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Mr. Beith: There is not much difference between the right hon. and learned Gentleman and me on this issue. We are talking of the freedom not only of Scotsmen,

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but that of any person--Scots or English--who chooses to exercise his right to behave lawfully on the Scottish side of the border. It would be lawful for an Englishman living in England to offer to do some rabbit clearance for someone on the Scottish side of the border.

Mr. Hogg: The right hon. Gentleman is right. We are creating a trap for our fellow citizens, but it is not one without cure. We could remedy the matter by accepting an amendment along the lines of those proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington).

Mr. Grieve: I am aware that the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) will know more about such matters than me, but my recollection--from staying with friends who live close to the border--is that several farms straddle the border. The gamekeeper would thus be both a Scottish and an English gamekeeper.

Mr. Hogg: Absolutely. My hon. Friend is quite right.

I should like to make a final point about fox sanctuaries. If foxes can be lawfully hunted one side of the border, but not on the other, they will congregate in England. That will not be terribly popular with English farmers close to the border, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) will tell us. In fact, the farmers will then shoot foxes with a will, and there will be a butchery of foxes, which is not manifestly in the interests of the fox population.

The Minister has got herself into a pickle, but she has no possible excuse for that. She should accept the amendment; if she does not, she should table another one, and if she does not say that she will do so, we will vote against her.

9.15 pm

Mr. Peter Atkinson: This is a wonderfully esoteric issue. Amendments Nos. 76 and 77 address a problem that has existed for many hundreds of years, although the dispute over the border between England and Scotland has entailed a lot bloody history and loss of life over many years and I do not think that even the amendments could end that tide of history.

If I had known that my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) was related to the Douglases, I would not have been so kind to him during my time in Parliament. My mother's side of the family is descended from another border family with whom the Douglases were in something of a state of enmity. They were an interesting family because they lived on both sides of the border and made a steady living during the middle ages by joining the Scots when they raided and pillaged England, and joining the English when they raided Scotland. They did very well until the forebears of the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) hanged them all at a place called Kershopefoot just after 1620.

The serious matter is that, as the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) has said, the border is simply not defined. It is extremely difficult to know where the border lies amid the moorlands and forests that cross it. Indeed, the borderline has never been fixed. There is an approximate line on a map, but that is it. A fence, which still more or less exists, was put up before the war to define landowning interests, but in practice the border is not defined. In fact, a large chunk of the border was

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historically known as the debatable land, because it was never agreed. It was only after the union of the Crowns that an attempt was made to define the border exactly.

The old border law of hot trod allows people on one side of the border to pursue a criminal on the other side. It is only, I think, in the past five years that the problem of Scottish police officers operating in England and English police officers operating in Scotland has been solved. I understand that a Scottish police officer called to help the Northumbrian police in Berwick-upon-Tweed had no right as a constable until only a few years ago, when that legal anomaly was put right. There is a vast amount of historical confusion about the location of the border.

There are predominantly two hunts in my constituency. The Border Foxhounds, which I mentioned in an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington), has defined country on both sides of the border, so it regularly hunts across it. Other hunts will cross the border during their daily activities. It would be absolutely nonsensical if it were only legal to take a fox on the Scottish side when a pack of hounds hunting near the border split, as sometimes happens: if another fox appears, one half of the pack may go after that fox while the other half goes after the original fox. No huntsman wants his or her pack to split, but it happens from time to time. In such cases, it is not the intention but the inevitable consequence to hunt on both sides of the border.

As I understand it, the proposals of the Scottish Parliament represent a move to a compromise and the licensing of hunts. The Border Foxhounds and other hunts would no doubt be licensed to perform their duties on the Scottish side of the border, but not on the English side. Where landholdings cross the border, that would make fox control extremely difficult.

