Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, the Minister is wrong to imply that there was no consensus that Sangatte needed to be closed. We have always made that clear; I hope that I was equally clear in my remarks. The questions I put to the Government related to what appeared to be a sleight of hand over policy on regularisation; the fact that hundreds of people were given work permits on the closure of Sangatte when others are denied them unless able to show in advance that employers require their services. I was seeking clarification of government policy on the granting of work permits.

7 Mar 2003 : Column 1055

If the Minister is not able to give that clarification today, I should be most grateful if he would write to me setting out the policy and explaining which other immigrants have been granted work permits without fulfilling the proper and normal legal requirements.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, it will be a pleasure, as ever, to write a letter to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, giving detailed chapter and verse. The broad thrust is clear. This was a necessary part of managing an appalling situation and it was done well. No doubt we shall return to the matter.

We sought through Reflex to achieve strong co-operation both nationally and internationally to identify and deter migrants. Our sense is that Reflex, while not perfect, is working well. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, also referred to carriers' liability, a subject on which we have had many debates in this House. For obvious reasons, it is not always welcomed by the road freight industry, but it has had a significant impact.

I shall be interested to read the speech made by my noble friend Lady Scotland at Oxford. I shall share with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, our figures. I have some before me but I would prefer to set them out in a letter to her and to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris. Our thrust on migration could not be clearer. We believe there is a need for migrants to come into this country; we believe they make a valuable contribution to our economy. The Home Secretary and the Government believe that there is a strong case for increasing the number of economic migrants. That belief is not new; it was set out in black and white in the White Paper published in January 2002. It was the cornerstone of our policy throughout debates on the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill and it is utterly consistent with the view that we need skills, that we benefit from them and that we should encourage them through legal routes. At the same time, we should do all we can to deter illegal routes and to stop asylum being used illicitly .

I can well believe that in practice we will go higher on managed migration if the workforce needs of this country so dictate. Any attempt by Migration Watch or others to try to create some hysterical scare about the issue seems both deplorable and suspect in its motivation. That is where these issues are so difficult for us all, are they not? While illegal migration should be separate from asylum, we know that they interconnect. Concerns about illegal immigration and false asylum claims cause unsettlement in the country. We must work hard to reduce illegal migration without creating an illusion that all migrants are in some way suspect; that all asylum seekers are in some way terrorists and criminals; and without feeding the hysteria which some elements of our society are happy to do.

In that context, I welcome the thoughtful, mature and balanced report that the group has put forward. I look forward to responding in more detail through correspondence to all the points I have been unable to deal with in this short speech.

7 Mar 2003 : Column 1056

12.35 p.m.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I shall not detain the House. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. A number of different views were expressed, many of which were voiced and aired thoroughly during the course of our inquiry. I want to touch briefly on the Minister's remarks.

I was disappointed, but not entirely surprised, that we have not moved further, particularly as regards the condition of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of paid employment and self-employed and economic activities; for the purpose of studies, vocational training and voluntary service; and on the short-term residence permit issued to victims of action to facilitate illegal immigration or trafficking in human beings to co-operate with the competent authorities. However, I take on board what the Minister has said and some of the reassurances he has given us, particularly in his closing remarks, and I thank him for that.

I hope that the debate will have clarified the fine distinction between illegal immigration and asylum seekers and that it will inform and educate public opinion about migrants generally. I hope that we will begin to think of them in a more positive and a less hostile way. If we have been able to contribute to that better understanding, we will have done our work well. I commend the Motion to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Wild Mammals (Protection) (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill [HL]

12.37 p.m.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The House will be aware that I introduced a similar, but not identical, Bill in early 2001. It received widespread support at Second Reading, but did not proceed further due to the general election of that year.

Since then, we have made some changes in response to points made. I have listened to views on all sides, will continue to do so, and will alert the House of further amendments that I propose to introduce in Committee. I want to thank the Public Bill Office and especially the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, for their legal and technical help in redrafting my proposals.

