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Mr. Michael: The right hon. Gentleman assumes that people who support the Bill have not discussed the matter with those whose lives will be affected by it, or listened to what they have had to say. We have done that: over time, many of us have listened, and understood.

Sir Peter Emery: If that is correct, you paid little attention to what those people had to say. You paid no attention to the way in which they will be affected or to their belief that they will be made criminals. [Interruption.] I am sorry to say that I do not believe that many ordinary, normal, law-abiding people will wish to implement the Bill. Many will take positive action against what they consider to be wrong, and they will end up in the courts. I hope that you have enough prisons to put them in, but I do not think that you will, because--[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): Order. The right hon. Gentleman is an experienced Member of the House, and he must not keep using the word "you".

Sir Peter Emery: I am very sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that you are on my side--[Interruption.] I withdraw that remark immediately. I understand your stricture only too well.

What I am really trying to say--

Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North): Keep going. You are winning over the waverers. [Laughter.]

Sir Peter Emery: The strange thing is that Labour Members think that this is funny, and that people in my constituency do not consider it very important. If I began laughing at the views that Labour Members might express about the miners, for example, they would say that that was terrifying. This issue is as important to my constituents as are the problems faced by miners in constituencies that have mines.

What I want to hammer home is that the Government will come to regret this Bill. They have not heard the last of the matter. They do not really understand what the Bill's effect on the country generally will be. Labour Members smile about that, but they are out of touch. They believe that the Bill will be passed tonight and then get through the Lords and become law automatically. I only hope that they are proved wrong, because the proposals in the Bill would be a tragedy for the majority of people in the countryside.

11.43 pm

Mr. Gordon Prentice: Who speaks for the countryside--the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir P. Emery), with his three packs, or me, the hon. Member for Pendle, with my one pack? I represent a rural constituency. Every week of my life, I meet people who work on the land. I do not represent an urban constituency; it has towns, of course, but it has a large rural element. Many Labour Members represent rural

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constituencies. What has always stuck in my throat is that Conservative Members, with all their prejudices, proclaim in Parliament that it is they who speak for countryside. They do not.

The hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) has left the Chamber, but he talked about the majority crushing the minority. The majority view has the right to prevail. That is the reality. John Stuart Mill made that point in his classic essay on liberty--the majority view has the right to prevail but it must exercise that right defensively and not offensively. So we said, in the Chamber and in Committee, "Let's hear the arguments." However, Conservative Members have not persuaded us of their views and, more important, they have not persuaded people outside.

The hon. Member for Mid-Sussex and the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) referred dismissively to Deadbeat 2000 rather than Deadline 2000. That upset me. Deadline 2000 has the support not only of the League Against Cruel Sports and the International Fund for Animal Welfare--organisations which Conservative Members may consider rather tangential--but of the RSPCA, whose patron is Her Majesty the Queen. The Queen is on our side. The RSPCA has millions of members. Conservative Members paint a picture of millions of people disagreeing with what we are doing, whereas the reality is that those people support us and want the Bill on the statute book.

We hear about country sports and field sports. Why do we not hear about blood sports? Hunting is a blood sport--it is killing for fun. I think that hunting with dogs brutalises people. Conservative Members will say that I have got this wrong, but I believe that hunting brutalises people because it is cruel. For that reason, it should no longer be tolerated.

Finally, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Jane Kennedy), on piloting the Bill through the Committee stage with great skill. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.

11.47 pm

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater): I could not believe that the Government would proceed with the Bill today, given the state of agriculture and the countryside. I make no secret of the fact that I am opposed to the Bill.

There has been despair about farming for some months now--perhaps for a couple of years; now there is real fear. Vets on farms are examining animals to see whether foot and mouth will be identified on those farms. Farming is not what it was the last time there was a foot and mouth outbreak, when farmers had a setback and then recovered. For most farmers today, if their animals get foot and mouth, it will be the end of their livelihood and of a family occupation which may have gone on for generations. However, the implications are much wider than that.

On the hunting of stags, there are 10,000 magnificent red deer in the west country and the south-west of England. There are 4,000 to 6,000 in the area covered by the three packs of stag hounds. I think that many Labour Members still do not understand the point, although I have spoken about it before, that the hunts are, in a very real

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sense, the guardians of the deer. Hunts inhibit poaching, protect the deer and deal with the casualties. Without the hunts, nobody knows what will happen to injured deer hit by cars. Traffic has been a threat to the deer, but now a more deadly threat exists.

Deer can catch foot and mouth disease. If that happens, the Government will be faced with a ghastly decision: not on the niceties of whether or not there should be hunting or culling by shooting, but on whether to authorise the complete extermination of deer--[Interruption.] Hon. Members know that what I am saying is true. Despite the magnitude of such issues, the House has spent the day debating this measure.

I have been a Member of the House for a long time--too long, some hon. Members might say. The House has not done itself great credit by engaging in an exercise about which there is deep cynicism. No one in the Chamber actually thinks that the Bill will go through, although we know that we have no chance of preventing Third Reading. The Government will have their victory tonight. Many decent people who are in the depths of despair will be desperately distressed by these events. Although the Government will win, their insensitivity today will not be forgotten in the countryside. The time will come when they will pay the penalty for it.

11.51 pm

Mr. Garnier: I pay tribute to the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King). He and my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who spoke on Second Reading, have given signal service to the House and have spoken up for the issue that we seek so valiantly to defend. I also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Sir P. Emery), not only on his 75th birthday but on all that he has done during his many years as a Member of the House.

I join the Minister in that I am happy to congratulate the Countryside Alliance and to thank it for all that it has done to bring some sanity to the debate. I found the Minister's thanks to Lord Burns rather extraordinary; they were more like a gin trap than true thanks. The Government and the Bill's supporters have wholly ignored the Burns report.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater pointed out, the Bill is a complete waste of parliamentary time and public money. Nobody who has given the matter any thought believes that the Bill will become law. The rural economy is in crisis and the country suffers from a host of problems, yet the Government decided that we should discuss the Bill today.

The Bill is more like a colander than an iron-clad. Although we plugged one or two holes in Committee and on Report, it is still more holes than metal. It will sink--and good riddance. The Bill is disastrous--drafted by Deadline 2000. It is inimical to the interests of the countryside and to the country as a whole.

A law that we frequently pass in this place is the law of the unforeseen consequence. Nothing demonstrates that more easily than the Bill. The measure was published last autumn. One did not need to be a rocket scientist to anticipate its likely consequences. Its deficiencies have been apparent to all, yet its proponents have done nothing to cure them. In the Standing Committee, it was

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interesting to see how the jaws of the Bill's supporters dropped as they discovered that it was incompetently drafted and infelicitous.

The Bill is intellectually confused and illogical. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) has ably demonstrated that, as has my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington). The Bill is also politically inept. It is economically illiterate and it tries to legislate against nature. It is a recipe for social division and is draconian in its criminal penalties. It brings with it none of the countervailing benefits for animal welfare claimed for it by its proponents. The Bill is morally flawed. It will seriously compromise the welfare of the fox, the deer, the mink, the water vole and the hare. It is illiberal. It is unfair.

According to recent polls, a majority opposes a ban, yet the thoughtless majority in the House continues to press the measure right to the wire. Not only is the Bill unfair but it will not even serve the purpose that its proponents claim for it. The only thing to do with it is to throw it out--let us do so now.

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