From the chamber: Sian Berry - I’ll say it: don’t spray it Camden

Sian Berry is calling for a ban on chemical pesticides in Camden.

Sian Berry is calling for a ban on chemical pesticides in Camden. - Credit: Archant

With Labour rejecting a cross-party environmental motion for the second time, I want to know why Camden Council won’t commit to stop using toxic pesticides around our parks and homes.

Twice now, Camden’s Labour cabinet member for the environment has written to reject proposals in cross-party Lib Dem and Green motions (backed also by the Conservatives) to stop the use of the toxic weedkiller Round-Up on Camden’s streets and footpaths, and on hard areas in our parks and housing estates.

This is where small children play on the tarmac and paths. Families without their own gardens, who have no choice but to use Camden’s communal gardens and green spaces, are very concerned about the risks of this chemical.

At both council meetings where our motion was tabled, the agenda was talked out before councillors had time to debate and vote. If we had debated this issue, I would have said that not being willing to sign up to a sensible cross-party request like this is bafflingly lame, as well as reckless with public health, especially as so many residents have contacted the council about this and signed the petition set up by Kirsten de Keyser.

I would have pointed out that Camden now sits in stark contrast to Hammersmith and Fulham Council, whose contractors are already doing without glyphosate. Other Labour-run councils from Lambeth and Hackney to Croydon to Bristol have happily signed up to commit to end council spraying of this chemical, and I was recently in Lewes, supporting the re-election of Green councillors in an area where a largely Conservative district council also adopted the same policy two years ago and now uses herbicide-free hot foam technology.

In the light of Labour’s actions, and the likelihood of sprays starting imminently as spring marches on, I have written to cabinet member Cllr Adam Harrison this week with more information.

His motion responses mention “evidence-based decision-making” so I have drawn his attention to a report published by three groups of European Parliament members, including the group in which Labour MEPs sit, showing that a substantial proportion of the German government’s submission to the decision on renewing glyphosate’s licence to be used in the EU was found to have been copied and pasted from documents provided by Monsanto, the giant chemical corporation that produces and markets Round-Up.

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I have also asked for a firm commitment from him to warn residents of glyphosate spraying dates in their areas, with notices on lampposts, park and estate noticeboards giving dates and times, so that residents and their children can avoid times when the chemicals are most concentrated. Not to give these warnings would force people to put themselves and their families at risk without knowing and without a fair choice.

When their colleagues in Europe get it, when their colleagues on other councils get it, Camden Labour’s decision looks, in my opinion, to be a grave dereliction of duty, and the least it can do is warn people of the consequences of that decision.