Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Earl Peel: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that curt and direct response. He must be somewhat surprised that his right honourable friend Mr Michael, the Minister for Rural Affairs, yesterday voted against his own Bill in the Commons to vote down the use of terrier work underground. How will the Government reassure the tens of thousands of full-time and part-time gamekeepers who need to use terriers to protect not only game birds, but also a whole range of ground-nesting birds which, as research has demonstrated, now thrive only on areas where keeping is taking place? Is this not in fact another example of the Government perhaps not being as truthful as they might be? The Hunting Bill undoubtedly will have an adverse effect on shooting, contrary to what the Government have told us.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Bill is currently still being considered in Committee in another place. A number of votes have been taken in Committee and no doubt further votes will take place on the Floor of the House in another place. I think that we shall need to consider the Bill as it emerges from another place.

As regards the amendment on terriers, it was clear that the intention behind the amendment was to outlaw the use of terriers in the course of hunting. It

27 Feb 2003 : Column 422

was not directed at the use of terriers in terms of preserving game for shooting. Furthermore, my right honourable friend Alun Michael made clear his position by saying that he would have to consider tabling amendments to protect the position of gamekeepers and to ensure that animal welfare considerations are applied consistently and in detail. Perhaps I may quote for the noble Earl the reaction to that statement received from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. It stated that it was "encouraged" that Alun Michael recognises that. The association is already in discussions to work out how best that could be achieved. We are intent on preserving the position in relation to gamekeepers.

Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, can the Minister help with regard to the principles of the Bill on which, according to the Minister in another place, it was to be based? He has set a test according to the principles of utility which, as it stands at present, could not be met either by reared bird shooting or, indeed, possibly by catch-and-release fishing. If and when animal rights organisations turn their attention to those activities—they have already begun to do so—will those principles continue to be maintained by the Government or will they be jettisoned?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Government have made it clear that they are allowing Parliament to legislate under a free vote on the issue of hunting with dogs. There is no intention on the part of the Government to bring forward legislation relating either to shooting or to fishing. The principles enunciated in the Bill therefore apply to the Bill itself and any implication that further action is to be taken on other sports is erroneous and has been directly denied in the Labour Party's manifesto.

Lord Livesey of Talgarth: My Lords, is the Minister aware that 73 per cent of foxes in Wales are controlled by gun packs and terriers; that is, by dogs? The Hunting Bill as presently drafted will direct that significantly less suffering must occur before registration of those packs can take place. However, as it stands, the proposed legislation on hunting with dogs will place impossible hurdles in the way of the operation of gun packs. Surely those hurdles must not be imposed, given the evidence on the pest potential of predation by foxes on farm livestock in Wales?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, once again I urge noble Lords to restrict their interpretation of the Bill until we receive from the House of Commons the Bill that your Lordships will have to consider. No doubt we shall have some lengthy discussions on the same.

As regards terriers, I repeat that the intention with regard to terriers sought by the amendment tabled in Committee in another place—it was not a government amendment—was to stop terriers from being used in a process of hunting whereby the dogs would be used for catching. We are not talking about flushing out for shooting purposes. There will be some difficulties with definition and we shall need to clarify that, both in the

27 Feb 2003 : Column 423

Bill and in terms of government interpretation, should the Bill emerge in the form that the noble Lord anticipates. However, I urge all noble Lords to wait until we have the terms of the Bill.

Lord Mancroft: My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister is able to help me. He may not be aware that once I was a master of hounds. At the time I employed a terrier man on the Wednesday of each week. On each Tuesday and Thursday my terrier man was employed as a keeper. Can the noble Lord explain exactly what was the difference between what he did for me on Wednesdays as an employee of the hunt and what he did on Tuesdays and Thursdays—on the same land and using the same dogs against, ostensibly, the same foxes? Is that the kind of principle on which the Bill is based?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it had not escaped my attention that the noble Lord was once a master of hounds. It is clear that he is meticulous in his employment practices and feels the need to separate the job designation for Tuesdays and Thursdays from the one for Wednesdays. The point, however, is not what an individual is doing but what he is doing it for. If he is doing it in aid of hunting, the amendment relates to hunting with dogs. If he is doing it in support of game-keeping, different considerations apply which are not covered by—and which are not intended to be covered by—the Bill. My right honourable friend Alun Michael made that clear in his reaction to the amendment in another place.

Lord Carter: My Lords, if there is to be a distinction between a terrier used for hunting and a terrier used for other purposes, how will the terrier know?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, as it is clear that a master of hounds did not know, I do not think we can expect a terrier to know.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, at the Committee stage in another place, Mr Michael admitted that the new Clause 11 would affect shooting. If that is the case, can the Minister explain why Mr Michael then voted for the new clause?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I shall have to check the voting list. My understanding is that my right honourable friend made it clear that this was not a government amendment and that the Government would have to consider its consequences. He said that he would have to table amendments to protect the position of gamekeepers, which is what I have said. If the purpose for which the terriers are used is not in relation to hunting with dogs, it should not be covered in the terms of the Bill.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I find the Minister's response odd. The Minister in another place brought forward his Bill and then supported an amendment that altered it. The Minister is suggesting that there will be another way out further along the line. I do not

27 Feb 2003 : Column 424

see how there can be. Either the Government believe what they are saying or they do not. Why did the Minister take the tack that he did on the recent vote?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I find the noble Baroness's question odd. I have often accepted arguments in Committee—many from the noble Baroness herself—that have asked me to look at the Bill again. I have brought forward amendments to Bills—accepted amendments to Bills—and I have voted for them. That is not unusual. Mr Michael said that, because of the amendment passed in Committee, he will now have to consider further amendments. It is normal committee procedure, both in this House and in another place, that amendments are made to Bills, some of which are supported by the Government.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that there is no question of compromising the sport of fishing? It is estimated that at least 2 million people in this country enjoy that sport.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I hoped that I had made that clear. In their manifesto and subsequently, the Government have made it absolutely clear that they are not bringing forward legislation in relation to shooting or fishing. As far as I am aware—although greater experts on field sports than I will let me know if I am wrong—terriers do not play a significant role in fishing.

English National Opera: Dispute

3.24 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding asked Her Majesty's Government:>

    Whether they have any plans to intervene in the redundancy dispute at English National Opera.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, no, the Government have no such plans.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, the Minister's reply is entirely as expected; I have seen the letter that she wrote to Equity a few days ago. Is it not now time for a radical reappraisal of the role of the English National Opera in bringing opera to a wider public, as suggested, for instance, in the excellent leader in The Times yesterday? If so, Ministers cannot wash their hands of this issue and their responsibilities. Will the Minister ask the Arts Council to institute a review, as a matter of urgency, before this great national institution shakes itself to pieces?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page