My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will state the names and occupations of the Advisory Committee on Poisonous Substances used in Agriculture and Food Storage, and what steps the Committee takes to ensure that toxic crop sprays cleared under the Notification Scheme destroy only insects which are prejudicial to crops.]
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD (EARL WALDEGRAVE)
My Lords, with permission, I will circulate the names of the members of the Committee in the OFFICIAL REPORT. This is an Interdepartmental Committee consisting of 429 Civil Service administrators and scientists. It is assisted by a Scientific Sub-Committee. My right honourable friend is at present considering the appointment of an independent chairman. As announced by my honourable friend in another place on 20th November, it has been decided to widen the membership of the Committee by including eminent scientists outside the Government service in the fields of agriculture, medicine, chemistry and nature conservancy. The following have accepted invitations to serve on the Committee:
Professor J. H. Gaddum, Director of the Institute of Animal Physiology, Cambridge, late Professor of Materia Medica, Edinburgh University;
Professor Andrew Wilson, Professor of Pharmacology, Liverpool University;
Dr. J. Hamence, Public Analyst and Agricultural Analyst;
Mr. F. H. Garner, Principal of the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester;
Professor A. R. Clapham, Professor of Botany, Sheffield University.
In answer to the second part of the Question, it is not possible to ensure in all cases that only harmful insects are destroyed by chemical sprays. The Advisory Committee, however, makes recommendations on such matters as the timing of application, so that beneficial insects are affected as little as possible.
§ Following are the names of the members of the Advisory Committee:
§ Dr. H. R. Barnell, M.A., Ph.D., B.Sc., M.I.Biol., (Scientific Adviser, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food);
§ Mr. M. Compton (Food Standards and Hygiene Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food);
§ Mr. W. C. Moore, C.B.E., M.A. (Plant Pathology Laboratory, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food);
§ Mr. R. J. E. Taylor (Labour, Machinery and Seeds Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food);
§ Mr. A. L. Burgess (Board of Trade);
§ Dr. J. M. Ross, M.D., D.P.H. (Ministry of Health);
§ Mr. R. F. Tyas (Ministry of Health);
§ Mr. W. G. Alexander, C.B.E. (Agricultural Research Council);
§ Mr. C. O. Harvey. B.Sc., A.R.C.S.. F.R.I.C. Laboratory of the Government Chemist, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research);
§ Dr. J. M. Faulkner, M.B., D.P.H. (Medical Research Council);
§ Mr. R. E. Boote, B.Sc. (Econ.) (The Nature Conservancy);430
§ Dr. J. M. Johnston, C.B.E., M.D. F.R.C.S. (Ed.), F.R.C.P. (Ed.), F.R.S.E. (Department of Health for Scotland);
§ Mr. A. MacLehose (Department of Health for Scotland);
§ Mr. R. C. Tucker (Department of Agriculture for Scotland).
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that Answer. Can he say when this Committee will begin its deliberations? As regards the second part of my Question, are we to take it that no assurance can be given that these toxic sprays will not destroy only the things they are supposed to destroy but will destroy other things as well, meaning that all-obliterating sprays will go on? Will the noble Earl not do something to prevent that from happening?
My Lords, I should like to assure the noble Viscount that this Committee and its scientific sub-committee have been in existence for a long time; it is not a question of when it will start its deliberations. But as I was trying to explain, the Committee is being widened and its membership being added to. As to the second part of the Question, it is impossible, from the nature of the case, to ensure that insects which it is not desired to kill do not get killed, but one of the main purposes of this Committee is to give advice to manufacturers, farmers and others using these sprays as to how these risks can be minimised.
§ LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
My Lords, will the Committee give attention also to the many other sources from which the human body may be affected by toxic chemicals of a similar character, or of a character which reinforces the effects of the chemicals in these sprays?
§ LORD AILWYN
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that widespread concern persists at the continued use of these toxic chemicals in agriculture, not only among the general public and the animal welfare societies but also among biologists, who are apprehensive of the ultimate effect on the fauna and flora of the countryside and the consequent risk of upsetting generally the balance of nature?
My Lords, perhaps I may first answer the noble Lord sitting behind me. Of course we 431 are aware of the dangers of these chemicals, but we must keep a sense of proportion. It is not possible to play entirely for"Safety first." The purpose of my right honourable friend in setting up this powerful Committee is that these risks should be minimised. I do not think we can take the line that because agricultural chemicals have potential dangers they must all be banned, lock, stock and barrel.
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that there are quite a number of enlightened agriculturists who have no recourse to these sprays at all?