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Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will obviously understand that there is grave concern in all parts of the House at the unprecedented events that took place this afternoon, and I wonder whether you can tell the House anything about them now.

Mr. Speaker: I am gravely concerned about the situation, as indeed the whole House is. Immediately I received word that the incident had happened, I instructed the Serjeant at Arms to bring extra security into the House. Unfortunately, the Public Gallery has had to be cleared. What I intend to do is this: immediately after leaving the Chair, which will be at about quarter-past 6, I will have a meeting with Sir Michael Cummins, our Serjeant at Arms, and I will report back to the House as soon as I can.

Mr. Hogg: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask whether it is part of your intention to reopen the Public Gallery if at all possible?

Mr. Speaker: It saddens me that no one is in the Public Gallery—I feel as strongly about that as the right hon. and learned Gentleman—but the safety of Members and the security of the House must be uppermost in my mind.

Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I share your concern about security in the House, but I wonder whether you and the authorities will consider the fact that the House has returned while much of it is like a building site and whether that was a wise decision, as that may well have played a part in the lapse of security this afternoon.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Lady asks me to speculate. As I told her, I will have a meeting with the Serjeant at Arms as soon as I leave the Chair. I add that I have already had a meeting with him, and I will therefore report back to the House as soon as I can.

Sir Gerald Kaufman: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to delay proceedings, but may I put to you what I think is in the minds of a considerable number of hon. Members on both sides of the House? First, I trust that, in dealing with the people who got on to the Floor of the House, it will not be treated as some trivial incident for which they can be interviewed and released. It is much more serious than that. Secondly, I take it that, during your investigation, you will seek to ascertain whether any staff of hon. Members or others—I am sure not staff of the House or Members—were involved in assisting those people in gaining entry.

Mr. Speaker: This is not a trivial matter, and I will not speculate on any connection with members of staff. After all, I am seeking a report from the Officer who is responsible for security, and my first priority then is to come back to the House.

Sir Stuart Bell: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not a fact that the great difficulty that you, Sir, and Members have is in seeking to balance security needs with free and open access to the Palace of Westminster for our constituents and our citizens? Will
 
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you confirm that there is a deep review of security with the Metropolitan police and the security services? When the recommendations from that review are made, the House should speedily implement them and vote for the appropriate expenditure.

Mr. Speaker: I will not make mention of any security review, particularly at this stage.

Commons' suggested amendments, considered.

Mr. Speaker: I have imposed a limit of eight minutes per Back Bencher for the following business.

5.56 pm

Alun Michael: I beg to move,

It may be helpful if I indicate that I am happy to accept the sensible amendment that will be moved by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), and I encourage right hon. and hon. Members to vote for it and the substantive motion.

The motion will defer the commencement of the ban on hunting with dogs from the three months after Royal Assent currently in the Bill. The amendment would provide the specific date of 31 July 2006. The commencement of the ban on hare coursing will remain at three months. The motion is expressed as an amendment for the House to suggest to the other place because of the requirements of the Parliament Acts, and I shall return to that point shortly.

There are many persuasive reasons for deferring the commencement of the ban on hunting. In particular, it will give more time for those engaged in hunting to adjust to life after it. There are important animal welfare considerations for dogs and horses, as well as the wild animals that are hunted. The amendment would help by allowing time for hunters to put in place humane arrangements, such as dispersal and re-homing, for the dogs used in hunting. Such dogs are usually shot when they are no longer needed, but the extra time for implementation will ensure that there is even less reason for any suffering to be caused to them because of the ban. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
 
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Animals has offered help with re-homing hounds—an offer for which I am very grateful—based on its experience of re-homing a considerable number of greyhounds every year.

The Burns committee estimated that, at the most, perhaps 6,000 to 8,000 jobs across England and Wales were linked to hunting, directly or indirectly, and that that was "almost invisible" in national economic terms, but the delay will have a number of consequences. It will allow businesses that are reliant on hunting more time to refocus and diversify, for example, into drag hunting or dealing with fallen stock. The horse industry in general is buoyant and provides many business opportunities. The delay will allow hunt employees more time to find new jobs. Given the success of the Government's economic strategy generally, jobs in most rural areas are readily available, as are opportunities for retraining. The delay will allow those who regard hunting as a method of pest control more time to put in place other pest control methods.

The Bill is likely to receive Royal Assent in November this year, so under the motion the ban on hunting will come into force during November 2006. My hon. Friend's amendment would substitute that with 31 July 2006. That alteration would not in any real way reduce the important benefits of deferral that I have just described. However, it will have the advantage of ensuring that the ban will come into force before the start of the main 2006–07 hunting season. It will mean that the winter of 2005–06 will be the last hunting season and that there will be no hunting after that. Among other things, it will prevent a further season of the cruelty of cub hunting in autumn 2006. Allowing hunting at the start of the 2006–07 season would divert the attention of hunts from the need to plan ahead and get on with the job of changing their arrangements after the 2005–06 season has finished. Those important considerations are why I am glad to support the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend.

Lady Hermon (North Down) (UUP): As someone who feels passionately about the welfare of greyhounds, I have listened as calmly and patiently as possible to the lengthy explanation of why the implementation of the ban on hunting will be delayed. However, the Minister made it clear that the ban on hare coursing will be immediate. What provisions and assistance—financial or otherwise—will be given to the owners of greyhounds that might have participated in hare coursing?


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