A number of local residents have contacted me expressing their concerns about neonicotinoid insecticides and bees.
I recognise that bees and other pollinators are important for our food supply and natural environment. Over the last few years the Government has worked to understand and protect them, most recently through the National Pollinator Strategy. More information about this can be found at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-pollinator-strategy-for-bees-and-other-pollinators-in-england
There are rules providing for the use of normally restricted products to be authorised in emergency situations to protect crops. If emergency authorisation is granted, this does not mean that the ban has been lifted: the facility to allow strictly controlled, targeted uses of pesticides under an emergency authorisation is an essential feature of precautionary bans.
These decisions are taken based on recommendations from the Expert Committee on Pesticides, the independent body of scientists that advises the Government. It takes all environmental factors into account, including the effects of using greater quantities of less effective alternative pesticides.
In 2016, there were two separate sets of applications to use neonicotinoids on part of the country's oilseed rape crop but, in each case, the Committee advised that the applications did not give sufficient assurances that the uses would be limited to those areas most in danger, nor that they would be controlled appropriately. Accordingly, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) followed the advice of the Committee and declined these applications.
I have written to the former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt Hon. Elizabeth Truss MP, multiple times about this matter on behalf of local residents. I have also recently received a response from the new Secretary of State to my most recent letter, in which she has assured me that, whilst Defra is focused on implementing the decision to leave the EU, there will be no immediate change to their position on neonicotinoid insecticides.
While we remain in the EU, the UK will continue to meet its obligations under EU law, including restrictions on neonicotinoids.
As part of the preparation for exiting the EU, Ministers are considering future arrangements for pesticides. Their highest priority will continue to be the protection of people and the environment and, taking the advice of the independent Expert Committee on Pesticides, they will base these decisions on a careful scientific assessment of the risks.
I am pleased that restrictions on neonicotinoids will not be removed if the evidence shows that they should remain.