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Lord Northbrook: I support Amendment No. 19, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry. I am unclear on another point in Clause 3(1), which states:


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Under Clause 10, there is an offence by a body corporate which states:


    "This section applies where an offence under this Act is committed by a body corporate with the consent or connivance of an officer of the body".

I should have declared an interest as a landowner. There are situations where the land is held in trust by trustees. There is an inconsistency here. What is the situation if trustees who hold land rather than individuals or body corporates permit hunting to be allowed on the land? That is another complication of this clause.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: When the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, moved the amendment, he said that he feared the Bill was borne out of prejudice. I fear that he is right; namely, that it is a Bill borne out of prejudice. That is very dangerous. Prejudice against a minority has no part in decent democratic legislation. The problem is, once one Bill has been passed as an act of prejudice, exactly where will it stop?

Let us look at the history of this Bill, which we touched on earlier today. The Labour Party manifesto stated that a Bill to ban fox hunting would be introduced into the Commons and would be put before Parliament. As I mentioned earlier, that Bill to ban fox hunting has now become a Bill to ban the hunting with dogs of all wild animals. Beagle hunting is to be banned, as is any form of hunting with dogs. Already, through prejudice, we have expanded the Labour Party commitment that was put before the electorate and on which the electorate voted. So the Government and the House of Commons have taken liberties with the mandate they were granted. They were granted a mandate to ban fox hunting, but in fact they have sought to ban virtually everything to do with hunting with dogs—including even preventing people chasing foxes out of their gardens in our towns and villages.

Where do we go from here? There are people who are already intimidating fishermen on our riverbanks because they do not believe that wild fish should be caught on the hook. Sooner or later, are we to see a ban imposed on angling? Martin Salter, my MP in Reading, voted for this Bill, but he is a keen angler. He needs to watch out, because there are some who seek to ban angling.

Many people certainly want to ban shooting. They do not believe that pheasant, partridge and snipe should be bred and then released into the air for people to shoot at with pellets from a shotgun. They think that that is cruel. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is in his place. I believe that he has a number of stags on his estate. Many people would like to prevent him and many others shooting stags. Finally, there are many people who believe that the Grand National is cruel. So where are we going to stop?

Perhaps it sounds a little far-fetched, but some 50 years ago, a Labour Government would not have dreamed of introducing a Bill to ban hunting. They

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would have believed that to be completely wrong and an interference with the rights of people to pursue a sporting activity that they had enjoyed for over 300 years. Clement Attlee would not have dreamed of introducing such a Bill.

9 p.m.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree: I am most grateful to the noble Lord. Would he be interested to learn that when I entered the first of my two fights to be elected to Parliament, my opponent was a Labour Member of Parliament who was a Master of Foxhounds?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Perhaps I may remind the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, ever so gently, that we are in Committee. He has betrayed a slight tendency to drift back to Second Reading.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I do not believe I was doing so. I would not have dreamt of doing so if I thought I had been doing so. All I have done is to take the text of the introduction to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, and to draw the conclusions that I have drawn.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I was overly gentle with the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry. He, too, transgressed.

The Earl of Onslow: I shall try not to transgress.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I have not quite finished. I was being hounded—if I may put it that way—by the noble Baroness, who is trying to act as a chairwoman. That is very dangerous in this House. I shall certainly draw my remarks to a conclusion. They were relevant and, through those remarks, the Committee now know that I shall support the amendment.

The Earl of Onslow: As I said, I shall try seriously not to transgress. I shall stick closely to the amendment and ask the following question. Later in the Bill it states that the Crown and the Duchy of Cornwall are subject to its provisions. If we go back to the agents on the Crown land and to the officers of the body corporate, are we not in danger of getting into difficulties about that unless we are very careful about the clause?

Lord Monro of Langholm: I support this important amendment. Let me preface my remarks by saying that I was glad when, towards the end of the debates before dinner, the Minister started calling this a government Bill, which he should have done from the start. It is terribly important to realise that when a government have a majority of more than 200 in another place, whether or not there is a free vote does not matter two hoots because the Government will get their way whatever may happen. However, during my many years in another place, I never saw or heard of a government Bill such as this being overturned and defeated in another place by their Back-Benchers. It is

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an astonishing U-turn and one in which the Government must have been particularly disappointed.

Throughout the debate we have heard of the importance of Burns and the Portcullis discussions. We heard every morning on Channel 4 the Minister extolling the virtues of utility and how everything would be fair. We now have a Bill that is totally unfair and totally different from the one that the Government introduced in another place.

I am a farmer in Dumfriesshire. We have lost our hunt because of the bad decision by the Scottish Executive. Everything we forecast has happened. There are now many foxes and there has been a loss of employment, a loss to the slaughterhouse of fallen stock and the loss of coursing, to which I shall refer later.

The Minister must consider seriously the effects on farming of the Bill that he is introducing. The Burns report indicated that 2 per cent of lambs are slaughtered by foxes—that is, 340,000 lambs, which is an awful lot of livestock. They are killed in the most horrible way—far worse than the way in which foxes are killed and which the Government are trying to prevent. I hope the Minister will bear in mind what has happened in practical terms in Scotland. It will turn out to be the same in England and Wales.

I hope the Government will have second thoughts about what they are doing with the Bill that they have introduced, which has been shown to be particularly impractical from the point of view of the meaning of each clause. I hope that tonight we will get more emphatic answers from the Minister about what each clause means to individuals out for a social walk with dogs, and so on.

I hope, too, that the Minister will take the trouble to explain the moral case that he puts forward. How is it morally right to hunt rabbits and rats but not foxes? How is it right for people to be prevented carrying out perfectly reasonable sporting activities on their own land with their own dogs?

Finally, I hope that the Minister will, some time soon—he has been asked often enough—explain the position of the police. They have, at very senior level, indicated the impracticability of the legislation and the difficulty of implementing it.

All these points go together to support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Renton. I hope that the Minister will concede this one, if nothing else.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: I should like to put out to noble Lords, in case they have forgotten, that if the amendment is passed, Amendment No. 20 will fall. I would like to know the attitude of the Opposition Front Bench to that, particularly as substituting the phrase "gives permission for" instead of "knowingly permits" would, in my judgment, make a significant difference. We need to take note of possible happenings if the amendments go through.

Baroness Byford: Perhaps I can answer the noble Lord's question, which might help other Members of

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the Committee. I wish to return to the amendment in the right place. I tabled my amendment prior to my noble friend's. I rather fancy my own amendment, to be honest, but if he wished to press his, I would support it. However, I reserve my right to return to this.

Lord Palmer: I, too, support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and his colleagues. It is a classic example of the complete muddle and mess the Bill really is. The noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, spoke about land ownership—we desperately need clarification of this. The noble Lord mentioned trustees, which often own an enormous amount of land. One must not forget that an awful lot of land is also owned by charitable trusts. That will be a major problem, and I ask for clarification from the Minister. I wholeheartedly support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Renton.


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