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Mr. Gray: That would not be out of character. My right hon. and learned Friend may recall that, in Committee, the hon. Gentleman proposed an amendment, spoke in favour of it, and then voted against it.

Mr. Hogg: My hon. Friend makes a sound point. I hope that the hon. Member for Worcester will in due time rise in his place and say that he accepts amendment No. 101, but I should like to say why he should do so.

Some of the arguments that I shall briefly make are in fact the same as those made by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire. The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is a porous one. People cross to and fro, and it is not marked. It would be an absurdity if people who were lawfully doing an activity in the Republic and inadvertently crossed into Northern Ireland should be considered to have committed a criminal offence. It is much worse when one reflects that the Bill enables a court to make forfeiture orders that would deprive persons from the Republic who had acted lawfully of their possessions.

The problem goes further. I think that it was my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire who raised the question of what constituted hunting. I should have thought that, if the fox hounds crossed the border even though the hunter did not, the offence would be deemed to have been committed. One is also obliged to ask what would be the position of the landowner on the Northern Ireland side on to whose land a hunt from the Republic had inadvertently crossed. Under

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clause 1(2), a landowner who permits the hunt--albeit an Irish hunt--to take place on his land in Northern Ireland will be committing an offence.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): May I remind my right hon. and learned Friend that, throughout the Bill's consideration in Committee, we on the Opposition Benches pressed the Bill's promoter, the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster), and his helper, the hon. Member for Brigg and Goole (Mr. Cawsey)--to define "hunt"? They continually came back to the concept that this must be left to the common sense of magistrates. Will my right hon. and learned Friend, as an eminent lawyer, consider that point?

Mr. Hogg: Indeed. I should have thought that anybody associated actively when the hunt goes out is hunting. It is not just the person on the horse, but the foot supporter, the person on the bicycle or in the car, the person who attends the meet just to see the fox hounds. I think that many people would be deemed to be hunting within the scope of the Bill, albeit they may not be riding to hounds. The narrow arguments advanced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire and the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone are wholly correct.

There is also the question of displacement. If one prohibits fox hunting in Northern Ireland but it remains lawful in the Republic, as will be the case, the foxes will migrate to Northern Ireland. I should have thought that the farmers of Northern Ireland would be extremely cross to see a greatly increased fox population on their land.

There is a further point, which the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone raised: we all support inter-community relations across the border. Fox hunting is an extremely popular activity. The idea that one should prevent people from the Republic from coming into the north to do something that both communities want to do--something that promotes community relations--is absurd.

I shall raise one or two broader issues before I sit down. I am not in favour of accentuating the differences between the Republic and the north. Relations are sometimes fraught enough without making serious differences between them in the criminal law. In any event, it should be a matter for discussion with the Government and the institutions of the south before we pass laws that could criminalise the activities of their citizens.

My final point is about authority. The House is talking about devolution in the United Kingdom, and the creation of assemblies. It is likely--I hope that it will be the case--that we shall see an assembly in Northern Ireland. This is precisely the issue that should be left to that assembly, and, in particular, to the people of Northern Ireland.

I echo the point made by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), who made it plain that, in her view, there is no support in Northern Ireland for the Bill. That observation was supported by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. It is intolerable, in terms of democracy and liberality, that the House should seek to prohibit an activity in Northern Ireland when we all know that there has been no consultation in Northern Ireland, and the House has no authority from the people of Northern Ireland to support the proposal.

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I would venture a bet--I am looking at the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone--that almost all the elected Members from Northern Ireland are opposed to the Bill. It does not have their authority. It is not for us to seek to impose its provisions on the people of the Province.

Sir Brian Mawhinney: I do not plan to make a long speech; I want to focus on just two points. Before I do so, may I say that I was impressed by the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) introduced the new clause. I suspect that he knows that I have never owned a red coat and I never will. I have never had a posh voice and I never will, but I am proud of my accent. That accent gives me a legitimacy over and above my membership of the House to say a few words about the new clause.

Let us cut to the bottom line. The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster) wants to see a number of his fellow citizens put in prison for up to six months for doing what has legitimately, constructively and helpfully been done and enjoyed in the countryside for generations. That is what the Bill is about. We now understand that he wants to do the same thing for citizens of the Irish Republic.

The hon. Member for Worcester intervened at the beginning of the debate to say that he was willing to accept something, but it was not clear what it was. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell) welcomed that gesture, in a typically generous way. But the incident told the House something about the hon. Member for Worcester. I do not think that he maliciously wants to put Irish citizens in prison; I think that that possibility never occurred to him. That trivialisation of the criminalising of people is perhaps the single greatest charge that can be laid against the hon. Gentleman and his Bill.

We have been told repeatedly in the debate that the hon. Gentleman clearly knows nothing about Northern Ireland. There is a 300-mile border, which--as the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) so vividly described--has no regular indication to show someone whether he is north or south of it or whether his journey criss-crosses it. Local people have difficulty, so it is no wonder that the hon. Member for Worcester does not begin to understand the consequences of his own legislation. As the fox moves backwards and forwards across the border, unaware that it is doing so, and the hunt follows it, the huntspeople will be exposed to the threat of multiple arrest. The hon. Gentleman neither knows nor cares about that.

As the hon. Member for Vauxhall said, people own land that straddles both sides of the border. Sitting in his kitchen, a resident of Northern Ireland may be innocent of an offence, but people on his property may be variously innocent of an offence and guilty of an offence, as people move across the field, without ever moving off his property. The hon. Gentleman does not care about that.

Mr. Gray: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Sir Brian Mawhinney: No, if my hon. Friend will forgive me, I shall not give way, as I said that I would not keep the House long, and I do not intend to.

Numerous problems and legal difficulties will be created by the indistinct nature of the border. My hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone

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and I will both be able to recall many occasions when cows crossed the border. In some cases, the cows got dizzy moving backwards and forwards across the border--every time they did so, Brussels paid another £70 per head to some farmer. But the hon. Member for Worcester does not know, does not understand and does not care.

Clause 8 gives a constable the right to arrest without warrant, so we face the prospect of Irish citizens being summarily arrested--not that the hon. Member for Worcester cares. He is not even listening to the debate, and nor is the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), who might have an interest; but the House is, and, more importantly, the country is. Members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary will be empowered by the Bill summarily to arrest Irish citizens who may not even realise that they are in Northern Ireland.

Clause 8 also gives the constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary a right to detain the animals--the horses and the dogs--as evidence in subsequent trials. What thought has the hon. Member for Worcester given to that? Absolutely none, because he does not care.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Jeff Rooker): The right hon. Gentleman is not as nice as he looks.


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