scope for improving techniques of pesticide application and for promoting integrated pest management and shall set out in a report to Parliament a strategy for reducing the use of pesticides to a minimum consistent with efficient food production.'.

    The only connecting factor in the two amendments is the fact that they choose the same mechanism—a review by Ministers within 12 months of the passing of the Bill — to deal with two separate matters. The first is aerial spraying. Lest there be any misunderstanding, especially on the part of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), who challenged me on this point, I should say that some aerial spraying is necessary, for example, in difficult terrain. The spraying of upland bracken is extremely important, and spraying is important in controlling pests in forests. However, modern technology has already made it less necessary to use aerial spraying in the lowlands than it was some years ago. The development of low-pressure-tyre vehicles means that spraying can now be done by ground-based vehicles in conditions which would have been unthinkable a decade ago, and probably less. Therefore, to some extent, the need for aerial spraying in the lowlands has diminished.

    We are asking for a report to be produced with a view to reducing aerial spraying to the minimum necessary. I should set out briefly to the House my reasons for asking for this limitation. One point that was voiced in Committee—it has been voiced by environmental groups and at public meetings—is the tremendous concern about aerial spraying, and about the involvement, accidental or otherwise, of people, animals and flora. There is unresolved public anxiety, which is not reassured by the often well-meaning statements that nothing can happen and that there is no real problem or danger. Many of those incidents are highly frightening and cause a great deal of emotion. We will not be reassured unless MAFF examines the working of the Act and aerial spraying, and reports to the House so that the matter can be publicly aired.

    A second reason why the minimisation of aerial spraying should be undertaken — in Committee we considered a few fairly ropey forms of spraying—is that of all forms of spraying, it is probably the most inaccurate. I expect that many members of the Committee will have received a recent memo in which the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reiterates its concern for areas that become affected, although those areas were not due to be sprayed. Two of the examples that it gives are SSSIs and ponds. Spray drift is a particular problem for aerial spraying. It is a problem in itself, and relates to the next reason why I believe that a report is necessary, which is that on occasions aerial contractors spray in unsuitable weather conditions. That climatic problem means that wider areas of land are affected than originally intended. The effect of that on the inhabitants of neighbouring properties is tremendous.

    The third reason is that often such spraying is unannounced. The Minister will no doubt reassure me that a formula is laid down under which spraying visits are reported to the nearest police headquarters, and so on but I ask her to accept the evidence, produced on an anecdotal but significant basis by hon. Members, which shows that in practice many people find aircraft spraying crops adjacent to their properties without having had the faintest idea that spraying was to take place that day or that low-flying aircraft would spray at or comparatively near to houses.

    Has my hon. Friend seen the report of Friends of the Earth, which has been circulated to hon. Members—copies have been sent to Ministers and to the Prime Minister—which sets out in detail the facts of a number of incidents that have taken place this year when people have not complied with the rules? Do they not show that there is a need to tighten up in this area where there is abuse by many aerial sprayers?

    I have seen that report. I was going to refer to it both in that connection and in response to the riposte that the Government may feel obliged to make, which is that the number of incidents reported are small. I contend that there are many more incidents that those that are reported.

    I shall return to the point relating to an unannounced visit, with an aircraft flying fairly low and unreasonably close to dwelling houses or other buildings. That has an affect on people. In a letter written to my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) I noticed that it said that in Germany, for example, the intention of a contractor to spray aerially must be conveyed to both the police and the local authority. I hope that in the Bill we shall secure, among other things, much more effective communication about where aerial spraying will take place. Those are the reasons why the report is necessary within 12 months to reassure the public. It should be targeted towards the reduction of aerial spraying.

    As I have said and as my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) pointed out, the number of incidents reported is comparatively low. I believe that it bears only scant relationship to the number of incidents that occur. The Friends of The Earth report suggests that where the public are gathered together at a meeting there is immediate testimony to such incidents by many. That is of much greater significance than the number of reports suggest. That may be due partly to the complexity of the rules of reporting, and partly to a lack of knowledge about how to go about reporting and why it should be done.

    5.15 pm

    We must also take account of the feeling that the controls are not properly enforced. On 26 April in a Ministry press release I noticed a warning about pesticide spraying and the minimisation of risks. The warning is fairly prominently displayed and says:
    "The CAA will prosecute and in serious cases revoke an operator's Aerial Application Certificate if its requirements are not observed."
    Would that that were so. It does not seem to be the case, in view of the low number of prosecutions this decade—the average must be about three a year. Although that number started from a low base and has increased to six or seven a year, such a reminder is not likely to strike terror into the hearts of the aerial operators who may undertake the work.

    There is a widespread belief among reputable people in the agriculture industry that the CAA does not carry out its duties in this case with the same degree of interest as it devotes to other duties. I ask the Minister to accept that that is the feeling of people in agriculture. That needs to be borne in mind when we consider the preparation of a report and the consideration of aerial spraying generally.

    My fourth point is that any admission of departmental responsibility between the Department of Transport and MAFF is blurred. That was referred to on 16 April in Committee when the Minister, reminded of the fact that the Royal Commission on environmental pollution had already drawn attention to the matter, said that a review would be undertaken and a statement made about departmental responsiblity and the relationship between the Department of Transport and MAFF on this subject. Will she tell us when that review and statement can be expected because they are important?

    I understand from the farming press that the review of clearances for aerial spraying has already been begun by the advisory committee on pesticides. Will she confirm that, and tell us when the committee is likely to complete its review? As aerial spraying is an important subject and a potentially damaging form of pesticide spraying we should like a separate report on it to consider the aspects of safety and dislocation for those living in the countryside, and to deal with the question of how to reduce that form of spraying to minimum.

