§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is aware of the difficulties facing the rabbit clearance societies at the present time; and what measures have been decided upon to assist them in their work.
§ Mr. Peart
Yes. The early rapid growth of the rabbit clearance society movement has inevitably slowed down, and because of myxomatosis and their own success in controlling rabbits some societies in whose areas rabbits are now a minor problem have difficulty in maintaining their membership. The rabbit remains potentially the most serious agricultural pest, however, and there is a danger that if societies relax their efforts the rabbit population may return to pre-myxomatosis levels as the disease loses its virulence. In order, therefore, to enable societies to attract and retain members and so improve their financial stability, the Secretary of State for Scotland, who proposes to take the same action, and I have decided to allow work done by societies to destroy moles on their members' land to rank for the standard 50 per cent. grant. For their part societies will be expected to work to acceptable standards of efficiency and it is hoped that some of the smaller ones will be encouraged to amalgamate with their neighbours so as to form larger units capable of more effective deployment of staff.