HC Deb 05 May 2004 vol 420 cc1497-8W
Mr. Rosindell

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action the Government are taking to control the rat population. [169892]

Mr. Bradshaw

The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 puts the responsibility for the enforcement and monitoring of rodent control with local authorities. Water companies, like other owners and occupiers of land, have a duty of carrying out the necessary control measures when ordered to do so by local authorities.

Should local authorities fail to discharge their responsibilities under the 1949 Act, Defra has certain default powers to initiate action, and has oversight of the water companies who undertake control of infestations in sewers and water supplies. The Department of Health is responsible for advising on the health aspects of infestations. Our Departments liaise closely to ensure co-ordinated Government action is taken as necessary.

The Government take this matter seriously. Defra, along with the Department of Health, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Local Government Association (representing the local authorities), Water UK (representing the water companies), Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and Central Science Laboratory, participate in the National Working Group on Rats in Sewers. The aim of the group is the development of an ongoing co-ordinated rodent control strategy.

Defra is also undertaking a research and development programme, to develop or encourage the development of cost-effective, humane and environmentally acceptable methods of managing rat populations. This is due to be completed in March 2007. The Department also monitors the level of commensal rodent presence through the English House Condition Surveys, undertaken by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. This is the only large-scale random survey of commensal rodent presence.

A rat control technical advice leaflet and a range of others on similar topics are available from the mammal and bird licensing and advice pages of the Defra website (these are located at: www.defra.gov.uk/wildlifecountryside/vertebrates) and from Defra's National Wildlife Management Team.

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