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Mr. McNamara: With great respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am reading what is on the Order Paper. However, I shall do it in a different way. The names are those of the right hon. Member for Huntingdon, the former Prime Minister; the right hon. Member for Henley, the former Deputy Prime Minister; the right hon. and

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learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), the former Home Secretary; the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), the former Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; and the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell), the former Attorney-General.--[Interruption.] Why did I leave out the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble)? I will tell the House why: he kept the other five in office during the last six months of their operations. I was going to make that point at the end of the quotation. Those five Members--all Privy Councillors--were in government for 10, 12 or 13 years, during which a measure on animal welfare or on doing away with intentional cruelty to animals was not introduced with the backing of the Government of the right hon. Member for Huntingdon or that of his predecessor. The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 started as a private Member's Bill, which is why it is sheer hypocrisy for Opposition Members to seek to criticise the Government.

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet) rose--

Mr. McNamara: Finally, since 1966, I have been associated with every anti-hunting Bill to have been introduced in the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) must not remain on his feet when it is clear that the hon. Gentleman is not giving way.

Mr. McNamara: I have been associated with every anti-hunting Bill in the House since 1966. One of my Bills was taken over by the Government and mangled in the House of Lords. I am glad that the Government have taken over the Bill proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster). I am sad that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that he will vote for the second option. He said that he hopes that the Bill will settle the matter once and for all. I assure him that if the second option is carried, the matter will continue until we get rid of it completely.

Mr. Banks: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not the normal courtesy for Members who have made speeches to remain in their seat long enough to hear the following speaker? The right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) made his speech and left the Chamber. I do not know what he has gone to do. Did he explain to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, why he was ignoring the normal courtesy, or is he unaware of it?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has answered his own point. There is a distinction between order, which is a matter for the Chair, and matters of courtesy to the House. However, the hon. Gentleman has made his point.

6.52 pm

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet): I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but to nobody else, for seeking to intervene. The fact of the matter is that the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) is quite wrong. As chairman of the all-party animal welfare group for six years, I had a high regard for the attitudes on animal

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welfare held by the previous Prime Minister and his predecessor. The Conservative party passed the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. That Act might need to be reviewed now but, at the time, it was a major piece of legislation. I would uphold no one's right to criticise what was done for animal welfare under the previous two Prime Ministers. There was cross-party consensus on animal welfare then, and I am sad that that is breaking down tonight. Having said that, it will surprise no one to learn that, having resigned as a Parliamentary Private Secretary in the previous Government over a hunting- related issue, I shall certainly support the Bill tonight. Given the opportunity, I shall, in due course, vote for a total ban.

I should like to deal with three issues, the first of which is the freedom of the individual. I regard that as a wholly spurious argument because this is not a matter of freedom at all. I know for a fact that there are Members who will go into the Lobby to vote against the Bill who voted, as I did myself, against the provision allowing young men and women of 16 to be buggered by older men. Some regarded that as a matter of freedom. I did not: I regarded it as profoundly wrong, as I do hunting. It is not a matter of the freedom of the individual, but of whether or not we live in a civilised society and whether we respect the animals around us. It is a matter of cruelty, but no more than that. It is wrong and spurious to try to suggest that, in some way, it is a matter of freedom.

Mr. Hogg: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Gale: No, I will not, because my right hon. and learned Friend has intervened many times and, perhaps, he will have a chance to make a speech later--[Interruption.] Forgive me, he intervened many times during the opening Front Bench speeches. I was here.

The practice of hunting is as wrong as cock fighting, dog fighting, bear baiting and bull baiting. I am happy about the measure and believe that, within a few months, foxhunting will go the same way as those practices.

