§ Mr. Colvin
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what enforcement action has been taken by her officials in accordance with their powers under the Pests Act 1954 to ensure that occupiers of land remove rabbits from it;
(2) what action she is taking to meet the statutory obligations under the Pests Act 1954 to control the number of rabbits on land used for rail and road transport; and if she will make a statement.
§ Mr. Soames
Section 1 of the Pests Act 1954 places a continuing obligation on occupiers of land designated as rabbit clearance areas to control rabbits harboured on their land. The current Rabbit Clearance Order, issued in 1972, covers the whole of England and Wales excluding the City of London, the Isles of Scilly and Skokholm island. This obligation is irrespective of the use being made of the occupier's land.
Where occupiers are failing to meet their obligations under the 1954 Act, the Agriculture Ministers have the power, under section 98 of the Agriculture Act 1947, to require action to be taken. These powers are discretionary and MAFF generally seeks to gain compliance with the legislation without resorting to the use of its legal powers. Nevertheless, these powers remain available and are invoked where necessary. MAFF is aware of the damage that rabbits can cause and keeps its policy on rabbit control under continual review.