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Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 3:

("(2) Subject to subsection (3), sections 1 to 4 of this Act shall come into force on such day as the appropriate Ministers acting jointly may by order appoint.
(2A) Different days may be appointed under this section for different purposes.
(2B) No order shall be made under this section--
(a) before 1st January 2003, and
(b) unless, in the opinion of the appropriate Ministers, those persons engaged in fur farming in Great Britain, when taken as a whole, have failed to meet the then applicable Recommendation Concerning Fur Animals adopted by the Standing Committee of the European Convention for the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes.
(2C) In reaching their opinion under paragraph (b) of subsection (2B), the appropriate Ministers may seek advice from such persons as appear to the appropriate Ministers to have knowledge or experience of animal welfare.
(2D) If the appropriate Ministers propose to make an order under this section they shall lay before each House of Parliament a document setting out the reasons for doing so, and no order shall be made until the expiry of the period of sixty days beginning with the day on which the document was laid.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment has two purposes. First, the Government constantly affirm their determination to harmonise our laws and practices more closely with those of other EU nations. Acceptance of this amendment would demonstrate their commitment to such harmonisation. Secondly, nearly all noble Lords, including myself, deplore avoidable cruelty to animals. Unfortunately, a number of noble Lords have been supporting the Bill in the wholly mistaken assumption that its sole purpose is greatly to reduce such cruelty. If that were the case, the Government would accept the amendment. I suspect that they will not do so. We shall wait and see. I beg to move.

Lord Luke: My Lords, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that I was not asleep on the Bench, but, having heard the Question earlier this afternoon, I did not want to repeat my speech three times.

I have every sympathy with the views expressed by the noble Lord, as my comments at Second Reading and in Grand Committee clearly show. However, I have discussed the three amendments with the National Farmers Union, which represents the 12 fur farmers who will be deprived of their legitimate livelihood by the Bill and who have been unable to trade sensibly or develop their businesses over the past two years. The NFU has assured me that it is satisfied with the state of the Bill as it stands, including the Government's commitment to adequate compensation. We therefore do not support the amendments.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, on these Benches we support the swiftest possible passage of the Bill through the House. As far as we are aware, the

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amendment would merely delay the process and would be costly and bureaucratic. We therefore cannot support it.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, is correct about the technical aspects of the amendments. They would add unnecessary time and process to the business of implementing a measure that has been fully scrutinised and carefully drawn up, with implementation dates that are appropriate to an orderly run-down rather than a precipitate one.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, went to the heart of the issue, which is whether the Bill is aimed solely, or even primarily, to use the terms of the Bill, at animal welfare issues. Those who have kept up with the debate as the Bill has passed through the House know that it is not the Government's contention that the aim of the measure is to implement high animal welfare standards. Those are within European competence. We work with our colleagues in Europe to ensure that the welfare of farmed animals is properly protected and that there are high standards of animal welfare. Those provisions extend to fur or rabbit farming just as to other areas of farming.

The Bill is not about the level or implementation of animal welfare standards; it is about whether, at the beginning of the 21st century, it is appropriate to keep animals with a view to their slaughter solely or primarily to exploit the value of their fur. That moral issue goes over and above welfare considerations. In our view, fur farming is not consistent with a proper value and respect for animal life, and there is insufficient public benefit from the activity to justify destroying that life or breeding animals for that purpose. That is why we believe that it is appropriate to strike at the root of fur farming rather than simply to take action on welfare conditions. We shall continue to work nationally and in Europe to ensure high standards across the range of welfare concerns for farmed animals.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have spoken. I am particularly grateful to the Minister for confirming that the purpose of the Bill is not to implement high welfare standards and that it is essentially doctrinal--I can think of no better word.

I take issue with the Minister's assertion that the Bill has been fully scrutinised. A Bill that has been examined only in Grand Committee in the Moses Room, when very few noble Lords turn up, cannot be said to have been fully scrutinised.

I am aware that the NFU and the core of beleaguered fur farmers who have been attacked by sinister individuals in black balaclavas year after year favour the Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Luke, said. They see no other end that would give them even the slightest justice. However, the interests of the NFU and the fur farmers are not automatically the same as the national interest. The Bill sets a terrible precedent. The Government could decide that a certain practice of which some Ministers--not necessarily all--disapprove is morally unacceptable and they could ban it by using their massive parliamentary majority.

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The Opposition have been short-sighted in concentrating solely on what the NFU says. I agree that the amended Bill is a reasonable answer in the short term, but the precedent that it sets is dangerous for the longer term. However, in the absence of any support, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Disqualifications Bill

3.26 p.m.

