The Retained EU Law Bill is currently at committee stage in the House of Lords. At committee stage, Peers have the opportunity to submit and debate amendments and discuss the Bill line by line. The widespread concern around the impacts of the Bill remains, across all sectors and civil society. 

There were three amendments tabled that dealt with pesticides, and these amendments alongside the debate has highlighted the importance of pesticide regulations as part of the wider body of environmental law that is threatened by the Retained EU Law Bill. 

Baroness Young of Old Scone’s amendment

Amendment 22 was tabled by Baroness Young – this amendment excludes the legislation governing pesticides from the sunset date in Clause 1. 

Speaking in the debate, Baroness Young said:

“I have tabled this amendment for three reasons. The first is to illustrate how important pesticides are. This is an area where protections are vital, and the Bill jeopardises those. Again, the pesticide issue is just one example of many that other noble Lords have given of the recklessness of the Bill, with its commitment, in my view, to feeding the out-of-control European Research Group, swivel-eyed end of the Conservative Party, irrespective of the impact on the public and environmental safety and to the exclusion of all other drivers. Secondly, pesticides are only one example out of the 1,781 pieces of legislation that Defra has to review before December. Thirdly, I want to touch briefly on how fundamentally rotten the Bill is, with its power grab in favour of the Executive and against Parliament and the interests of the people of this country.

Let me dwell briefly on the pesticides issue. Over the 10-year period from 2000, big strides were made, often significantly led by the UK in Europe, which brought into European law a suite of pesticides legislation that protected human health and biodiversity from harmful exposures to pesticides and ensured that horticultural and agricultural practices reduced their impact on people, animals and biodiversity.”

She also highlighted the long delay to the publication of the National Action Plan on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides (NAP): “This is also the Defra that in 2018 promised an action plan on pesticides. Five years to 2023 does not sound like a lot of action to me. We are still waiting for that action plan.” 

Other amendments

Amendment 37 was tabled by Baroness Hayman, Lord Krebs, Baroness Bakewell and Baroness Bennett, and it asked for key environmental protections to be exempted.

Baroness Hayman spoke about pesticides as an example: 

“Some of the regulations included in my long list are concerned with topics that may not automatically be perceived as environmental—perhaps the regulation of pesticides would come into this—but they are nevertheless critical for the environment, as well as for the health of workers and the wider public.” 

“My Amendment 37 would ensure that the important laws it lists do not accidentally fall at the end of this year. Let us look at some examples. First, let us look at pesticides. If existing regulations fall away at the end of the year, that could mean the reversal of all existing bans on specific pesticides. The Minister may well say that this is just not going to happen, but since we have left the EU the UK has failed to establish a transparent or robust regulatory body that can deal with pesticide approvals, as was previously done at EU level. I can see no clear plans for what will replace the EU system. If this leads to decisions being placed solely in the hands of a government Minister, we will have even weaker protections from pesticide-related harms.”

Amendment 38 was tabled by Baroness Bennett, Lord Rooker and Lord Krebs, which focused on food safety and pesticide residues. 

Speaking to the amendment, Baroness Bennett said: 

“We now increasingly understand that pesticides are having impacts in causing antimicrobial resistance. That is something that the Minister may not yet quite grasp, but it is a really important technical area. We are also starting to understand what the impact of microplastics in our water and soils might be on human health, to pick up on the point that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, made: we are not just talking about looking after the environment. We are talking about looking after what we actually live in.

I am not sure that even the Benches around me really grasp that our economy and our lives are entirely dependent on the environment. In the UK, we are using our share of the resources of three planets every year—and we have only one planet.”