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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, the Stockholm European Council was obviously just about as big a failure as it was possible to be for the Government and for the Lisbon agenda. Can the noble Baroness the Leader of the House tell us whether the Council did anything to correct the fundamental problems of the EU? For example, did the Council make any progress on reform of the common fisheries and agricultural policies? Did it even discuss transparent mechanisms to stop the colossal fraud and financial incompetence that are the well-known hallmarks of the European Union? If it did not discuss those matters, can the noble Baroness give us any idea when they will next be on the Council's agenda and when we may expect any progress at all in what are matters of real importance to the European Union?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I would never wish to be in any sense discourteous to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, but I suspect that any agreement or understanding on any European summit basis about any issue would in his view always be a fairly considerable failure. Those are standards and bench-marks against which it is almost impossible to succeed. However, at the risk of exhausting the House, I am
Most specifically, I turn to the issue of employment. Millions of new jobs have been created as a result of the liberalisation of trade. The block on car manufacturers will be removed, leading to a lowering of prices in this country. The liberalisation and improvements in technology and communications skills will entirely underpin the improvement in employment prospects for people in this country. Indeed, I have to say to the noble Lord that, as regards the review of the Lisbon process, I can see clearly the ways in which the European process--and the Lisbon process in particular--directly help and assist people in this country in their ambitions and their wishes as regards better employment prospects, better skills, better processes and so forth. Furthermore, as Minister for Women, I am only too delighted that specific attention was given to the employment of women as a new ambition of the European summit.
The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, asked whether issues such as the CAP were considered. I hope I made it clear that this summit was directed specifically at employment, thus fulfilling its ambition under the Lisbon process agreement. Specific additional topics were addressed, such as the foot and mouth crisis, the question of Macedonia and the visit of President Putin, which offered an opportunity for matters to be discussed with the Russian Government. However, the primary ambition of this summit was to consider employment and employability.
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that many noble Lords welcome the progress being made towards stronger co-ordination of European air traffic control? Does she further recognise that, if we want to solve the problem of there being in place 15 or more air traffic control jurisdictions in Europe, and if we want to achieve better co-ordination with Germany, France, Belgium and so on, this has implications for the airspace over the United Kingdom?
Lord Grenfell: My Lords, perhaps I may begin by thanking my noble friend for repeating the Statement. Furthermore, perhaps I may associate myself with all that has been said about the late Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe. A loud and infectious laugh is something that no parliamentary chamber should be without and we shall deeply regret that loss, as well as his passing.
I should like to ask my noble friend a further question on the Lamfalussi report. If I heard her correctly, I believe she said that the difficulties being experienced between the Commission and the European Parliament looked as though they might be resolved. If that is the case, does she agree that the report of the summit perhaps should make that point
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I fear that, although I had no intention to mislead, what I said earlier may have fallen more into the category of what I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, would criticise as aspiration rather than anything else. However, it is true to say that, as I understand, there is no question that the Lamfalussi proposals are inconsistent with the institutional arrangements set out in the treaty. For that reason, the European Parliament may not be in a position of such senior prominence in relation to its further progress as perhaps had been thought in the past. As I am sure my noble friend is aware, it is also true to say that the European Parliament shares the wish to complete the European single market in financial services. That goal has been set to be achieved by the year 2003.
I cannot give my noble friend an exact report on the procedures of independent negotiation between the Commission and the European Parliament, but I understand that the picture is perhaps rather more optimistic than he may feel.
The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Tordoff): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now make a statement on the procedure to be followed in the Committee on the Hunting Bill to be debated this afternoon.
It has been agreed through the usual channels, after advice from the House authorities that, irrespective of the result of the vote on Amendment No. 1, Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 will be called. There will be an opportunity, therefore, to vote on all three amendments, none of which will pre-empt the subsequent vote on the clauses. Accordingly, the procedure will be as has been announced by the noble Lord, Lord Carter.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Now that we have clarified the issue of procedure, I shall be able to make further progress in reminding noble Lords about the three options in front of us. As I have already indicated, the Government are neutral on this issue. My purpose is not to try to advocate or promote any of the options, but simply to give a brief and factual exposition of their purpose and effect.
Perhaps I may begin with the option currently contained in the Bill. Its purpose is to ban the hunting of wild mammals with dogs and to create a new criminal offence for that purpose. However, there are a number of exceptions. These cover the stalking and flushing out of hares, foxes and deer, rodent and rabbit hunting; the retrieval of hares that have been shot, recapturing escaped wild mammals and rescuing diseased or seriously injured wild mammals.
