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David Winnick: Does my hon. Friend agree that it is worrying that some of the stories that appeared in the newspaper stories today and at the weekend gave the strong impressionI am not accusing the Minister, who is not Alastair Campbellthat if we insist on a total ban, the whole lot will be lost? I hate to use the word, but that is a sort of blackmail. We should stick to our guns, and vote for a total ban today.
Mr. Banks: Let us assume that that is journalistic ignorance, which is not infrequently encountered in Parliament, rather than Government malice, which is something that we encounter less frequently. In other words, I do not believe that those stories arose from a briefing, which would be a clumsy way of suggesting that new clause 11 was sprung on the House. As I have explained, it has been around since 27 February, and if
New clause 11, which I support along with 153 Members from all parties, seeks a total ban on fox hunting while leaving the licensing system in place. If the Government believe that the Bill requires recommittal, that is only because they believe that it is too expensive to maintain a licensing system from which foxes have been removed. It would still be in place for mink, ferrets, stoats, wild boar and any other quarry species that the hunters can come up with. There is no reason why the Bill should be recommitted, but if the Government insist on it if we win the vote on new clause 11, we will accept that because we are not going to allow them to walk away and say that the supporters of new clause 11 have imperilled the Bill. That is not the caseeven without new clause 11, this remains a good Bill which we could live with, although it does not go far enough.
Mr. Kaufman: I obviously agree with the trend of my hon. Friend's argument, but it is very important indeed that the House understand, following what the Speaker said to me and what the Minister was compelled to admit to me in the debate on the programme motion, that if we carry the vote on new clause 11, and if it forms part of the Bill, the Bill can go on to the House of Lords and will be eligible for the use of the Parliament Act. It is very important in this debate not to concede what is not truethat the Bill could be lost if we carry the vote on new clause 11.
Mr. Banks: I thank my right hon. Friend for his forensic searching out of that crucial factno one wants to lose the Bill on this side of the House; nor indeed do many Opposition Members. We have had sufficient assurances to know that if we achieve acceptance of new clause 11 by defeating new clause 13 we will not lose the Bill, which will still conform to the Parliament Act.
Alun Michael: Does my hon. Friend accept that the first clause starts with the term "ban", because like previous legislation, it is a ban with exceptions? The difference between the present Bill and previous Bills is that the exceptions in this case are clinically examined in order to make sure that there is less cruelty involved. The specific targeting on cruelty is the strength of the Bill.
Dr. Palmer: Does my hon. Friend agree that we would have a fundamental difficulty in persuading constituents that we were right to delegate a decision to a registrar, rather than take the decision, one way or the other, ourselves?
Mr. Banks: I agree. What disturbs and worries me so much about the Government's position is that if people can see that there is still hunting going onthere will be plenty of coverage of itit will look as though we totally reneged on the undertaking that the Prime Minister and the party gave, and they will not understand it. People understand what a ban is, but exemptions can mean anything. Lawyers will argue that there is a justification for exemptions, they will make vast sums of money, as they usually do, and who knows?there might even at some stage be a change of Government, the guidelines to the registrar might get tweaked, and as we have already heard, the Tories have promised that there will be another vote on the matter. Fox hunting could be reintroduced, and they do not necessarily have to do it through legislationMinisters can change the guidelines.
Alun Michael: Has my hon. Friend noted that lawyers are arguing in Scotland, where there is an appearance of a ban in statute? There are two alternatives: either we delegate, as in this situation, to a registrar, who must take account of what Parliament will have decided, including the directions on matters such as the chase, which is dealt with in the Bill or in amendments; or we delegate interpretation to a court. That is what previous Bills would have done and what the Scottish legislation does, and it does not have the immediate enforceability of the Bill before us.
Mr. Banks: I do not want to take up too much time, but these points must be answered. The reason there is a problem in Scotland is that the flushing of foxes to guns is not restricted in terms of the number of dogs that can be used to achieve it, so a whole pack of hounds can be used to flush the foxes to the guns. That is hunting by another name. At least in the Bill the Minister has correctly limited the flushing to two dogs, so a pack of dogs cannot be used. There are exemptions, and even my new clause 11 allows for exemptions, as it allows for that exemption as well.
I accept what my right hon. Friend says. We all have to make compromises. We can never be 100 per cent. certain that a piece of legislation will work as we intended, because we are not infallible. We all have to give up something that we want. I would like to ban all killing of all animals under virtually all circumstances, but of course I am fairly moderate.
"A person commits an offence if he hunts a wild mammal with a dog, unless his hunting is
(a) registered for the purpose of pest control, or
Mr. Banks: Exactly, and the exemptions are worrying. We cannot be certain how the registration system will work with regard to foxes, or what the exemptions will mean when someone who has not been attentive to our debates and has not sat through hours of the Committee is making decisions. That is why I am concerned about handing the matter over. I and my colleagues on all sides believe that a total ban is clear and unequivocal. It means exactly what it says: a total ban on the hunting of foxes with dogs, although as I said, we would still leave a registration system in place, if the Government wish to do so.
If new clause 11 is agreed to, stoats, weasels, wild boar and mink will remain covered by part 2, plus any other quarry species. With foxes in the licensing system, I believe that we will see a continuation, albeit limited, of fox hunting. As I mentioned, guidelines to the registrar and the tribunal could be altered over the years, to allow more and more hunts to operate. With a change of Government, we know how much easier it would be for the Government of the day to reintroduce fox hunting, whereas if there were a total ban, they would have to introduce legislation to effect a reintroduction of fox hunting. A ban would make it more difficult for a Government who were determined to change the regime to make legal something that is illegal, just as we are having difficulty making illegal something that is legal. We should learn from our own experience.
There are many other arguments that I could address, as my notes indicate, but the point is made and others want to make their arguments. New clause 11 is unequivocal. It states what it will doit will ban fox hunting, which is what we want. We want to test that here in the House tonight, so I deeply regret the fact that the programme motion has been tabled, meaning that if
To address the point made by one of my hon. Friends, the reason we are moving new clause 11 is that we do not believe that new clause 13 will give us the total ban on fox hunting that we promised the people who elected us Labour Members, or fulfil the undertakings given by a number of Opposition Members. So the House should vote against new clause 13 and vote for new clause 11 tonight.