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Dr. Turner: I shall develop my point before taking an intervention; I shall be happy to do so when I have made clear what I am trying to say. There is no automatic right to compensation when the House legislates to change employment or profit opportunities. On the other hand, when we took guns from people, we gave them the value of their gun. When the state takes from its citizens, there is a case for defining narrowly, not broadly, and the amendments are insupportable--a lawyer's nightmare would result from proceeding on such a basis. They are widely drawn because they are part of an important and emotional debate.
Mr. Mike O'Brien: My hon. Friend mentions handguns, to which I referred earlier. He will no doubt recall that there was considerable debate about compensation, which he rightly said was paid for the market value of guns, but dealers were not compensated for loss of profits or future business. A limit was put in place.
Mr. Baker: I understand that compensation should not be given when Parliament legislates; equally, I understand why compensation should be paid, but where is the consistency? How can it be right that mink farmers were compensated when no compensation is proposed in the Bill? What is the difference? Can the hon. Gentleman answer that point? Was it wrong to compensate mink farmers?
Dr. Turner: At this distance, I do not remember the details of the compensation and I do not like to make up an answer, but, as the Minister pointed out, there is a distinction between paying for guns that were taken and
The amendments carry an implication that would be the equivalent of compensating not only those from whom we took guns, but shopkeepers who could no longer sell them and the manufacturers who could no longer make a profit from selling them. That is the distinction that I draw.
Mr. Öpik: I do not seek to be unhelpful, but is the hon. Gentleman saying that, despite his concerns about the construction of amendment No. 36, a debate should be held on compensation? If so, am I right to say that he is describing where he would draw the line and that, even if I would draw that line somewhere else and although the practical outcomes would be different, we agree that there is a principle at stake?
Dr. Turner: The short answer is yes. I accept that a debate should be held about the principle, but my problem is that the amendments strike the wrong balance. We must be careful, as we were with mink farmers, and we must consider whether people are able to diversify and reuse their materials. For example, many who argue for the banning of hunting say that it could be replaced by drag hunting. We should debate the nature of the compensation--
There is a nub to the argument. That should be addressed, and I hope that the Minister will do so. The amendments are far too widely drawn and are part of the bigger battle rather than part of a careful look at whether compensation should be paid when it is clear that harm is being done and that those to whom harm is being done have no alternatives.
Sir Patrick Cormack: I suppose that we can give one cheer, but no more than that, for what might be the valedictory address of the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Dr. Turner). He at least had the good grace to recognise that there is something to the case that has been advanced, but I am one of those who finds this a particularly sad day.
Mr. Bercow: My hon. Friend is being characteristically generous to the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Dr. Turner). Is not it his interpretation that the hon. Gentleman began his speech supporting compensation, saw the Minister frowning at him intensely and retreated at a rapid rate of knots? Which press release will the hon. Gentleman issue in King's Lynn?
Sir Patrick Cormack: I do not know how many more press releases the hon. Gentleman will be able to issue in King's Lynn because before too long Mr. Henry Bellingham will grace these Benches again. Although it is always appropriate to introduce a note of levity to any debate, and my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) is particularly good at that, I find this a
We should be debating those grave issues, so it is grotesque for the Government to set aside a whole day to debate this mean, spiteful, vindictive, unnecessary and meddlesome legislation. The Government talk about human rights and civil liberties, yet they seek to extinguish the rights and liberties of some of the most decent, law-abiding people this country knows, many of whom are poorly paid.
In many ways, the most telling comments came from the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik), who has taken a distinguished and a distinguishable line in all our debates on hunting. He described them with a simple word, saying that they are about fairness. That is what our debates are about: being fair to people whom we are attacking.
I am not one of those who have been deluded into thinking that tonight we can convert Labour Members sufficiently to defeat the Bill on Third Reading. No, the Bill will be passed and the steamroller majority to which I referred in the earlier debate will be brought into play. There will be honourable exceptions, such as the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding). I am extremely sorry that my fellow Staffordshire Member will no longer represent part of the county of Isaak Walton after the election.
Apart from a few honourable exceptions, Labour Members will go into the Lobby in serried ranks to carry the Bill--which will be an act of appalling injustice if adequate compensation is not provided for those who will be deprived of their livelihoods.
I hope that the Minister will demonstrate clearly that he understands the points that have been made. He has already apologised for one extremely inapposite analogy, in which he sought to equate what we are discussing with burglary--he withdrew that, which was good--but he did not really face up to the question of compensation. Members of the official Opposition and Liberal Democrats have made a number of points about that: we have been at one on compensation, although we may take different lines on hunting. I think that the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker), for instance, is wholly on our side.
We have talked about handguns, and the compensation provided under the very silly legislation introduced by a Government whom, in other respects, I was prepared to support. I said at the time that I thought the legislation unnecessary and silly, but the fact remains that those deprived of handguns were given compensation--albeit, perhaps, less than they should have received. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) mentioned an earlier Bill under which, much more justifiably in my view, other firearms were taken away. In that case, too, proper compensation was provided.
Compensation has been provided in other instances, the most recent being the Government's Bill banning mink farming. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme rightly spoke of the terrible depredations caused by mink in the countryside, particularly at the expense of the angling community. In doing so, she in effect appealed to the Government to be consistent. They have compensated
The Minister must face up to these issues. In example after example, the Government have shown that they do not understand the countryside, and do not appreciate the problems faced by people there. I hope that my hon. Friends will lose no opportunity to point out to their farming and other constituents just how far removed the Government are from an understanding of the countryside. There is, however, just a small chance for the Minister to salvage a little honour.
Many of my hon. Friends have referred to the absence of any Agriculture Minister. One should be present. The issue we are debating is admittedly peripheral, given that we are debating it at a time of grave crisis in the countryside; but there should nevertheless be a Minister present to recognise the havoc that the Bill will cause. Where is the Minister? Where is a member of the ministerial team? Why cannot this Minister send his parliamentary private secretary--to whom he was talking a while ago--to find an Agriculture Minister, and explain that there is a demand in the House for an Agriculture Minister to come and listen to the debate?