§ Mr. Clive Bossom
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will summarise the factors he is taking into account when considering whether or not to reintroduce the bonus system on grey squirrels' tails; and what other methods he is considering for the stricter control of this pest, in view of the recent increase in their number.
Fluctuations in the population of this pest are caused mainly by variations in the food supplies and weather. The recent increase in numbers in some areas was mainly due to the good seed year of 1960 and the open winter of 1960–61. It is expected that the relatively poor seed year of 1961 will reduce the numbers that survive the coming winter. There is no evidence that a bonus could reduce the total numbers decisively or permanently.
We are satisfied that the best method is to concentrate on destroying squirrels in the places where they cause damage. I am glad to note that the Timber Growers' Organisation are launching next year a campaign against the grey squirrel, including a survey to identify the areas in which damage is serious. The Forestry Commission are cooperating with the Organisation, for example by holding trapping demonstrations and by building up stocks of traps for sale to landowners needing them.