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Earl Peel: No matter what the outcome of the Bill, it is clearly essential that we deliver legislation that will be practicable and workable and which the police can live with, with some degree of confidence.
I am certain that many of your Lordships will have read in the newspapers recently that the police are deeply concerned about implementing certain aspects of the legislation, so it is essential that we attempt to inject as much clarity as we can into the Bill. For all the reasons that have been given so far, I believe it is essential that we do that. I wholeheartedly support both amendments, because either would achieve the purpose we want.
I have listened with great interest to what your Lordships have said so far. The more I listen to what is said, the more I realise just how ridiculous a situation we are in. My noble friend Lord Crickhowell gave us an account of walking through the woods with his whippet. He maintains, and I am sure he is right, that he would have no intention of hunting. But supposing my grandmother, if she were still alivewhich she is notwas walking through the same woods with two chihuahuas. Can one honestly believe that it would be my grandmother's intention to allow those chihuahuas successfully to pursue a hare? Of
One other example that comes to mind is that of a farmer, on his quad bike, going out to gather his sheep. His sheepdog is behind him and it temporarily takes off after a hare. Will that farmer be committing an offence under this Bill? If so, we have reached fantasy world, and we really have to think again.
Lord Palmer: I, too, strongly support these amendments. The noble Lords, Lord Willoughby de Broke and Lord Mancroft, have summed everything up. It is not man that hunts, but hounds. That is a very important distinction and I therefore strongly support the amendments.
Viscount Astor: I thank the noble Baroness for introducing this important amendment. As the noble Lords, Lord Donoughue and Lord Skidelsky, said, whatever one's views about hunting, this amendment is probably required. It is crucial, as it deals with intent.
Like the noble Baroness, I sat through the three days of evidence-taking at Portcullis House, and I welcomed the Alun Michael Bill when it was first published. I welcomed it in principle, although I believed it needed amendments. I followed its rather tortuous process through another place, through its 27 Committee sittings. I noted, toocarefullythe Government's manifesto commitment to enable Parliament to reach a conclusion. I have always understood Parliament to include this House as well as another place.
The Alun Michael Bill was wreckedthose are not my words but his. This House is a revising Chamber and it has a duty, if it so wishes, to ask another place to think again and to revise. This amendment is central to any sensible Bill, in whatever state it leaves this House. In Committee in another place, the Minister, Alun Michael, was asked about intent. He said that if people are merely observing, they are not hunting.
I have read those Committee proceedings very carefully, and I find it very difficult to pinpoint any definition that the Minister made at any stage of the Bill's passage through another place of what constitutes observing and what constitutes hunting. If you are following in a car, are you observing? Surely you must beyou have no control over the hounds. If you are following on foot, what is that? If you are following on a motorbike or a bicycle, what are you doing? Is that any different from following on a horse? Surely such people are observing as well. Who is hunting and who is not hunting? If someone peers over a hedge and looks at the hunt, are they hunting? Have they joined in? What happens if, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said, it is a blank day? Is anybody hunting?
My noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew made an important point. Unless the amendment is considered carefully by the Government, it will be left to the courts and judges to define what is a crime. That point was of concern to my noble friends Lord Eden, Lord Crickhowell and Lord Peyton.
The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Livsey of Talgarth, has a similar intention. I will be interested to hear the Minister's reply to both amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, again asked the crucial question: when will an offence take place? At what point? My noble friend Lord Elton raised the spectre of London and squirrels. It would be an extraordinary effect of the Bill if innocent dog-walkers were suddenly hauled up in their hundreds because their charges misbehaved in whichever London park they happened to be using.
This is a crucial issue of intent. As my noble friends Lord Ullswater and Lord Mancroft said, this is not an animal welfare Bill. It is about people, not animals. My noble friend Lord Peel summed it up wellwe must have a Bill that is practicable and workable, and we must try and inject clarity into the process. I believe this amendment goes a long wayprobably all the wayto doing that, and I hope that the Government will accept it or give us very good reasons why they cannot. As I said at the start of my remarks, whatever one's views about the outcome of the Bill, this amendment is probably necessary.
Lord Whitty: When I first saw this amendment, I thought this was a fairly straightforward issue. I thought the question of intent would be discussed and the only issue would be whether it was necessary to include it in the Bill. I will come on to that point in a moment. However, a number of somewhat wider issues have been touched on, starting with the speech of my noble friend Lady Mallalieu. I therefore, regrettably, feel constrained to make a few general points in my first intervention in this Committee stage. That will give an indication of the way in which I intend to operate during Committee.
Your Lordships will be aware of the position I put to the House at Second Reading. I referred to my personal position, which is not particularly relevant in this respect, and to the Government's view of the Bill we received from the Commons.
I remind the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and my noble friend Lady Mallalieu, that I started by quoting from the Labour Party manifesto somewhat incompletely. Some of you will know that I am rather familiar with Labour Party manifestos, and it has been known that from time to time they contain weasel words, as, no doubt, do those of other parties. However, in this case, it is absolutely clear what it says in the manifesto.
The Earl of Onslow: This is incredibly important. If people say that someone did something when he did not, and it has been shown beyond peradventure that he did not, that is not telling the truth. The House of Lords did not block the Hunting Bill, under any circumstances whatever. It had a slightly different view and time ran out. That is not blocking it, and the sooner that is recognised and the sooner that people do not say things that are not exactly coincidental with the facts, the better.
Lord Whitty: As I said, I am quoting the manifesto. What actually happened in the 1997 Parliament was that, as the noble Earl said, this House took a different view from the House of Commons. The manifesto had given the House of Commons a free vote on its views on fox hunting, as we have given the House of Commons in this Parliament a free vote on fox hunting. That House of Commons has made its view known; the view of the House of Commons was different from the original proposition that the Government put before the House of Commons, but it was carried overwhelmingly clearly, with support in that overwhelming majority from members of all parties in the House of Commons.
The reference to Parliament is thereafter. If the House of Lords now fails to agree with the House of Commons, clearly it will be a matter for the House of Commons where to take the legislation subsequently, and we will in that sense enable Parliament to reach a conclusion.