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Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. We are running out of time and there have only been five Back-Bench contributions so far. If hon. Members bear that in mind, we might manage to include everyone who wants to speak.

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Kate Hoey: I do not know how different my constituents are from those of other Labour Members, but I have one of the largest surgeries, with 35 to 45 people attending, and I have yet to come across someone who has raised this issue with me. I want to put the debate in context: it is not a priority issue for people in my constituency. That is not to say that some of my constituents do not want to ban hunting, but it certainly does not warrant the time that we have spent on it over the past five years. It is however deplorable that if we are to discuss the Bill, we have so little time in which to do it that we will fail to reach many of the new clauses and amendments.

When the Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality spoke on Second Reading, I genuinely thought it was an attempt, in his words, to find something


He said that he would stick to principle and evidence, but he has not stood by his principles. It seems that the Minister applied no logic to the way in which he treated the Bill in Committee. If hunting is to be subject to utility tests, all types of hunting should be subject to the same utility tests. Without ever really looking at the evidence, we said that deer hunting and hare coursing should be banned. In Committee, we introduced extra bans, which were supported by the Minister, even though he had said that he would consider the evidence and apply the test of cruelty every time a ban was proposed.

We have got into the absurd situation whereby we are to ban the use of terriers underground, but the Minister hopes that an amendment will be passed, perhaps in the other place, to allow gamekeepers to continue to use terriers. There is no logic to that. It is nonsensical to say that it is okay for gamekeepers to use terriers underground to flush out foxes, but not for farmers, people who are hunting or landowners who need to dispatch a fox. That shows that, as we know deep down, the Bill is not about animal welfare. I wish it were about animal welfare. If the House really cared about that, we would be discussing a huge number of other issues, such as battery farming. Despite the efforts of Labour Members to promote those issues, however, we never get time to discuss the real cruelty that goes on, such as the way in which we allow horses to be exported to Europe and killed using appalling methods.

Nobody takes an interest in such issues because there is a zealotry about hunting, and about people in red coats taking part in a sport that has been around for a long time. Some Labour Members, and a few Opposition Members, would not accept any evidence that favoured hunting by people in red coats. They might go along with the idea of hunting by people in Wales or the idea of an occasional fell hunt. In fact, however, if the Bill is passed, the gun packs will be affected, and there will be little chance of such hunting taking place.

What do the people who supposedly care about animal welfare want to take place instead of hunting? They want to allow practices such as lamping. Lamping can work in some situations. However, in a 2003 report called "The Futility of Upland Hunting", the League Against Cruel Sports interviewed people who go out

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lamping. They tried to pretend that lamping is a serious method of killing foxes and that no one would dare enjoy it. However, the interviews showed that lampers were indulging in a sport, not simply killing foxes; they were out to have a good time. They described how they enjoyed going out with a spot lamp at night, looking for foxes' eyes glowing. Of course, there have been many incidents of domestic animals being killed in lamping.

Mr. Soames: Does the hon. Lady also accept that many people go out to shoot rabbits using precisely the same method, and yet rabbiting is apparently to be entirely exempt from a ban, as is ratting?

Kate Hoey: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The Bill is inconsistent. Why is it not okay to hunt hares when it is okay to hunt rabbits? That shows that the Bill has been devised by people who take an attitude of zealotry towards those who hunt. They are opposed to hunting, and they are not prepared to listen.

I want to pay tribute to the hundreds of women who spent last night and all day in Parliament square. If only some of my hon. Friends had had the decency to go and talk to those young, middle-aged and elderly women who live in the countryside and know what this is all about, rather than treating them with contempt.

The saddest thing about this whole process is that there has been no listening at all. At Portcullis House, everyone involved in hunting produced a huge amount of work and put in great deal of effort, but it was all simply ignored because some of the facts did not fit in with the Minister's or the Government's intentions.

Mr. Garnier: I have had occasion in previous debates to thank the hon. Lady, who is my London Member of Parliament—in fact, I think she represents quite a few hon. Members—for the position that she has, very bravely, taken on this issue. I asked the Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality about his wonderful golden thread. During parliamentary Labour party discussions about the Bill, has the hon. Lady been able to discern the golden thread, or does she think that it exists only in the Minister's mind and has no real connection with the philosophy behind the Bill?

Kate Hoey: There could only have been a golden thread if the utility test had been made much wider to encompass wildlife management and conservation, but those concepts have been left out of the utility test, so it is not a real utility test at all.

Let me talk about some of the other methods that we are expected to go along with because fox hunting is so cruel. Poison baits—

Mr. Michael Jabez Foster: Before the hon. Lady leaves the issue of collateral damage to cats and dogs caused by lamping, is she interested to know that I, who represent a rural constituency, hear from my constituents that their cats and dogs are often the subject of the hunt's fury in their own gardens? How can that be dealt with?

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Kate Hoey: In fact, I did not mention cats—I would not dream of mentioning cats, as I do not particularly like them. Clearly such incidents are traumatic for the people concerned. However, I am absolutely clear that the middle way group licensing proposals and the regulation that already exists could be used to ensure that the hunts involved in such incidents have to make reparations and ensure that it does not happen again. That is not a reason to ban hunting. Accidents happen in every activity.

To return to poison baits, DEFRA is currently testing a poison known as T3327 for use in poison bait for possible use against foxes during a rabies outbreak. In tests, caged foxes convulsed, retched and showed obvious signs of distress before death occurred—but that is all right to those who want a ban. If it is not being done by people in red coats, it is fine.

In Committee, the hon. Member for St. Ives (Andrew George) talked a lot about live cages as the way to trap foxes. It is interesting that the National Federation of Badger Groups is totally opposed to live cages, saying that they inflict a brutal death on badgers. Presumably, however, it is all right to be brutal to foxes—they do not matter.

Andrew George: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me the opportunity to mention—for the fourth time, I believe—my cousin's live cage on his poultry farm in the middle of a deeply rural area. It has often been argued that live cages can only be used in an urban setting, but that is clearly not true. As far as I am concerned, live cages offer the most humane way to dispatch foxes. If she wants to come to my constituency, meet my cousin and see the live cage in action, with the fox dispatched with a single shot on every occasion, I will be happy to show her.

Kate Hoey: The hon. Gentleman extended the same invitation to members of the Committee. If any of them took advantage of it, perhaps I can talk to them about it. However, it cannot be true that live cage traps are humane for use on foxes and mink but inhumane for use on badgers. The alternatives to hunting—

Mr. Morley: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Kate Hoey: I will give way to the Minister in my own time.

People who are seriously concerned about animal welfare and cruelty cannot possibly believe that any of the alternatives to hunting are better than what is happening at the moment.

9 pm

Mr. Morley: I want to correct my hon. Friend on the issue of live traps and badgers. The National Federation of Badger Groups—it is a fine organisation—is entitled to its views. However, in relation to the badger control experiments that are supervised by Professor Burns, there is an independent welfare audit of cage trapping. That audit has come to the conclusion that it is a humane method if it is carried out properly. Overall,

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cage trapping is recognised by all who are involved in pest control or wildlife management as one of the most humane ways of trapping and dispatching animals.


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