asked the Minister of Agriculture what salaries and travelling expenses were paid to pests officers in the county of Dorset; what salaries were paid to the operatives; and what has been the income of this department during the years 1952 and 1953.
Salaries and travelling expenses paid to pests officers in Dorset amounted to £3,215 in 1952–53 and £2,866 in 1953–54. In these years wages paid to operatives amounted to £3,067 and £2,528. The income of the pests department in the two years was £6,738 and about £6,000.
In the interests of economy and to make the pests department pay, will my hon. Friend consider reducing the number of pests officers to one? To have three pests officers to supervise eight rodent officers, or rat catchers, seems very much like overloading.
My hon. Friend is not, perhaps, quite clear on the functions of the pests officers. They have an advisory function of advising farmers in Dorset generally about the destruction of pests, as well as overseeing the operatives. It may be that there are a large number of pests in Dorset, but, in any event, this number of officers is needed.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary give an estimate of the value of the services rendered by these people and the advantages obtained from what they do?
They are responsible for the destruction of pests generally—rabbits, mice, and so on—on farms and they perform a valuable function in preventing the destruction of a great deal of food.
Are all pests officers rat catchers, or all rat catchers pests officers?
The pests officers are, so to speak, in the advisory strata. It is the operatives who are actually involved in the catching.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the efficiency of the pests officers in Dorset has in no way been in question?