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(1) The Secretary of State shall appoint a person ("the registrar") to maintain a register for the purposes of this Act.
(2) The registrar shall hold and vacate office in accordance with the terms and conditions of his appointment.
(3) The registrar shall comply with
(a) regulations made by the Secretary of State under this Part, and
(b) any direction given to the registrar by the Hunting Tribunal (established under section (The Hunting Tribunal)) in the course of or on the determination of proceedings under this Part.
(4) In exercising his functions the registrar shall have regard to any relevant decision of the Hunting Tribunal.
(5) The Secretary of State may
(a) pay remuneration and allowances to the registrar;
(b) defray expenses of the registrar;
(c) provide staff, equipment or other facilities for the registrar.
(6) Service as the registrar is employment in the civil service of the State."
The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 11 is part of a group of amendments to the registration process, mainly concerned with the registrar. I shall take Members of the Committee through them as rapidly as I can.
Amendment No. 11 gives the Secretary of State power to appoint a registrar for the purposes of maintaining a register for individual and group registrations. The registrar will also determine applications for individual and group registrations. I believe I am right in saying that this amendment is identical to what appeared in the Government's original Bill. For detailed purposes, the registrar will hold a salaried position, with provision of staff and relevant equipment.
The creation of this position limits the Secretary of State's involvement in the registration process and means that no further burden is added to the Secretary of State or the department. The registrar will have the power to make provisions on the handling of applications. Once the registrar has been appointed, individuals wishing to become registered under this Bill will send their applications to the registrar for consideration. Should an application be refused, the applicant may appeal to a tribunal, which noble Lords will discuss later. Should an application be permitted, a prescribed animal welfare body may appeal to a
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tribunal. The determination of the application is based on the requirements laid out in the proposed clause, on the tests of registration: utility and suffering. Unless Members of the Committee have any questions, that is the sum of the amendment. I beg to move.
(1A) "Appropriately qualified" means that the individual
(a) has good knowledge of hunting with dogs in the United Kingdom or Ireland, and
(b) is entirely impartial as to hunting, and impartial means that he has no association with hunting or any organisation which directly or indirectly supports, opposes, or has supported or opposed, hunting."
The noble Lord said: Never before yesterday's extraordinary vote have I seen the Chamber so packed during the whole Committee stage. It was quite remarkable. At Second Reading I described the Bill as a "fiasco" and a "farce". Yesterday the Minister referred to the "gang of four" who were "in deep water". At Second Reading, the Minister talked about the "last-chance saloon". That emphasises the fact that we are in the most extraordinarily farcical situation: a gang of four, in deep water, in the last-chance saloon!
Following on from yesterday's vote, and now that registration is safely back on the face of the Bill, the effect of this amendment is that the registrar, under this legislation, will have to have sufficient knowledge and expertise if he is to be able to make any attempt at an objective judgment on whether to allow hunting to be registered. The amendment would ensure that the individual appointed had sufficient knowledge, as well as independence, to fulfil the role created by the legislation.
The role of the registrar and his team will be all-important to the registration process. On television on Sunday, Alun Michael mentioned his concerns for animal welfare. A profound understanding of the whole issue of hunting will be required, and a thorough understanding of local conditions will be paramount. The impartiality of the registrar will be essential, if the process is to command the confidence of all parties. Obviously, that is where the Burns report is so important.
The job of the registrar is made extraordinarily difficult by the sheer absence of any agreed opinion among experts on either the utility, which would be limited to a particular area, or on which method of culling is, in fact, preferable. The Government have provided no guidance, and each decision by the registrar could become, in its own right, a mini-Burns inquiry in the area where permission to hunt is being sought. That is why the amendment will, I hope, pave the way for an impartial registrar. I beg to move.
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