Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): A large number of my constituents participate in hunting. All of them, especially those who will lose their jobs if a banning Bill is passed, ask for fairness and for the Minister to be a man of principle. The Minister went through those Portcullis House hearings, commissioned the Burns inquiry and concluded that a licensing Bill would be the best way forward. In his press release of 11 September 2002, he said:

Bearing all that in mind, will he demonstrate that he is a man of principle and vote for the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) and for the original Bill?

Alun Michael: Yes, I will vote for the amendments because they introduce legislation that I thought would be extremely effective and right for the long term.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): That is good news. My right hon. Friend knows that a group of us on both sides of the House has consistently thought, with the bone-headed relationship between this House and the House of Lords, that there was a middle way. The opportunity to find a middle way has consistently been brought before the House. I deeply resent his suggestion that the fault lies only in the upper House. From the middle way position, it seems to me that both sides are equally to blame for the position that we are in.
16 Nov 2004 : Column 1288

Alun Michael: I find my hon. Friend's logic peculiar. First, I said that there were serious flaws with the middle way group's propositions, much as I respected what the people who proposed that option were attempting to do. Secondly, if he wants to judge who is and who is not being bone-headed, I should explain that the middle way option was put to the House of Lords before the last general election and was overwhelmingly voted down. Had that decision not been taken, perhaps debate would have gone on and we would not be in this position. I suggest that that was day one of being bone-headed.

Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con): I am grateful to the Minister for once again repeating something that was implied in the Lords, which was that it would have been much better had the Lords opted for the middle way before the last election. Does he accept, however, that the middle way group has never looked for a compromise? I am worried that the word "compromise" has featured extensively in the debate. We are looking for a radical and different way genuinely to improve animal welfare and protect human freedom. We may have failed in his judgment, but for the first time those of us who sought the middle way are having to find a compromise between an outright ban, which would be extremely bad for animal welfare, and the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies), which are not as good for animal welfare as a full middle way solution would have been. For the first time we are compromising, and I think we will vote with the hon. Gentleman.

Alun Michael: I accept the description of the proposals that that the hon. Gentleman supported and his reasons for doing so. As he knows, I respect the great amount of effort and time that he put in to promote the middle way option. As I said—I have made this clear to him before—his proposals were flawed, but I respect entirely the efforts that were made to find a different solution.

Chris Bryant: I pay tribute to the way in which the Minister has tried to take the Bill through all its different stages, and I am glad that he is supporting the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies), although I shall not support them. My problem is that the most common way of killing foxes in the Rhondda is by shooting them at night—

Mr. Simon Thomas: By running them over.

Chris Bryant: Not by running them over.

The most common way of killing foxes in my constituency is by lamping them, but I remember sitting through the three days of hearings in Portcullis House and being told by a large number of people who supported hunting that it would be far crueller to kill foxes by shooting or lamping. If that is the case, surely the registration system, as advocated by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore, would fall foul of the cruelty case.
16 Nov 2004 : Column 1289

Alun Michael: No, I do not believe that lamping is a crueller option—indeed, that is one of the points on which there is widespread agreement. Everyone asked me to accept the Burns report, and one of that report's clear findings was that lamping is generally preferable and less damaging in terms of animal welfare. Lamping would not be ruled out by the Bill as I introduced it, or as amended as my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore proposes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) for giving me the opportunity to make that clear.

One of the problems is that the conclusions that we reached during our discussions at Portcullis House, which must surely have led anyone to say that not all hunting was entirely clear-cut, were set aside by those who have campaigned for hunting. They have retreated not into compromise, but into an attitude of "no surrender", exemplified by the phrase "an attack on one is an attack on all", rather than sought to achieve a just solution based on principle and evidence. In contrast to the comments made by the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray), comments such as

are not only inaccurate—there are divisions of view within the countryside—but appear to justify, if not condone, an unreasonable approach to protest. I warned the chairman of the Countryside Alliance on a number of occasions that I feared that some of his members might be encouraged to think it okay to become involved in illegal activities if such language continued to be used. That is not the right way to approach public debate or decision making.

Mr. Garnier: I do not want to dwell on the countryside erupting and things like that. The Minister admitted to my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) that he would support the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies), which reflects the Bill that the right hon. Gentleman introduced in November 2002. Will he explain to me why it is the hon. Member for Ogmore who introduced the proposal, not the Government?

Alun Michael: Because my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore, whose efforts I respect, sought to table the amendment. Having seen the way in which last week the House of Lords, by such a large majority, rejected the Bill as it came out of Committee, I had given up hope that, at this late stage, a majority might be found in favour of the Bill that I originally introduced, or the Bill as it came out of Committee. It would have been rather more constructive if there had been some support for my efforts to bring constructive options before the House, or if there had been more support for our proposals in the Commons in the last Session, or if the House of Lords in the last Session had sent back an amended Bill so that there could have been debate between the two Houses, or if last week the House of Lords had responded positively to the amendments before it.

Mr. Garnier: Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman did not understand my question. Why did the Government not table the amendment? After all, it precisely reflects the Government's own Bill of November 2002.
16 Nov 2004 : Column 1290

Alun Michael: My preferred option would have been the Bill as it came out of Committee and as it was put to the House of Lords last week and defeated there. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore has tabled a set of amendments and my treatment of those amendments is based on the reasons for my introducing the Bill in the first place. It is perfectly simple—perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman did not understand my answer.

Sir Gerald Kaufman: My right hon. Friend says, accurately, that our hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore tabled the amendment. My right hon. Friend is accurate in saying that our hon. Friend proposed it and spoke to it. Can my right hon. Friend tell me whether our hon. Friend drafted the amendment?

Alun Michael: I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore sought advice on how to draft amendments, as any wise Back Bencher would. It is for him to respond, but I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) respects our hon. Friend's motivation and his reasons for proposing the amendments.

Next Section IndexHome Page