§ 26. Mr. Darling
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in view of the dangers to health and of flooding and the possible spreading of Weil's disease as a result of rats moving along uncovered water courses in urban areas, whether he will provide adequate assistance under the Land Drainage Act to urban local authorities which undertake to cover or culvert such streams and open drains.
I am always prepared to consider schemes for the control of flooding, but in so doing I can only take into account for grant-aid the cost of works required for that purpose.
§ Mr. Darling
Will the Minister bear in mind that in many cases where the danger of flooding is acute there is also this new menace of rat infestation? The situation in some urban areas is serious 21 on both grounds, flooding and rat infestation. If a strong case could be made on the ground that rats are coming up the water courses, would that be taken into consideration?
Probably the hon. Member has a particular case in mind. Rat infestation is not a new menace. Rats have been with us for a long time. It may well be that a pied piper would be the most appropriate remedy. None the less, we try various measures, and we have been known to culvert water courses where this is cheaper than constructing low retaining walls. Where the problem is purely a sewerage problem, it is not the responsibility of my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Darling
Would the Minister agree that in certain parts of eastern England and the Midlands, in particular, the number of rats is rapidly increasing?