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The noble Baroness said: This group of amendments are amendments to the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Mancroft. At the outset, I should say that I support his Amendment No. 4, which brings important matters before the Committee. If I may, I shall speak first to the amendments individually and explain my reasons for tabling them, before returning to make a few more comments on Amendment No. 4.
I move amendment No. 5, but speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 9 and 14, because they all fall under the same banner. The amendments would enable an individual or group registration to apply to hunt more than one species of wild animal. The Bill as drafted may be read to provide that registration is permitted to an individual or group in respect of only one species. There was a substantial debate on that in another place.
Most hunts currently recognised by one of the official hunting associations are of quarry speciesin other words, those hunts registered with the Masters of Foxhounds Association hunt foxes. However, gamekeepers use dogs to hunt a wide variety of wild animals as part of their species management activities. As the National Gamekeepers' Association notes, about 4,000 gamekeepers regularly use their dogs in the necessary control of fox, mink and stoat. The same gamekeepers on occasion use their dogs in pursuit of deer.
During the recess, when I was in Wales, I was talking to someone who acts as a hunt servant of his local hunt. He reminded me that in certain parts of the countryespecially in Walesfarmers often call on their local hunts, especially at the start of a lambing season, because of the trouble with foxes. The request is for the use of more than two dogsoften seven or eightto clear predatory species from the vicinity of the lambing area.
I now turn to Amendments Nos. 6 and 10, which, after the word "species", would insert the words "to be". They are probing amendments to try to improve the amendment so ably moved by my noble friend. The effect of the amendments is consequential on Amendment No. 5, which I have already described. Its purpose is to tidy up the drafting to ensure that the correct sense of this part of the Bill is established.
I now turn to Amendment No. 7 and speak also to Amendments Nos. 11 and 15. As Amendment No. 4 is drafted, it requires of an individual or group registration that the application must specify the area in respect of which permission to hunt is sought. Existing hunts operate over considerable distances. For all packs registered with one of the hunting associations, there is a designated hunt country for each pack and hunting will take place in different parts of that country on different days.
Registration will last for three years, during which time the area covered in which gamekeepers or hunts operate may expand or, indeed, retract. If it expands, it could be due to the shooting captain obtaining rights to shoot over a neighbour's land; a hunt clearing more country over which to hunt owing to a change of landowner; or, for example, hunt amalgamation.
Moreover, hunts provide a call-out service for farmers within their hunt country that can necessitate their travelling to a large variety of areas within that country. It is unnecessary for me to remind your Lordships how important that service is now that we have a ban on fallen stock being buried. That service is hugely important.
By defining an area for the registered hunt or gamekeeper employed on an estate, it will be harder for those using other working dogs, such as terrier dogs or long dogs, on a call-out basis to define the set area. It will also be hardif not impossiblefor them to be sufficiently familiar with every farm or house on which they may be called to visit to satisfy the utility test without conducting research. At present, they respond to landowners as and when required, whether in the urban or rural environment.
I now turn to Amendment No. 8, and with it, Amendments Nos. 12 and 16. The effect of these amendments reflects on the previous amendments to which I have just spoken. It would be problematic for hunts or individuals to specify the area in which hunting takes place if that is understood in a restrictive sense. For the reasons I have set out, those wanting to
I now turn briefly to Amendment No. 13. It would leave out from "place" to the end of line 15. It would remove the requirement for an individual hunting in reliance on a group registration held by another from being subject to the requirement for his name to be recorded under the amendment's provision:
It is a serious question of civil liberties that people should be free to participate in a lawful activity without undue interference from the state. If the registered person is hunting and others are following that activity, there should be no requirement for those others to be recorded. That is all the more important as there is a real threat of animal rights violence directed against people who participate in hunting and whose identities are known.