    Amendment No. 34 deals with the improvement of application technique. It is important and calls for a system of integrated test management. We alluded to it in part when we talked about resistance to pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides of present strains of produce, which will apply in future. We are committed—the Minister was good enough to confirm this—to the use in agriculture of the minimum amount of pesticides, consistent with the effective use of that pesticide to control pests on crops.

    We need the most efficient and accurate techniques possible, and well maintained equipment. Those two things do not necessarily automatically follow. Sometimes we have good designs which a few farmers, wanting to reduce their costs, use long after the repair and maintenance of such equipment has been neglected. We sometimes have inefficient systems, which are not as modern as they can be. The result is that there is unnecessary spraying of pesticides.

    There are two general methods of spraying which would yield a lower pesticide use—ultra-low volume or controlled droplet application. We examined these two methods in detail earlier, but I refer the Minister to an article in Farmers Weekly of 20 June about low volume spraying. The article claims that low volume spraying minimises the check to the crops that spraying inevitably gives them. It is calculated that the use of ultra-low volume spraying or controlled droplet application is equivalent to a 25 per cent. reduction in the use of the active ingredient in pesticides.

    In a report from a conference which appeared in Big Farm Weekly an ADAS representative who is an entomologist said that one third of all insecticide sprays applied to cereals were a waste of money. That must give the farmer and outselves a great deal of food for thought. The representative described revenge spraying. That occurs when the cosmetic damage to the crops leads farmers to want to get rid of the pests merely for the sake of the crops' appearance rather than to improve the quality of the crop.

    The Opposition call for an integrated pest control system. Apart from the techniques that we adopt in the spraying of pesticides, there are a number of other steps which would and should be taken, such as crop rotation, the timing of planting, soil management, the use of pest and disease resistant crop varieties and, most importantly, biological controls, which are a growing source of pest control.

    Biological control, as a preventive measure, has been discussed in Committee and its most interesting use at present is in the glasshouse cultivation of salad crops. Dr. Payne, and others, have been responsible for developments in that sector. In Farmers Weekly of 14 June there is an article about Doctor Lynch of the Glasshouse Crops Research Institute. He has pioneered techniques which include straw breakdown. The active microbes released through that process will form a pest control. That new development shows the importance of soil surveys in identifying where a turning-in of straw would provide maximum benefit and could be done safely and to the benefit of the soil. I commend to the Minister early-day motion 575 that I have tabled on that subject. It would be to the country's and the farmers' advantage to study it. It will be at least four years before those developments are commercially applicable and viable.

    The hon. Gentleman knows that the turning back of straw can create bacteria and soil-borne diseases which are detrimental to the crop. In some cases, a form of chemical application may be necessary to cure those very bugs—if I may use that term—which are engendered by keeping the straw rather than destroying it by burning.

    Yes, I understand that, but that is the value of Dr. Lynch's research. It is important. The soil survey would be able to advise whether it would be beneficial to turn straw back or whether it would present the risks of which the hon. Gentleman speaks, in which case one would not expect it to be done.

    There is likely to be a spin-off from the work of Dr. Payne and Dr. Lynch within the fairly near future not just for glasshouse crops but for outdoor crops. Farmers Weekly of 7 June talks about microbial techniques and the fact that Microbial Resources Ltd. has pioneered five pesticides based upon the biological method of control. We are talking about the many possibilities that there will be in the future for growing crops.

    More importantly, there has been general unease about the use of pesticides on stored crops. That is a facet of the problem that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. The use of pesticides on stored crops can be a problem unless they are severely controlled. The use of insect hormones, which is being pioneered instead of pesticides, would provide a safer way of preserving the quality of stored crops.

    In the research programme there are exciting possibilities for the biological rather than chemical control of pests. We are asking for an overall strategy, which combines healthy crops with the lowest possible input of chemical pesticides.

    Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 call for the Government to study the results of the control of pesticides after the first year of the Act's operation and to return to Parliament with a report so that we can continue the debate which the Bill has stimulated and which has revealed a degree of unease about the use of chemical pesticides that the House ignores at its peril.

    The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John), in his usual charming way, has put forward two reasonably attractive amendments. He will, perhaps, forgive me if I concentrate on amendment No. 33. However, when he spoke about amendment No. 34 he expressed the hope of many within the industry that improved methods will be used and he is correct to point out that more research will need more funds. I believe that my hon. Friend the Minister will take note, and that every encouragement will be given to any such projects so that we might one day be able to move to biological rather than chemical answers to some of our problems for the majority of the time. I am sympathetic to what the hon. Gentleman said about amendment No. 34.

    One is tempted to go over some of the ground that was extensively debated in Committee in relation to the proposals contained in amendment No. 33. I shall, however, try to confine my comments to the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I am not entirely attracted to that amendment because an instruction to the industry to reduce aerial spraying is creeping in. He correctly pointed out that with modern techniques and methods the need for aerial spraying is not as important as it was, but the "necessity" — I use his word — exists. It has been relevant over the past few days and weeks.

    It does not need someone who knows much about agriculture to understand that ground conditions are now such that in many parts of the country the ground application of pesticides would be impossible. Judging by the conditions in the part of the world where I live, and on my farm, that will probably be impossible until we harvest the crop some time in August.

    The House must not underestimate the tremendous boost and bonus that aerial spraying has brought to crops. Our food production system is efficient and good and we are able to enjoy remarkable cereal crops partly because aerial spraying is available and has been used sensibly by the industry in the last few years.

