HC Deb 22 June 1950 vol 476 cc1469-70
46. Mr. Bossom

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that rabbits are becoming a serious pest and destroying the new young crops in Kent this year; and what steps he is taking to prevent this damage.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)

Yes, Sir. The county agricultural executive committee are doing all they can to assist farmers in dealing with the problem, but there has been an unprecedented demand for subsidised gassing powder and there is now a general shortage of supplies. Production of this powder is being increased and arrangements have been made for another type of gassing powder to be made available where the need is greatest. A supply has been allocated to the Kent committee for use by farmers who are willing to buy it.

Mr. Bossom

While thanking the Minister for his courtesy in sending me a personal letter on this point, may I ask whether he will ask the Minister of Food not to import so many rabbits next year, thereby doing away with the livelihood of men who trapped rabbits in the past?

Mr. Williams

That hardly arises out of the Question.

Mr. Nicholson

Is the Minister aware that this has come about largely because his colleague has allowed the export of a large quantity of gassing powder to Australia? Will he do something about it?

Mr. Williams

Exports are not taking place at this moment, although there is a strong demand for it abroad.

Mr. Fernyhough

Does the Minister not think that one of the best ways of overcoming this problem would be to ease the penalties for poaching?

Mr. Walter Fletcher

Has the Minister contemplated improving the social conscience of the rabbits by nationalising them?

Mr. Turton

Can the Minister explain why his Department did not look ahead and make sufficient gassing powder available?

Mr. Williams

The hon. Member must know that my Department has been calling upon manufacturers to produce as much as they possibly can and that they have not failed to respond.