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Falconer of Thoroton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Amendment of section 1(1)(e) of the Disqualification Acts]:

Lord Lamont of Lerwick moved Amendment No. 1:

    Clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out from beginning to ("section") in line 6.

The noble Lord said: The Bill will remove the disqualification from membership of the House of Commons and the Northern Ireland Assembly for Members of either House of the Irish Parliament. It is a small but profoundly important and far-reaching Bill that has not been without controversy.

Amendments Nos. 1, 3 and 37 would remove from the Bill the repeal of the disqualification for the House of Commons. They would allow Members of the Irish Parliament to be Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly but not of the House of Commons.

The amendments allow us to debate the issues at the heart of some of the objections to the Bill. Many of us have grave doubts about the principle of being a member of two sovereign Parliaments simultaneously, although it might be possible to be a member of a sovereign Parliament and of a subsidiary Parliament in another country. One has to swear two different oaths. The Irish Parliament does not have an exactly analogous procedure to the taking of the oath in the House of Commons but there is something similar. One would have two different sets of loyalties in two different Parliaments.

The amendments would allow the Bill to go ahead, because Members of either House of the southern Ireland Parliament could still sit in the Northern Ireland Assembly but not in the House of Commons.

With the greatest possible respect, the Minister failed to tell us at Second Reading why the Bill has been introduced. That remains a great mystery. It was certainly a considerable mystery during the debates in the House of Commons. The timing of the Bill has been mysterious. The Government say that there has been plenty of time for consultation. The noble and

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learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said that the matter had been given considerable consideration in the House of Commons. I believe that that is a rather elegant way of describing an all-night sitting and a Second Reading, followed immediately by a Committee stage but no Report stage. I do not call that normal consideration of a Bill. The Bill was published on 22nd December last year and all proceedings on it took place in the House of Commons at the end of January.

With regard to the principle of two people sitting in two sovereign Parliaments, one wonders: who wants it and why is it necessary? When the noble and learned Lord last spoke on this matter, he presented it very much as a tidying-up measure to bring into line the provisions for the Parliament of Ireland with Commonwealth legislatures. Leaving aside the fact that Ireland has never been in the Commonwealth, I stand to be corrected by the Minister but I am not aware of an example of a person sitting simultaneously in a Commonwealth legislature and the House of Commons. Therefore, I was not convinced by this being presented as simply a tidying-up measure.

I have read that people in the Dail do not want this legislation. I have read editorials in Irish newspapers opposing this legislation. I know that the Ulster Unionists do not want it. I know that Mr Trimble does not want it. What is its purpose? When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, spoke on the matter before he made no reference to the Good Friday agreement or the Belfast agreement. Indeed, those agreements make no mention of this measure. One had one's suspicions, and I am bound to say that my suspicions were increased somewhat.

We debated this Bill on the penultimate sitting day before the Summer Recess. I believe that the Minister was of the opinion that I considered there to be a conspiracy behind the legislation. If I had held any such belief, it was confirmed somewhat when, shortly after this House rose, or perhaps shortly before, Sinn Fein published a policy document (which I did not see) recommending that all Westminster MPs from Northern Ireland should also be Members of the Dail. The words "Sinn Fein" never escaped the lips of the Minister when he justified this Bill; nor, so far as I can see, were those words mentioned in the debates in another place.

It is being proposed that a person should have simultaneous membership of both sovereign Parliaments. That proposal is not identical but bears a resemblance to what is being proposed in the Sinn Fein policy document. Today the Minister owes the House a convincing explanation as to why this legislation is necessary. It has had a curious profile throughout its parliamentary passage. It was rushed through the House of Commons and rushed through its Committee stage. It was then delayed until the latter days of July when it was suddenly reintroduced here.

So far as I can see, the legislation does not command wide support in Northern Ireland. Therefore, as it bears a close resemblance to proposals put forward by Sinn Fein, I believe that the Minister must convince us that it is not being enacted only to satisfy Sinn Fein.

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If it is possible for one to be a member of two sovereign Parliaments, or if one can be elected, let us say, to a Northern Ireland seat and be a Member of the House of Commons and also a Member of the Dail, that is moving a long way down the road towards implying that Northern Ireland is equidistant from both the House of Commons and the Dail. It implies that both Parliaments have a similar entitlement to pronounce and intervene in the affairs of Northern Ireland, leaving the suspicion that this is part of the process of merging Northern and southern Ireland. The Minister may say that that is a strong allegation. However, he has given no convincing explanation as to why the measure is being brought forward. I can see no possible explanation, and I tabled my amendment in the way that I did in order to make that point.

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