I should like to quash one suggestion before it gains any further currency; that is, that the formulation of the offence somehow reverses the burden of proof. The notion of a principal offence to which there are exceptions appears frequently in our legislation. Indeed, in another place, my ministerial colleague, Mr Mike O'Brien, was able to cite numerous examples which stretch back over 150 years, including, significantly, much of our animal welfare legislation. I can reassure noble Lords that, if this schedule were to be passed into law, no one would be convicted of an offence unless the prosecution was able to prove each and every element of the offence beyond reasonable doubt.
It may be helpful if I repeat some of the observations I made when opening the debate on Second Reading. I do so because some of the subsequent comments of noble Lords have appeared to call them into question. Let me stress the powers that are available to the police and to the courts under this option. They are modelled broadly on those contained in other animal welfare legislation. However, as I have explained, most such legislation provides for custodial penalties, so this option is less severe.
I should also mention that the police, in the person of the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, has said that he does not anticipate that a ban on hunting would impose a significant additional burden on police resources, given that the police are already required to devote a significant amount of time and person power to policing hunting.
The next option on which noble Lords will be invited to vote later this evening is the one put forward by the Countryside Alliance. As I am sure that noble Lords are aware, it is based around the principle of self regulation. There is already in existence a body called the Independent Supervisory Authority for Hunting, known as ISAH. It is chaired by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, a former High Court judge, and
On behalf of its members, ISAH oversees the rules and codes of conduct of the organisation. It has the power to visit and inspect hunts and can impose disciplinary sanctions on those whose conduct warrants it. ISAH is funded by contributions from member organisations. Membership of ISAH, or of any organisation affiliated to it, is entirely voluntary. That would remain the case if this option were to be passed into law. In other words, anyone would still be free to hunt outside the ISAH regulatory umbrella if they so chose.
However, the proponents of this approach want as much hunting as possible to take place under the auspices of ISAH to ensure that it is conducted in accordance with the appropriate codes of conduct. Accordingly, this option creates an incentive for all those who hunt to do so under the watchful eye of ISAH.
The Protection of Animals Act 1911 and the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 both contain a number of offences relating to cruelty to animals. At present, both of these Acts contain specific exemptions for hunting, so a person cannot be prosecuted under these provisions if the alleged cruelty took place in the course of lawful hunting or coursing. This option would provide that these exemptions would apply only to what is termed "supervised" hunting, which is hunting undertaken under the ISAH regulatory umbrella. This is designed to ensure that there will be a strong incentive for everyone who goes hunting to do so, quite properly, under the auspices of ISAH.
I should at once repeat a point that I made at Second Reading: the Countryside Alliance does not believe that hunting, properly practised, is cruel, or that people undertaking hunting would be liable to conviction for cruelty offences but for these exemptions. It is worried about malicious or vexatious private prosecutions. To avoid being at risk from such prosecutions, the Countryside Alliance believes that people will want to continue to enjoy the protection of the statutory exemptions and would therefore seek to come under the ISAH umbrella.
Perhaps I may now turn to the final option that we will vote on later today. It has been put forward by the cross-party Middle Way Group, which seeks to introduce statutory regulation of hunting. The underlying principle is that in order to undertake hunting a licence would be required, either for an individual or an organised hunt or hare coursing event. Licences would be issued by a newly-created non-departmental public body to be known as the hunting authority.
The authority would be made up of between seven and 11 members, some of whom would represent the major interests-- such as hunting, farmers and animal welfare--but the majority would have no vested interest at all. The authority would be able to attach conditions to licences and would be required to draw up codes of conduct which licence holders would be
Once it is up and running, the cost of the authority would be met by licence fees. The idea is that fees should be set at a level which ensured that the authority neither made a profit nor a deficit. There would inevitably be some one-off start-up costs in setting up the authority, perhaps in the region of £500,000, which the taxpayer would have to bear.
Hunting without a licence or in breach of the terms or conditions of a licence would constitute a criminal offence, and the powers of the police and the courts to enforce this would be similar to those in the ban option, to which I have alluded. Not all hunting would be covered by the new regime and there would be activities that would constitute unrestricted hunting which could lawfully be carried out without the need for a licence. I understand that the Middle Way Group is considering whether it wishes to expand the list of activities which constitute unrestricted hunting to reflect the changes that were made to the Deadline 2000 option in another place. No doubt that is something the Committee will reflect on if this option is chosen.
Those are the options before the Committee. I look forward to an interesting and important debate on the merits of each. At the risk of labouring the point, I shall remind the Committee that there will be three votes today. The order of the votes will be the ban option, followed by the self-regulation option, followed by the statutory regulation option. Whichever is the last option to receive a majority vote will be the one that will be subject to detailed scrutiny when it is recommitted.
Finally, I emphasise once more that the Government are neutral. We have no preference; the choice rests with the Committee. As I am keen to hear what the Committee has to say, I shall bring my remarks to a close. I beg to move.
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