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Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, regarding the question of Scottish Members of Parliament voting in the other place, can the noble Lord advise us what the result would have been on a free vote if Scottish MPs

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had not participated? Is the noble Lord also suggesting that Peers from Scotland should not participate in any vote in this House?

Viscount Trenchard: My Lords, the noble Lord made an interesting second point. Regarding his first point, I can tell the noble Lord that if Scottish MPs had not voted on this issue, fewer MPs would have voted for the Bill than otherwise.

The late Lord Jenkins of Hillhead was greatly respected on all sides of this House and in the country at large. It has been reported that he advised the Prime Minister not to ban fox hunting: that it would be the most illiberal thing he could do. I earnestly hope that even at this eleventh hour the Prime Minister will recognise that fact and will turn back from the disastrous course on which he has allowed Parliament to embark.

It is appalling that the Government have, by a mixture of weakness, dishonesty and deceit, brought us to this pass. In those circumstances, I hope that your Lordships' House will return a Bill to another place which lives up to the Government's original intention to find a middle way to seek a conclusion based on evidence and principle. If the House is able to do that, it will surely have properly discharged its constitutional role.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Palmer: My Lords, I was a member of the all-party delegation that went to see the Chief Whip last time. It is simply not true for the noble Lords, Lord Whitty and Lord Hoyle, to say that we were offered more government time to consider the Bill in Committee. We also—

Lord Hoyle: I did not. I said, "You were offered more time".

Lord Palmer: My Lords, time and time can be debated at great length, but we were not offered more time to spend on the Bill in Committee. We also sent a letter which was published in the Guardian stating this in reply to a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester.

It really is a complete and utter disgrace that we have spent the last seven hours—there is probably another hour to go—debating hunting yet again, despite the many superb speeches, some of which I sincerely hope will be alerted to the attention of the Prime Minister. I believe historians will regard this with disbelief. How I wish that we had all heeded the advice of the Daily Star, which had an editorial stating, "Let's have a Bill to ban banning".

It is interesting to note that if all the 15 elected Peers and all the Conservative Peers taking part tonight had not spoken there would still be a large majority against this Bill. I agree with many noble Lords that it is quite extraordinary that the findings of the Burns report have been completely ignored. Nothing that has been said tonight, however fluently or eloquently, is likely to change any of your Lordships' minds.

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Despite the new intake I suspect that if and when we come to vote at a later stage the figures will be almost identical to what they were last time. Everyone agrees, whichever side they are on—I do hope that the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, is noticing that I am wearing my Co-op tie with pride—that there are far more important issues to be debated.

The reason that we are wasting so much time, as other noble Lords have mentioned, is apparently to appease the Government Back-Benchers. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who made a superb speech. Since when do the Back-Benchers decree the laws of this country in a public Bill?

Many people have asked me if the Prime Minister has taken leave of his senses. I do my best to defend his reputation, but when he is quoted as saying,


    "I supported the compromise proposals that were put forward; it is now for the other House to consider the Hunting Bill",

that is exactly what we did last time. The arguments for both sides have been so well rehearsed, and with great regularity, that it has almost become a farce.

I live in Scotland, not far from the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, and I have first-hand knowledge of what a hunting ban has achieved. It has certainly done nothing whatever for the fox. I do not think for one moment that the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, can begin to realise the utter misery that his Bill has caused rural Scotland. Certainly, there has been no rejoicing in the streets. Similarly, his Bill had nothing to do with animal welfare and, as statistics have shown, far more foxes have been killed since his Bill became law and, far worse, many have been wounded and left to die.

One must not forget that the Rural Affairs Committee of that pretendy-wee Parliament in Edinburgh strongly advised MSPs to vote against his Bill. I speak from bitter, bitter experience. His Bill has broken up family units, farms, friendships and, not least of all, marriages. I just hope that he is justifiably proud of the misery he has caused to both humans and, indeed, to foxes.

What good will the Bill do for this country, let alone for animal welfare? What will it achieve? Man has hunted since creation and animals have done the same. Foxes, it must not be forgotten, hunt to kill for the sheer enjoyment of a kill. I believe that this Bill will haunt and hunt the Labour Party for ever.

If countryside dwellers started to dictate to urban dwellers, the riots would be uncontrollable. I am always concerned when one reads of the Prime Minister's and his Government's commitment that shooting and angling are safe. It must not be forgotten that the devolved assemblies can overrule that pledge without any trouble whatever.

What harm do country sports do to the nation? Those who participate in them do not require a vast police presence, as at football matches. I believe that the Bill is a breach of civil liberties on an unprecedented scale. I also think that it is worth stressing that passing this Bill is harmful to urban as well as rural Britain. It symbolises

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meanness, ignorance, intolerance, bigotry and prejudice. It is unwanted, unwelcome and, according to the police and judiciary, unenforceable.

Let us for a moment assume that the Bill does receive Royal Assent. The police will have to try to enforce it. We have all heard of the ridiculous idea of cameras on every tree and in every hedgerow. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has pointed out how the mounted police will get left behind. So imagine the cost of helicopters, multiplied by all the different packs of hounds. Imagine two hours per helicopter flying per hunt at a cost of £1,000 per time, multiplied by 350 hunts twice a week for, say, 24 weeks in the hunting season. That would amount to nearly £17 million for policing foxhounds alone.

Imagine the number of police waiting to capture horses and hounds. Imagine the extra expense of building kennels at police stations, let alone building stables and finding the appropriate staff. This scenario may appear farcical, but it will inevitably be a reality. Surely this is madness.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, I understand the costs that the noble Lord is describing. However, they will apply only if those to whom he is referring are prepared to break the law.

Lord Palmer: My Lords, I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Davies, says. It is a worrying factor that, particularly in the more rural parts of Britain, there will unfortunately be people who will break the law. That cannot, I am afraid, be ruled out.

I was going to say that if those sums were properly channelled into health and education, that would be a better use of money.

Other countries throughout the world are far more tolerant, and fox hunting thrives in the United States of America, in six other European Union countries and a further six Commonwealth countries.

Many noble Lords have made reference to the Parliament Act 1949, and many useful points have been made, most notably by the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, and my noble and learned friend Lord Donaldson. However, if this Bill is really so important to the well-being of the nation, why then did the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Home Secretary and a further six members of the Cabinet fail to vote? It is yet another farcical and shameful situation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, has also referred.

To use the Parliament Act where people's livelihoods are affected seems contrary to the best intentions of the Labour Party. I believe that the Government should drop this Bill. They know they will earn the respect of the nation for at least listening to public opinion, and yes, they do know that in reality this Bill would be completely unworkable. There is not one legitimate reason for this Bill to become law, and the Government know it. I believe that they must show the nation who governs the country. To the country as a whole, hunting is simply not an issue.

Never before has a minority been so unjustly persecuted. The Prime Minister could so easily put his hand on his heart and say Parliament has decided, and

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by a majority of 46, as it was last time. That is, of course, the whole truth of this sordid affair. Here is a let out for the Prime Minister, and one which I hope he seizes.

10.25 p.m.


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