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Lord Carlile of Berriew: The amendments moved and spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, are, in my view, demonstrably illogical, unattractively pragmatic and self-evidently tendentious. For those reasons, in part, if I have the opportunity to give a view, I shall support them. I shall do so because it is better to have an unjust law that applies to only part of the country than to have an unjust law that applies to the whole of the country.
That conclusion is not based on a logic which I have learnt from almost four years in your Lordships' House. In my time here I have come to appreciate debates in which decisions are reached largely on their merits, after listening to the arguments. The conclusion that I shall express, if given the opportunity to do so tonight, will be based rather on what I learnt, as it were, at the noble Lord's knee during my 14 years in the other place. That is a House in which, while sometimes one foot may be dragged down into the vortex of the usual channels, the remainder tries to grab hold of the best of what is left of one's energy into trying to achieve a just conclusion on the issue.
It is, of course, completely illogical to suggest that sheep should be protected from foxes in Llanberis, but not in Llandinam, a place mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, when he referred to my close friend Lord Davies of Llandinam, whose hunt I have followed on foot, along with all those ordinary farmers and other people from far and wide who do not wear regalia or anything of that kind and who follow such hunts.
If one looks at the boundaries of any national park, such as, for example, the Snowdonia National Park, one will find many pieces of land where the boundary actually goes through the middle of farmers' fields. This kind of amendment is, as I have said, self-evidently illogical.
What I really want to say to noble Lords is this: if these amendments are agreed tonight, we should not send to the other place the message offered by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours; that is, that we will grab what we can while we can get it. Rather we should send to the other place the message that this House, while it may be prepared to support these amendments, does not support the grounds given; namely, those of expediency. We might send the clear message that we are asking the other place, for once, to apply the standards which are applied daily in this House; namely, the standards of listening to the arguments and judging an issue on its merits.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: Both of these amendments are dedicated to the very worthy cause of protecting sheep, which is all-important for the reasons put forward by my noble friend Lord Kimball. Living, as I do, in the Conwy Valley on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, in the middle of sheep-rearing country, I have great sympathy with the thrust of these
The annual losses incurred by sheep farmers as a result of the onslaught of foxes on their flocks, in particular at lambing time, are staggering. The fox does not simply kill to eat but, as my noble friend pointed out earlier, he kills for kicksor whatever is the proper term for the feral killer instinct.
Among the many letters that I have received is one from Mr Ifor Evans, who runs the Aber Valley Hunt in my neighbourhood. That hunt is a farmers' gun pack with 12 and a half couple of Welsh hounds. They hunt on foot, usually over difficult terrain, and very hard work it must be. For myself, I cannot see much sport in it. Nevertheless, that hunt has already dispatched, within that small area of the Aber Valley, some 60 foxesabove the usual annual average of 50 foxes. I shall quote selectively from Mr Evans's letter:
I know that stretch of land on the coastal fringe of the national parkland on which there are also protected badgers. Foxes, I am told, are crafty enough to use badger setts to earth in and gain extra protection. That creates another problem. This is where the hounds excel because they do not go underground. They leave the badgers alone and hunt foxes in the open.
That letter gives a cameo picture of the situation on the ground in at least one national park area which is almost entirely grazed by sheep for most of the year. The ewes are brought close to the home farm in the lowland at lambing time, but foxes are seldom far away and can cause extensive havoc in a single night. I have seen a fox on my lawn at home in August but my most surprising sighting was of a fox in the park keeper's garden by the lake in St James's park within 100 yards of Downing Street. The point is that foxes are not confined to specific locations, and that seems to me to be the fundamental defect of the amendments.
The amendments imply that hunting with dogs should not be prohibited when it is undertaken to protect sheep in a variety of specified locations. Of course, all kinds of questions arise in that context, as we have heard. What happens when the fox is chased from the designated area? Does the hunt then become illegal and cease? Indeed, why should not sheep be protected against foxes wherever and whenever they are threatened?
The amendments offer a crumb of comfort but I prefer the thrust of later amendments that seek to legitimise hunting to prevent damage to livestock. That such protection is necessary, especially so far as concerns sheep flocks, is beyond doubt in my experience. In my area, certainly, people do not keep poultry in the open because the danger of a fox kill has proved to be very real time and time again. The slaughter of lambs and the ravaging of ewes that try to protect their young against foxes is a very common occurrence in the lambing season.
Thanks to a few expert fox hunters and their essential dogs, the numbers of foxes are kept within tolerable proportions. About 60 to 70 are shot every year in my own Rowen Valley but, like my noble friend Lord Peel, I dread to think what the situation will be like if the Bill becomes law and hunting with more than two dogs is prohibited.
Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, I was initially attracted to the amendment. I endorse all the comments made by various Members of the Committee about the Ullswater Foxhounds, which is a foot pack that hunts in the Lake District National Park. As the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said, these foot packs are often summoned during the lambing season by farmers who are perhaps being plagued by a rogue fox, which can do quite a lot of damage. Foxes can bite off the head of even a large lamb and carry it away, leaving behind the remainder of the lamb. This is wasteful and distressing to the shepherds. So the hunts provide a very good service.
The use of dogs is widespread in rounding up sheep and moving them to new pastures and so on. From this has grown a sport. "One Man and His Dog" is a popular television programme. We allow this sportwe call it sheep dog trialsbecause it takes place using domesticated animals rather than wild animals. So that is all right. We have no idea what might be going on in the head of a sheep while it is being chased along. Does it think, "Oh, that's okay, it looks like the boss's sheep dog", or, "Scarper, ladies, it's that alsatian from the pub down the road"? We make these judgments to suit our purpose, and our purpose is livestock productionor, put another way, raising lambs to kill to eat.
I said I was attracted initially to the amendment because of the protection it affords livestock. For every reason suggested by my noble friend Lord Peel, I understand that the land in national parks or other upland areas may increase the difficulty of fox control by all the other methods mentioned, but what reason can be given for distinguishing between a designated area and a non-designated area? Why do foxes gain protection from hunting by crossing a line on a map? If this is a last-ditch amendment, I view it as humbug and hypocrisy. If hunting is humane in the Lake District National Park, it is humane in Leicestershire. I cannot support the amendment.
The Bill we were originally promised was to have been based on principle. Although when it finally arrived in the House of Commons it was a little hard to find out exactly what those principles werethey were enmeshed in expedience, as are so many government Billsthey were there. As we know, principle was removed from the Bill before it arrived here. Last week, in moving the amendments to put back into the Bill the registration process, we were attempting to find a principled solution to this extremely difficult and unpleasant problem.
I completely understand what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, seeks to do by moving the amendment. He has told the Committee that he is not in favour of huntingthat he opposes itbut that he recognises the issues it raises for his former constituents. I cannot help wondering whether Mr Banks would have felt the same if he had been standing for a seat in the Lake District rather than in East London. It would have been rather helpful for us to know, I suspect.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, raises a number of points with his amendments. He recognises, as other noble Lords have pointed out, that hunting with dogs plays a significant role in fox management for sheep farmers. In his remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, raised questions about the amount of predation that sheep farmers suffer. There is a question mark over this issuethere always has beenbut the old Ministry of Agriculture, now Defra, has always accepted that there is a problem. It has been recognised that the amount of predation of lambs is usually around 2 or 3 per cent. That seems a very small figure until one realises that it represents about 300,000 lambs every yeara rather larger figure if you happen to be a sheep farmer. So that issue is worth taking into account, and I will say it again: hunting with dogs plays a significant role in fox management for sheep farmers. The evidence on which the Bill was supposedly based found that as well, although the Government may be tempted to forget that today.
The noble Lord also changed his amendment from an earlier draft with regard to permitting the use of dogs. My noble friend Lord Peel said the idea of hunting with one dog was completely ludicrous. To tell the honest truth, hunting with two is not much better. The idea that people devise the hunting of foxes, deer and hares with packs of hounds because it is better and more amusing to have 20, 30 or 40 rather than two is ludicrous. The reality is that you cannot hunt foxes with two hounds. It is not a sensible thing to domost importantly, it is not a humane thing to do. Nevertheless, the amendment
There is again the issue of why sheep should be protected in one part of the country and not another. Why should calves, piglets and other livestock not be protected? It is important to realise that, as more and more pigs are reared outdoors, the level of predation of piglets by foxes will rise considerably. People have been pressing to reform the way in which pigs are farmed in this country, by getting them out of the iron pens and stys and out into the fields, which is very much nicer for the pig. It does, however, mean that there are very much higher levels of fox predation. So there are swings and roundabouts with all these issues.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, raises very interesting points. He accepts principles of fox management that the Government appear to have forgottenthe House of Commons has certainly forgotten them. The problem is that by accepting an amendment like this, we possibly deny ourselves any chance of finding a real, long-term and principled solution to the very difficult question raised by the Bill. Therefore, with the deepest regret, I am afraid I shall not be able to support the noble Lord if he divides the Committee.
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