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Earl Ferrers: He is still there? My goodness! Anyhow he said that the principal reason for this is public morality. Who is Mr Morley, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture--and I apologise for having misdirected myself--to dictate what our morals should be? Why should the Government consider that this particular facet of our lives--mink farming--should be considered immoral but it is perfectly moral for them to lower the age of homosexual consent and to promote homosexuality? Are all farmers in the European Union--mink farmers and fur farmers--immoral? What about the skin farmers in Canada? Are they all immoral too?
The principal reason for the introduction of this Bill, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, pointed out at Second Reading, is that when Mr Morley was in Opposition, he received assistance via the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which is not a charity, which gave the Government £1 million. Presumably this is the payback. I understand that the Government will receive another £1 million from that organisation. Is that for services rendered or for more services about to be received and other facets of policy to be purchased? The whole principle behind this clause is, if I might say so, total hypocrisy.
I shall say this in the most charming way that I can. The noble Baroness knows that all the Members of her party in the House of Commons hate the House of Lords, but they all queue up to come here. And when they come here, what is the first thing they do? They put on robes covered with ermine. Some people say it is not ermine now; it is rabbit. But it is not a myxomatosis rabbit; it is a farmed rabbit. So what is the difference? Why are they prepared to say all that is wrong and yet they are quite happy themselves to wear it? Will it make any difference to the mink? The answer to that is no, because the United Kingdom only produces 1 per cent of the European fur trade. Of course, the additional reason for saying that this Bill is brought forward on moral grounds is because, had the Government brought it forward on animal welfare grounds, they would have contravened European Union legislation. They did not want to do that so they have brought it forward on moral grounds. I think that it is wrong and totally unacceptable for the Government to pontificate on morals--what should be considered to be morally correct and what should be considered as morally wrong.
Lord Hylton: I regret that I was unable to be present for the Second Reading of this Bill. In the past the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and I have had many tussles when he was occupying various ministerial offices. But today I am extremely happy to support him in criticising the Bill, and in particular Clause 1. It seems to me to be political correctness gone completely mad.
There has been a great deal of argument about whether or not it was cruel to trap wild animals for their furs in Northern Canada, or wherever else that may happen. Now, by extension, we get a Bill that prohibits fur farming in this country.
I should have thought the criteria should have been whether or not there is good husbandry of the animal, as in the case of any other animals that are farmed. If the husbandry is good, there will be no cruelty. If the husbandry is bad, it is very likely that there will be cruelty. I wish the Government had not chosen to overload the legislative process with this rather unnecessary Bill.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: I want to comment on what has been said by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. He has challenged the Government's right to act on morality as such. Whenever that is done in respect of a current problem, there is always an argument, and there is an argument on which there are two sides. I think the general principle is quite clear: where there are abuses in the structure of society and they are widely recognised as such, the Government have a right to act.
The Government had a right to act in banning bear baiting. They had a right to act in the abolition of the slave trade. That put out of business many extremely inoffensive people who had been in that trade for a long time and it took away their money. The Government are right to legislate about prostitution. In this case the Government are not quite clear about what they want to do. And the Government are absolutely right, of course, to tackle the problem of hereditary Peers, which has been a crying scandal ever since my two grandfathers fought against it in the 1906 Parliament, and Mr Campbell-Bannerman before that.
There is no question that the Government have the right to act on questions of morality in the public sphere where there is a widespread knowledge of abuse. I believe that the argument of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, does not stand up.
An additional point which was not made is that it is not necessary to eat meat for human survival, as I am sure the noble Lord will agree. It is much more agreeable to eat meat than to be a vegetarian but people can perfectly well survive without it. Therefore, we are not talking about necessities; we are talking, in a sense, about luxuries in both cases.
The Earl of Shrewsbury: I would like to support my noble friend Lord Ferrers because I find this a pretty obnoxious Bill. I find it very difficult indeed to understand how fur farming can be judged by the Government to be morally unacceptable when they are quite happy to allow Halal killing. Halal killing is done for just a small number of cattle and sheep and it is the most appalling way of killing animals. That to my mind is totally morally unacceptable. I wonder whether the Government will move to ban that next. I hope that they will.
Lord Hardy of Wath: Perhaps I may ask the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, a question. He has put a very powerful argument, one which is natural from that side of the House, but do we take it that a Conservative government, should they be elected, will introduce a measure to restore fur farming to the United Kingdom, which clearly they would seem to find acceptable?
Lord Kimball: Will the Minister answer a further question in winding up, one which arises from the speech at Second Reading by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu? We all know it is absolutely wrong to take cash for Questions. Why is it wrong now to have money for policies? There is no difference, surely? If it is wrong to take cash for Questions, why is it right to take money for policies?
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I find the suggestion that governments should not make moral decisions on behalf of the people they govern quite incredible. After all, that is what political parties' manifestos are about. They set out the kinds of moral stance which they intend to take on particular issues and the public decide whether or not they agree with those issues. Political parties at the moment are tussling with the moral issue as to whether cannabis ought to be legalised, and I do not believe anybody has any final wisdom on that issue. However, each party--and certainly the Conservative Party when it was in power--made moral judgments on all kinds of things, from housing provision and who should be eligible for housing through to whether cigarettes could be sold to minors. I do not think the argument that governments should not make moral decisions carries any weight at all.
Baroness Hayman: I am grateful to the noble Baroness, and in a light-hearted moment, which are few and far between, I was tempted to suggest to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that I would stop talking about public morality in this respect if the Opposition would stop talking about it in terms of Section 28, the age of gay consent and many other issues in respect of which we seem to have spent an awful lot of time because we thought it was appropriate for politicians, and indeed governments, to join in the debate.
We are dealing here with an issue which is not susceptible of an absolute definition. There are judgments to be made. I feel I have shown a little more respect for the different views taken by Opposition Members than they have taken for the legitimate view of the Government, endorsed by another place. Although the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said this was a deeply politically controversial Bill it did not elicit any voting in another place, which is perhaps one of the reasons the House decided that it was appropriate to take the Committee stage here.
However, we shall not solve deep-rooted differences of opinion in the Moses Room this afternoon, although I feel I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, that he is wrong to suggest that money has been taken for policies in the way it was proved that cash was taken for Questions.
I say to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, what I said to my honourable friend at Second Reading; that is, that he can be as charmingly rude to me any time he likes. As regards my honourable friend in another place, it is inappropriate to have any suggestion of hypocrisy on his stand on this issue. Over many years he has had a long-standing commitment to animal welfare and animal rights issues. Members of the Committee may not think he is correct in his judgments, but to suggest that he is influenced in them by improper means or by inappropriate donations, should not be on the record, and is something I should like to put firmly to one side.