    5.30 pm

    I do not want the message to go from the House to the industry that we are intent on reducing aerial spraying so that one day a Government, of whatever colour, might consider legislating to ban it. That would be a sad day. I was pleased with the Opposition's stance in Committee when they said that they would never go down that road. I hope that if they ever become the Government—God forbid—they will remain of that opinion.

    I shall deal with some of the arguments by the hon. Member for Pontypridd. He talked about public anxiety. He is right to say that a low-flying aircraft can be frightening, particularly if notice has not been given. However, Opposition Members and some of my hon. Friends agree that scare stories are often put about. Many allegations are unfounded, but just because the number of prosecutions is small does not mean that instances have not occurred.

    I was disturbed when the hon. Member for Pontypridd implied that he did not believe the figures. All allegations are investigated thoroughly. The public easily become anxious and there is talk of scaremongering. The reports from the public are no more than allegations. They are always investigated and are often unfounded. However, I acknowledge the anxiety about aerial spraying. It is a dangerous occupation, not only for the pilot but for people on the ground.

    The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) seems to be trying to minimise the dangers and value of reported incidents. Is he saying that the report by the Friends of the Earth is irrelevant? Is he saying that most of the allegations are empty and do not reflect what happens? Does he understand that only with difficulty can a private citizen successfully secure a prosecution? Will he address himself to that problem?

    Of course I have seen the report. I do not minimise the dangers or the allegations. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) will have seen the figures put out by the British Agrochemicals Association and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which show that a large number of allegations are found to be unjustified after investigation. That is not to say that members of the public are not expressing an anxiety that anyone would express after seeing a low-flying aircraft near or over his house. Anyone would be anxious about what would happen if he came in the path of the spray. I am saying that not every allegation is found to be justified after investigation.

    Accuracy is important. The industry is concerned about it, if only because of the cost of the chemicals. It would be foolish for any farmer or grower to spray a crop in a strong wind—this cannot be done under the code of conduct — because he would probably spray his neighbour's crop instead of his own. The code of conduct lays down strict rules so that no spraying can take place when the wind is above a certain speed. Some drift could occur, but the 200 ft recommendation solves the problem of spray drift, which the hon. Member for Pontypridd over-emphasised.

    The hon. Member argued for more effective communication. Most hon. Members would support him in that, as would most people in the industry. The debates on the Floor of the House today and in Committee will have informed the trade that the public needs to be told what is happening. The trade has already responded. It fully realises that the public must be told where spraying is to take place and that it has a duty to people who live in the area. The point has been well taken.

    In general, we must be careful not to discourage the aerial spraying industry, which is engaged in an expensive and necessary operation. It is necessary, not only for the large areas of cereal crops in the East Anglia region which I represent but, as the hon. Member said, in the Highlands and overseas. If we lost the technique of aerial spraying and the ability to spray, food production would suffer. The message must go from the House that aerial spraying should continue under the strictest control and with cognisance of the public's anxiety. I do not think that it is the duty of any Government to give instructions to the industry. It will sort itself out in its own way. The market should take its own course. If aerial spraying proves to be an impossible operation for farmers because of its expense or practicalities it will go away. I believe that aerial spraying will be with us for a long time and that it will be of great benefit to agriculture and the community.

    I have great sympathy with the two amendments. A reduction in serial spraying is necessary. First, it is necessary to assist conservation. A reduction in aerial spraying will improve our efforts to conserve wild life. Secondly, a reduction in aerial spraying would be welcomed by the public, which regards it as a nuisance. Many people have suffered from it. Thirdly, a reduction in aerial spraying will not be detrimental to farming. We have the techniques to ensure that we can, regardless of the weather, put pesticides on to the crops at the right time.

    We must accept that aerial spraying inevitably leads to drift. However skilled the operator, it is almost impossible to avoid some drift in any conditions. It is almost impossible to avoid the spray drifting over hedgerows and into neighbouring areas. There is a clear need for greater controls because the damage that aerial spraying does under any conditions cannot be denied.

    There are fewer arguments for aerial spraying than there used to be. We discussed in Committee new developments such as low-pressure tyres which can travel over heavy clay lands, even when they are wet. The tramline system enables a vehicle to go even into an oilseed rape crop. As a farmer growing oilseed rape a few years ago, I had to use aerial spraying at certain times of the year. Those days are gone because we have developed other techniques and machines which can spray crops from the ground. We do not now have the technical need for aerial spraying. Now that we have advanced, aerial spraying should be used only in exceptional circumstances. I doubt whether the Civil Aviation Authority has the right methods to control area spraying. Perhaps in a year's time, under the review, we should look for a system of licences to be issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for those exceptional cases where aerial spraying will take place because other techniques do not exist.

    I welcome amendment No. 34. Without any doubt the great increase in the use of chemicals in the countryside has led to increasing damage to the wildlife and to the conservation of our natural heritage. We must put far greater emphasis on the use of techniques and sprays that will minimise this damage.

    My hon. Friend the Minister gave a helpful answer during Question Time the other day that explained how the Government are attempting to explore techniques for the better application of sprays. I welcome that but I think we must go further. It is essential that the sprays we use are far more specific. They should attack the problem and should not affect other insects and weeds that are harmless. We need equipment that is more accurate and ensures that the sprays affect only the area that needs spraying and do not drift and vaporise.