In that context, I ask the Minister to clarify what he was unable to clarify earlier when he was asked about those taking part in hunting. From what I have read of the debate in another place, those who must be registered for hunting are those who actually hunt. The Minister was questioned during debate on the previous amendment about whether followers would be included as part of those who were hunting. If I remember correctly, the noble Lord said that those foot followers were obviously not involved in the hunt. But he did not clarify for usand he needs towhether those on horseback who are not involved in the hunting, but are followers or participants, will also be caught within this particular section.
A person following a pack of hounds via lanes in a car would appear to be hunting. I seek clarification. As Rob Marris told the committee on 28th January, all those who control dogs are hunting; not all those who are hunting control dogs. I ask the Minister whether that means that followers, on foot or on horseback, are or are not hunting.
Publishing the identity of those who participate in a hunt could raise serious issues under the data protection legislation and international human rights obligations, with no significant identifiable benefit to animal welfare to balance the intrusion on private life.
Followers of the hunt have precious little, if anything, to do with the process of hunting, as we have already debated in great detail. Thus the detail should be of no concern to the public or prescribed animal welfare bodies. Indeed, as the Minister stated himself, the enjoyment is a side benefit. He said that he regarded any enjoyment that people may experience from being in the open air and so on as relevant to the judgment that Parliament wishes to make or the judgment which people make on its behalf.
When Defra issued permits to hunt following the foot and mouth crisis, a condition of the permits was that a record be held by the hunt of the names and addresses of the followers to be made available on request to Defra. A daily record of the area hunted had
I am sorry that these amendments are grouped as they are, but I understand why that is so. I hope that my explanation of these amendments has helped to clarify some points. I remind Members of the Committee that they are probing amendments and that I do not wish in any way to detract from the main thrust of the amendment moved by my noble friend, which is extremely important. I beg to move.
Lord Hoyle: I rise to speak because of some remarks made at the beginning by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. He said that the intention was to introduce amendments that would return the Alun Michael Bill from this House to another place. That is how I understood the noble Lord. If I am wrong on that, I am sure that he will correct me.
As I understand the amendments to registration and its different aspects, they go a lot further than the Alun Michael Bill. Is it not the intention with these amendments to bring back deer hunting? That is my interpretation and it is a lot wider than the Alun Michael Bill. What happens with regard to hare coursing? Are they going to take away all controls over that activity? That was not in the Alun Michael Bill. There is the question of whether the tests of utility and cruelty will be severely weakened. I speak for those reasons and to say that it is misleading to suggest to the House that all that is attempted is to take back to another place the Alun Michael Bill as it was originally. I believe that what is proposed goes far wider in an attempt to take us back to deer hunting and to weaken the controls established in the Alun Michael Bill.
Lord Mancroft: I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. There is a series of amendments, but I am moving one amendment at the moment. It is exactly as it was worded in the Alun Michael Bill. When speaking earlier, the Minister said that through our amendments we were planning to dilute the Bill. I am not sure whether that is the word he used, but I believe that that is what he implied. That may be his view.
It is true that at later stages later in the Bill we have other amendments and do not deal with the matter in one go, as Mr Banks did. We have divided it so that the Committee will have a reason to look at the issues and discuss all the amendments. We do not believe that we have watered down the Bill. In some places the Government's Bill, as with all government Bills, is not particularly well drafted. We will point out those changes to the Committee. We do not believe that they are hugely significant. It may be that the noble Lord will consider that they are and no doubt he will tell us at that stage. There is no intention to disguise the matter from the House. Where we have felt it right to amend the original Bill we shall put it before the Committee and hear what it has to say. It will decide.
The amendment before the Committee at the moment is word for word as it appeared in Alun Michael's Bill, as will be the vast majority of the amendments that we shall move. We shall take the trouble to take the Committee through them as carefully as we can so that we can explain exactly what is intended. I do not believe that some of the material is particularly good. For example, in the first amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, there clearly needs to be an intention and the Committee agreed with that. There will be other parts of the legislation which have to be dealt with in the same way. We wish to deal with the issues openly, calmly and reasonably. Perhaps, one day, that will be an example that another place might like to follow.
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