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Viscount Astor: My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that issue, he has a particular interest in football. Indeed, he has an interest in the behaviour of fans. We all know occasionally that football fans behave in a way they should not. That is no reason to ban football.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: No, my Lords, but it is a reason why I was prepared to sit through the only all-night sitting at which I have been in this House to pass the Act dealing with football hooliganism in order to curb the activities of those hooligans. If by getting this Bill through we shall get rid of the hooligans in hunting, that will be time well spent.

The third issue I wish to touch on concerns the role of this House in considering this legislation and our relations with the other place. I shall defend to the death our right to consider this Bill in detail and, if a majority agrees, to send it back amended to the other place. That is what we do in this House, and we do it well. We do not, however, have the authority to block this Bill or to deny the other place the final word on the content of the Bill.

My understanding of the constitutional position is exactly as expressed by Gerald Kaufman:


that is, the House of Commons—


    "tonight. According to any interpretation whatever of the Salisbury convention, the other place"—

that is, your Lordships' House—


    "must accept a Government Bill that has been passed by the House of Commons; it must accept any Bill that has been passed by a majority of the House of Commons; and, under the Salisbury convention, it must accept the fulfilment of a manifesto commitment. On each of those criteria—by the doctrine of leading Conservative, the Marquess of Salisbury—it would be out of the

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    question for another place to block the Bill . . . It is now for the whole of Parliament to respect the will of the people, as in a manifesto commitment, and for this Bill to become law and to be implemented as soon as possible".—[Official Report, Commons, 9/7/03; cols. 1331-32.]

On the question of implementation, I hope that when the noble Viscount responds to the debate at the end of the evening, he will make it clear that the Conservative Party is under no circumstances prepared to condone the sort of law-breaking of which certain Peers have warned us in the debate.

My noble friend Lord Corbett rightly made the point that a majority of rural constituencies have been represented by Labour MPs since 1997. Those are presumably the people whom the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater—whom I am delighted to see in his place—described in a somewhat infelicitous phrase as "MPs of narrow background".

He could perhaps have reminded your Lordships that among those voting for a total ban on 30th June were six senior Conservative MPs, presumably MPs not of narrow background. They included John Taylor, Roger Gale, David Atkinson, Sir Teddy Taylor and—most eloquent of all—Ann Widdecombe. She spoke for many of the hundreds of people who have written to me begging me to support the Bill, when she said in that debate:


    "if the Bill comes to fruition, we shall be living in a more civilised and kinder society than the one in which we live now. I would be the first to accept that it is necessary to kill foxes, and the first to accept that an argument of necessity can be made for killing other species. However, at the beginning of the 21st century, the fact that people should want to make a sport and gain pleasure out of it absolutely beggars belief".—[Official Report, Commons, 30/6/03; col. 103]

I agree with her.

8.10 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, it is bad luck on the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, to be sandwiched between two Earls. I find his reference to the all-night sitting on the Bill on football hooligans interesting. I also took part in that debate because I thought that that Bill was another piece of illiberal and petty legislation. It had not the blindest effect on football hooligans; it is just another piece in the armoury of our present illiberal lords and masters.

I have an interest to declare: I have hunted. Finally, when I fell off and broke too many bones, I gave up. I have enjoyed it enormously. I shall even produce a marginally risque story. There is a piece of country in Saddington Vale which is straight off pub table mats, with its cut and laid hedges and its beautiful Leicestershire turf. The hounds were going along looking as though they had been painted by Stubbs or Gainsborough and this gel said to me: "It is better than an orgasm and it lasts a hell of a lot longer".

That is what hunting does to you: it has nothing to do with killing foxes; it is to do with pure adrenaline and excitement. Landing from a big drop fence on the landing side when you are not sure what you are going to do, and at which in cold blood you would never have dreamt of looking—that is the thrill about it. That is why it has inspired so much British art. In fact, it has inspired

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the only true school of British painting: Wootton, Stubbs, Seymour, Gainsborough, Lionel Edwards and Munnings, to name but a few.

It is also interesting that the Government have been shown an especially strong opinion that the Bill goes against the Human Rights Act 1998. I sincerely hope that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, read that opinion and passed it before his legal advisers to ensure that he was right and it was wrong before he signed the Bill off as being compatible with the ECHR conditions. If it is not, it would be totally outrageous to use the Parliament Act.

I hasten to add that the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, has got the Salisbury convention completely wrong. It was signed and agreed when this House had a massive majority of hereditary Peers who have now gone and the conditions are now completely different. This House is perfectly entitled to send back legislation and say to the Government of the day, "You have the Parliament Act; that is what it is there for. If that is what you want to do, use it". This House has the right to do that.

My next remark is for the benefit of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, who announced that hunting was illegal in Ireland. In the only European country to ban fox hunting, it was brought about by a tobacco-detesting vegetarian called Adolf Hitler. If he had not worn jack boots, he would have been a perfect member of certain political parties that we know in this House. He loved eating raw swedes, hated tobacco and banned foxhunting. It is very interesting that such odd bedfellows are made.

