HC Deb 22 November 1948 vol 458 cc864-5
51. Mr. Anthony Greenwood

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will inquire into the extent to which foxes are preserved for purposes of hunting; the acreage devoted to artificial coverts for the harbouring of pests; and the practice of constructing artificial earths.

Mr. G. Brown

No, Sir. I have no reason to believe that foxes are preserved to any appreciable extent. Moreover, an inquiry of such a wide range and uncertain character would involve considerable expenditure of time and the results would almost certainly be inconclusive. Without strong evidence to the contrary, I am not satisfied that there is sufficient justification for diverting the pests staffs of C.A.E.Cs. from their normal duties for such a purpose.

Mr. Greenwood

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Masters of Foxhounds Association and other foxhunting interests admit that foxes are preserved for purposes of sport? Is he further aware that leading poultry experts have alleged in poultry newspapers that British housewives are being robbed of millions of eggs because of this practice? Will the Government therefore take a courageous stand to deal with this fox-hunting fifth column on the food front?

Mr. Brown

There may be a good deal to be said for taking a courageous stand, but one has to be careful where one takes the courageous stand. I am not at all aware of the second allegation which my hon. Friend has made, but I would remind him that county executive committees have power under Section 98 of the 1947 Agriculture Act to require the destruction of foxes and there is no evidence that they are not in fact using that power.

Mr. Paget

Is the Minister aware that foxes kill a very great number of rats and rabbits which do far more than equivalent harm?

Mr. Greenwood

Is my hon. Friend aware also that, whatever happens in Northampton, large numbers of poultry have recently been destroyed in my constituency by foxes? Will the Minister therefore try to purge the agricultural executive committees of foxhunting interests?