HC Deb 04 July 1974 vol 876 cc589-90
18. Mr. Pattie

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is aware of the shortfall in recruitment to the Central Veterinary Laboratory at Weybridge; and what steps he proposes to take to improve this situation.

Mr. Bishop

Yes, Sir. Arrangements are in hand for competitions to fill vacancies in the veterinary research and scientific grades at the laboratory.

Pay is an important factor in recruitment; the pay of the research officers and supporting scientific staff at the laboratory is being increased with effect from 7th November 1973, following the recently announced increases for Civil Service scientists.

Mr. Pattie

Is not the Minister aware that in the answer to my Written Question on 24th May it was stated that there were eight vacancies at the laboratory, whereas the laboratory had previously told his Ministry that there were 13, plus a further four senior post vacancies, making 17 in all? Does he not agree that that represents a serious cover-up within his Ministry?

Mr. Bishop

I deny that there is any cover-up. I think that the present position is that there is a shortfall of veterinary research staff of 13. After the recent discussions on the pay and conditions of Government scientists, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Civil Service Department made a statement to the House. I think that the hon. Gentleman's anxiety may be justified to some extent, but my hon. Friend is urgently pursuing the matter.

Mr. Charles Morrison

Is the Minister aware that we are falling behind in the amount of research that we can do on poultry disease compared with other countries? Will he make available more resources for research? Does the Minister agree that the shortage of vets at Weybridge is tied up with the fact that the State Veterinary Service as a whole is undermanned? Will he press his right hon. Friend in the same way as I pressed my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), the predecessor of the present Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to do something about the matter very quickly?

Mr. Bishop

I have shared the hon. Member's anxiety, as have many other hon. Members. On top of the new pay proposals which have been announced by the Minister of State, Civil Service Department, the Civil Service Commission is planning a competition in the coming months for recruitment to the veterinary research staff. In the light of improvement in the pay and conditions of the staff, I think that we can look forward to some improvement in recruitment as a whole.