I am very pleased that this important issue was debated in Parliament earlier this month, albeit on ‘Backbench business’ which was not be voted upon.
Whilst on this occasion due to a packed diary of other commitments, I was unable to attend the latest debate (Like most MPs as well as attending debates on the floor of the House I also have numerous committee duties and long-booked diary meetings)
On the substantive issue, I am in total agreement of the need to protect the bee population.
I appreciate the concerns that have been expressed about declining bee numbers and the impact this could have on food production, the economy and our countryside.
As I am sure you are aware, the EU Commission announced in April 2013 that it would restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to crops that are not attractive to bees and other pollinators for two years after the European Food Safety Authority concluded that three commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides posed an unacceptable danger to bees.
During the last Parliament, the Coalition Government opposed the European ban on neonicotinoids but the decision to enforce the ban was taken by the Commission after a qualified majority could not be reached amongst member states.
I support the European-wide ban on neonicotinoid use because I believe it is a proportionate response to the evidence on the contribution of the three neonicotinoid pesticides to pollinator decline.
However the current Government has approved an application by the National Farmers Union (NFU) for the ban on neonicotinoids to be lifted this autumn to allow these chemicals to be sprayed on rapeseed in order to help prevent crop damage.
I believe the Government should have rejected the calls from the NFU to lift the ban to allow for the effect to be properly analysed. It is important to take a science-led approach to the use of pesticides and to consider how best to support farmers, to protect wildlife and reverse the decline of pollinators.
I also believe that the Coalition Government's 10-year national pollinator strategy for bees and other pollinators, which was published in November 2014, did not go far enough. It does not, for example, tackle habitat destruction, damaging farming practices, bad planning decisions and neonicotinoid use, which are the primary causes of pollinator decline.
I hope the Government will listen to the concerns that have been raised about this issue and I will continue to fight for the protection of our natural environment.