    I welcome the fact that the amendment advocates integrated pest management. A good example of such management is the research being undertaken by the Game Conservancy. Under this research 6 m is left round the hedgerows which is unsprayed either by pesticides or herbicides. This has had a beneficial effect on the numbers of insects which survive as well as butterflies and hence on birdlife. Indeed it has had a beneficial effect on the whole of wildlife. The evidence shows that yields have not been affected if the system is managed well. This is a good example of integrated pest management without any loss of agricultural production. I ask the Minister to support the scheme and to consider other ways in which we can seek a balance between agriculture and conservation. To achieve this it would be necessary to publish from time to time our findings and our strategy. It is one thing to have vague aspirations but quite another to set down what we have accomplished, what our intentions are and how we are to achieve the goal of a balance between agriculture and conservation.

    I hope that the Minister will look with sympathy on these two amendments. I cannot see how they will harm agricultural production and within them are the seeds of benefit.

    This is the more controversial part of the Bill, and we spent some time in Committee discussing these matters. It is the part of the Bill on which the public's expectations of Parliament are highest.

    We are grateful to Friends of the Earth for its work to identify cases that have been reported to the authorities and those cases that were not. Even as late as today a Mrs. Simmonds contacted Friends of the Earth from Henfield in Sussex because of her concern over aerial spraying which took place this morning in her area. Also today a Mrs. Judy Holder from Totnes, Devon, contacted Friends of the Earth because a helicopter was spraying right over her farmhouse. Friends of the Earth has given me a copy of a letter from Mrs. Slade of Romney Marsh in Kent. She wrote:
    "Only last Thursday I was working in the fields when a spray plane suddenly appeared and proceeded to spray the adjacent fields. Luckily the wind was blowing away from me and when I went home it was spraying the fields around our house. The plane was turning right overhead. I was not informed that spraying would take place. I don't know what they were using, there was no smell whatsoever."
    The point is that the public do not know what is happening and they are frightened. They are looking to Parliament to deal with this matter. The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) was speaking to the House as though there was no problem.

    5.45 pm

    It is a great problem. I have a copy of the early-day motion which I tabled last year along with two of my hon. Friends and other hon. Members. I believe that about 50 to 60 Conservative Members, along with almost the whole of the Labour Party and a few alliance Members, signed the motion. Two hundred and thirty four Members signed the motion calling for

    "an effective ban on the aerial spraying of certain arable crops and additionally of specified products and progress towards the introduction of a more effective means of pesticide application: further urges the Government to adopt such a programme as a matter of urgency."
    Two hundred and thirty four Members expressed concern about aerial spraying. The Minister should recognise the concern of those who signed the early-day motion and ensure that adequate safeguards are provided in the regulations that are to be published in due course.

    Friends of the Earth has produced other information. It appears that in April a farmer sprayed the corner of a Mr. Martin Potter's garden with what the farmer described as a "deadly poison bug killer". That is the statement that was made by a constituent of an hon. Member. I accept that he might have exaggerated what took place, but that is what he said. The fact is that that individual did not know what was happening, and that is what the argument is all about. People do not know what they are being sprayed with because they are given inadequate information.

    A Mrs. Betty Clarke of Birchington near Thanet contacted Friends of the Earth in April. She explained that she and a neighbour had suffered seven days of wheezing, swollen glands and bleary eyes as a result of crop spray. I accept that the cause may not have been crop spray, but it may have been. Many people—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) wishes to intervene, I shall be glad to let him do so. Many people find it difficult to establish what has happened. They see an aeroplane and watch it spraying within the vicinity. Afterwards, they are taken ill and they assume that there is a connection between aerial spraying and their illness. If there is a connection, it is often too late to establish it.

    The parliamentary private secretary' to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland), knows that I have a letter from one of his constituents in which a complaint is made about a spraying incident in his constituency. It is only parliamentary protocol and good manners that prevent me from reading the letter to the House. The hon. Gentleman's constituent states in her letter that she made representations to her Member of Parliament and describes the action that was taken as a result of the representations.

    The public are extremely concerned and they look to Parliament to take action. I have a series of letters—I shall not recite them all — which refer to spraying incidents, and it is clear that Parliament is expected to respond to the public's anxiety. Environmental groups such as the Soil Association and Friends of the Earth want a ban to be imposed on aerial spraying of farmland. They say that continued aerial spraying should be permissible only by a special permit for bracken control and forestry purposes.

    Although aerial spraying involves only about 2 per cent. of British pesticide application, it has led to an extremely large number of pollution incidents. Much of the problem is due to spray drift. Some incidents are due to the failure of pilots to observe adequate precautions.

    In Britain, aerial spraying is controlled by the Civil Aviation Authority under the Department of Transport, so it is distanced from the Ministry and the Department of the Environment. This division of responsibilities may go some way to explaining the problems over the control of aerial spraying in the past.

    During the process of listening to the groups that came to us to refer not only to aerial spraying but to other aspects of pesticide legislation, I was told repeatedly that division of responsibility between the Departments was creating confusion, and my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) commented at length on this in Committee. Division of responsibility has created difficulties in pesticide control.

    The National Society for Clean Air is concerned that the notification procedure that should be followed under CAA control has been widely ignored, and I have referred to cases illustrating that point, Mr. Chairman.

    Having spent so much time on the Standing Committee of the Finance Bill, I have become used to referring to the person in the Chair as Mr. Chairman. I apologise.

    The notification procedure has been widely ignored and, as a result, local residents, schools, beekeepers, hospitals and market gardeners have been unable to take precautionary measures against spray drift.

    Pesticides sprayed from the air include a number that are sufficiently toxic to be covered by the 1972 poisons rules or the Health and Safety Executive's poisonous substances regulations requiring special clothing for operators, such as rubber gauntlets and respirators, as the pesticides have such a high acute toxicity. As the pre-notification system has failed in so many instances, it is possible for incidents to occur in which people are sprayed directly by a poisonous substance. They are not wearing rubber gauntlets, respirators or special clothing. They simply do not know what will happen and they have to put up with the results of this abuse.

