HL Deb 14 March 1977 vol 380 cc1438-9WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many staff are at present employed in the Agricultural Censuses and Surveys Branch; what was the comparable figure in 1964; what is the present annual cost to public funds; down to what size of holdings are its inquiries directed; and what useful purpose does it serve.


Seventy-nine staff are currently employed in the Agricultural Censuses and Surveys Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The comparable figure in 1964 was 85. The present annual cost to public funds of the Branch is estimated to be £474,692. In addition to salaries, this figure includes HMSO and Post Office charges as well as charges for accommodation, common services and general overheads.

Agricultural holdings are included in the censuses if they meet any of the following criteria:—

  1. (a) the holding has at least four hectares of crops and grass; or
  2. (b) the holding has an annual labour requirement of at least 40 standard man-days; or
  3. (c) there is a regular whole-time worker employed on the holding.

The purpose of the agricultural censuses and associated sample inquiries is to ascertain the level of cropping and stocking on the national farm and the labour and machinery employed on it. This is necessary to provide a factual basis for policy decisions. The information is also of value to merchants and processors of all kinds, but especially to farmers themselves. Without the censuses, agricultural output could not be accurately assessed and short-term forecasts would be little more than guesses.