I want to spend a moment talking about the countryside lobby. It saddens me enormously that the countryside lobby, many of whose aims I respect and support, has been hijacked by a single-issue group of campaigners. There is much wrong in the countryside that the Government are not addressing and not putting right. There is a crisis in farming. Those of us who support the Bill will have to address certain matters, not least the issue of fallen stock. If we are going to go down this road--I hope that we do--it will be no good to say that we shall leave that until later. When the Bill reaches Committee, those issues and the issue of compensation will have to be addressed. Members on both sides of the House who support the Bill will have to bear that burden of responsibility and come up with answers: the countryside deserves that.

I am concerned about the motives behind this move at this time, although I support it. I am not convinced that, on the part of the Prime Minister, it is anything other than wholly cynical. I hope and believe that the Bill will go through the House and the other place. However, the Prime Minister said three times on television that what became known as the Foster Bill, which was introduced by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster), was defeated in the House of Lords. On each occasion, the Prime Minister knew that he was wrong. I wrote to him

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on three occasions, but he declined to reply. I then challenged him in the House of Commons. In July, he said on the record:

Again, the Prime Minister knew that he was wrong.

I am concerned that the Bill will go to another place, where the total ban, which I support, might not be passed. That will then be used cynically as an example of what the Tory House of Lords has sought to do. I agree with the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) that the other place is not a Tory House of Lords, but the Prime Minister's House of Lords. If Members of the other place choose to take a view--the middle way option--that is different from that held by those of us who want a total ban, that is their right. However, I hope that we will never hear that argument from the Government Front Bench or the Prime Minister.

Finally, I want to deal with a letter I received from a woman--judging from her tone, not a lady--who lives in Buckinghamshire. She told me that she did not want me to exercise a moral judgment on her behalf. I am not seeking to exercise a moral judgment on behalf of anyone but myself and those whom I represent. There is no hunt in the Isle of Thanet, which is a predominantly rural area. My farmers control their foxes without the need to ride to hounds. They do so efficiently and cleanly.

Mr. Grieve rose--

Mr. Gale: I am happy that, on this occasion, my views and those of my constituents coincide. I believe that by voting for the Bill, I shall be voting for a cleaner, more moral and more civilised society. In doing so, my views coincide with those of my constituents.

6.58 pm

Mr. Peter Bradley (The Wrekin): I was glad to hear the speech of the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) because, for a moment, I believed that there was one issue, above all others, that united the Conservative party. However, I see that it is as split as ever and that it is business as usual.

I want to address the issues of liberty and justice, to which the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) referred before leaving the Chamber. Liberty and justice are issues behind which some Members not known for their commitment to either have been hiding this evening. First, however, I want to make a simple point. Those who speak for hunting do not speak for the countryside. They have a right to defend their sport, but they should acknowledge that they do so on behalf of a minority of country dwellers who support hunting and an even smaller minority of country dwellers who participate in it.

Hunting is not an issue between town and country--unless the Conservatives wish to make it one. As we have heard today, some people who live in towns follow hunting and many people who live in the country oppose it. Nor is it a matter of class war. Many people from what the Conservatives would regard as the upper classes oppose hunting and many others support it and participate in it. The speech of the hon. Member for North Thanet exemplified the fact that it is not even an issue between the Labour party and the Conservative party.

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It is a shame that the pro-hunting lobby does not have sufficient courage of its convictions to sail under its own flag instead of wrapping itself in the flags of others, with or without their consent. Indeed, the hunting lobby has done rural communities a grievous disservice because the clamour created by a narrow but highly effective self-interest has all but drowned out the authentic voice of rural communities and, in turn, that clamour has been amplified by a press and media too often more interested in turmoil and trouble than in truth.

The rural White Paper that the Government published a fortnight or so ago gives real voice to the issues, the priorities and the aspirations of rural communities. That might dismay Conservative Members, but it is an encouragement to people who live in the countryside.

It is time to inject a little honesty in this debate. When the Countryside Alliance marches on London next year, it will not be marching for the countryside; it will be marching for foxhunting. When it marches on Hyde park, it will be marching not for country people but for the hunting fraternity--

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