HC Deb 23 March 1961 vol 637 cc553-4
9. Mr. A. Roberts

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the cost to his Department of maintaining rabbit clearance areas; and what is the approximate amount by which the agricultural industry benefits from such action.

Mr. Vane

The Department's grants to rabbit clearance societies will amount to about £150,000 in this financial year. It is not possible to assess the benefit to agriculture from their operations.

Mr. Roberts

Is the Minister aware that it was alleged that the denuding of the countryside of rabbits would result in a saving of £1 million to the agricultural industry? If that is assumed to be the case, where has this saving reflected itself? Is it in the wages of the agricultural worker, or in his working conditions?

Mr. Vane

There is little doubt—and anybody who knows the countryside well will bear me out in this—that the rabbit caused a very great deal of damage. No one wants to see it return. The disappearance of the rabbit has been reflected in greatly increased agricultural production in this country.

Mr. de Freitas

Will the hon. Gentleman take this opportunity of giving some credit to the agricultural co-operative organisations, which were entirely responsible far this clearance scheme?

Mr. Vane

I would not have thought that any one person or type of organisation could claim to be responsible for the disappearance of the rabbit from this country. Some of us have heard of myxomatosis, which has done nearly as much as the rabbit clearance societies, but all who have taken part in this valuable work deserve great credit.

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