§ 31. Mr. Crouch
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the total number of employees in pest departments of county agricultural executive committees on 1st January, 1954, and 1st May, 1955.
The dates nearest to those mentioned in the Question on which precise returns were made were 1st April, 1954, and 1st April, 1955, when the totals were 753 and 674 respectively.
§ Mr. Crouch
Is the reduction in the number of pest officers due to the fact that, owing to myxomatosis, there are not so many rabbits to be killed as there used to be?
It is due to a number of causes. We are anxious to ensure that there is no avoidable overlapping or duplication of work, and have tried to keep the staff down to the minimum. However, the work is being done, and, I am very glad to say, it is in general on a self-supporting basis.
Mr. T. Williams
Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that in the final analysis the reduction in the number of pest officers will be good for the country? Is not the rat population far too large? Are we to take it from the Minister's reply that the Government have lost sight of the effects of the millions of rats which exist?
No, Sir; very much the reverse. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that for that reason it would be very false economy to cut down the staff. We have, however, endeavoured to make the very best use of the manpower available.
Mr. Philips Price
Are there not also other serious pests which require attention—[interruption.]—I mean four-legged pests, and not human pests? I refer particularly to the grey squirrel.