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Baroness Mallalieu: The subject matter of the amendment is of direct interest and concern to me because I farm in a very small way in a national park on Exmoor and also in an area of outstanding natural beauty in the Chilterns. I have sheep in both places, which move between the two. I also subscribe to the Exmoor Fox Hounds, which would be covered by the amendment. I have hunted with foot packs in the Lake District, which I understand to have been my noble friend's constituency.
Because my noble friend supports a ban on hunting generally, I am very glad that he recognises that packs of hounds in his own area perform an importantindeed, an essentialtask in relation to fox control and that they should continue to hunt. But I must tell him that the arguments, which have won his support in his area, apply just as strongly elsewhere.
In the national park where I farm, which is exceptionally well-provided with fox hunting, predation, certainly in my direct experience in the past couple of years, has been largely kept under control by the hunt. I see foxes about all the time, but I have had few problems. As many noble Lords will know, whenever there is a difficulty, the huntsmenwhether in season or notwill go out specifically on a lambing call, taking a few hounds with him, to track down a rogue fox and to deal with it. He provides a service to farmers which goes far beyond the usual day's hunting with the meet on the village green. He is a working member of the countryside and is on call. He deals with difficulties on the farm in relation to fallen stockwhich we will come to laterand with particular difficulties with foxes.
Where I live in the Chilterns, hunting is much more problematic because of shooting interests, woodland, which is not used for shooting but has widespread public access, and the proximity of a motorway. In that area, I have serious fox predation problems, not only with sheep, but also particularly with poultry, which are out during the day but securely locked up at night. We regularly lose a substantial proportion of the flock each year. At one stage when we had particular fox
There is shooting in that area and there is wounding. Sadly, one sees the effect of that. On two occasions, foxes have come into the farm buildings to die, which, on examination, clearly have suffered for a considerable period of time. So my problem in the area of outstanding natural beauty is that there is not enough hunting. On Exmoor, the hunting works and works well.
My sheep move from one area to another. Under the amendment, they would be protected on Exmoor, but would have none of that protection in Buckinghamshire. That is discriminatory in relation to the degree of protection that a farmer can give his animals in one area as opposed to another; what of the other areas just outside the national park or the areas of outstanding natural beauty which are not covered?
Seven miles away from my farm in Buckinghamshire, just down the road in Oxfordshire, near Thame, I have a friend who has an outdoor pig farm. Such were the losses of piglets that he called the police believing that he was suffering the attentions of rustlers. When night cameras were set up and a watch was kept, the photographs showed clearly what was happening. Foxes were coming at night and, with a remarkable lack of noise, were taking piglets of a size which he could not have conceived to be capable of being taken and killed. The hearings at Portcullis House made it clear that there should be parity in the treatment of all the quarry species and all the areas of the country in the way in which the registration system applies.
I know the Lake District. It is a particularly strong hunting community, as is Exmoor, where I come from. With an echo of my own experience, I listened to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, said about his concerns for the well-being of some of those people for whom hunting is central to their lives. No one should understate the feeling of threat which they are under at the moment. However, I am concerned. The areas that my noble friend represented as a Member of Parliament are particularly strong in that respect. They played a remarkable role during the foot and mouth outbreak. I know that the staff of all those local hunts were extremely involved in the very unpleasant task of destroying animals belonging to their neighbours and friends, which they did with tact and in a manner which commanded the reassurance of those with whom they were dealing. That is something which must never be overlooked because they are the very people whom this measure is designed to put out of work.
I have great sympathy with what my noble friend said. I wish I shared his optimism about the likelihood of the amendment being acceptable in another place. He knows much better than I how the other place works and the minds of those in it. From what I have seen and read of the debates, so far it seems that the actual arguments are no longer playing any part on the minds of those at the other end. What they want is a totemic victory, regardless of the cost in human or animal terms.
