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Apr 23rd, 2013

Bees: Meeting with Environment Minister, Owen Paterson

By Robin Priestley

On Friday over fifty 38 Degrees members from North Shropshire held a meeting with their MP, the environment minister Owen Paterson, about the pesticides being blamed for killing our bees.

The meeting was so popular that there was standing room only to hear Owen argue his corner on why he has so far refused to back a call to stop using these pesticides.

Scientists and governments across europe are blaming certain pesticides, called neonicotinoids, for the declining number of bees and next week there is a big european vote, on whether to stop using these pesticides.  So far over 200,000 38 Degrees members have signed the  petition demanding that he takes action to protect our bees, but Owen is digging his heels in and refusing to take action.

38 Degrees member Suzanne had arranged the meeting with Owen and handed over a copy of our petition so far, along with a statement she had written.  Questions for Owen then came in thick and fast from the audience.

Bee keepers, gardeners and concerned local voters pointed out reason upon reason why he should reconsider his position and support the vote to stop these pesticides.  We pointed out that even his fellow MPs in the Environment Audit Committee are saying he must end his department’s “extraordinary complacency”.

For an hour we talked through our concerns with the minister, and although he kept repeating that the bees are very important to him, he seemed to refuse to change his mind.

However, the fight to change the minister’s mind is not yet over.  Later this week we’re planning on handing in our petition to the Department for the environment along with a mock up ‘mountain of evidence’ and then we’ll be joining a host of other organisations for a ‘march of the bee-keepers’ on Friday before the vote.

If you’ve not already signed it, you can sign the petition to protect our bees here.


Here are some comments from 38 Degrees members who were at the meeting:

“During the meeting it became clear that he had set his mind on a policy and it was not open to discussion. At no point did he say that he would refer anything to his scientific advisors, however persuasive an argument was.”

38 Degrees member – Stephen

My thoughts following the meeting are that I am disappointed in Owen Paterson as a Minister. He seems to see his role as the mouthpiece for the Chief Scientist.  I would have thought that as an intelligent man voted into government that he would have the capacity to critically analyse not only what the Chief Scientist is telling him but the additional   information available from the European Commission, Universities and the Environmental Audit Committee  and using some common sense,  come to his own decision about the right path to be following at the moment.

38 Degrees member – Claire


Members of 38 Degrees were treated to an hour of monotonous repetition of just 3 points from Mr. Paterson, regardless of well researched, detailed questioning from his constituents.  He was unwilling (unable?) to engage with any of the statements of evidence put forward and displayed a worrying confusion between ‘opinion’ and ‘evidence’.  Those present were in no way impressed with the Minister’s performance; quite the opposite.  He has subsequently been described by many as ‘arrogant’ and ‘aggressive’ in his manner. His refusal to listen and discuss perhaps explains his current isolated position in Europe and, increasingly, at home.

38 Degrees member – Barbara



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