The House will be interested to note that the National Farmers Union, the Country Land and Business Association and the Countryside Alliance, reflecting the largest groups involved in our rural economy and concerned with the management of animal welfare, support the Bill. I have received letters from them. The National Farmers Union has written to me stating that it is,

    "very disturbed by the provisions of the Hunting Bill, now in another place, as it promises to have adverse implications for agricultural pest control and would, we believe, be likely to lead to greater suffering by wild animals".

7 Mar 2003 : Column 1057

It goes on to say that my Bill however,

    "has the prospect of being beneficial in term of animal welfare by outlawing excessive actions within current legal methods of control".

The Country Land and Business Association considers that,

    "this is a much more useful approach than that proposed by the Government in its Hunting Bill",


    "does nothing to improve the lot of wild animals generally . . . Lord Donoughue's Bill provides a better result for wild animals and in a better way".

So we do have widespread support.

But not from everyone. We seem not to have support from one or two political agenda groups which, I suspect, resent seeing on offer a better alternative to the Hunting Bill. I am disappointed that the RSPCA is in that category. An organisation which once supported a reduction in cruelty to animals now appears not to. Those who consider, as I do, making donations to groups opposed to animal cruelty will think twice about donating to the RSPCA.

I declare interests as a trustee of the International League for the Protection of Horses; as a former Minister for Farming in the Government; as a member of the Middle Way Group and the Countryside Alliance, although I take no part in the direction of its affairs; as the holder of a shotgun licence; and as the proud owner of the most beautiful terrier in the world.

The arguments in favour of the Bill remain as before. In my view, they are made even stronger by the current passage through the Commons of legislation which touches on some of the same areas, but not helpfully.

Our present arrangements for protecting animals from cruel abuse are complex and incomplete. Britain is woefully behind many other countries in legislating for wild animal management. Our provisions reflect nearly a century past of sporadic legislation concerned primarily with captive and domestic animals, where humans have a direct responsibility. The issue of non-captive wild animals was addressed— inadequately—in the most recent legislation, the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996, which began, like mine, as a Private Member's Bill and which I am now proposing to amend.

The 1996 Act is deficient in several ways, mainly in that it lists specified cruel acts, such as the nailing-up of a fox, but inevitably leaves uncovered many areas of cruelty, such as wounding a fox and leaving it to die in agony. The Act also lists some pursuits—such as hunting with dogs, shooting, coursing, snaring and trapping—which are exempt from prosecution.

My Bill is deliberately simpler and more comprehensive because it has no specified exemptions. It simply provides that if a wild mammal is deliberately caused undue suffering, that is an offence. It would bring the law closer in line to that now relating to domestic and captive animals. The Bill sends out to the public the clear and simple message that, even when using legal methods of killing wild animals, deliberate and undue cruelty will not be tolerated.

7 Mar 2003 : Column 1058

The advantages of this amended approach are clear. The Bill modernises nearly a century of piecemeal legislation and creates minimum and universal standards to protect all wild mammals. It provides clarity and certainty, with no exemptions or grey areas. Being simpler, the protections should be easier to police. At first, of course, enforcement may involve some appeals through the courts to establish precedent, but my legal advice is that it would not clog-up the courts. The best few cases would be tested and precedent soon established.

I do not pretend that all suffering can be eliminated from life in the wild; some suffering is inevitable there and some of it will appear cruel. But the Bill establishes that suffering which is intentionally inflicted by man and which is undue in degree is unacceptable and will be punished.

Noble Lords will note that the wording of the Bill deliberately refers to intentionally causing "undue" suffering rather than to "unnecessary" suffering, which is the term used to define cruelty in the original Protection of Animals Act 1911. This distinction is made because the Bill seeks to address excessive and unduly cruel actions which might take place within currently legal methods of control, including hunting with dogs, snaring, trapping and the use of firearms. It does not seek to encourage prosecutions against those actions as a whole where they are currently legal. That could happen with the term "unnecessary" because whether shooting or hunting are "necessary" is a matter of opinion. The term "undue suffering" means excessive suffering caused within a particular practice, not the practices and activities in their entirety.

This point relates to the important issue of pest control. When an earlier version of the Bill was read in March 2001, the then Home Office Minister, my noble friend Lord Bassam, raised some reasonable concerns about its impact on pest control, especially that if the current exemptions for pest control contained in the 1996 Act were removed, it could expose to prosecution those who now legitimately use snares and traps to control, for instance, mink numbers. I, of course, would not wish to do that.

