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Lord Livsey of Talgarth moved Amendment No. 2:


On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Mallalieu: We were unaware of the result of what was said a little earlier—that is, that Amendment No. 2 would result in a pre-emption of Amendment No. 3. Can that be checked because I believe that I and other Members of the Committee were not aware of it? I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, was aware of that.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: It was stated very clearly for the benefit of the Committee. The Deputy Chairman of Committees made it plain that, if Amendment No. 2 were carried, Amendment No. 3 would not be called through pre-emption. It was clearly heard and Amendment No. 2 was moved and agreed to.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: It does not seem to me that Amendment No. 3 can arise because the word "registered" is included in Amendment No. 2. Therefore, as I understand it, the noble Baroness should be perfectly happy.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Mancroft moved Amendment No. 4:


    After Clause 1, insert the following new clause—


"REGISTERED HUNTING
(1) Hunting by an individual is registered if he is the subject of individual registration in respect of— 5 (a) wild mammals of the species hunted, and


    6 (b) the area in which the hunting takes place.


(2) Hunting by an individual is also registered if—
(a) he participates in hunting by a group,
(b) at least one of the group is registered under a group registration in respect of—

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11 (i) wild mammals of the species hunted, and


    12 (ii) the area in which the hunting takes place, and


    15 (c) his participation in the hunting is recorded under arrangements made in pursuance of section (Automatic conditions of group registration) (5).


(3) Hunting by an individual is also registered if—
(a) he participates in hunting by a number of individuals, and
(b) one of the individuals is the subject of individual registration in respect of— 20 (i) wild mammals of the species hunted, and


    21 (ii) the area in which the hunting takes place, and


(c) the condition of registration imposed by section (Automatic conditions of individual registration) (5) (maximum number of hunters) is complied with.
(4) In this Act—
"group registration" means registration under Part (Registration) pursuant to an application under section (Application on behalf of group), and
"individual registration" means registration under Part (Registration) pursuant to an application under section (Application by individual)."

The noble Lord said: In her opening remarks the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, helpfully pointed out to the Committee the purpose of the bulk of the amendments that she, the noble Lords, Lord Donoughue and Lord Carlile, and I intend to move. The purpose of the amendments is to return the Bill to its original architecture, as it was when the Government introduced it to the other place.

In answering the first amendment, the Minister in the rather sad, heated exchanges that took place at the end of the debate—untypical of this House and I hope that they will not be repeated during the course of the Bill—made it clear that he found himself in unique circumstances. The Minister is right; these are unique circumstances.

Last December the Government introduced a Bill into the House of Commons—a government Bill, not surprisingly—and as the noble Baroness explained, that Bill was not just changed at Report stage in another place, but completely wrecked. Those were the Secretary of State's words and the Minister's words. The Bill arrived in your Lordships' House in a very different state from that which the Government intended. At the very earliest opportunity the Minister, in answering the many questions and points raised from all sides of the Committee, has said that realistically the Government do not have a view. He said that he would listen to the amendments but he would not advise the Committee whether to accept them or not. However carefully one listened to what he said, it was difficult to discern what the Government now want. They have produced a Bill but they have lost their Bill, although they still claim it is their Bill and now it has come here.

I do not think that any Member of the Committee wishes to be unreasonable, but we have received no guidance from the Government at all on the Bill: whether they want it; whether they do not want it; or whether they want it changed or amended. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, suggested the best route forward, which is to return the Bill to its original form, based on the principles that stemmed from the

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evidence. It is worth remembering that the Government commissioned the report of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, at considerable cost in terms of time and effort from a great number of people—experts, the general public, the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and his team, my noble friend Lord Soulsby and others. They then engaged in a massive consultation exercise at great expense and trouble—I hate to think what it cost the public purse. They made their views, intentions and plans public; they debated them, discussed them, met all the groups, took all the matters forward and produced a Bill.

The Government now appear to have abandoned that Bill. They have abandoned it not because that was the Government's policy nor because of the improvements that the House of Commons has made to it, but because both the Secretary of State and the Minister have made it clear that the Bill that we now have, or had when it came into this House, is wrecked. Other words that were used are "unenforceable" and "unworkable". That Bill has been dumped in your Lordships' laps without any hint of what the Government think we should do with it, except to leave it alone.

I suppose that the only thing we can reasonably do—like the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, we wish to be nothing but reasonable—is to attempt to proceed and to give the Government the Bill that they started with, that they wanted, that they planned and consulted for, that they spent money on and that they worked for all that time. We can give it back to them in the best and most reasonable way that we can. I cannot see that we can do anything else.

In the first amendment the noble Baroness looked at definitional and criminal problems. Before doing so, she went through the history of how we have reached our present position. The two previous Bills—the one introduced by Mr Foster in the other place in 1997 or 1998 and then the Government's "options" Bill—were primarily Bills to ban this particular activity—hunting. However, badly or well it may have been defined, that was the object—a ban.

The significant factor from a political point of view is that those Bills were supported by the Prime Minister. He may not have voted for them quite as often as he thought he did. We know he has a problem with fact and fiction, but we shall gloss over that. We know that if he had thought about voting he would have. Let us not make a fuss about that. He supported them. The Deputy Prime Minister, the then Secretary of State of that department, Mrs Beckett, and the Minister who sponsored this Bill, supported both those banning Bills.

