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Lembit Öpik: Despite what has been said, it is absolutely clear from the research that the middle way group has conductedanyone who looks at the facts can see this for themselves, and the research is not secretthat banning hunting with dogs increases the suffering. Hunting with dogs means zero per cent. wounding; shooting means a substantial wounding rate. If people think that they are improving the welfare of foxes in the countryside by voting for new clause 13 or new clause 11, they are wrong.
Mr. Cameron: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I pay tribute to the middle way group for trying to introduce some science and thought into the process. The fact is that if we ban hunting, the number of foxes killed will not go down but will rise. The amount of suffering and cruelty will go up. I go back to Burns, who said that we have to consider the welfare effects of the alternatives. None of them is entirely comfortable. Snaring and shooting with shotguns can have serious welfare effects.
People on both sides of the House decided to trust the Government in the Portcullis House process. I am afraid to say that that trust was entirely misplaced. I do not believe that the Government have acted in good faith. New clause 13 is the latest proof of that. Why should there be a ban on all autumn hunting? Why not test it against the principles of cruelty and utility? If the Minister went autumn hunting, he would see that it is the time of greatest utility, when 40 per cent. of foxes are dispatched. It is not a time at which hunts go chasing across the field; it is the time when the hounds do the
Why is there an outright ban on hare hunting and deer hunting? The Minister said that those would not pass the cruelty or utility tests. How can he know that? If he is setting up a tribunal, why not let it decide? The Government said, and the hon. Member for Vauxhall mentioned it, that they were looking for principle and evidence. I say that they have blown those things apart. Clause 10 of the Bill, to which new clause 13 is linked, says that hunting must pass a test of causing
Hunting is part of the balance of the countryside, which is why banning it would mean more foxes being killed. Hunting foxes is not about eradicating the fox population but about controlling it. One of my Oxfordshire neighbours keeps chickens. He was fed up with foxes taking them so he started shooting foxes. A conversationquite a lively oneensued between him and the secretary of the local hunt, after which my neighbour told me: "I understand the nature of the bargain; the hunt is saying that if it controls the number of foxes and I stop shooting them, we shall have a healthy fox population but livestock will be maintained". It is that point most of all to which I wish that hon. Members who are anti-hunting would listen. It is not about eradicating the fox population but about controlling it. Once hunting has been banned, or nearly banned under new clause 13, it will lead to the eradication of the fox population, because foxes will be shot in ever-larger numbers.
When we consider what the Bill has become, with no golden thread of cruelty and utility running through it, we have to ask: why are we registering only fox hunting? Why not register rat catching? If one wants to dispatch a rat, one can shoot it, one can use a terrier or a ferret. There is no control, yet under the Bill we have to have registered regulation of fox hunting.
A huntsman from my local hunt asked me whether, if he had worn a Rentokil jacket instead of a red jacketor in the case of the Heythrop hunt, a green jacketpeople might not have minded him hunting. I had to reply that that was possible. Tonight, the Government are doing what I thought would be impossible; they are making a bad Bill worse. I hope that my hon. Friends will join me in the Lobby and vote it down.
Alun Michael: Earlier in the debate, my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) accused me of trying to be objective on a matter where people do not want objectivity. He is right. I have tried to be objective throughout the period for which I have been responsible for this area of policy. I have tried to be objective but to remain passionate about banning cruelty and eradicating the cruelty associated with hunting. I have tried to be clinical and effective in getting a good piece of legislation that can be properly enforced and which would be successful. That is what I have tried to do and my hon. Friend was kind enough to acknowledge that.
However, my hon. Friend and others expressed concern that there was an impression that new clause 13 would stand in the way of a vote on new clause 11, and that it was some sort of clever wheeze. I have assured him that that is not the case. In the light of what has been said, I have spoken to my hon. Friend and to my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster), because new clause 13 contains the fulfilment of an undertaking that I gave Members in Committee, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester. It is with his understanding, therefore, that, to make it clear that there is no clever wheeze"You see what you're offered; you see what you get"it is not my intention to put new clause 13 to a vote[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] That means that new clause 11 can be voted on; I believe that new clause 6 may come first, but I would say
Mr. Garnier: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not know what deals go on between Labour Members of Parliament, but the central thrust of the Minister's case to the House and, therefore, to the public was that he was determined that new clause 13 should be put to the vote. It now appears that he has done some back-street deal with the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), so is it in order for the right hon. Gentleman to advance a case on one basis and then to appear at 10 minutes to 10 to present another one?
Alun Michael: I have listened to the debate, and in the spirit in which we have debated such things I wish to urge colleagues not to pass new clause 11. I understand entirely the temptation to do so and the attraction for many of my colleagues, but I tell them that the Bill,
Opposition Members have not helped in the debate because they have not really contributed to it; they have merely rerun the arguments made in Committee about why they do not want any eradication of cruelty. I urge my colleagues to unite today in getting good, strong legislation through the House. I hope that we can do so in the form in which I have introduced the Bill, with the amendments that fulfil the promises that I made in Committee. If that is not the case, of course, there will be recommittal to ensure that whatever Bill goes forward to the House of Lords does so in an effective manner that carries through the intentions of the House.
I understand how passionately my colleagues feel about this issue, as do those on the opposite side of the argument, but I ask everyone to respect the fact that we have designed a Bill that is intended to be good law, to be enforceable and to eradicate all the cruelty associated with hunting with dogs, and I invite my colleagues to join me in the way that I shall vote in the Divisions.
'(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.'.[Lembit Öpik.]