    There is considerable feeling both inside and outside Parliament that the Government do not go far enough in controlling the use of aircraft for the release of pesticides. The public needs to be assured that Ministers have the power to regulate or stop the more distressing features of aerial spraying. The Royal Commission on environmental pollution has called for stricter controls on aerial spraying and the British Crop Protection Council has recommended that it be used in only a few cases.

    The amount of spraying could be more effectively controlled if the number of sprays that could be used from the air were reduced. Insecticides applied from the air could be drastically reduced in number because of the increasing success of integrated pest management schemes which utilise only minimal ground application of insecticides in the control of many insect pests.

    Research could also be undertaken into the conservation of spray released into the air. There is a need for more rational consideration of the insect target in relation to droplet size and formulation, a point to which the hon. Member for Luton, North referred and on which we agree. Target behaviour is largely unknown and needs to be studied because of the large payoff in spray effectiveness. There is also an urgent need for a scientific analysis of the behaviour of smaller spray droplets to take advantage of their large potential for reducing pollution and costs and providing an understanding and control of drift.

    As it stands, the Bill does not give the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food new powers over aerial spray. The ambiguity about whether pesticide regulations cover aircraft, the confusion over this Bill, the large number of spraying incidents connected with this type of spray and the widespread concern that the CAA does not exercise sufficient disciplinary control together provide a strong case for clarifying the extent of, and necessity for, aerial spraying.

    I should like to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but it is nearly 6 o'clock and I believe we intend to give the Bill a Third Reading by 7 o'clock.

    I welcome these amendments, which are both interesting and well worth consideration. Amendment No. 34 is a good amendment. We are all anxious to see farming problems controlled without the excessive use of pesticide. I shall speak to amendment No. 33, which concerns aerial spraying. The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) served a useful purpose in promoting this matter for debate. There are grounds for concern, and it is no use saying that there are not. Some people have behaved badly and affected many people in rural areas, villages, hamlets and isolated houses by their lack of respect for whatever code of practice may exist.

    We discussed a similar amendment in Committee and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said that the CAA, which controls the performance of aerial spraying, had established much tighter controls and that the regulations would be made available to the House. I hope that my hon. Friend will follow this up. I recognise the need for aerial spraying most of the time, and particularly in weather like this. Nevertheless, the practice badly lacks some good public relations. All neighbours must be informed before aerial spraying takes place. Spraying should be not less than 100 yd from the outside boundary of the area that is being sprayed. Spray should not go within 200 yd of villages and hamlets, as they do in my constituency. However careful one is, and however still the day, there is always a risk of some spray drift affecting a neighbour's property.

    I welcome these amendments. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary can give some idea of the acreage that is sprayed every year. I reinforce my belief that while we need aerial spraying, there must be a strict code of conduct. People who have not complied with the code of practice are bringing all the aerial spraying industry into disrespect. Therefore, I support the amendments.

    I also support the amendments. It is unnecessary to elaborate the concern rightly expressed by the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) and others. The Bill gives us an opportunity to put down a marker saying that, rather than allow uncontrolled expansion of this practice, we shall change direction. I welcome the fact that the Government have accepted that. However, we need also to make sure that progress in that direction is continued.

    I read the Committee debates on the subject. My view has always been that certain areas such as those quoted by the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) need aerial spraying. The hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) had an exchange about marginal hill land in Wales. I know that in areas of Snowdonia and the Brecons one cannot gain access to the hillside to spray by other methods. However, for reasons that have been clearly advanced we should be moving towards the principle that aerial spraying is the exception rather than the rule.

    Amendment No. 33 is a simple and straightforward amendment to ensure that there is a process of monitoring movement in that direction. It is a well tried and tested device used by the House to make sure that Ministries are responsible to us and report back on the progress that is made. Only if one sets a direction can one, over time, cause production and agricultural machinery and techniques to be adapted to move in that direction. That is why the amendment is important. We do not want the Bill to set a signal that is not followed on by consistent review to ensure that spraying is reduced rather than increased and that the methods and efficiency and accuracy of spraying is improved.

    Did the hon. Gentleman or any of his colleagues in the alliance sign the early-day motion in the name of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) calling for an effective ban on aerial spraying?

    My recollection is that several alliance Members did sign it, because we are seeking to reduce the amount of aerial spraying. Some of them signed it, but not all. I think that the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) was saying that there is great pressure, as exemplified by the signatures on that motion, from within the House and from people who have written to most hon. Members here and in the other place for a move in this direction.

    I am sorry to say it, but it was with great difficulty that I secured the support of some of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends and that some members of the alliance did not support the motion.

    6 pm

    I cannot enter into a discussion of the reluctance or lack of it to sign the motion. All I know is that during discussions at an early stage between at least one of my colleagues, myself and the hon. Member for Workington, there was an agreement to support that move from the beginning. I know that there was full co-operation from one of my hon. Friends, who is not here today, but who liaises with me on a regular basis. Therefore, in that respect there was enthusiasm and co-operation as opposed to reluctance.

    People from different backgrounds and with different jobs will have different views. My hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North, who served on the Committee, is a farmer and has seen the need for and practised aerial spraying on difficult farming terrain. I have not said that spraying should not take place, and my support for the amendment is on the basis that it signals a move to reduce and curtail, except when necessary, aerial spraying for all the reasons that have been advanced.

