asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources what is the total personnel employed by his Department; to what extent this total represents a net increase in Government employees; and to what extent the number of those employed by his Department has been offset by corresponding reductions in other Departments.
All my staff are stationed in London. About half are wholly or mainly engaged on work transferred with them. They were all previously stationed in London. I should add that arrangements are being made to transfer some 130 of the staff of the Forestry Commission from London to Basingstoke.
Is the Minister aware that I am in favour of the last part of his answer? In many of his replies the right hon. Gentleman has said that he does not want more duplication, but has he seriously asked himself whether his own Department itself is not duplicating the work of other Departments? If he is satisfied that it is not, will he at least make certain that his staff is kept to the minimum and that some of its members are moved outside the London conurbation?
I am happy to have partsatisfied the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps I can completely satisfy him by saying that it is my intention to avoid any unnecessary duplication.
Can the Minister confirm that the part of his Answer that satisfied my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby)—that relating to the transfer of Forestry Commission staff—is simply an implementation of a decision taken by the previous Government? As to his own Department, is it not up to the right hon. Gentleman, as the Minister responsible for land use, to set an example by decentralising from London as much as possible of the work of his Department?
My Department will, as far as possible, follow a policy of dispersal. As to the earlier point made by the right hon. Gentleman, I can only say that, in so far as his Government were correct, I have endeavoured to follow their precedent.
They are not all required for the Land Commission; some are needed for other work. One of the additional functions we have taken on is that of preparing for the Land Commission and when it has been set up there will continue to be responsibility for it in my Department.
I should have thought that the extremely modest proportions that I have just revealed in my Answer would give the hon. Gentleman the sort of reassurance that he needed.
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether it is the intention of his Department to survey our common lands, region by region, as some of these are getting into very dubious and troublesome conditions owing to lack of attention by the authorities?
In view of the work done by the Commission that made such a long inquiry into common lands and made such a comprehensive Report, this does not seem necessary now. As regards detailed surveys of land use, of course, which will have to be made because none exists at present, common lands will be taken in those particular studies, but in view of all the information on commons we certainly had not thought it necessary at present.
I am not aware that the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question arises from my Answer, but the Minister will discharge his responsibility in connection with glebeland and applications to dispose of glebeland. It is a statutory provision that is transferred to us as the Ministry dealing with landholdings.