We hope that we have addressed that issue in the term "undue suffering". I am advised that this should mean that the legal scrutiny and action would be against excessive and undue suffering within a legal activity, such as pest control, and not the activity of pest control itself. Provided that the pest controller uses a method of control which does not cause undue suffering, and is not more cruel than an alternative and effective means of control, he will have a proper defence.

I should point out that the National Farmers Union and the Country Landowners, bodies which have many practitioners of pest control among their memberships, support the Bill and the clause. I trust that Ministers and officials are now satisfied on this point, where I certainly shared their original concerns.

As to the mechanics of enforcement, the Bill would give powers to the Secretary of State to recognise existing bodies, such as the governing bodies of field

7 Mar 2003 : Column 1059

sports, as the designated and proper authorities for making codes in respect of the conduct of any activity in connection with wild mammals. The Secretary of State would also have the power to establish such a body where none existed within a sport or activity.

When this approach was originally proposed, parts of the shooting world expressed concerns that this would allow a hostile and malign Secretary of State to interfere and directly regulate their sport through a government quango— although, of course, noble Lords will note that the Bill does not apply to birds or to fish. That was never my intention. Therefore the original draft has been amended—and will be further amended in ways I shall describe—to make clear that the Secretary of State is empowered simply to recognise the existing authorised body governing a sport or activity and to recognise that body's code of practice.

Such powers would not place these codes of practice into law. The codes could be used as a defence, as an indication of good practice, similar to the way in which the Highway Code is currently used in relation to driving a vehicle.

The sporting bodies recognised as the proper authorities, such as the shooting governing bodies, would, by this process, be recognised as the proper authorities for a sport. These bodies would be conducting a recognised code. I believe that that would reinforce desirable self-regulation, which is the proper concern of many sports, although of course we know that many shooters are not members of any organisation and so are currently unregulated.

The fact that adherence to a recognised code of good practice could be used as a defence should encourage practitioners to develop acceptable codes of practice. Many sports have such codes; indeed, I am considering collating and publishing them to demonstrate how much good practice and self-regulation exists. That process would also encourage individual practitioners to join bodies which develop such codes.

On the suggested powers for the Secretary of State, legitimate concerns have been raised that under paragraphs (a) and (b) of the proposed new Section 2A(1) a "malign"—a word used by a shooter—Secretary of State could replace the existing bodies with new authorities and codes of practice reflecting particular sectarian agendas.

I am too naive even to contemplate the concept of a "malign" Secretary of State, and I have certainly never met a malign Parliamentary Under-Secretary. However, I am keen to listen to and to meet concerns. So I should be happy to amend those provisions, so that paragraph (a) would refer to recognition of an "existing body representing the participants in a lawful activity as the proper authority"; and paragraph (b) would refer to, "the establishment of a body where there is no existing appropriate body as the proper authority", and so on. That would reinforce the recognition of the existing governing bodies and their codes and should leave no scope for "malign"

7 Mar 2003 : Column 1060

ministerial intervention—not that I can contemplate any such remote activity. I trust that those amendments would meet any such concerns.

I might add that a constructive role for the Secretary of State in this process would be to encourage self-regulatory bodies to update their codes to reflect new circumstances and new scientific evidence and to promote a better understanding of wildlife management.

I trust that the shooting interests and others will be satisfied by these efforts and amendments to meet their concerns. If, as I believe, they and others have no cruelties to hide, they have nothing to fear from this approach.

While mentioning our adjustments and amendments to meet previous comments, I should add that the Second Report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee expressed some concern about our earlier reference to tribunals in proposed new Section 2A(1)(c). That was deliberately mirroring the phrasing in the current Hunting Bill, but it was not central to our intentions. That reference will be removed by an amendment at the next stage.

The committee was also worried that our proposed code of practice might inappropriately determine whether or not a person had committed an offence. I believe that that is a misunderstanding, since the proposed code would not be part of the law. It would determine only whether a person had a defence through having obeyed a recognised code. But I am content to amend the proposed new section to provide that the code itself has to be the subject of regulation made by statutory instrument. I thank the Public Bill Office in regard to the drafting of those amendments, which I shall bring forward in Committee.

