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Baroness Byford: I support Amendment No. 28. We are addressing the issue of whether registered hunting should be allowed. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, referred to the 11th September 2002 news release which was quite clearly headed,
As many Members of the Committee said, we are proposing restoring the clause that deals with utility and cruelty. Reference has been made to the number of sheep taken. I should declare and remind the Committee that, originally, after leaving school, I became a poultry farmer. As evening approached I had to be very careful to ensure that my hens and chickens were locked up or the fox would come round. Please do not think that a fox kills only one or two because it does not. It will kill the lot regardless of whether it intends to eat them. Other figuressuch as 300,000 lambs killedhave also been cited.
I should also remind the Committee that farmers are being encouraged to promote free-range activities in both pig and poultry farming. There is an acute risk that fox predation of those types of livestock will increase. My noble friend referred to the dispersal role played by hunts. We should not undervalue that role.
I turn to the issue of least suffering. As we know, hunts hunt only during a closed season. They do not hunt when vixen are carrying cubs as that is banned. If this provision is not reintroduced into the Bill, it is likely that foxes will be shot year round. Whatever happens, more foxes will be shot; of that there is no doubt.
Some Members of the Committee have mentioned the issue of controlling the fox population by snaring, gassingwhich is illegaland shooting. None is a good alternative. Snaring is probably one of the worst ways in which an animal can die. They are left in agony, perhaps for a long time, dying from the snare injury, starvation, cold or exposure. It is estimated that of animals caught in snares, 50 per cent are species other than the target one. That is very worrying.
Certain bodies have suggested that we need this statement regarding the whole question of registration, utility and cruelty. The NFU, the CLA, the Game Conservancy Trust and many others support this amendment.
I hope that we shall reach a swift conclusion on whether we support the amendment. I say to Members of the Committee who wonder whether it is wise to support the amendment that the alternative ways of killing and controlling foxes and deer are much crueller. I beg Members of the Committee at least to consider that. I support the amendment.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: After the two days of debate we have had in Committee no one can say that anyone has been inhibited either in what they have said or in how long they have decided to take to express it. From time to time comment has been made about a paucity of speakers on this side of the Committee among those who are favour of the ban. We have tried to exercise due diligence and caution in ensuring that the Bill gets back to the Commons as quickly as possible. Therefore, we have maintained a strict control upon the number and length of speeches. I make no complaint. We are all adults.
On the first amendment that we discussed last Tuesday I was the only person to express a certain view. Twenty-two others expressed an opposing view. That was the way in which they decided to use their time. When the Chief Whip spoke at the beginning of the two days of Committee debate, he pointed out that he had allocated two days for the Committee stage. Noble Lords opposite in their wisdom and maturity have decided to take the time that they have in speaking to a very small part of the Bill. That is their choice. I have certainly learnt a lot from what has been said and I respect the integrity of those who have said it. But at the end of the day these amendments we are dealing with now deal with qualifications that need to be complied with before a hunt becomes registered.
I have never been in favour of registration and a great many Members of the Committee were never in favour of registration until their original choice, the status quo, was seen to be absolutely out of order and out of sympathy. So they decided that registration of a hunt to killa licence to killwas the best way forward. In their mindsthey may be wrongthey see this as the best way of continuing the practice in
Baroness Byford: The noble Lord just said quite clearly that if the amendment is agreed to, it would constitute a licence to kill. Will the noble Lord acknowledge that if registration does not occur, more animals will be killed by shooting and other methods? I do not mind that he does not agree with those who want to hunt, but the fact is that more foxes, deer and vermin may well be killed than would have been killed had the registration amendment been agreed to.
Does the Minister agree that the formula of the adhesive agent for round-up was changed because of research not by the Government but by the coursers? That research showed that it was the adhesive agent of round-up that was causing damage to hares and other wildlife and, because of the coursers' actions, the formula was changed for the benefit of all wildlife.
Lord Whitty: I do not really intend to engage in a repeat Second Reading debate, as many have today. I shall try to address the amendment. That is important, because it is a linchpin amendment. As a result of last week's decisions, we are in a situation where we have changed the Bill and moved to something like a registration system, with all the qualifications. The amendment and the subsequent amendments that hang on it would change to something entirely different.
After some wide-ranging discussion, I was grateful in a sense to my noble friend Lady Mallalieu for taking us back to what the provisions are. In so doing, however, she betrayed the motivation of everyone who supports the amendments; namely, that they disagree with what Alun Michael presented in the original Bill. Therefore, they have tried to take it further, to dilute, weaken and reverse, while staying broadly speaking within a structure that the original Bill presented.
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