|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Jane Kennedy): The amendments presuppose that hunting is banned in England but remains legal in Scotland. Amendment No. 76 would allow a hunt that began in Scotland to continue in England without an offence being committed. Amendment No. 77 defines when hunting would begin and end.
I am aware that the Scottish Parliament is considering a Bill on hunting with dogs. The hon. Members for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) and for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) speculated on what it might permit and on its fate. I do not want to predict the outcome of the Scottish Parliament's deliberations. The future of hunting with dogs in Scotland should be left to the Scottish Parliament to decide.
The amendments would allow a hunt that began in Scotland to continue into England without breaching the law that bans hunting with dogs in England and Wales. That cannot be right. The Bill's provisions extend to all of England and all of Wales. There is no reason why a person, because he commenced an activity in another country--in this case, Scotland--should be exempted from the intention of the House to ban hunting in England and Wales.
If we took such a course, we should be creating a tremendous loophole which hunts in the border areas would be quick to exploit. They would ensure that they began their hunting on the Scottish side of the border, and would be able to hunt in England with impunity. Hunts that have hunt kennels located near to the border, such as those in the constituencies of the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson), will be required to carry out their activities in Scotland, if Scottish legislation permits, in such a way to ensure that they do not inadvertently cross the border and hunt in England.
I am sorry to disappoint Opposition Members, but I cannot accept their arguments. The situation is far from unprecedented. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) said--the hon. Member for Aylesbury referred to the matter in his opening comments--that already there is a different legal regime operating in respect of animals on different sides of the border. There is legislation prohibiting the use of dogs to take and kill deer in any circumstances in Scotland, but we know that the activity is still legal in England and Wales.
Opposition Members argue that that is not a relevant example. However, that is a matter of opinion. I believe that it is a pertinent example. The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed talked about gamekeepers chasing
It has been suggested that if hunting were legal on one side of the England-Scotland border but illegal on the other, there would be problems for the police as they tried to enforce the law. The members of the Committee and Members who have read the Official Report of our proceedings--I am sure that many have done so, but those who have not should read especially the proceedings of the final day, which I think they will find entertaining--will know that cross-border policing was referred to in Committee, under what is now clause 4, which relates to the extent of the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department explained in a letter that he sent to members of the Committee that cross-border policing is dealt with in part X of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. That Act provides that the English police may execute warrants issued in England in Scotland, and vice versa. The Act also gives English police powers of arrest in Scotland in respect of offences committed in England provided that certain conditions are met--and, again, vice versa.
These powers apply to all relevant offences, and hunting with dogs will not be treated any differently. The police will be able to use the powers across the border irrespective of whether the conduct in question would constitute an offence had it occurred on that side of the border. There will be no problems for the police if different regimes apply on the two sides of the English-Scottish border.
Mr. Hogg: Let us take a Scots hunt that is hunting foxes. It crosses the border and the huntsman is aware that he has crossed the border. The hounds are chasing foxes in England. However, the huntsman wants to recall the hounds and take them back to Scotland. At what point does the huntsman cease to be a person hunting?
Jane Kennedy: I have already said that it is the responsibility of those undertaking hunting to ensure that their conduct does not become an offence. I do not think that that is difficult for the House to understand. I reiterate that there will be no problem for the police if different regimes apply on the two sides of the English-Scottish border.
The amendments have no basis in logic and would simply create a large loophole. If it is the will of the Westminster Parliament that an activity should not be permissible in England and Wales, that must be so. The fact that the activity began in another jurisdiction should not cut across this Parliament's wishes.
Jane Kennedy: The amendments were tabled by Members who oppose the decision that the House took to support the third option. In my opinion, they are intended simply to provide a loophole that would allow individuals to continue foxhunting with hounds by beginning in Scotland and bringing the hunt into England. We should not accept an amendment that would cut across the wishes of this Parliament and I invite the hon. Member for Aylesbury to withdraw it.
Mr. Lidington: I am disappointed by the Minister's response. I should have understood it if she had said that amendment No. 76 gave too wide an exemption to the general prohibition defined in paragraphs 1 to 3 of the schedule. I do not understand, however, why she is not prepared to accept amendment No. 77, which provides a more limited and tightly defined exception, or willing to offer an alternative Government amendment if she believes ours to be technically defective.
I find it depressing that the Minister did not even pretend to address the range of detailed and practical issues raised by my right hon. and hon. Friends and by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). We received no answer to the issue of how people were expected to take decisions that the Minister expects them to take in order to keep within the law if they had no idea where the border lay. We received no answer to the intervention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) about the point at which someone would cease to be a participant in the hunt and became in law a person who was seeking to recall the hunt in order to comply with the law.
There were no answers to questions about the position of a landowner who gives permission to a Scottish hunt to hunt across his Scottish territories or about what he would have to do to ensure that he was protected if, deliberately or inadvertently, the hunt crossed to his properties on the English side of the border.
I had hoped to be able to seek leave to withdraw the amendments. I remain prepared to withdraw amendment No. 76, if I may press for a Division on the more tightly defined amendment No. 77, which would defeat the Minister's argument that passing the amendment would blow a massive hole in the principle of the Bill.