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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 August, 2005, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Bee hive inspector cuts sting MP
Bee pollinating flower   1999 Eyewire, Inc
Bees are battling two diseases which threaten British hives
A North Yorkshire MP has branded government plans to cut the number of bee hive inspectors as "risky".

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Phil Willis claims cutting the number of seasonal inspectors could lead to an increase in diseases which affect bees.

The inspectors, who work for the National Bee Unit (NBU) near York, help contain outbreaks of European Foul Brood disease and mite infestations.

Twenty-seven MPs have signed a motion calling for a review of the proposals.

Bee facts
The value of bees to the UK economy is estimated at 120m.
Varroasis is caused by an Asian parasitic mite of honeybees.
European Foul Brood is a bacterial disease of honeybees.
There are more than 30,000 beekeepers in the UK.

The cuts were announced in October when Chancellor Gordon Brown revealed civil service budgets cuts.

It means the NBU will have its funding cut from 1.25m to 1m within the next three years.

Mr Willis said: "There is far too great a risk to our bee population to be considering cutting 225,000 from the programme.

"At a time when notifiable diseases such as European foul brood and varroasis are on the increase we should be investing in more bee inspectors.

"As a fraction of government spending, 225,00 is very small but could make the world of difference for the nation's 30,000 beekeepers."

The Forum of Private Business (FPB), which represents small businesses, said the government has "got a bee in its bonnet" about cutting costs.

Population risk

Nick Goulding, chief executive of the FPB, said: "We have always argued that good regulation can have positive effects.

"Beekeepers are small businesses that need help because of their vital contribution to our agricultural industry.

"If the government is serious about wanting to trim regulation and red tape we would be happy to provide ministers with a hit list that will help small businesses and at the same time maintain a large population of busy honey bees working for all of us."

Tim Lovett, vice chairman of the British Beekeeper's Association, said: "In a nutshell, if we loose this service, we put at risk the whole bee population in the United Kingdom."

In a statement DEFRA said: "We recognise concerns about Defra's proposed deregulation of European Foul Brood (EFB) disease from 2008.

"However, these plans are contingent upon the success of the 'shook swarm' technique that the National Bee Unit is currently trialling.

"The technique appears to be a promising method of control of EFB, but, we need to collect and evaluate further data from these trials during the next two seasons, before we can make a judgement whether or not the evidence provides a basis for deregulation."

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