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Hunting wild mammals with dogs

Lords amendment: No. 1.

6.55 pm

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): I beg to move, That this House disagrees with the Lords in their said amendment.

Mr. Speaker: With this it will be convenient to take motions to disagree to Lords amendments Nos. 2 to 54, amendments (a) and (b) in lieu of certain amendments, and amendments (c) and (d) in lieu of amendment No. 46.

I inform the House that privilege is involved in Lords amendments Nos. 10, 12, 45 and 52. If the House agrees to the amendments, I shall arrange for the necessary entries to be made in the Journal.

Huw Irranca-Davies: I rise not to withdraw the amendments, as I have been encouraged to do by my right hon. and hon. Friends, but to urge support for them. Before turning to the amendments, I shall refer to some technical issues. I hope that the House will bear with me if I explain that the amendments were prepared speedily and that there are some technical clarifications that do not alter their meaning. In amendment (b), the reference in subsection 2(4) to paragraph 11 should be to paragraph 9 and the reference to paragraph 10 should be to paragraph 8. The reference in subsection 9(6)(b) should be to paragraph 23(5), and subsection 14(3)(b) should contain a reference to paragraph 12(4).

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is the amendment in order, in your view?

Mr. Speaker: The amendment is in order. I would not have called the hon. Gentleman if it had been otherwise.

Huw Irranca-Davies: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am glad that we have clarification on that point.

As many right hon. and hon. Members will know, 150 years ago in the Crimea, a war began. Two weeks ago saw the anniversary of one of the battles in that war, which included a suicidal charge across open terrain by the light cavalry of the British forces. It was immortalised by Lord Tennyson, who wrote the now famous lines:

As we already see, the parallels with today's debate are pretty clear. In case they are not clear, Tennyson continued:

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At moments like these, those lines from "The Charge of the Light Brigade" seem particularly relevant as I risk fire from all sides. Suicidal or not, the option enabled by these amendments needs to be put to the House on one last occasion. Alas, there may be fewer than 600 Members in the Chamber, but they are no less bold or perhaps foolhardy.

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): I admire my hon. Friend's literary knowledge. For those who do not have the extent of his knowledge, will he tell us what happened to the 600?

Huw Irranca-Davies: Yes, indeed. Perhaps it is not the best analogy to use, but history does not always repeat itself.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): Like the troops of the cavalry at Balaclava, the hon. Gentleman is showing great courage. Does he agree that Tennyson goes on to say the "noble six hundred"? Does he think that the likely outcome of today's debate will show that there are 600 noble Members of Parliament?

Huw Irranca-Davies: I would say, in diplomatic fashion, that I consider everyone in the Chamber on both sides of the debate to be both honourable and noble. I hope that what we will see at the outcome of the debate is 600 Members in the Lobby.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): The answer to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) is that the 600 carried their objective and the Russian cavalry was never able to face them again.

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham) (Lab) rose—

Huw Irranca-Davies: I thank the hon. Gentleman for highlighting the way in which the poem ends. I shall, in fairness, give way to my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks).

Mr. Banks: My hon. Friend will remember that when history repeats itself, it does so in farce. Are the amendments all his own work? If so, I am rather surprised. If not, all I can say is

7 pm

Huw Irranca-Davies: I suspect that my hon. Friend's intervention was not intended to be helpful, but was meant to cast aspersions on my motives. I remind him that I took this position before I entered Parliament, and I still maintain it. I expect him to treat my opinions with the same honour that I treat his principled position.

The easiest speeches to make in Parliament, as I have found out, are those in which one knows that the House is with one in passionate unanimity. Failing that, it is at least some comfort to know that one's party is behind one. In the direst times, it is good to know that one's minority vice is shared by at least a few other stalwart friends. Today, I am in a rather lonely position, although I suspect that I am not entirely alone. Even if mine were the only voice in favour of the amendments, it
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is a mark of our democracy that it should be heard with tolerance by those who oppose my views. In front of me and behind me are Members who in principle support a total ban on hunting. To my left and right are people who oppose any restrictions whatever. I have never belonged to either of those firmly opposed parties, but I respect the passion and principle that underpin their positions. People who oppose the suffering of animals recognise that they are sentient beings. Having campaigned on this and other animal welfare issues, they deserve the admiration of the House. I only ask them to extend the same courtesy and understanding to people who hold a different view. I urge them to recognise that I, like others, believe that a total ban would be less favourable towards animal welfare than they do, and I shall return to that point later.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's courage today. When he was elected in a by-election not very long ago, many of us had campaigned on his behalf, and were rather bewildered suddenly to find that we had supported somebody who backed registered hunting. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The House must be calm.

Chris Bryant: Turning to the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend, does he accept that the logic of his argument is that lamping might well be prohibited under his proposals? Most people, however, accept that it is the fairest and safest way of killing foxes.

Huw Irranca-Davies: My hon. Friend makes a fair point, and I shall deal with it when I address the technical aspects of my amendments. I know that he intended no discourtesy, and I reiterate that I have adopted a consistent view throughout.

I acknowledge that my position is somewhat unpopular—that may turn out to be the parliamentary understatement of the year—and I realise that my friends in the parliamentary Labour party will marvel at my audacity or my folly, depending on their assessment of my individual worth. I repeat: I held these views before I came to Westminster. I held them when I campaigned as an unsuccessful, then a successful, candidate. I have maintained them at Westminster. I have been consistent throughout and, as passionately as other hon. Members have held to their principles, I have held to mine.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion) (PC): As someone who campaigned against the hon. Gentleman in Ogmore, I acknowledge that he held those views before he came to the House. However, his views are not very unpopular in Wales, because they reflect the views of upland farmers in Wales, where there is a need to maintain a proper relationship between farming and the fox population, which is healthy and viable. Is he going to address the fact that his amendments, in my opinion and the opinion of many people throughout Wales, are environmentally beneficial and will improve the upkeep of the Welsh highlands?

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