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26 Nov 2002 : Column 295—continued

Mr. Pickthall: My hon. Friend has been exceedingly helpful. I asked whether we could be sure that there is no commercial netting to sell hares on to other areas. If she does not have that information now, I am happy to receive it at any other time.

Angela Smith: I am not aware of any such information, but if I am incorrect, I will write to my hon. Friend. I do not think that enough hares were caught even for coursing this year, let alone for any commercial activity.

My hon. Friend asked whether the report could be made public. The coursing clubs issue a report to the Department. I see no reason why that cannot be made public. I will check the legislation, but I should think that it would be to the advantage of all if the information about the date, number and location of hares caught and hares released were made public.

26 Nov 2002 : Column 296

As I said, there is only one current licence, which expires on 30 November. For that licence to be used, application would have to be made tomorrow in order to give 72 hours notice. If such an application is received, I can give the House an assurance that my officials will monitor the conditions of the licence.

Finally, there was a comment from the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mr. Simmonds) about illegal hare coursing. I share his views. Action is available to the landowner. In England, the charge would be taking game without consent; in Northern Ireland it is civil trespass with intent. I appreciate the problems and hope that the police could be involved in dealing with the matter. One of the things that make it difficult to police illegal hare coursing is the difficulty of explaining to people that one form of coursing is legal, while another form is illegal. I am aware of the disruption and distress that that can cause. I hope that I have answered all the comments. We shall monitor the activity closely.

Question put and agreed to.

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