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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mike O'Brien): The hon. Gentleman has repeatedly said that there is some sort of moral wrong in criminalising an activity and not paying compensation to those who would break the law as a result of continuing that activity. We regularly criminalise certain activities. The House has criminalised all sorts of things, from burglary to whatever. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that, in all cases when we change the law, we ought to compensate those who carry on an activity that was not previously criminal? I do not seek to equate hunting with burglary; I am saying something quite different. [Interruption.] I am trying to be brief, so I do not want to deal with that matter further. The House regularly makes criminal certain things that were previously legal--whether handguns or whatever--and in those circumstances, we do not always pay compensation.

Mr. Öpik: The Minister has talked himself into a hole. He used burglary as his first example. Of course, we would not compensate individuals if their right to burgle

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houses were taken away. However, what kind of a comparison was that? Burglary was never legal; it certainly has not been in my lifetime. It is not sensible to compare burglary with foxhunting, which is manifestly legal and, more to the point, regarded as a legitimate activity by a large proportion of people.

The Minister needs to think hard about the logic of his argument. I have not a shadow of a doubt that the individuals in my constituency who go hunting foxes with dogs genuinely do not think that they are committing a moral wrong. In fact, I would go further: they do not understand why that civil liberty is being taken away. For that reason, the case for compensation in this example is very much more like the case for compensation when fur farms were closed down and when handguns were taken away. Those examples relate much more closely to the character of this debate than does any comparison with burglary.

Mr. O'Brien: The hon. Gentleman is right to say that I used the wrong example. Burglary has always been illegal. However, badger baiting has not always been illegal. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that we should have compensated badger baiters? Dog fighting has been banned. Is he suggesting that we should have compensated those who participated in that? Handguns were banned. Is he suggesting that everyone involved with them should have been compensated? What is he suggesting as a general moral principle? He is ducking the issue by picking up on the particular point I made when I compared foxhunting to burglary. I accept that that was probably a bad example, but will he now deal with the much sounder points that I have just made?

Mr. Öpik: I accept the Minister's point about the comparison with burglary, so let us move on from that. He has given three much more interesting examples that serve merely to highlight the case for compensation.

The Minister asked about badger baiting. Badger baiting was never a form of pest control, and I do not think that anyone ever pretended that it was. It was a form of entertainment through the torture of animals. The Minister has sat through the lengthy debates in the House and in Committee, so he knows that at least a proportion of the people who control foxes with dogs do not regard it as anything less than a legitimate form of pest control. Even if he wants to claim that some people go foxhunting purely for sport, I hope that he will at least accept that a proportion of them believe that the Government's proposals will outlaw a legitimate form of pest control.

The Minister cannot question the fact that some people will lose their jobs, and that that is not their fault. Those people will not understand why, in relation to compensation, the hon. Gentleman seeks to compare the abolition of badger baiting with a ban on the hunting of foxes with dogs as a means of pest control.

Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes): Does my hon. Friend accept that many of us who want hunting to be banned and who see compensation as a separate issue are not yet convinced by the Minister's response? Frankly, I feel slightly uncomfortable about his intervention.

When fur farming was banned, members of the public who were involved in a legitimate activity--an activity that many of us thought was reprehensible for animal

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welfare reasons--were compensated when their right to engage in it was taken away and, as I understand it, they have gone abroad and used the money to set up farms in Denmark. I fail to understand the difference between fur farming, which was reprehensible and legal, and foxhunting, which I also regard as reprehensible and legal. What is the difference?

Mr. Öpik: My hon. Friend takes a very different view from me on the question of a ban on foxhunting, but he highlights a fundamental point. We should not be divided on the issue of justice.

The Minister's second example was dog fighting. Again, that was never a form of pest control. It was a barbaric form of entertainment based on the torture of animals and it had no legitimate justification in terms of the wider interest. Furthermore, although I do not want to put words in the mouth of Lord Burns, I am fairly confident that had he been commissioned to study bear baiting and dog fighting, his report would have provided an unarguable case in favour of a ban without compensation. Of course we would not pay compensation in those circumstances and those examples are inappropriate.

The Minister's third example is, however, appropriate. The banning of handguns removed the ability to participate in a legal activity that the Government regarded as dangerous. I did not agree with them, but the ban warranted compensation. The Minister was wrong to say that none was paid, because an enormous amount was provided. To the hon. Gentleman's credit, he is nodding in agreement, but he cited the banning of handguns as an example of where we should not pay compensation. His acknowledgement makes the opposite case.

Mr. Hogg: The hon. Gentleman refers to handguns, and the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) referred to fur farmers, as did I. The banning of self-loading rifles in the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 is another example because compensation was paid to those people who lost their large-magazine self-loading rifles.

Mr. Öpik: I am sure that we could give many other examples, and there is a common theme to those that have been cited. When we have banned an activity--either on moral grounds or because it is in the public interest to do so--as long as we have genuinely believed that the individuals who will lose their livelihoods or incur costs have not acted in an overtly reprehensible manner that affected the quality of our society, we have paid compensation.

Perhaps Labour Members do not want to pay compensation because they believe that people who hunt with dogs are so barbaric and reprehensible that they do not deserve to have that right. I remind the House of the precedents: handguns, fur farming and self-loading rifles. We all have different opinions about the morality of using such items or being involved in such activities, but I like to think that we are united in agreeing that we need to treat people fairly. People who hunt with dogs will not understand the logic of compensating for the closure of fur farms and not compensating for the closure of an entire industry. Thousands of jobs are at stake and, in some areas, the ban may have a serious effect on predator activity.

Mr. David Heath: I hope that my hon. Friend will not pursue to great length the activity of hunting but will

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concentrate instead on the people whose jobs depend on it. Many kennel maids and hunt staff are among the lowest-paid people in the industry. Clearly they should be compensated if hunting is banned. It is reprehensible that the Bill does not recognise that group of people and their rights.

Mr. Öpik: I was coming to that issue--although as my hon. Friend has raised it, I shall not dwell on it for too long. People who are directly involved in the industry--perhaps looking after kennels or dogs--may not have strong views about hunting with dogs. Hon. Members on both sides of the House might be able to strike up a friendship with them and come to respect them. They might understand that they have a great love of animals and the countryside. Were Labour Members and others who oppose compensation to meet them, they would discover that they are ordinary folk who are having their livelihoods removed without receiving compensation. It is simply not just to do that to individuals. That may not be high parliamentary language, but the problem is simple: we are about to punish people for a decision which we are making and in which they have played no part. Normally we compensate people when we do that.

5.30 pm

I am concerned that some Members who support the ban are unwilling to accept the simple and powerful objective that lies behind amendments Nos. 36 and 40. It is almost as if they think that it is a sign of weakness to compensate individuals who are losing their livelihood and that it is dangerous to associate the case for compensation with a ban on hunting with dogs. Some comments suggest that the distinction has been blurred. Taking away the right to hunt with dogs is one thing, but not compensating individuals who have been involved in that activity in good spirit and good faith, and as morally as they can, is another.

I believe that amendment No 36 raises a materially different issue from that which arises from new clause 1. I would be grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you would allow a separate vote on amendment No 36, so that we might make a clear statement on where the House stands on the case for compensation for those who lose out in the ways that I have described.

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