Incidentally, the Border Foxhounds hunts over the Otterburn military training range, which runs up to the border. The tenant farmers on the range have allowed the hunt to be their method of fox control. All the tenant farmers have a duty to control the foxes on their land and, as they have far better things to do than spend their time trying to hunt foxes, they leave the job to the Border Foxhounds, which is thoroughly efficient at controlling foxes in that area. We have debated the lamping of foxes, but one could not do that on the Otterburn training range. The Army runs night exercises there and people crawling round with high-powered lamps and rifles would not be conducive to the safety of the soldiers taking part in those exercises. The current proposals will create difficulties for the hunts that operate on the border.

Although I am not a lawyer, I am surrounded by lawyers and that gives me some comfort. The Bill does not appear to resolve the question of intent. One may start to hunt on the Scottish side of the border and have no intention of hunting on the English side, but it is quite easy to cross the border without intending to do so.

The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed also asked what would happen if the hounds were kennelled on the English side of the border, but were allowed to hunt only on the Scottish side. If they crossed the border during a hunt, would the fact that the kennels were on the English side where hunting was outlawed have an effect on the issue of intent? That is an interesting point.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot mentioned the importance of hunting as a social activity in the borders. It is an extremely remote part of the United Kingdom and people in the borders often live many miles from the nearest supermarket or entertainment facilities that are normally found in cities. The hunts play a key role in the social life of the countryside. They run dances and their social activities are well patronised by many people even if they do not hunt themselves. Any attack on hunting will constitute an attack on an important part of social life in those areas.

The whole Bill is illiberal and disgraceful. If we are to make some sense of the nonsense in the Bill, I urge the Government to accept amendments Nos. 76 and 77.

Mr. Grieve: I am familiar with the area in question from my cousins who live in those parts. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) has touched on the issue that I wish to discuss, which relates to our responsibility for the Scots and their activities. I think that the issue goes a little further than has been suggested so far, and merits some consideration.

In the proceedings on the Scotland Act 1998, the point was frequently made that, although that measure altered the Act of Union by introducing a devolved Parliament in Edinburgh, the Act of Union and the intentions that underlay it survived in respect of those issues that were not touched by the 1998 Act. I clearly recollect from my study of history that one of the primary benefits that sold the Act of Union was the removal of the border as an impediment to movement. It may not have impeded reivers such as my ancestors in Roxburghshire--and we have heard something about those activities--because they were unlawful visitors. However, the miracle of the union of the two Crowns in the early 17th century was that an area that had been lawless was rendered lawful in a short time, and started to prosper agriculturally. The point has often been made that, although two different legal systems operate on either side of the border, the border has become one area for the purposes of inter-marriage and the movement of people across it. Indeed, the border is unmarked in most places and is, in practical terms, completely irrelevant.

It is right that we have a Scottish Parliament that passes laws for its part of the United Kingdom, but it has not passed any laws to ban foxhunting, which remains a lawful activity there. From my visits to Edinburgh as Conservative spokesman for Scotland, it is clear to me that Lord Watson's Bill may never reach the statute book, so hunting may never be banned in Scotland.

Although we respect--as the Government say they do--the intent behind the creation of the United Kingdom through the conjunction of the two realms, it is astonishing that we should decide in legislation involving England, which we are entitled to make, that no exception will be made for people in Scotland who unintentionally and inevitably cross the border while going about their lawful business. The Minister will probably say that nothing can be done about that, but it is a matter that is simple to address. In the context of the Government's stated policy on devolution and the preservation of the Union, it is bizarre that they cannot create an exception that enables traditional pursuits to take place in Scotland, even if they lap over the border. That would not cause frightful difficulties.

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I hope that the Minister will surprise us all and announce that the Government are prepared to think about this issue. Their approach illustrates the petty-mindedness that has underlain everything to do with the Bill's passage through Parliament. The bigotry that has been exhibited has been woeful. I hope that we can achieve some common sense. It is possible to get this wretched Bill on the statute book and, at the same time, to provide a reasonable and common-sense exemption for traditional activities north of the border that respects the fact that the border is no more than a line on a map. That would not take us closer to putting up barbed-wire fences.

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