    It is important that the House should know whether the alliance supports, as is said in the early-day motion:

    "an effective ban on … aerial spraying".
    The impression given by the alliance spokesman in Committee was that, for the reason the hon. Gentleman has put forward, spraying should be available to the hilllands and lowlands of Wales. The hon. Gentleman's answer to that point could be of particular relevance to a certain by-election that is taking place in a few days.

    The answer has no more relevance to the by-election in Brecon and Radnor than to any other part of the country where aerial spraying is carried out. Since 1967 the Liberal party has sought effective controls on spraying, and it has regularly passed motions to that effect at its assemblies. The motion to which there were signatories from the alliance called for effective control of spraying. It did not say there should be no control; rather that such control should be better. There will be exceptions, and those were canvassed in Committee.

    The early-day motion seeks effective control of aerial spraying. That is a view that my hon. Friends unanimously support. It does not mean that aerial spraying should be discontinued if it is impossible to spray by other means. The geography of Britain would make that a ludicrous position, and we have not adopted it.

    The other amendment states that there should be a review so that we can ensure that there is integrated pest management. We have seen failures as a result of contradictory methods of pest management in the past. I do not blame the Department for that, or those who have used those different methods. The amendment requires that we look at the application of pesticides.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) has similar concerns about other amendments. This is a continuing process. We are continuing to improve the mechanism and are learning by experience.

    The only way of ensuring that a Department does what the amendment requests is to make sure that a review is presented to Parliament in the same way as Royal Commissions present their reports through Ministers to Parliament. In that way we can ensure progress along the line that the Bill intends. That will ensure that intention becomes reality.

    I hope that the Minister will reassure us that what is sought by both amendments, supported by Members on both sides of the House, will be responded to positively by the Government. I hope that the Government will report back to the House so that we have the information on which to evaluate the effectiveness of this legislation.

    As the Bill has proceeded through Parliament, a great deal of time has been spent discussing aerial spraying — in the other place, during Second Reading, in Committee and again this evening. On the whole, our discussions have been expressive of the concern that we all feel—that this area of pesticide use should be properly regulated. As a result, I feel that we have made progress in our considerations of this issue and I am grateful to all who have contributed.

    Let me sum up the Government's position. We are very aware of the irritation and, indeed, distress that can be caused by spray drift from aerial applications. We are sensitive to the concerns and fears of those who live in rural areas and who feel themselves to be at risk from what can be, when it occurs, a gross nuisance. However, there is another side to the coin, and we should not forget it.

    The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) made it clear that he is not talking about a ban on aerial spraying, and my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) has put the case for aerial spraying. Many aerial spraying contractors in this country are very aware of their responsibilities to the community and take great care to spray safely. What we have to do, as legislators, is to find a balance—to achieve a situation in which the aerial application of pesticides may continue to be used as an important tool of agriculture and forestry, but without endangering people or the environment.

    In earlier debates I have described the ways in which the CAA's control last autumn has been tightened up in respect of distances from houses and roads and the threat of prosecution if operators do not distribute proper notification that aerial sparying is to take place. In response to points put to me in Committee, I have already asked the Advisory Committee on Pesticides to review the list of chemicals cleared for application from the air, and as a result of the concerns expressed in Committee, we have initiated a review of departmental responsibilities in controlling aerial spraying. We expect that in the autumn, because the results of that review will influence our proposals for implementing regulations later this year.

    I have also explained that we see the controls provided by this legislation complementing those exerted by the CAA. In particular, it will become a criminal offence to spray from the air any chemical that does not appear on the permitted list. I recognise that some may argue that still further controls may be necessary. I respect their point of view, and to them I say that this Bill provides ample powers for Ministers, by regulations, to place any additional controls on aerial spraying that may, from time to time, be considered necessary. Precisely what controls may be necessary will be discussed in detail in our consultations on the regulations, and we will welcome the views and advice of all those with an interest in the aerial application of pesticides. As we shall be returning to Parliament with our draft regulations within the time envisaged by this amendment, I cannot see the need for a specific requirement to report on this in 12 months' time. I therefore ask the House to reject the amendment, which is unnecessary, given that we shall come before the House within the time specified.

    The hon. Lady misunderstands the anxiety on both sides of the House. Regulations will be legalistic. They will reveal the Government's thinking, but not the state of knowledge that has led to that thinking. We would be happier if she could give an undertaking that she will make available the latest results of the CAA investigations into aerial spraying incidents. With respect, it is not sufficient to say that the regulations will take the place of the information and discussion that we want.

    I tried to reassure the hon. Gentleman that the draft regulations, which will come before the House within the time during which he would like a report, will give an indication, being the result of consultations, of the review of departmental responsibilities and of any views expressed to us about the aerial application of pesticides. I was asked for information about the tightening up process of the CAA. I will see that a copy of it is placed in the Library.

    Amendment No. 34 does not take enough account of the work that the Government already support and finance on techniques of pesticide application and integrated pest management. Furthermore, it implies that the Government's other actions—such as this legislation—have nothing to do with our declared policy of reducing pesticide use to the minimum, consistent with efficient food production.

    With the Agriculture and Food Research Council, ADAs has been in the forefront of the development of integrated pest control in the United Kingdom. Programmes based on parasites, predators, selective pesticides and fungal pathogens have been developed to control the major pests of cucumbers and tomatoes, and these techniques are being used on 70 per cent. of cucumbers and 40 per cent. of tomatoes.

    We have also developed a supervised control programme for apples, involving close monitoring of the crop and selective, rather than calendar, spraying. Other integrated control programmes are available for the control of potato cyst menatode, the major pest of potatoes. The PSPS has already cleared a number of biological pesticides and an insect virus. Our work at the Boxworth experimental farm to investigate the effects on the flora and fauna of pesticides used on cereals includes an area of cereals under an integrated control system for evaluation. Currently, we have 31 separate commissions with AFRC for integrated control research.

