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Lord Graham of Edmonton: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, a colleague of mine for many years in the other place and up here, for giving us the opportunity to concentrate on the use of land.
There are two sides to every question. Most Members opposite, and those who take the opposite view from me, are much better versed in the operation and behaviour of hunts, in the past as well as today. At Second Reading, I said that I had heard from a number of people, as we all didthere are lobbies on both sides of the main argument which might or might not encourage people to write. I indicated then that one of the most distressing things that had been drawn to my attention was the arrogance of the hunts, time after time. They went on to people's lands, their gardens or their back doors, causing distress and annoyance, with not a word from Members opposite about how to deal with the problem. People in the locality had to live with it, because the hunt had been in existence for a long time and those who belonged to it were used to getting their own way.
I venture to suggest that the hunts in operation have been guilty of trespass and causing distress and being bullies in their communities without let or hindrance. The Members opposite, who, as far as I am concerned, are good colleagues in the Chamber, ought to reflect that they have been negligent in their so-called defence of their communities and the ancient rightsthat is, huntsover the years.
Baroness Mallalieu: The noble Lord, Lord Graham, makes a good point. There can be no defence for people who are arrogant and do not respect other people's property. In recent years, with the setting up of the Independent Supervisory Authority for Hunting, there is a mechanism available to any member of the public who feels aggrieved to make a complaint. It will be fully investigated and, if it is found to be justified, there is no question but that penalties will be imposed on those responsible.
I do not believe that any responsible hunters now behave as the noble Lord, Lord Graham, suggested. I accept that there are occasionsthey have been made known to the noble Lord, Lord Burnswhen trespass takes place inadvertently. In my personal experience, people go backwards to avoid upsetting their neighbours. That may be something relatively new, but it is right that it should happen, and those incidents should not have happened in the past. They have been a cause of friction.
Part of the problem is the difficulty that many rural areas are experiencing with people who may have moved from elsewhere, who have competing interests in life and who have to find ways in which to adapt to other people's ways of life. One notable thing about the Bill and agricultural communities is that the Bill has caused serious polarisation on the issue for the first time. In the past, in rural communities, people have taken views on both sides on hunting. They may have argued and muttered about it, or they may have had open words, but they live side by side and tolerate other people in those communities, because in rural areas one has to live cheek by jowl with other people. The Bill, and the thinking behind it, is saying in effect, "We're going to tell you how to live your lives, and if we can't convince you by argument, we are going to pass legislation to make you into criminals". That is causing real division and real difficulties, not only between town and countryalthough it has aggravated differences therebut in the country itself, where communities should be getting on together.
I am troubled by what the noble Lord, Lord Graham, has said, because he raised the matter on amendments dealing with the role of landowners. I am troubled about what is being got at by the provisions in this clause. Is it intended to put a landowner in a worse position than someone would otherwise be under the criminal law? If you aid, abet,
I am also troubled about these amendments and about the relationship that they have to the Bill due to something that the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, said which I am afraid rings a bell with me. I shall try very hard not to upset the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, by straying into Second Reading, but the noble Lord said that the measure was an attack on people. The measure is aimed specifically at landowners.
I do not know how many of your Lordships read the debates that took place on this Bill in another place in the summer of this year. They did not make pretty reading. The issues relating to animal crueltythe issues relating to the Billwere scarcely mentioned. There were a number of references to people who owned land. There were references, curiously, to the injustices that had been meted out to the mining community. I say curiously because, as many of us know, it is from those communities that some of the strongest supporters of coursing, particularly with whippets, come. They are the very people who would be penalised by the Bill.
In short, reading those debatesI do not think that I am being unfair; I invite Members of the Committee who think that I may be to read those debatesthere was a refusal even to consider the adverse animal welfare implications which a ban would without question, on all the evidence, cause. It appeared that many of those who spoke, and no doubt voted accordingly in the debate, sought some kind of revenge for perceived or real past social injustice. Surely the Labour Party has grown up. Surely it was that very attitude which kept us in opposition for so many years. It was because the Prime Minister came to office saying that he would govern on behalf of the whole nationand the nation believed himthat this Government gained two massive election victories.
My noble friend Lord Stoddart referred to previous Labour governments. We are, of course, repeating history here because in 1949 under a Labour government with a huge majority an attempt was made to abolish hunting. The Minister of Agriculture was Tom Williams. Both he and Chuter Ede, the Home Secretary, had previously sponsored anti-hunting Bills in the 1930s. Indeed, Tom Williams had actually moved a Motion against hunting at the Labour Party conference in 1928. Yet on examining the issues they both voted against the Bill, as did the Prime Minister Clement Attlee, Aneurin
I hope very much that this Government, who have allowed their agenda to be taken by the Back-Benchers and their Bill to be changed into one that bears no relation to the evidence that their own anti-hunting Minister found, will not find themselves tarnished as Tom Williams envisaged that a Labour government might be in the 1945 administration. That 1945 Labour administration faced up to this exact problem. They took charge and control, and ensured that their agenda and programmes were such that their achievements lasted to this day.
In looking at the amendments, I would very much like to know whether it is intended to impose a greater penalty and responsibility on landowners than on any ordinary citizen faced with a criminal allegation.
Also, I would specifically like the Minister's help. He may not be aware that on Exmoor, where I live part of the time, the sporting rights to a large amount of landmany thousands of acresare owned by a limited company. That land is occupied by people who are sometimes freeholders and sometimes tenants, but none of them is in control of who hunts on their land. What is the position so far as they are concerned? Are they also likely to be made criminal, simply because they are occupiers and perhaps landowners of the land? In reality, they have no legal right to say no.
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