We then had the report of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, the public consultation, the Portcullis House hearings and everything that went with it, which, as the noble Baroness said, was in the public domain. The result was a Bill which centrally did not ban the activity. The reason for that is that all that consultation, all those public hearings and the Portcullis House hearings recorded quite clearly that there is not a reasonable, legitimate case for a ban. The Government recognised that, whether or not they liked to admit it. Therefore, the Prime Minister,

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the Deputy Prime Minister, and the Secretary of State, Mr Michael, put their names to a Bill which was publicly based on principles which stemmed from the evidence which showed quite clearly that you cannot ban this activity.

So, in principle, this Bill and the Bill in its original form are completely different. One had the principle of a ban, which was supported by those people as such. This Bill, when it came into the House of Commons, was completely different. It did not have that ban because they could not justify it. Now, thanks to the activities and behaviour in the House of Commons we have a Bill with the principle at its heart torn out. That is the Bill we have and the one with which we have to deal.

It seems to me and to other noble Lords that the way, therefore, to deal with the issue is to put back the registration process. The registration process allows hunting in regulated form to continue. That removes the ban. By removing that registration process in another place the Back-Benchers turned the Government's Bill into their own toy. I do not know what we should do because we are receiving no guidance from the Government. However, it seems to me that the responsible thing for this Chamber to do is quietly, responsibly and gently to put back as best we can the principle that the irresponsible Members in another place ripped out. We like to be helpful.

Registration was put in the Bill in the first place because all the evidence pointed—and it is very important to make this single point—to the fact that hunting is not cruel. The supposed reason why people have wanted for years to ban hunting is that it is cruel. In fact, one of the most interesting things about this process since 1997—the Burns report, the Portcullis House hearings and all the consultation—is what the evidence has shown. For example, the Portcullis House hearings brought together experts for the first time. They were asked to explain and to express in public what their views on welfare were and how these things work—difficult questions.

I have been involved in this debate now for many years. If I have not met those scientists personally, I have read their works. I know that many of the leading welfare scientists in this country were never particularly keen on hunting. They were not very interested or thought that it was not a significant welfare issue. I suspect that quietly they were not very keen on it.

During the public hearings, those scientists were questioned, asked to present papers and to think about these issues. It was very interesting to see so many of them move their views. Those views are still moving. There is, as the noble Lord, Lord Burns, says in his report, an extraordinary shortage of accurate science in the relevant areas. But there is a little. Most, if not all, of it produces evidence that comes down to the fact that hunting is not actually very cruel. It does not appear to cause a great deal of stress. It certainly measures up extremely well when compared with other methods.

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Most of these things are extremely difficult to measure. The noble Baroness talked about the principles that emerged from the Portcullis House hearings. One matter upon which virtually all the scientists were agreed was that you cannot actually measure suffering. It is impossible to measure the suffering of a fox being hunted, compared with a fox being shot at, poisoned or snared. There is no barometer of suffering to which we can refer. If one asks scientists to talk about what they know about stress, distress and animals' reactions, they will say, "Well, actually, the more we think about it, the more we realise that hunting is probably the least stressful, the least distressing and causes the least suffering". The debate is slowly moving in that direction.

Two substantive pieces of science have appeared in the past six months. The Middle Way Group's report on shooting came down enormously in favour of hunting, not I may add because shooting was bad, but because of best practice. Foxes shot by qualified people who know what they are doing is an extremely good method of control. In some areas it is the only method of control. Equally, if done badly—as is anything done badly in this world—it is not a good idea. That is one of the points that the Middle Way Group has been making. I never focused on it at the beginning, but of course it is right. It is not a question of all shooting being good or all hunting being bad or all anything being good or bad, it is about best practice. One of the original Bill's problems is that it does not take any account of that at all.

Casting one's mind back to what the noble Baroness was saying earlier, one thing the noble Lord, Lord Burns, makes clear in his report is that most of the problems with hunting would best be dealt with by regulation, by changing the way hunting is carried out. Most internal changes to do with hunting that could be carried out now have been. I have no doubt that there will be more in the future. The issue is about better regulation, not about banning.

The point that we had reached when the Bill appeared was that a ban was not justified. The Bill starts rather strangely with the fact that hunting is banned unless it is exempt. The exceptions are exempt hunting and registered hunting. That is an unusual roundabout way of going about things. The fact is that it was registered hunting that comprised the bulk of the Bill introduced way back in December of last year, which we are now looking at in the third week of October, after the Government have spent so long dragging it tortuously and rather incompetently through both Houses.

We shall be looking at the different aspects of suffering and at the tests in registration later on in Committee. Those subjects are not for today. The centre of the original Bill was the registration process. The amendment—the first on this subject—defines who may be registered, not the qualifications, or how or what they have to do.

There are two distinct groups of people to be registered. There are individuals who may be registered. Although the bulk of the debate in the popular press and

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certainly in the House of Commons concerns people with red faces and red coats, the vast majority of hunting in this country—I suppose 90 per cent—consists of individuals hunting with their own dogs and on their feet. So, as with so much of this debate, ignorance and prejudice pushes the wrong parts of the subject to the fore. The reality is that most people who will seek registration under the Bill, if it ever becomes an Act, will be individuals.

So there are two categories of people to be registered: the first is individuals; the second is groups. As I said, this is the first of a tranche of amendments intended to reintroduce the registration process—to give back to the Government the Bill that they introduced. I hope that when they get it back they will be pleased and like the Bill that we have given back to them—doing their work for them; I am always happy to do that.

I hope that we can take some of the heat out of this debate, because that is what your Lordships are best at doing and what your Lordships are here to do: to revise or amend Bills that have got into a muddle on their way through the House of Commons. I do not think that it is controversial to say that on its way through the House of Commons, this Bill got into an awful muddle, but with this amendment, I hope to start to return it to a workable piece of legislation. I beg to move.


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