Agricultural Holdings

Oral Answers to Questions — Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9 December 1996.

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Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 12:00, 9 December 1996

To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, what is the current acreage of the agricultural portfolio administered by the Church Commissioners. [6530]

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

At 31 December 1995, the latest date for which figures are available, the Church Commissioners' agricultural portfolio comprised 137,185 acres.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

That is an awful lot of acres, and I am sure that my constituency would fit easily into that area. What is the attitude of the commissioners towards fox hunting on their land? The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of St. Luke and the five sparrows sold in the market for two farthings— not one of them is forgotten before God". What does God think about the fox that is hunted to death? Ecclesiastes states: a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. Given the fact that the Bible is quite clear that the destruction of animal life is anathema to the Lord, will the right hon. Gentleman—who obviously has the only hotline to God in this place—tell the commissioners to stop hunting on their land, otherwise their souls will be damned?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

The hon. Gentleman should reflect that, nowadays, we also have the urban fox. My advice is that he should get hold of a red coat, a nice black top hat, a handy and reliable donkey, a pack of old mongrel hounds and a nice ouzo stirrup cup and sound the tally-ho in Newham, North-West in pursuit of the urban fox, and stop worrying about the shire foxes.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) does not know the difference between a fox and a badger? Is he also aware that there are many fine examples of hunters in the Bible? Will he recite the legend of St. Hubert to the hon. Gentleman? Will he ensure that the Church of England remains—at the very least—neutral on this subject?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I can assure my hon. Friend about the last point. Fox hunting has a great many proponents and a great many opponents, and the balance has to be properly struck. That is why we leave decisions on fox hunting entirely to our tenants and do not attempt to overrule their preferences. I am glad to know of the affection of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West for cats, as I understand that he is doing his best to preserve the lives of cats in the Greek islands. I very much hope that he is successful in that worthy, commendable and almost divine enterprise.