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Lord Campbell-Savours: Is my noble friend prepared to tell us what he believes would be the effect of introducing the word "intentionally" into the legislation?

Lord Whitty: We should all be grateful to my noble friend for getting down to the actual content of the amendment. Perhaps we can calmly face up to that. Whether we address the original Bill presented to the House of Commons, the Bill that we have before us or the amendments before us today, it is clear that we are all talking about intentional hunting. The question is whether we need the word "intentionally" in the text of the Bill in order to convey that meaning. This, in essence, is a technical issue. I am advised that the ordinary English meaning of "to hunt" incorporates all the senses of searching for, pursuing, tracking and chasing. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, to hunt means to go in pursuit of wild animals or game; to engage in the chase; to pursue; to engage in; to chase—in other words, all words which convey intention: the intention of the hunter—the human—not the intention of the dog.

It is therefore clear from the normal definition of "hunting" that the dog which runs after a squirrel in the park; people who are not themselves engaged in the organisation of hunting but are simply observers; and people who deal with injured animals, as was the case with the rabbits mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Eden—that is a clear exemption in the Bill under paragraph 8(2) of Schedule 1—or the motorist to which my noble friend Lady Mallalieu referred, would not be covered by intentional hunting. The latter two cases are clearly exempt under the Bill. The advice I have, which is technical advice, is that it is not necessary to insert the word "intentionally" in the Bill at this point.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I am most obliged to the Minister, but this debate so far has ranged round countryside pursuits. But, of course, the countryside is not the only part of our country which is involved. We now have urban foxes, squirrels and all sorts of animals coming into gardens. Would someone with a large garden who set his alsatian dog on a fox or squirrels on his property to drive them out be hunting?

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If he is not, how does the Minister explain the Bill and what he has just said? If he is, very many more people than think they will may be criminalised.

Lord Whitty: There are exemptions for pursuit of non-specified species on one's own property. If someone has organised a hunt with a pack of hounds, that is intent. However, if someone has let a dog loose in a park, whether urban or rural, that is not intent. That is implied in the word "hunt". The Committee may feel that for the avoidance of doubt we ought to introduce the word "intentionally" into Clause 1. The normal advice from parliamentary counsel and lawyers is that if it is not necessary, it is otiose to introduce it. I make that technical point. I give way.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: I happen to be of the view that we need one or other of these two amendments, whether we are for or against hunting. I slightly prefer the second of the two amendments, partly for the reasons which the Minister gave on whether intention would be implied anyway. Can the Minister explain how I can achieve the result I want, which is to vote for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, rather than Amendment No. 1, because presumably if we pass the first amendment, the second will fall?

Lord Whitty: That is probably a matter for the House authorities rather than me. If the first amendment is pressed to a vote and is passed, no doubt we would be advised whether the second amendment would then fall. However, as I say, that is not a matter for me.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: Best of all, of course, would be if we could combine the two amendments, but it may be too late to do that now. I suspect that would suit everyone—those who are for hunting and those who are against.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Before the Minister responds to the debate, I am a relatively new Member of this House compared with some who have spoken, and I do not know in what status the debate on this Bill is left if the Government are saying that, regardless of the merits of what is said on any amendment, they will not accept them. It seems to me a bit like a judge who says, "I will listen to you but I have made up my mind about your guilt". I am trying to make clear what is the purpose of the debate that is to follow if the Government have a closed mind on the amendments that will be put forward.

Lord Whitty: The purpose of the debate is for the Committee to decide what its view is on a free vote. All I said was that in the circumstances in which we find ourselves the Government are not suggesting support for any amendment which is on the Marshalled List today.

Lord King of Bridgwater: Before the Minister sits down, I listened very carefully to his final sentence. Is

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he saying that the Government will not support any amendment that is due for debate today—any amendment on the Marshalled List? I shall have to advise certain conservation groups as well as others who are not particularly involved in the debate for or against hunting but which think that the Bill could be improved. Am I to tell them that it is not worth tabling amendments?

Lord Whitty: Of course it is worth tabling amendments for debate in this House where the House will have a free vote. The House of Commons will then have to consider its view of any amendments which are carried by this House. The only point that I make today is that the Government do not advocate amendments to the Bill as it stands. On a clause-by-clause basis, that is a pretty usual position for the Government to take in this House when we are dealing with a Bill from the House of Commons.

The Earl of Onslow: It is not.

Lord Whitty: On a clause-by-clause basis, it is a very common position for the Government to say that we do not recommend acceptance of an amendment.

The Earl of Onslow: It is not.

Lord Whitty: Will the noble Earl please not interrupt from a sedentary position?

The Earl of Onslow: What the Minister says is not true.

Lord Whitty: The noble Earl is constantly accusing me of telling untruths. Will he please withdraw that comment?

The Earl of Onslow: Time after time, governments of all parties have said that they will take amendments away and look at them because they have listened to what people say on the Floor of this House. The noble Lord is saying, "I have come in with my mind like a steel trap. I do not have the faintest intention of listening to anything that anyone says".

5 p.m.

The Countess of Mar: I shall try to introduce a voice of moderation. When the Government disagree with an amendment moved by a noble Lord, wherever he stands in the House, do we not have the right to vote on it? He has the right to divide the House. If the House then agrees to that amendment, the Bill is altered.

Lord Whitty: Precisely. In this circumstance, we will have a free vote. The Government's position is normally to indicate to our supporters how to vote, whereas it is not my intention to recommend accepting any of the amendments, for the reasons that I have spelled out. We are in free-vote territory, although the noble Earl may not understand that. It is a somewhat unique position.

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I should clarify a point made earlier on the procedure: Amendment No. 2 would be called even if Amendment No. 1 were agreed to.

Earl Peel: I accept that the noble Lord has closed his mind to the debate, but it is normal practice for a Minister at least to answer the questions put to him on an amendment. In this case, some of them are technical and need clarification. I hope that he might at the very least consider doing that, as it is the normal practice of this House.

Noble Lords: He has.

Earl Peel: I do not believe that he has for one moment.

I want to go back to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, as it is very important. He asked a question about someone putting their dog on to a fox in, let us say, a garden. I think that I am right in saying that the Minister said that that would not be hunting. However, the Bill states:


    "A person commits an offence if he hunts a wild mammal with a dog".

As we have no definition of "hunting" I suggest that, as the Bill stands, that individual could find himself in some difficulty if a prosecution occurred. Will the Minister clarify that?

Viscount Astor: Before the Minister answers, I would be grateful if he would address who is hunting and who is not. I made the point about foot-followers and people in cars. What is their position? I would be grateful for his explanation, as he has not addressed the issues.

Lord Whitty: Whether or not we incorporate "intentionally", the intention of the clause is to deal with humans who intentionally hunt. Anyone who is involved and is part of the organisation of the hunt seems to me to qualify for "hunting". Anyone driving in a car or watching from a distance who is not part of that hunt in normal circumstances would not be deemed as hunting.


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