It is also interesting that the Bishops' Bench has been solidly as one in this debate. It is unique for the Church of England to agree on practically everything. I believe that the last time the Anglican Bishops in your Lordships' House were solid on an issue was on a Bill to abolish capital punishment for writing your name on London Bridge. The whole Bishops' Bench voted against the Bill. Every single Bishop has said that this is a moral issue and that we have a right to human liberty.

Must we really make girl grooms lose their jobs so that Gerald Kaufman can feel a glow of satisfaction and allow Tony Banks his token worship? I use the words "token worship", because he said that the Bill was a matter of tokenism and not about cruelty. Is it right that farriers will be impoverished to make Gerald Kaufman feel a glow of self-satisfaction and to allow Tony Banks his token worship? Will hunt servants lose their houses to make Gerald Kaufman feel a glow of self-satisfaction and to allow Tony Banks his token worship? That is what Her Majesty's present advisers have come to. It is a pretty rotten state.

We could easily have lived with, and we would have been wise to live with, properly regulated hunting. But this is an attack on the liberties of people for something that does no harm to humankind whatever and does a lot to preserve the countryside. It is interesting to note that, 20 years ago, the Porchester report said that the welfare of deer on Exmoor depended on the

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continuation of stag hunting. Ten years after stag hunting finished on Exmoor in 1800 there were no stags. They were then reintroduced for the Devon and Somerset stag hunts to hunt, and they have thrived and prospered ever since.

We are trying to do something that will be illiberal, will harm animal welfare and will probably contravene the Human Rights Act. Well done the Government.

8.17 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I very much regret that this "grubby and illiberal" Bill—to use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Grabiner—should be placed before the House at this time, when there are so many pressing policies and matters to be attended to. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, this House will not wreck the Bill; the Bill that the Government wanted was wrecked by a rampaging House of Commons and a gutless Government who gave way to it. They have now introduced a Bill that they did not intend to have. The Minister's accusation, therefore, falls very flat.

The Bill is not really about cruelty to animals. If it were, it would be much more widely drawn to include all blood sports, including angling, and other cruel treatment. Ritual slaughter, kosher and halal, for example, would be included in a cruelty to animals Bill. The Bill is spiteful, cowardly and aimed at a particular section of the community whom the promoters of the legislation hate, but who are not numerous or influential enough to be perceived as a threat to the Government and new Labour.

It is odd that there was a deafening silence from the animal rights lobby and supporters of the Bill when some 9 million cattle were unnecessarily slaughtered, in many cases with unwarranted cruelty, during the foot and mouth disease crisis. I repeat, 9 million. I suppose that, if the Bill is defeated and fox hunting continues, about 25,000 foxes will be destroyed a year—foxes that are pests. That is against 9 million useful animals slaughtered unnecessarily without a word of protest from the animal lovers.

Those foxes will probably be killed more humanely than were the cattle. That was animal genocide, perpetrated by the Government, allegedly to deal with foot and mouth disease, although the alternative of large-scale vaccination was available. Furthermore, the banning of hunting is unlikely to be of much help to foxes, as we have heard already this afternoon. The most likely outcome is that there will be mass killing and the eventual extermination of the species in the countryside. No doubt the same fate will overtake those foxes that escape to the urban environment—after they have eaten a few cats and other pests or even attacked small children.

The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, told us that Hitler was an animal lover and banned fox hunting. The result has already been described: foxes are hardly ever seen in Germany today. They have been virtually exterminated.

With regard to the Bill's passage through the House, I hope that noble Lords will not be intimidated by the claim by Members of another place and, indeed,

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people in this House who ought to know better, that this House has no right to frustrate the will of the elected House of Commons. That will no longer wash. The Commons had the opportunity radically to reform this House—and turned it down. It was not this House that turned it down, but the House of Commons. That House preferred to opt for virtually the status quo. This House is the only second Chamber that we have. It has now been reformed and because of that it is more respectable—some of us warned the House of Commons that that would happen—more respected and has a strengthened mandate.

This House has been using that strengthened mandate in all sorts of ways, and I hope it will do so in the case of this Bill. The House therefore has a duty to examine, scrutinise and, if necessary, amend the Bill. In so doing, we should pay particular attention to the civil liberties aspects and the precedent that the Bill would set for other activities. Civil liberty and individual freedom are under constant threat from an increasing authoritarianism by government—of both political parties. It is a paradox that the House of Lords is more caring of those civil liberties and individual freedoms than the elected House, which increasingly legislates to limit those democratic rights. In any event, as we have already heard, the other place has the last word. The Government could use the Parliament Act to override any amendment. However, if they do so, they will bear the responsibility for any consequences that follow.

Direct action has been mentioned. I was surprised to hear some on this side of the House condemn direct action. Damn it, the Labour Party would not exist but for direct action. This country would be a completely different place without direct action by the working-class martyrs and the trade union movement. If there is to be direct action, there are very good precedents for it.

Finally, I oppose the Bill—


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