HC Deb 09 February 1971 vol 811 cc263-4
9. Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are his proposals to ensure that the rabbit population does not increase.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

I propose to leave it almost entirely to farmers and other occupiers of land to take the appropriate steps, in their own self-interest, to keep their rabbits under proper control as the law requires.

Mr. Godman Irvine

Is my hon. Friend aware that that policy was adopted during the period when there were very heavy losses from an enormous rabbit population and that the rabbit clearance societies enabled the less responsible farmers to have their land as well as common land cleared of rabbits? What is the Minister going to do about it?

Mr. Stodart

Grants will continue for the clearing of scrubland. My Department will be responsible for common and derelict land where responsible persons are unknown. I believe that it is right that an animal which can cause an immense amount of damage to a farmer's growing crops should be tackled by the farmer who will suffer the loss if he does not do so.

Mr. Mackie

The policy being put forward by the hon. Gentleman failed in the past and its failure was the reason for the rabbit clearance societies. It having failed in the past, may I ask why the hon. Gentleman thinks that it should succeed in future?

Mr. Stodart

I do not think that spending £500,000 of public money doing something which farmers ought to do for themselves is justified.