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The Earl of Shrewsbury: My Lords, can I conclude from what the noble Baroness has just said to the House that therefore the activities of the various animal rights terrorists over numerous years are morally acceptable?
Baroness Hayman: Absolutely not, my Lords. I do not think that anything I have said has suggested that they are either morally or legally right, as I think I made clear in my speech. I have made clear recently in the issue of the sabotaging of the Krebs trials in regard to badgers and bovine TB the absolute opposition of the Government to illegal activity and to the disruption of legal pursuits.
I was trying to explain to the noble Lord that the issues which have been explained in very black and white terms today are issues of judgment and value judgment. Simply because something is supported by either a majority or a minority does not mean that the view of the Government of the day must be that it should be enacted in legislation. We can think of many examples of that--for instance, the analogy with Section 28 has been made.
I was interested when the noble Lord, Lord Luke, said that he found it difficult to see the nuance between animals for food production and animals for fur production. The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, found it difficult to understand the difference between the use of a by-product of an animal that was kept for food--for example, for leather and sheepskin--but the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, did not find it difficult to see the distinction between the two.
I am sure that when we come to the discussion of an issue which will be hotly debated in this House--fox hunting--there will be those on the Benches opposite who will argue for the continuation of the hunting of mammals with hounds but who would not argue for the reinstatement of bear baiting and cock fighting.
Judgments have to be made about what is appropriate and acceptable in a society at any one time. The speech by my noble friend Lady Gale made it clear that it would be wrong for noble Lords, whose opinions I respect and who are perfectly entitled to believe that the line is being drawn in the wrong place at this time with this particular Bill--I disagree with them, but they are entitled to that view--to assume that they are dealing with the views of one or two Ministers in another place. A large number of people support a ban on fur farming. There has been a great deal of correspondence about it and a great many opinion surveys that have borne that out. I am not suggesting that just because something is supported by a large number of people or a small number of people
Earl Peel: Does the noble Baroness accept the findings of the opinion poll which established quite clearly that farming for any purpose is acceptable--I think 81 per cent of the people polled agreed--provided that the animal welfare standards were up to scratch? That is the key issue.
Baroness Hayman: I have not seen that particular poll; I should like to see it. I accept the noble Earl's view that that may well be the view of some people or many people. In many opinion polls, the answer you get depends very much on how you phrase the question. I was not basing the Government's position simply on majority support, as I think the noble Earl accepts, but on the Government's interpretation of public morality at the present time. I am sure that we will have that debate on Section 28 on Monday.
It is important that I should say one thing very clearly. In the course of speeches--which I know were strongly felt--aspersions were cast on the motivation of my honourable friend Mr Elliot Morley in terms of the introduction of this Bill. Noble Lords who know my honourable friend should accept that he has a long-standing and deep and personal commitment on these issues. They may not share his views but I do not think that he should be accused in any way of hypocrisy on this issue.
Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for giving way. It may have been my remarks which gave rise to the comments that she has just made. I would not for a moment intend that anything I said should reflect a suggestion that Mr Elliot Morley is other than wholly sincere in the views which he holds.
I dealt with some of the basic arguments in my opening remarks. I was asked why we consider that it is not right to kill farmed animals for their fur but acceptable to kill farmed animals for meat. That reflects the view that the breeding of animals for slaughter is not right or wrong per se in any circumstances. It depends on the purpose for which the animal is slaughtered. I hope noble Lords will agree that it is incumbent on us always to challenge the motive for killing anything. If the motive or purpose does not justify the slaughter, the slaughter cannot be justified by the fact that the animals were bred specifically to be slaughtered for that purpose. We believe that the primary purpose of keeping an animal for the production of food is justified in terms of sufficient public benefit and that that is so even where
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, it is a doctrine of analysing differences in specific circumstances and coming to judgments about the nuances and rules which one applies. I accept that the noble Lady may not agree, but I am saying that the Government see a distinction. We believe that that distinction around purpose will be seen by other people; that the support of Members in another place, reflecting, one hopes, the views of their constituents, was strongly in favour of the Bill; and that many people can see such a distinction between the farming of animals for food and the farming of animals for fur.
