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Volume 526: debated on Thursday 15 April 1954

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Pests Officers, Dorset


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.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries
(Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)

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?

Myxomatosis (Statements)


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will issue a weekly statement on the spread of myxomatosis among rabbits from now until the autumn.

My right hon. Friend will certainly report from time to time on the spread of the disease into new areas. Weekly statements do not seem justified at present. If later the rate of spread of the disease increases, I shall be willing to consider it.

Can my hon. Friend tell us the areas in which the disease has appeared to date and give an assurance that the Advisory Committee, which has produced such a good report, will continue to watch very closely the extent and character of the outbreaks and, in due course, make another public report, so that everybody may know the position?

Yes, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. The Myxomatosis Committee is a standing committee. It will continue to watch the development of the disease and my right hon. Friend and I will be able to give the House reports on how it spreads in the course of the next month or two. There are now 17 established centres of infection, five of which have been confirmed in the past month.

So that we may all understand this interesting discourse, will the Parliamentary Secretary say what myxomatosis is?

Myxomatosis is a very unpleasant disease caught by rabbits, and recently broke out in this country. It came over here last autumn.