However, let us assume that my noble friend is right. Perhaps I may try, with some temerity, to answer as best I canif I am wrong, I hope that others will correct methe question that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, raised about the Parliament Act. As I understand it, the Parliament Act could be applied not just to a Bill which is identical to that which left the Commons, it could incorporate amendments made in this House if the other place agrees with them subsequently. So there is scope for an amendment being included.
I come back to what we are trying to doat least I am trying to doin Committee; that is, to reinstate the registration system which Alun Michael decided should apply, based on the evidence. He determined that that system should apply to all hunting. What I think we all wantI speak in so far as I can for the hunting communityis that best practice should be applied to all forms of hunting. There should be a proper form of regulation. There should be proper enforcement of the rule so that the public can have confidence that it is properly conducted. For that reason I am reluctant to see any forms of hunting or any areas of hunting taken outside that scheme. I should like to see the public having confidence that those rules and the new system apply everywhere and to all.
If my noble friend presses the amendment, I cannot go into the Division Lobby with him. I feel that what he is doing does not lie with the registration scheme. But, I am bound to say, nor could I go into the Division Lobby against him and oppose something which, potentially, could have great significance for areas and for people who deserve support.
Lord Palmer: I, too, listened terribly carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, said, particularly in reference to what will happen if, indeed, the Bill, having completed all the stages of parliamentary scrutiny, does go back to the Commons. I was rather impressed with what the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said. Indeed, we all must bow to the much longer experience of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, in another place. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, that this, to some degree, is a last-ditch amendment.
One of the most fundamental points about the amendment is that it emphasises the idiotic fact that here we are, yet again, talking about foxes. People outside the building simply cannot believe that we are banging on yet again and wasting so much parliamentary time. I also listened very carefully to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, said. On balance, bearing in mind that more than 10 per cent of the land area of England and Wales is now part of a national park, I feel that if the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, does press this to a Division, I shall have to support him.
Earl Peel: I find myself in something of a dilemma over the noble Lord's rather strange amendment. I applaud his concern for his former constituents and for those who live around him. I also suspect that the noble Lord will appreciate the great passion and love for hunting that will
I should have thought that, if a form of demarcation line was to be drawn, the "less-favoured area" line would be more appropriate because it would cover a wider area of similar farming conditions. On the question of sheep, it is true to say that sheep rearing is an absolute lifeline for those living and working in the upland areas, but what of piglets? I know of a farm in the North Yorkshire moors where I am sure that fox predation is a problem. What of game birds, which now play such an important part in local rural economies? Why should sheep be given special protection as opposed to ground-nesting birds? Why cannot the curlew and the golden ploverbirds that are in decline in many of these areasbe afforded the same protection? There is a degree of inconsistency here which causes me real concernand, of course, it is that lack of consistency throughout which is causing so many noble Lords difficulties with the Bill. Registration would appear to be the only sensible way forward.
One further point is worthy of discussion. What are farmers in these areas to do if hunting is outlawed? What will happen in the Lake District, where lamping and shooting foxes at night is an impractical solution, not only because of people being present, but because of the very nature of the terrain? In many upland regions, in particular those managed for grouse, lamping is an option, although there are real concerns about the safety aspect of it now that the right to roam has reached the statute book. That is another problem which I do not believe that this Government have taken into account.
As I have said, on many parts of the Lakes hills and in Wales, lamping is not an option and hunting is the only alternative. But, under the terms of the Bill, the only option open to a farmer in such conditions is to flush out a fox and shoot it, using no more than two dogs. However, anyone with even the remotest degree of common sense must realise that that is wholly and utterly impractical. Do we really expect farmers in the Lake District to go out with two dogs, ranging over those huge areas of land, in the hope that they might flush out and shoot a fox? Once again, in this Bill we are entering the world of "Fantasia".
This issue also raises the question of the gun packs, a matter about which I know that the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, feels strongly. I am sure that we shall discuss it in great detail when we come to his amendment. If the gun packs and fell packs are removed by legislation, then I put this question to the Minister: what practical alternatives will there be for the control of foxes in those areas? Unless the Government can come forward with a practical
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