Thank you for contacting me about the protection of pollinating species and the Environment Bill.
Pollinators are an essential part of our environment and play a crucial role in food production through pollination. To reverse the sharp decline in the population of pollinating species I am pleased the government is implementing a new National Pollinator Strategy. The strategy sets out clear measures that ministers are taking to restore our bee population and other pollinators in England.
An amendment to the Environment Bill related to the use of pesticides was brought forward in the House of Lords. I would like to assure you that decisions on pesticide authorisation are already based on expert assessment by the Health and Safety Executive. As well as this, the independent UK Expert Committee on Pesticides also advises on novel scientific issues. In addition, current legislation also requires that active substances and pesticide products have “no unacceptable effects on the environment … having particular regard to its impact on non-target species”, which can include impacts on bees and other pollinators.
The scientific risk assessment of these products relies on detailed data requirements and processes, and the Government ensures that these are updated to keep in step with developments in scientific understanding. Risk assessments are made for active substances and these assessments establish the key risks posed by pesticide substances. I have been assured by my ministerial colleagues that they will continue making decisions on pesticides use based on these scientific risk assessments, and in line with the revised National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides which is due to be published at the end of this year.
It is good news that DEFRA are taking meaningful steps, beyond pesticide control, to protect pollinating species. These include, creating habitats for bees, and other wild and managed pollinators to thrive; acting on the pressures that impact on pollinators, including by supporting Integrated Pest Management; providing advice and raising awareness to all of us so that we can take action ourselves; and supporting new monitoring and research. Further, the Healthy Bees Plan 2030 sets out additional action to improve honeybee health, alongside beekeeping associations and other interested parties.
It is also deeply encouraging that the UK is moving to an ambitious new agricultural system which will reward farmers and land managers for the work they do to look after and enhance our environment. This new settlement will incentivise actions that support Integrated Pest Management, as well as those that conserve and enhance habitats for bees and other pollinators. To monitor and sustain our progress in this area, the Government has introduced a national pollinator monitoring scheme with trend estimates published annually, along with advice and guidance to landowners and the public through the Bees’ Needs campaign.
Because of this raft of newer measures, and the protections covered in current legislation, I do not believe the Lords Amendment is necessary.
Thank you again for contacting me.