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Hunting Bill

As amended in the Standing Committee, considered.

New Clause 13

Registered Hunting: Absolute Bans: Deer, Hares, Foxes and Terrierwork

'(1) Registration for the purpose of pest control shall not be effected under Part 2 in respect of the hunting of—
(a) deer of any species, or
(b) hares.
(2) Registration for the purpose of pest control shall not be effected under Part 2 in respect of any hunting of foxes which takes place—
(a) on or after 1st August of a year, and
(b) before 1st November of that year.
(3) Registration for the purpose of pest control shall not be effected under Part 2 in respect of any hunting that involves the use of a dog below ground.
(4) Subject to subsections (1) to (3), registration may be effected under Part 2 in respect of the hunting of foxes, mink and other species of wild mammal (but only where the pest control tests of utility and least suffering are satisfied in accordance with sections 10, 19 and 21).'.—[Alun Michael.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

5.21 pm

The Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality (Alun Michael): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 6—Use of dogs below ground (No. 2)—

'(1) Registration under Part 2 may be effected in respect of hunting that involves the use of a dog below ground.
(2) The Secretary of State may make regulations for the recognition of any existing body as the proper authority for making a code in respect of the conduct of any activity in connection with the use of dogs below ground on wild mammals.'.

New clause 11—Foxes—

'Registration under Part 2 shall not be effected in respect of the hunting of foxes.'.

New clause 14—Registration in respect of hunting of mink—

'Registration under Part 2 shall not be effected in respect of the hunting of mink.'.

Government amendments Nos. 43, 44, 1, 85 and 100.

Alun Michael: I believe passionately that this Bill is a good, strong and effective piece of proposed legislation already, and that it will be further strengthened by the addition of new clause 13, which consolidates a number of amendments made in Committee and meets undertakings given to members of the Standing Committee, particularly my hon. Friends.

The Bill will ensure that all cruelty associated with hunting with dogs will be banned: no doubts, no compromise, no uncertainty, no delay; a ban on the cruelty and sport of hunting in the lifetime of this

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Parliament. A great deal of comment about the Bill has been wrong in fact and wrong in terms of what the Bill will deliver. Let us be clear—the Bill will ban cruelty. How? It will ban the sport of fox hunting. It will ban cubbing, provided that new clause 13 is added. It will ban terrier work associated with hunts. It will ban deer hunting. It will ban hare hunting. It will ban mink hunting for sport. It will ban hare coursing events.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): Will the Minister give way?

Alun Michael: In one moment. In addition, the Bill will only allow the hunting of foxes and mink in exceptional circumstances, for pest control and only when alternative methods can be shown to cause significantly more suffering.

Mr. Gray: I want swiftly to pick up the Minister on a point that he mentioned. He said that the new clause would ban terrier work associated with hunting. He may be incorrect. I think that he will find that the new clause would ban all terrier work. He has previously said that he intends to table amendments in another place to allow terrier work and to allow dogs controlled by gamekeepers to go underground. How will the Minister differentiate between hunts and gamekeepers?

Alun Michael: The hon. Gentleman knows that I undertook to table an amendment on that in another place. He was wrong to suggest that I said that new clause 13 would do all of the things that I enumerated. I explained what the Bill would do and I have suggested what the Bill would do in addition to that, provided that new clause 13 is supported.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): At the Portcullis House hearings, which the Minister very kindly arranged, there were three days of evidence that, presumably, informed the drafting of the Bill that was presented to the House before Christmas. Subsequently, the Bill has been changed by Back-Bench amendments in Committee. The Minister now seems to be presenting a new clause that has very little to do with the evidence that we heard in Portcullis House. Will he explain the context of new clause 13 in terms of the Portcullis hearings, where he listened to a certain amount of evidence?

Alun Michael: The Bill is consistent with what we heard in Portcullis House, as well as with the Burns report. There was also considerable debate in Committee. That is what a Standing Committee is for. There was engaged debate involving many of my hon. Friends, and many people outside the Committee took an interest in our proceedings. As a result, amendments have been tabled that strengthen the Bill.

Mr. Kevin Hughes (Doncaster, North): My right hon. Friend said that new clause 13 would strengthen the Bill. What is different in the new clause from what is already contained in clauses 6, 7 and 9, which he intends to remove? Could it not be construed that the reason for putting everything into one new clause was to configure the programme motion in a way that creates difficulties for the rest of our proceedings?

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Alun Michael: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity to explain. New clause 13 has been around in draft form for some time. It is designed to consolidate and tidy up some amendments made in Committee. He is right to point out that it consolidates a number of provisions that were already in the Bill, in order to tidy it up. The main difference is the specific issue of cubbing, which is dealt with by the new clause.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton): My right hon. Friend could have proposed the changes as amendments. He has shown some faulty understanding of procedure this afternoon, but he knows that new clauses come before amendments on Report, which is why he has chosen to use a new clause and shoehorn it ahead of new clause 11. He has done that deliberately, in order to pre-empt a proper decision by this House.

Alun Michael: My right hon. Friend is wrong. He is right about the order in which we consider matters, but he is wrong about the intention. I subscribed to new clause 13 to show Government support and ensure that it was protected, and that was before any question of selection was raised. I understand the point that he makes. I would have thought that the order would be to vote on new clause 13, then new clause 11, and then a consequential amendment relating to new clause 6. However, that is not the ruling, and obviously I accept the ruling on how we must vote. He will be aware that if new clause 13 is voted down, new clause 11 will be voted on and we will proceed accordingly. It is also the case that even without new clause 13 or new clause 11 we have an extremely powerful piece of legislation. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to focus on the strength of the Bill and the small size of the differences between us in relation to new clauses 13 and 11 and the Bill as already amended in Committee, not to mention amendments that we will reach later to honour undertakings given in Committee.

Mr. Kevin Hughes: It is not a question of selection by the Speaker: it is a deliberate selection by the way in which my right hon. Friend has worded the programme motion. The Speaker has no alternative but to call new clause 13 before new clause 11, because that is what it says in the programme motion.

Alun Michael: Let me explain to my hon. Friend that the programme motion follows the order that would have been laid down even without it, because new clause 13, having been subscribed to by the Government—which I did to keep faith with colleagues who had asked for that element of amendment—must take precedence. All we did was to consolidate that in the programme motion.

I understand why those hon. Friends who see conspiracy are concerned, but I can say with my hand on my heart that that was not the intention—[Interruption.] No, it is simply the effect of reflecting in the programme motion the way in which the voting would have gone anyway. As I have said, the opportunity exists for Members who choose to go in a particular direction to do so.

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5.30 pm

Mr. Garnier: At the outset of our deliberations before Christmas, the Minister said that there was a "golden thread" running through this legislation. When did he last see that golden thread?

Alun Michael: I see it very clearly in a Bill that bans the cruelty associated with hunting in all its forms. I have just pointed out the Bill's strengths. It will make good law because it will be enforceable, and it will deal in proper form with the mischiefs that Members have debated year after year. It is, as The Guardian said, tough but fair.

Having emerged from Committee the Bill is very tough, but it is still fair, and that is surely the best way to create legislation. That is why I seek to persuade hon. Friends to join me in supporting the Bill—so that we can enable Parliament to reach a conclusion on this issue.

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