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Lord King of Bridgwater: From what the Minister is saying, I get the impression that he is taking the speech he is making now as an answer not merely to this amendment but, as he implied, to all the other amendments on the Marshalled List. I have tabled amendments which in background and difficulty are not that far away from those tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. They address an issue on which I have written to the Minister and which everyone who has studied this matterthe noble Lord, Lord Burns, and the Portcullis House inquiryaccepts, and as is set out in letters from Ministershas to be addressed. I demand the opportunity to be able to debate those amendments from a wildlife point of view.
The Minister is not a supine Minister whose job is that of post-box for the House of Commons. He does not pretend that. I respect his ability to stand his own ground. That is what his job is. He is a Minister in this House of Lords. We have a duty to do this.
The noble Earl, Lord Peel, made this point, which is a very serious point indeed. Jack Straw set up the Burns inquiry because he realised the difficulty of the issues that were being tackled and tried to tackle them in a constructive way. The Government decided that they would pursue that constructive course. It was overthrown by a majority. Because of "leakiness" we know that a letter went from Alun Michael to John PrescottI have the exact phrasestating that it would be wrong to,
Lord Whitty: Of all people, the noble Lord will know that the Government cannot comment on leaked memos. Nevertheless, perhaps I may reply to the procedural point he raised. When I said that there are subsequent groups of amendments which hang on this one and to which I do not intend to reply twice or in detail, I did not include going as far as the noble Lord's amendment, which, if I remember rightly, is Amendment No. 94A. I was referring to the immediately subsequent next 10 or so groups of amendments, which all relate to the system which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and his colleagues are attempting to set up.
All I was indicating, for the benefit of the Committee, was that if noble Lords in their wisdom accepted it, I should not seek to prolong debate on the other amendments. I cannot speak for colleagues but I would not oppose the other amendments because there is a certain logic to them and we would get a coherent Bill out of them even if it was one that I could not accept and I do not believe that the House of Commons would in any way accept. However, that stops after Amendment No. 57, when we get back to amendments which deal with more specific subjects, which include the amendment tabled by the noble Lord.
Lord Palmer: I did not realise how very contentious these amendments were going to be. I have to say that it is depressing how painfully slow progress in Committee has been. I take slight objection to my dear friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, reminding us not to make Second Reading speeches. On such a complex Bill it is very difficult not to verge on making a Second Reading speech.
Lord Mancroft: We have had a very long debate. There is not a great deal of point in going a whole stage further. I certainly do not wish to answer everyone who took part in the debate. That would be ludicrous at this hour of the night.
Perhaps I may make two points to the Minister. The amendment may not be perfectamendments never are. One will always listen to hear whether a word is in the right place. Constructive criticism of any amendment is always welcomed. However, the intention was to return this, not necessarily to the Alun Michael Bill, as we have come to call it, but to the principles. The principles were public, open, consulted upon and, to a certain extent, agreed. That was and is the purpose.
In responding, the Minister slightly derided us. There is no intention that anyone should apply to hunt on the basis that a deer has eaten one leaf. It is silly to say that. The noble Lord knows full well that that was never our intention. Reversing the burden of proof on the least suffering test is a significant fact, for reasons we have already discussed. I do not want to go over them again, but, as there is no ability to measure suffering, it seems a little harsh to expect thousands of private citizens to do that if the registrar cannot. The noble Lord will have read, as I have, the hours the Standing Committee in another place spent going through that. It is almost impossible at times to see with both sides switching their arguments constantly. The reality is that in reading that and in looking at it, it is almost impossible to do. It seems very harsh that an individual should have to do it.
I have two other short points. The noble Lord talked about where the word "from" comes in. There is no intention for anyone to get a licence in place A to hunt one species and then to go off and hunt another species in a completely different part of the country. If that is the effect of the amendment, we shall have to look at it and improve upon it. That is not the intention at all, nor is it the intention to dilute or weaken it; it is merely practical because in the course of a hunt one can move from one area to another. It seems sensible to have both areas covered. We are not talking about moving about all over the countryside.
The Minister talked about transparency regarding the register. There is a very simple reason for that. If he sat on this side of the debate and had been involved in hunting, he would realise that you do not want to have your name and address on a public register in case people come and visit you. I had to have special branch
The Minister slightly let the cat out of the bag when he went on to the areas of ancient privileges and rights to trespass. No one out hunting has a privilege or a right. It is a privilege to hunt and to be out in the countryside. It is quite right that everyone should behave properly. There is no intention in any of these amendments to go down some awful route that his words implied.
I make a last comment. There is no intention in this amendment or any that follow on to conflict with the House of Commons. We conflict with the House of Commons when we reach the end if we disagree with them and they disagree with us. We are an awfully long way from that and I hope that we will not reach it. Perhaps we will. But let us climb that mountain when we get to that stage. I was certainly under the impression that the Minister speaks for the Government in this House and not for the other place.
In saying that, it must be borne in mind that the Secretary of State and the Minister who promoted the Bill have themselves described the Bill that came into this Chamberthe Bill that we are apparently meant to be welcoming with open armsas "wrecked, unenforceable and unworkable". So these circumstances are strange; they are unique even. I cannot remember a wrecked and unenforceable Bill arriving in this Chamber and noble Lords being expected to deal with it. How else could we do it? This is what we have chosen to do. We believe it is reasonable and justified. I hope the Committee will agree with us on that. I seek to test the opinion of the Committee.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
Lord Roper: I beg to move that the House do now resume. We are well past 10 o'clock, which is the normal time for rising. Having looked at the number of groups of amendments still to be considered, I do not believe that further consideration of the Bill is appropriate for us today.
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