    In collaboration with the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering, my Department is investigating the design of field sprayers and the control of spray rates, an issue which particularly concerns my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle). Work is going on to identify the physical factors which affect the formation, transport and deposition of spray droplets and to quantify how these factors affect spray deposit and spray drift.

    Information from the analytical and laboratory studies of the design and development of field spraying equipment is made available to engineers for the design of equipment. My Department publishes an annual report on our research and development work which is available from the Stationery Office.

    As I said at the beginning of my reply, the legislation in part III of the Bill is a major part of our strategy to ensure pesticide usage consistent with efficient food production.

    In the light of all the complaints that hon. Members have received——

    I have not read the whole list, but it is clear that innumerable complaints are received daily by Friends of the Earth. In view of that, will the Minister give an undertaking that when the regulations are introduced, she will, in effect, be setting up a regime on aerial spraying of pesticides which will effectively end what is happening now? That would give some assurance to hundreds of thousands of people who live in rural areas of Britain and who are looking to the Minister for reassurances to relieve them of their concerns about the future.

    6.15 pm

    I reiterate that we are concerned about some aerial spraying and that we believe that it should be regulated. I said that the regulations would come before the House in 12 months' time. For that reason, I said, the amendment was not necessary.

    We shall continue to give a high priority to the work that the Government are supporting into alternative and improved methods of pest control. I do not, therefore, see the need for a special report to Parliament on this aspect of pesticide policy, as the whole purpose of the Bill is to support our strategy to ensure pesticide usage consistent with efficient food production. I hope, therefore, that the amendment will be withdrawn.

    I was disappointed with the Parliamentary Secretary's reply. While the House is anxious not to go over ground that was trodden in Committee, there are certain aspects that we must consider. For example, there is the question of regulations as against a report, for which the amendment calls.

    I would describe regulations as legislative icebergs; they are what emerge into the public's gaze, not the totality of what occurs in their production. About five sixths of the consideration that goes into the framing of legislation never becomes known outside the conferences with advisers about which the Minister will know well.

    On subjects of this nature, however, I should have thought that there was every virtue not only in making the regulations known — with their necessarily exact and spare use of English to make them legally enforceable—but for making known to the House, by means of an explanatory memorandum or by some other means, exactly what information impelled the Government to take the course of tabling regulations.

    If the Minister would be prepared to do that, we would be reassured about the Government's intentions. I therefore ask the Parliamentary Secretary to accept amendment No. 34 on an integrated strategy for pest control. I have heard much about what is going on in specific projects, but nothing about an overall strategy, whereas we are asking for such a strategy.

    Unless the Parliamentary Secretary can, by way of regulations in respect of the aerial spraying issue, reassure the public, their anxiety will not go away. The Government may avoid parliamentary bother—in that they will not have to produce an explanatory memorandum and explain why a hundred and one cases are not apposite or borne out by the facts—but in so doing they will be building up anxiety that many people feel about aerial spraying, either through incidents of which they are aware or of which neighbours have told them.

    That anxiety will not disappear if the Government avoid dealing with it now. Thus, when the regulations are being published, I urge the Minister to publish at the same time an explanatory memorandum setting out an analysis of the incidents that have occurred and her conclusions on them.

    Amendment negatived.

    I beg to move amendment No. 35, in page 17, line 38, leave out from 'of' to 'or' in line 41 and insert

    'controlling pesticides in the United Kingdom'.
    During our examination in Committee of clause 15(11) the Opposition expressed concern that its present wording may not enable us to collect the information that we need to determine whether an approval should be reviewed, revoked or suspended. I agreed to consider this and, as a result, have decided that this amendment would be appropriate. Although short, it leaves no doubt that the power to require information may be exercised at all stages of pesticide supply and use controlled by part III, so that Ministers can exercise those controls properly. It therefore ensures that the Minister can have both information to approve and information to revoke or suspend pesticides, as the Opposition requested.

    I welcome the amendment. We are looking at words that effectively limit the provision to controlling pesticides in the United Kingdom. Page 18 of the Bill refers to complying with international obligations. Do we consider at this stage our obligation with respect to the export of pesticides, which may not be governed simply by our international obligations? I know that these are matters of convention. We are making certain provisions with respect to information from manufacturers and users of pesticides in the United Kingdom. Are we referring also to information that will be available when we export pesticides?

    This is one of the underlying issues of the debate. We are ensuring that we do not include within pesticides for export properties that are undesirable, unacceptable or dangerous and which we would not allow to be used here. Will it be possible to deal with that issue in this clause, or will it be dealt with elsewhere?

    We have adequate powers under the 1939 Act to deal with all pesticides for export.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendments made: No. 37, in page 18, line 42, leave out 'or preparation' and insert preparation or organism'.

    No. 38, in page 19, line 1, leave out from 'for' to 'and' in line 5 and insert 'destroying any pest;'.

    No. 39, page 19, line 11, leave out 'or preparation' and insert preparation or organism'.— [Mrs. Fenner.]

    Clause 16

    Fees

    Amendments made: No. 40, in page 19, line 24, leave out from 'pesticide' to 'tests' in line 29 and insert

    'under this Part of this Act, on making his application, to pay a reasonable fee in respect of the administrative expenses of processing his application.
    (2) A Minister may also require an applicant for an approval to pay a further reasonablee fee towards the expenses of carrying out any examinations and.'.