I turn finally to the Bill's relationship to the issue of hunting with dogs—although I stress that it stands in its own right as a desirable advance in animal welfare. I would support it even if there were no current proposals on hunting; and noble Lords will have noted that major bodies support it as such.

If the Government were to adopt this Bill, there would be no need for a separate Hunting Bill, with all its social divisiveness. This Bill would deal with all the genuine concerns about any alleged cruelty in hunting. But it would not, of course, meet the political agenda of those who wish to wage class war on people who hunt, often with little concern about cruelty. I might add that I have never hunted and have no desire to do so.

The Bill would remove the current exemption of hunting with dogs, shooting, and so on from the protection of the 1996 Act. Some supporters of hunting might assert that their activity does not involve undue cruelty. I accept that in general—but if so, I ask the hunters and the shooters: why have the artificial protection of the 1996 Act? That sends out the wrong messages, even suggesting that they might be hiding something.

If their pursuits ever do involve deliberately causing undue suffering, then that cruelty should be addressed—as it is in the Bill—and not exempted. The

7 Mar 2003 : Column 1061

Bill bans undue cruelty in hunting as in other animal pursuits. But it does not ban the pursuits in themselves, if pursued properly under approved codes. That is surely better than the Stalinist class war approach of the current Hunting Bill, as it is being amended in the Commons.

It is certainly better than the shambolic muddle now operating in Scotland under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, where foxes are still chased by dogs, but are then being shot, and in some cases wounded to die in agony. I do not see the welfare gain in that.

Your Lordships will be aware of the respected work undertaken by the noble Lord, Lord Burns, on the issue of hunting with dogs. My Bill relates closely to the noble Lord's analysis. His report stated:

    "In the absence of a ban, one possible legislative approach would be to remove the present exemptions for hunting in the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996. This would . . . give the opponents of hunting a clearer opportunity to test their views about cruelty in the courts".

This Bill would allow for that measured approach.

The Bill approaches the hunting with dogs issue within a broader context of welfare management for all mammals. Controlling foxes is addressed more widely than just by the use of dogs. It allows hunting with dogs to be compared, in cruelty terms, with any intentional and undue suffering which may occur in the alternative methods of control.

In that sense, I believe that the Bill is a true animal welfare measure and, unlike the current Hunting Bill, can guarantee a diminution of cruelty and an improvement in animal welfare. The Bill aims simply, and I believe effectively, to ban deliberate and undue cruelty to wild mammals. I trust that everyone who deplores such cruelty will support it. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Donoughue.)

12.58 p.m.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I declare an interest as secretary of the All-Party Group on Shooting and Conservation and, like the noble Lord, as the holder of a shotgun licence. The Government have recognised the conservation and land management benefits of shooting, as well as the economic ones. Shooting generates an estimated £1 billion each year for the UK economy.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, for his commitment to hunting and to other country sports, and for listening to the views from all sides. I entirely agree with his remarks about the RSPCA, and that the law needs clarification, simplification and consolidation. The noble Lord has considerable experience on these issues from his time at MAFF and as a supporter of the Countryside Alliance.

As I am sure many other noble Lords do, I welcome the principle behind the Bill. Any measure designed to promote higher standards of welfare, coupled with greater openness, is to be welcomed—particularly as the Government's Hunting Bill, as it continues its way

7 Mar 2003 : Column 1062

through the other place, is increasingly concerned with restricting and proscribing human activities, rather than seeking to safeguard animal welfare. There is no doubt that this is a better Bill for the regulation of hunting with dogs than the Bill introduced by the Government in another place.

I assure the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, that I support his Bill as it applies to hunting with dogs. However, I hope that he will not take it amiss if I tell him that there is considerable concern among the shooting community that, although well intentioned, the Bill could be seen as an anti-shooting Bill. I was therefore delighted to hear what the noble Lord said about the amendments he proposes to bring forward in Committee. I look forward to helping to improve the Bill in Committee and at later stages.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page