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The point does not need repetition. The valuable service that is provided by hunts in dealing with fallen stock has been recognised for years. It is recognised across party--[Interruption.] It is recognised even by the Prime Minister, I understand from my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh). Quite where he said that, I do not know and quite whether he knew what he was saying, I do not know either.
Miss McIntosh: I apologise. The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the right hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Ms Quin), has asserted in the House--it is on the record--that the hunts make a positive and valuable contribution to the removal of fallen stock on farms.
Before moving on to amendment No. 40, I should like to remind the House of some facts--of which I am sure that those who have taken an interest in the Bill will be aware. Two local studies have been conducted--one in west Somerset and one in Wiltshire--of the value of the fallen stock service provided by the hunts. The West Somerset district council report, produced in 1998-99, showed that operating fallen stock services in the study area collected a total of more than 12,000 carcases annually, and that farmers estimated that the service saved them each an average of £212.50 annually. Alternative disposal methods were estimated to be about five times as expensive as use of the hunt service.
The Wiltshire county farms report, published in 1995, indicated that 89 per cent. of farms disposed of cows, sheep and horses through hunt kennels and that 77 per cent. of farms had used the hunt to dispose of livestock in the previous 12 months. The report also found:
Although the service was traditionally provided without charge, some hunts now require a contribution to help meet the costs of their fallen stock service. However, the types of sums that the hunts are charging are way below an economic cost. If one were to employ a knackerman or another professional agency to clear fallen stock, the sums required would--as the West Somerset district council report indicated--be far higher. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, in this week of all weeks, when we are discussing foot and mouth, those oncosts would be unbearable.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: Perhaps I misheard or misunderstood the hon. and learned Gentleman. Is he telling the House that MAFF officials took animals infected with foot and mouth and passed them over to the hunts, so that the hounds could devour those diseased animals? Is that what he is saying?
Mr. Garnier: I am not sure that I accept the use of the alternative--I think that the hon. Gentleman both misunderstood and misheard what I and my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire said. MAFF has suggested that the hunt should be used to clear fallen stock not because that stock has been infected by foot and mouth, but because those animals were already casualties from another cause. Some stock may, for example, have broken a leg in a fence or be suffering from some other non-contagious condition that, as Lord Burns might have said, turned out to be fatal or compromised their welfare.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the matter we are discussing is not one that should divide those who are for a hunting ban and those who are against one? Surely it is a matter of good public policy that, particularly now, there should be a safe, efficient and effective way of dealing with casualty stock. The almost half a million carcases that are going to the hunts each year will have to go somewhere in future. That is what this discussion is all about.
Mr. Garnier: The hon. Gentleman is precisely right. Some people would say--although I as the Member for Harborough would disagree--that the south-west of England, part of which he represents, is the headquarters of the livestock farming industry. Nevertheless, it does not matter whether when one represents Somerset, Montgomeryshire, Northumberland, Sussex, Staffordshire, Buckinghamshire or Leicestershire, the point is the same: those animals will have to be cleared off the land in one way or another.
I hope that Ministers will be able to appreciate the point that we are making. Conservative Members believe that the scheme that we are proposing in new clause 1 is essential. I accept that the new clause may not be perfect in every detail, but I trust that the Home Office lawyers who have been so careful in drafting the schedule and the Bill will, if necessary, be able to adjust its wording to make it suitable.
However, the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) is right: despite the differences between his party and mine about hunting, the new clause proposes an essential scheme for the maintenance and preservation of the rural economy.
Mr. Garnier: It is possible that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) may have misunderstood slightly the point made by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome. I do not know the hon. Gentleman's views on hunting, but I assume that he, like my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex and I, abhors the Bill. If the House has its way and the Bill becomes law, the job of Opposition Members is to mitigate its worst effects on the wider rural economy, and specifically in respect of fallen stock. Farmers will be placed in desperate economic straits and put to huge expense if hunts are banned and the fallen stock service is lost. New clause 1 would provide some mitigation for the worst effects.
Other hon. Members may have other and better points to make in respect of new clause 1, but I intend now to speak briefly to amendment No. 40, which is designed to create compensatory schemes for people suffering a loss due to the cessation of businesses and jobs as a result of a hunting ban, or for people whose jobs or businesses are materially affected by a hunting ban. The proposed schemes would also provide for compensation for loss due to damage done by wild mammals that were previously controlled by hunting, and for loss due to deprivation of any services previously provided by hunts.
The debate is very timely, in the context of the present foot and mouth disease outbreak. On behalf of my constituents and those represented by other hon. Members with rural constituencies, I again express regret that no Minister from MAFF is present to give the House that Department's view of the matter. We know what the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said yesterday about economic loss, and I doubt that many Conservative Members were very impressed. However, the right hon. Gentleman's remarks gave me to understand that we are not likely to hear him address the House on the subject again.
As I said, amendment No. 40 would compensate people whose business or job is materially affected by a ban on hunting, and people who are materially affected by costs, expenses or losses because of the loss of services provided by hunts. The Burns report contains a great deal of information about the economic effect that a ban on hunting would have. I shall not bandy figures with those who disagree with me on the question of hunting, which is the main principle at issue, but I shall draw the House's attention to some of the information that ought to inform the debate. I trust that it will persuade those listening that the amendment is worthy of consideration and support.
Hunting with hounds makes a fourfold contribution to the rural economy. Hunts and hunting organisations employ full-time and part-time staff. The people who participate in hunting with hounds employ stable staff, or provide further employment by keeping their hunting horses at livery. Hunts, hunting organisations and their
Other speakers will be able to provide the House with information relating to their areas of the country. I should like to illustrate the points that are relevant to this debate by referring to my county of Leicestershire. The gross contribution to the economy of Leicestershire from its seven packs and their members' hunting expenditure is nearly £9.2 million per annum. In the great scheme of things, and compared with the social security budget, I appreciate that £9.2 million is not a great deal of money, but to the farriers and those who work in the livery stables and the clothing shops in Leicestershire, that £9.2 million is hugely important--it helps their families to survive. We estimate that about 750 full-time and part-time jobs in Leicestershire rely directly on hunting.
Let me bring this down to an even smaller compass. In the village where I live, other than those who commute to Leicester--of whom there are not many--all the jobs depend, in one way or the other, upon the hunt. That is not to say that all those who live or work in the village are employed directly by the hunt. However, they have something to do with horses; they have something to do with the clothing industry that makes riding clothes, boots and saddles.
Just a little way down the hill from where I live is a small rural industrial estate where there is a metal worker, a mechanic and a riding equipment and clothing shop. All three of those small businesses are dependent on the hunt for the majority of their income. Abolishing the hunt will destroy livelihoods which those people have spent their lives working to create. We will throw out of work any number of perfectly innocent victims of the Bill.