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Lord Crickhowell: I did not say that that number of sheep had been hunted to death by foot packs. I am saying that sheep are just as much, or perhaps more, under threat from foxes in the industrial areas in south Wales, where foot packs usually almost entirely composed of miners and ex-miners seek to protect them.
Those who participated in that march will remember that among the largest and most vociferous groups were miners from south Wales. Indeed, at a later demonstration, which got out of control and where some people attempted to climb over the fence of Parliament, I fear that among the leaders were those probably trained by Mr Scargill. They were certainly south Wales miner's packs.
The amendment would select for protection a relatively small area of the threatened uplands but leave out the rest. One must also ask why we are to protect only sheep in those areas. Unfortunately, foxes in the uplands, as elsewhere, are just as destructive of chickens and other livestock and animals. We are confronted with an amendment lacking in logic and against the principle that emerged clearly in the consultations undertaken by Alun Michael that animals should be treated on an equal and comparable basis, and that we should not discriminate. Surely if we are to select particular areas or forms of hunting for special treatment, we should leave it to a registrar, with all the ability that he would have to take evidence and to consider the individual facts to reach a sensible arrangement for dealing with the matter.
Although the amendment is no doubt moved with the best intentions, it cannot be justified in logic or reason. It would also undermine the important principle that we should opt for registration and the proper control of hunting throughout the United Kingdom. On that basis, I hope that it will not be pressed.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: Most unusually, and worryingly to me, I have reached a different conclusion from that just reached by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. Of course I agree with him in the simple position that the law should deal with hunting on an equal and uniform basis and, as I believe, by a registration scheme. But I understand where the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, who moved the amendment, is coming from: his old constituency, which extends over the delectable hunting country of the Blencathra, the Ullswater, and, for all I know, the Eskdale and Ennerdale and perhaps the Coniston and the Melbreak.
I, too, have the good fortune to know those hunts and over many years, off and on, to have gone out with them. I know what they mean to the dalesmen and women of those parts and, as the noble Lord graphically made clear, to those who owe their exiguous livelihood to their sheep. In the horrid language of this horrid Bill, I, too, have engaged,
Who were my fellow followers? They were about as far removed from the stereotypes so lovingly hated by those behind the Bill before the Committee as is possible to imagine. They follow the hounds and climb, not on horses but on foot. Their boots are those of the farmyard, and their clothes are those of every working day, which happens to come round seven times each week. Typically, their lives in the dales are lonely and very hard. The hunt is the linchpin of what social life they have. If I may quote from the old song:
I know that it is hard for people who live in the South, as I do, to understand what the hunt means to those people. For people living in the South, the fox gets only at their dustbins and never at their incomes. For their social lives they have an embarrassment of riches. I just want the supporters of this blunderbuss Bill to know that in all seriousness I fear for the very lives of many people living in the dales if their hunts were destroyed.
The law should deal with all hunting on an equal basis and by a system of registration. I shall support an approach to the Bill that would achieve that in later votes and opportunities. If people wish to hunt on horses, with hounds and in customary hunting kit, that is no reason to single them out for criminal punishment. I have had the good fortune to hunt in that way, too.
The amendments, provokingly selective though they are, confront me with a dilemma. I shall resolve it by supporting them for the moment, without prejudice to my main position, because if the worst came to the worst, one bit of hunting preserved, in any event, would be better than none.
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My name is attached to the amendment. I wish to speak in favour of it, but not quite from the same perspective as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. I support registration; that is extremely important. I want to see the uplands hunted, indeed over the widest possible area. In that, I agree with most of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. But, as I understand it, an amendment of this kind is the only one that may be accepted in the House of Commons. I regard it as a last-ditch amendment.
I represented the Brecon and Radnor constituency for 11 years in the other place. Farmers frequently hunt on foot in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Foxes are a big menace to lambs. The hunts go to the highest mountains to track down foxes. Hill farmers must be able to protect their sheep from the predations of the fox and maintain the sustainability of the national parks so that ground-nesting birds are not eliminated. The call of the curlew in the days of my youth in the Brecon Beacons National Park was a frequent harbinger of spring. Now it is practically not heard at all because of many changes in the environment, one of the most significant of which is the predations of the fox on ground-nesting birds. Basically, the amendments mean that hunting in national parks will be exempt and that a person cannot be charged with the offence of hunting.
I also recall what the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said about miners' hunts. There is one hunt in particularthe Banwen Miners huntwhich frequently hunts the Brecon Beacons National Park. It plays an important part in the social life of the area and in ensuring a sustainable population of foxes in the southern part of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Another important proviso should be discussed in relation to this amendment. There is a lot of open access now to national parks, and the issue of shooting in national parks obviously has an important bearing on the matter. I support this amendment which is why my name is attached to it, but I regard it as a last ditch amendment that will secure hunting at least in national parks if the House of Commons is minded to ban it everywhere else.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Before the noble Lord sits down, I understood him to have degrouped Amendment No. 100. He seemed to be sorry about that. Is he now speaking to that amendment with this group?
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: I thought that I had made it clear that I was not speaking to Amendment No. 100 at all. It has been totally degrouped. If Members of the Committee look at the groupings, they will see that Amendment No. 100 is the last but one at present and addresses a much wider issue than this narrow one of national parks.
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: I would have to defer to the noble and learned Lord in that case and take legal advice about whether that would happen. I have not thought the matter through and have always found it a good idea not to have an instantaneous response to a question of that kind.
Lord Harrison: I find myself in some agreement with speakers in this debate in so far as I think that this set of amendments may trespass the principle of uniformity of approach. However, my approach is entirely different. The issue of the morality of chasing foxes for sport is identical whether we are talking about upland or lowland areas. However, I am conscious of why my good friend Lord Campbell-Savours has moved the amendment and his purpose in so doing.
In my noble friend's opening speech, he acknowledged that he was in favour of a ban on hunting with dogs. We have heard evidence of the paraphernalia of fox hunting that exists elsewhere in the country, including artificial earths and the dumping of livestock in order to encourage foxes. However, I seek clarification. As far as I understand the Bill before us, flushing foxes for pest control is allowed under certain circumstances, albeit with two dogs only. If my noble friend is unable to confirm that, perhaps the Minister can do so.
I conclude my remarks on this set of amendments by referring to the general case that has been made elsewhere about the fox predation of sheep. I, like many colleagues who contributed to the Second Reading debate, received many letters for and against fox hunting. I have attempted to reply to them all. One letter that I received was from a sheep farmer in Cumbria. I wrote back to him thanking him for his letter and asking him for his view on the ground of whether foxes do indeed predate in the way that it is suggested. This is his reply:
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