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Mr. Lidington: This couple of amendments deal with hunts that begin in Scotland. They seek to address the problem that would arise were we to have different laws governing hunting with hounds on the two sides of the Anglo-Scottish border.
Under amendment No. 76, an offence would not be committed if somebody hunted a wild mammal with a dog and that hunt began in Scotland. Under amendment No. 77, we try to approach the problem slightly differently. It is a more restrictive attempt to tackle the problem, and provides that no offence would be committed where a hunt both began and ended in Scotland, but where the pursuit of the fox, which is the mammal that we are talking about in these circumstances, continued over the English border during the course of the chase.
The Scottish Parliament has responsibility for the law on hunting north of the border. Recent reports of its deliberations show that if a new law is introduced in Edinburgh it is likely to differ significantly from the complete ban proposed in the Bill now before the House of Commons, which raises some practical difficulties.
Currently, eight packs of foxhounds hunt in areas either adjacent to or over the border between England and Scotland. The remote upland terrain in those areas is precisely the type of land over which, as Lord Burns concluded, lamping would be an impractical method of fox control. That region contains Hadrian's wall, which is a major tourist attraction popular with walkers, so the safety of humans would be at issue if farmers and landowners had to resort to lamping or other forms of shooting as an alternative method of fox control to hunting.
The border is not fenced and it is not marked out along fields and moorlands. If people in Scotland lawfully take part in a hunt after a ban has come into force in England and Wales, how are they to know when they are moving from one jurisdiction to another? A number of detailed, practical questions are raised as one explores the difficulties that would be faced were different laws on hunting to be in operation in England and in Scotland.
If a hunt started in Scotland but the dogs crossed the border into England, would an offence be committed? It has been made clear to us during our deliberations in Standing Committee that the act of hunting that is to form the criminal offence under paragraph 1 of the schedule does not have to involve the killing of a mammal. The pursuit of a mammal by hounds would be sufficient to bring that activity within the ambit of the Bill and make it a criminal offence as defined in paragraph 1. What would happen if a hunt started legally on one side of the border and moved into England? Would a criminal offence be committed or not?
Would an offence be committed if the people carrying out the hunting remained in Scotland but at any time during the chase the dogs crossed the border into England? That could be particularly complicated if a group of people were out hunting lawfully in Scotland and some of them followed the dogs across the border into England while others stayed behind in Scotland. All would be taking part in the same hunt, but would some of them be subject to criminal penalties under the Bill and others not?
The purpose of the amendments is to allow us to debate these issues, which will be of great importance to, admittedly, a small number of people in border areas. They suggest a way in which the House and the Government could deal with some of the problems that may arise.
Mr. Hogg: May I suggest to my hon. Friend that if the House does not accept the amendment, we will be derogating the authority of the Scottish Parliament? In reality, unless we accept the amendment, those who support the Scottish hounds will not be able to hunt close to the border. That will diminish the freedoms of Scots, which should, under devolution, be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.
How will the offences relating to the use of land for hunting be affected by the border situation? Some properties span the border. If the Bill becomes law, a landowner who gives permission for hunting on his property in England will be committing a criminal offence.
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield): The matter goes further than that. Along the Tweed, in so far as hounds might go into the river, the border is not fixed. The stream of the Tweed fluctuates, so one might find oneself on an island in that river. One might also discover that the boundary has shifted from one side of that island to the other. I encountered that fact as a barrister while litigating in respect of fishing rights on the Tweed. Although the boundary was fixed by a joint commission in the 1840s, changes in the course of the Tweed meant that an island that had previously been assumed to lie wholly in Scotland was found to lie partly in Scotland and partly in England.
Mr. Lidington: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend because his intervention shows that we are not discussing some abstract possibility. He refers to a legal case that arose from a dispute over where the border lay in respect of islands in the River Tweed. Given the experience that he relates, and given the fact that Members on both sides of the argument in the Standing Committee accepted that, should the Bill become law, there would be a risk of malicious information being laid against people in an attempt to convict them of criminal offences, we are right to devote time to debating the matter, not least because we had fewer than 15 minutes in Committee to discuss the question of the Anglo-Scottish border before the guillotine fell, cutting off further debate.
On the question of the border between England and Scotland, a landowner in Northumberland who gave permission to hunt across his property would be subject to the criminal offence in paragraph 2, but let us consider the position of a landowner with land spanning the border who acceded to the request of a hunt lawful in Scotland to hunt foxes with hounds across his land, only to discover that, during the lawful hunt on his Scottish property, those taking part or the hounds had strayed, either deliberately or by accident, on to his English property.
Would that landowner have committed an offence in such circumstances? What evidence would he have to present to the prosecuting authorities in England to show that he had made it clear to those taking part in the hunt that they were allowed to cross only his land in Scotland, not that south of the border? Would any duty fall on him to mark out the border across his property so that he could be assured that he was fulfilling his duty under the law and could therefore show that he had not committed a criminal offence?
Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham): The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point that is worth listening to, but what would happen if a stag hunted from England crossed the border into Scotland, where it is unlawful to hunt deer? That is a real situation that could arise now.
Mr. Lidington: I think the hon. Gentleman is grabbing at a red herring. I understand that there is no organised stag hunting in Northumberland or Cumberland, which means that the question he raises would not arise. In any event, it is a question for Ministers to answer on behalf of the Government, because it flows from devolution. In the new constitutional circumstances, the House must be careful about addressing issues that will be affected by the existence of what are clearly different jurisdictions.
Mr. Russell Brown: The hon. Gentleman bases his argument on foxhunting, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) implies, the Bill is about hunting wild mammals, and deer fall into that category. As the hunting of deer with hounds in Scotland has been banned since 1959, it is widely assumed that the law in Scotland may be different from that in England.