    No. 41, in page 19, line 32, at end insert—

    '(2A) Where either of the Ministers has given an approval, he may require the payment of reasonable fees from time to time—
  • (a) in respect of the collection of information under section 15(11) above and the processing of information supplied under that subsection;
  • (b) in respect of monitoring the effect of the use of pesticides in the United Kingdom,
  • by such persons as he considers appropriate.

    (2B) Fees under this section shall be determined on principles settled by the Ministers with the consent of the Treasury and after consultation with organisations appearing to the Ministers to represent persons who are likely to apply for approvals.'.— [Mrs. Fenner.]

    Clause 17

    Enforcement Powers

    I beg to move amendment No. 59, in page 19, line 37, after 'Ministers', insert 'or a local authority',

    :With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 60, in clause 22, page 25, line 10, at end insert—

    '"local authority" means—
  • (a) in England and Wales, the council of a district or a London borough, the Common Council of the City of London, the Sub-Treasurer of the Inner Temple and the Under Treasurer of the Middle Temple; and
  • (b) in Scotland, and islands or district council;'.
  • This amendment has been tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells), for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) and myself. It relates to the enforcement by local authorities of the powers that are provided for in clause 17. As drafted, the Bill provides:

    "Either of the Ministers may authorise any person … to enforce this Part of this Act".
    The other place has debated how much power this provision gives the Government to delegate to for example, local authorities so that they can undertake the enforcement role. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to reconsider the practical reasons for specifying that officers of local authorities should be given this job. I hope that she will take in good part the good reasons why my colleagues and I believe that they should be given this job.

    There is a strong case for environmental health officers—each local authority has several of these—taking on the role of enforcement in relation to pesticides. I should like to put out of the way the suggestion that this could be done by trading standards officers. That red herring came up at an earlier stage of the debate, and I want to dispose of it. Trading standards officers are the people who go around Sainsburys to ascertain whether the weight of the cheese is specified correctly. I am concerned about those officers who are more ready to put on their wellington boots and tread out into the mire to deal with matters away from their offices and urban areas.

    Environmental health officers are specifically well equipped to do this job. Indeed, they are necessary if the Parliamentary Secretary is serious about wanting to enforce this legislation. There are between 4,000 and 6,000 environmental health officers in Britain. The Minister said in Committee that this compares with only about 160 inspectors in the Government's agricultural safety inspectorate. The original memorandum to the Bill said that, because of increased work on pesticides, another 18 staff at the Health and Safety Inspectorate and 16 at the Ministry would be required. The Minister said that about 14 of the 18 extra HSE staff would be additional agricultural inspectors. I do not believe that 14 or 18 extra staff will make much difference. Compare a possible 4,000, 5,000 or 6,000 people having the power to do this job with the 160 staff presently in post, to which would be added a mere 14 or 18 extra staff. I would opt for giving these powers specifically to the army of environmental health officers, numbering thousands rather than tens.

    I do not know the number of people in the pesticides branch of MAFF, but I believe that officials at Whitehall place—the Parliamentary Secretary's headquarters—are not likely to be dealing with enforcement on the ground. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary accepts that they will be dealing with the monitoring of information and the efficacy of the regulations. A pathetic number of people employed by the Ministry will be doing the enforcing. The Government have already accepted that they are setting a great task. They have conceded that the number of inspectors is relevant. The fact that they are increasing the staff by 14 clearly shows that they have conceded that it is important to have more inspectors. It follows that 4,000 will be more effective than 14.

    If there are doubts—I share those doubts, although I would be delighted to be proved wrong—about the political will of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to enforce this legislation effectively, I would prefer the power of enforcement to be dispersed to others. One would not then be entirely reliant on the political will of the Parliamentary Secretary's Department, with all the pressures placed on her from other Departments. We have had debates about giving the Ministry an environmental over-duty. This idea was strongly resisted in debates on the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) to amend the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The Government said that they were not willing to take it on because all Departments had a responsibility to look after wildlife, the countryside and the environment and that it would be wrong to allow one Department to be the lead Department. It would be much better to allow all local authorities to have the same responsibility. I trust that there would be greater effectiveness of enforcement in that case than if only one Department were involved.

    To have the Minister decide the priorities of enforcement is clearly not as good—this is no criticism of the Parliamentary Secretary—as having a wide range of local authorities deciding enforcement priorities, given their personnel and resources. Different local authorities in different parts of Britain will have different priorities in terms of the enforcement of pesticide legislation. It depends on the farming, the nature of the terrain and all sorts of things. Therefore, it could be seen, by comparing one with the other, which were the most successful authorities, and the Ministry would have benefit of that experience.

    6.30 pm

    There is also the argument, which my hon. Friend and I always advance, that we believe in strengthening local authorities as against Government Departments. It is an important principle of democratic control that one gives the power to enforce legislation to the people nearest to the ground. That argument for decentralisation applies in this case even though one is depending upon the information coming from research, whether it is the Ministry's research or independent research carried out in the universities.

    Many local authorities are keen to have these powers of enforcement. They know their areas. Many officers live and are brought up in the areas. The best information comes directly from the area. People are more likely to go to the local environmental health officer, the local town hall or the county hall than they are to write to Whitehall, so that the Whitehall machinery would seldom be called upon to deal with these issues.

    As a complementary point, environmental health officers in local authorities are likely to be, as they should be, more responsive to local pressure and concerns because they are in the front line. It would seem illogical for people who go to them on what is clearly an environmental health matter to be told, "I am sorry, we are not the front line agency for dealing with this."

    Whatever the case, it is true that the Ministry is more suited to deal with major proble