Some specific questions were raised. The noble Lord, Lord Kimball, worried me with his assertions on Acts of Attainder. Erskine May tells us somewhat reassuringly that Acts of Attainder are now of historic interest only. Since they followed on the imposition of death penalties, I am sure the noble Lord will be reassured by that. It was not suggested that the abolition of either bear baiting in 1835 or cock fighting in 1849 was equivalent to an Act of Attainder. However, I understand that noble Lords have strong feelings. I understand that noble Lords have questions to ask. Perhaps I may deal later in my speech with the issue of compensation. I suspect that we shall return to that issue at later stages of the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Luke, challenged my assertion that the Bill is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. Under Article 1 of its first protocol, the convention guarantees the right to peaceful enjoyment of property and possessions. Any interference with the use of property must achieve a fair balance between the general interests of the community and the individual's right to the enjoyment of possessions. It is the view of the Government that the provisions are compatible with the ECHR. We believe that over-riding moral arguments can be brought forward in favour of a ban. A period of at least two to three years is being allowed before the ban comes into force and compensation will be payable. There will be a duty to consult on compensation with those affected.
Perhaps at this point I may respond to the query raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, about what is to happen to the livestock involved. A variety of options are available at the discretion of the farmer. We believe that the majority will go for slaughter for the pelts, but they could be sold abroad, as long as that is done before the ban comes into force. In terms of exports and imports--a point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Peel--as I tried to make clear, nothing in the Bill affects the trade in fur. Only the trade in animals is affected.
I believe that the noble Earl also suggested that we should be concerned about animal welfare standards in countries where fur farming is not banned. The noble Earl, along with the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, was absolutely right to point out that the only other country within the EU to have imposed a ban is Austria. I believe that the Dutch are also looking at a potential ban.
I should also point out that the EU directive on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes also covers animals farmed for their fur. That directive lays down minimum welfare standards. We have participated in Council of Europe discussions on changes to raise standards in order to fulfil our obligations as regards animal welfare throughout the Community.
Earl Peel: My Lords, is the noble Baroness saying that mink produced in another European country could still be imported for use in this country? If that is what she is saying--I see that she is shaking her head; that is not what she is trying to say--I would regard that as totally hypocritical. Could she confirm her statement?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am trying to find the exact language to make the position absolutely clear. The difference is that the import of animals to breed and slaughter for fur would be illegal. The import of the fur itself would not be illegal. That difference occurs because each country within Europe is entitled to decide for itself the balance between public morality and the carrying on of a business. Different countries take different views on that issue. That is the situation.
I was trying to suggest to the noble Earl that we have not completely abrogated responsibility for ensuring that, as regards standards in animal welfare, we make every effort to take the lead within the Community. That is because we uphold very high standards of animal welfare in this country. Only last Friday the noble Baroness and I discussed the need to secure a level playing field on this issue.
The noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, asked me about the significance of the cut-off date for compensation; namely, 2nd March 1999. That date was chosen because it marked the Second Reading of the Private Member's Bill in another place. Obviously, one needs to put a constraint on the potential of people entering the business theoretically in order to claim compensation.
Perhaps I may move on to the issues relating to compensation. I believe that throughout the debate it has been recognised that, given the support now offered by the NFU and from the affected farmers, the Bill should progress--although I take the point that that acceptance has not come about on the matter of principle. A great deal of interest has been expressed on the issue of compensation. As I explained, the Bill is an enabling measure and it is not appropriate for details of the compensation scheme to be included in the Bill itself. But, on behalf of the Government, I
Under the Bill, the Government are required to consult publicly on the details of the compensation scheme. This is in order to allow the views of fur farmers to be taken fully into account in an open and fair manner. I should not want there to be any perception, real or otherwise, that the Government would not take into account the views of the industry.
I have been pressed to say exactly what will or will not be in the compensation scheme--for example, whether it will be based on headage, and whether income and costs associated with closure will be taken into account. We have not ruled out any items at this stage. But to give guarantees now would prejudge the outcome of the consultation exercise, and that would not be right.
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