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Lord Whitty: I would like to answer the noble Earl, Lord Peel. I did not say that "hunting" did not include such circumstances in answer to my noble friend Lord Stoddart, but that there were a number of exemptions relating to hunting of animals on one's own land that relate to Schedule 1 on rats, rabbits and, in certain circumstances, hares. The precise position to which he referred is not covered by those exemptions, but many equivalent situations would be.
Lord Elton: The noble Lord's answer leaves quite a lot in doubt. Large numbers of followers on foot, in motor cars and on bicycles subscribe and belong to hunt supporters' clubs. Does that imply intention? Are they caught? Should that not be plain in the Bill? Perhaps the amendment would not make it plain, but
Lord Whitty: The intention to hunt means engaging in the activity of hunting, not of driving a car down country lanes. There may be some grey areas that would have to be determined by the courts, but in general the definition is pretty clearly the intention to participate in a hunt.
I shall go back to the intervention of the noble Earl, Lord Peel. The principal amendment relates to "intentionally". To say that I have not replied to that point takes the biscuit. I have been replying to it for nearly 30 minutes. I continue to intend to reply to the debate. If it will help the Committee to have my interpretation on issues raised by the amendments, I will give that. All that I say is that I will not, at the end of that, recommend acceptance of any amendment before us today.
Lord Brittan of Spennithorne: With regard to the question raised by my noble friend Lord Peel, the Minister may have been a little rapid in his final answer. He conceded that the exemption that would mean that someone was not guilty if he hunted a rabbit on his own land did not apply to a fox. Is he not saying that my noble friend is absolutely right and that, in the circumstances that he described of setting a dog on a fox in one's own land, one would be guilty of the offence?
Lord Whitty: That is consistent with what I said in relation to foxes. However, some species are exempt under the Bill. The question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, was actually in relation to squirrels, and that may also require some clarification.
Lord Waddington: I am sure that the noble Lord would want to be entirely frank with the Committee. Is not the position this: he is not prepared to accept any amendment, even one recommended as necessary by a noble and learned Lord, because if the Government did so and the Bill did not become law this Session, the consequences of the Government having accepted such an amendment here and in the other place would be that they could not use the Parliament Act if the Bill were rejected next Session? That is the truth of the matter.
Lord Whitty: No. I have argued that the Committee should not get ahead of itself. Let us find a way through the matter without necessarily pre-empting all the subsequent stages that the House of CommonsI repeat, the House of Commonsmight take. Were I to take the noble Lord's advice and accept every
Lord Whitty: In Committee, we have a free vote. It is not down to me to accept or reject. I wish to hear the debate. As it happens, I do not propose to vote either way in Committee. What I do at subsequent stages depends how the House decides on the various amendments now and in future. All that I say today is that there is no amendment in the Marshalled List that the Government are prepared to advise the Committee or any Member of the Committee to accept.
The Earl of Caithness: Will the Minister clarify a point that he made earlier? He seemed to say that the dog of the daughter of my noble friend Lord Crickhowell would not be hunting if it went off when taken for a walk. Then he said that the provision would prevent hunting by packs. I cannot find a definition of "pack" in the Bill. What is the Minister's definition?
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I must return to the question of the householder who sets his dog on a fox which might invade his garden or on squirrels, hedgehogs and all kinds of wild mammals which might do so. It is an important point.
The argument has revolved around fox hunting but has widened. There seems always to have been an argument between the town and the country and the Bill appears to put the townies at risk, too. From what I heard the Minister say, I understand that the person who sets an Alsatian or any other kind of dog on any wild mammal other than those exempted under Schedule 2 will be committing an offence. It is important that every householder in this country, particularly if he has a large garden in an urban setting, understands that if someone goes out and reports him for setting his dog on foxes, squirrels or other wild animals not exempted, he may well be committing a criminal offence and he can be arrested, arraigned and fined £5,000.
The matter must therefore be clarified and that may well require an amendment to Schedule 2. If so, will the Minister still say he is not prepared to recommend the acceptance of an amendment which will protect people living in the urban environment that I have described?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am trying very carefully to be as reasonable as possible. My noble friend the Minister has sat down five times before someone has asked for an intervention "before the Minister sits down". I have absolutely no desire to stifle questions or debate at all, but I sense from all sides of the Committee that Members are beginning to feel that questions are being repeated merely because
Viscount Astor: I should be happy for the Minister to reply to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and then to hear from the noble Baroness. But it is Committee stage and it is important that the Minister gives us full replies.
Lord Whitty: I am grateful for the support of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, in these matters. I thought that I had given a full reply. I said that where a person intentionally unleashes a dog or dogs on a mammal which is not exempted under Clause 8, it could constitute hunting under the Bill. Some of the examples which have been thrown at me fall under that category and some do not, but in relation to foxes it will include activity on one's own land.
Baroness Mallalieu: I shall not delay the Committee any more than I have to, save to thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. Given that the Minister has said that intention is the key to criminality, I am profoundly surprised that that word appears nowhere in the Bill.
I had not thought that I would be unleashing a tide of slightly intemperate exchange when I introduced what seemed to me an amendment to which no one could take exception, whichever side of the debate they were on. Whatever course the Bill takeswhether regulatory or a banit seemed that it would be improved by clarifying the nature of the criminal offence that had to be proved.
The Minister said that the amendment is unnecessary. Presumably, it would have been possible for him to accept that word on the face of the Bill and avoid a considerable debate. No doubt it would have speeded up our deliberations.
I have very much in mind what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, said. I, too, am attracted by the second amendment, but I propose that the Committee should consider the first. For that reason, I wish to test the feeling of the Committee.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Geddes): Before calling Amendment No. 2, I must advise the Committee that, if it is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 3 due to pre-emption.
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