|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Waddington: It is a very small point. I know that the noble Lord does not wish to mislead the Committee in any way, but in a sense it is slightly misleading to speak about the Alun Michael Bill. It was not his Bill but the Government's own Bill, which we should bear in mind the whole time.
Lord Davies of Coity: In raising this question on the amendments and addressing hare coursing and deer hunting, do I understand from my noble friend Lord Hoyle that if it is limited to the Alun Michael amendment that he will support it?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I wonder whether it would help to make the debate run more smoothly if Members of the Committee were to speak to the mover of the amendment. It is quite complicated to follow when individual Members of the Committee have a duologue across the Chamber.
Lord Donoughue: I support all that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said in proposing the restoration of the process of registration and regulation. I say to my noble friend that it is not taking anything wider. It is the registration process which was in the original government Bill and there is no taking matters wider on this amendment.
The Bill had defects, which did not please everyone totally, but it pleased virtually everybody to a considerable extent. It followed six months of consultation and scientific evidence. Ultimately, whatever our reservations, we saw it as broadly a fair Bill. It provided that alleged bad practices in hunting should be dealt with.
The banning Bill is unfair. It is based on prejudice and intolerance. The Minister, when opposing the proposals at an earlier stage in the House of Commons, used such phraseology. I am simply agreeing with him. The Bill is probably unenforceable, as the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, said in a very impressive speech at Second Reading. I believe that animal suffering would be worse under the ban.
I shall not repeat Second Reading arguments. I wish to speak in narrow terms, particularly to my Labour colleagues. I hope that we will not lose Members of the Committee opposite; I ask for their tolerance. I suggest to my noble friends that the restoration of regulation and registration is based on democratic Labour principles. I use the word "democratic" because, historically, some socialist principles were unacceptable and, like the ban in some respects, draconian in their attempt to deal with issues.
My first point is obvious. The regulation process was a central part of what was a Labour government Bill. Labour Ministers argued strongly and impressively against a ban. Secondly, the Bill is totally acceptable because it is fair. It is neither discriminatory nor socially divisive, as the ban is. The best of Labour's social policies have been based on fairness and anti-discriminationMembers of the Committee opposite will not always agree. The proposed ban is unfair and certainly discriminates against a minority group.
My third point is central. The process of registration and regulation is now a mainstream Labour approach in many areas. It secures that the activities of private groups are subject to public accountability. The genuine concerns on my side of the Committee about cruelty in hunting are met by the regulation process. Those genuinely concerned about cruelty and suffering of animals should be satisfied with the Bill. I have not always been convinced that colleagues in another place have been concerned mainly with that.
The regulation process also secures good practice in hunting. In handling a Private Member's Bill, as I have done over the past two years, I have met many country sports groups. It has struck me that they all want good practice and the elimination of bad practice. The registration and regulation process proposed and described in the amendment achieves that.
Fourthly, the Bill should be very acceptable to all Labour colleagues, because it protects thousands of jobs in the countryside, whereas the ban creates serious rural unemployment. The Burns report said that it would take 10 years for the jobs lost to be reabsorbed in the rural economy. Perhaps not all my colleagues in the House of Commons share my belief that it is not a Labour approach to create unemployment in the way that the ban will.
We discussed the party manifesto earlier. Although I was concerned that it should be accurately recorded in full, it does not commit the Government to a ban on hunting, nor does it say what the conclusion of Parliament's deliberations should be. In addition, it does not say that it should impose the House of Commons view. It says that it will enable Parliament to reach a conclusionParliament, not the Commons.
For those five reasons, and as a lifelong Labour supporter and non-hunter, a ban would be offensive and against my Labour principles. In supporting the amendment, I call on my colleagues to do the same.
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: The passing of Amendment No. 2 incorporates specifically the principles of registration and exemption. The new clause contained in Amendment No. 4 clarifies and defines registration. The regulations to be introduced will be specific to individuals, as defined in the amendment, and groups. They will also relate specifically to wild mammals and the area in which they are hunted. Registration is the civilised alternative to a ban. It underwrites good practice, which is an essential element of the principle of registration being debated in the amendment. The amendment is vital, as it clarifies registration and the question of participation, which it takes into account in provisions for group registration, for example.
The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, was honest in saying that her amendments were probing measures. I am sympathetic to that and shall be interested to hear the Minister's response. Amendment No. 4 defines registered hunting. Having accepted the principle, I feel that the amendment is necessary.
Baroness Warnock: I strongly support everything that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said in moving the amendment. It offers the civilised way through the dilemma. This is a very familiar case of two diametrically opposed moral opinions on which no compromise is possible. If the concept of regulation, registration and, therefore, monitoring of what happens in the field is accepted, both sides of the moral dispute are likely to be more satisfied, if not absolutely satisfied, with the amendment. The concept of good practice is incorporated in the registration proposal.
The only respect in which I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, is trivial. He says that it is an odd approach first to provide in Clause 1 that hunting of mammals is an offence and then to give the exceptions. On the contrary, it is a common approach. Lawyers have a word for such a conceptperhaps defeasible. The same principle was observed in the very different circumstances of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, where the clauses on using live embryos for experiment and research provided first that it was an offence to use live embryos for research, with the regulations, time limits and other provisions coming next. That seems to me to be the essence of what is proposed in this amendment. It emphasises the extreme centrality of the concept of regulation. It is not an added something or other, it is the whole reason why the hunting of mammals with dogs is to be, in certain specified circumstances, permitted. The
On this particular issue of the amendment, let us assume for the sake of argument that it is just within the bounds of possibility that the Committee agrees Clause 4, or rather Amendment No. 4"Clause 4" was a lovely Freudian slip. Can we then have an agreement from the Minister that the Government will accept the new clause, even if they may not like it, and that he will address his mind to making it better than it is at present. In other words, assuming that the amendment is carried, can we have an undertaking from the Minister that he will make sure that the new clause will be as good as it can be, even if he does not like it in the first place? I hope the Minister follows my meaning.
Lord Alli: I have never spoken in a hunting debate and after the first amendment I did not think I would ever participate in one again. I have listened to and read patiently much of what has been said in this House, in the other place and in the media. I have heard good sound arguments for and against hunting put with equal passion and vigour and the one conclusion I have drawn is that to believe this is a simple issue is very naive.
This debate, distilled into its simplest form, is about a person's right to kill an animal, which would otherwise have been destroyed, for pleasure versus the state's right to curb an individual's liberty using the criminal law. It is a question of individual freedom versus the views of the majority, not simply cruelty versus liberty. These are not simple questions and we in this House should not believe that there are simple answers. Simplicity is for the headline writers of the tabloid newspapers or the television news bulletins but not for this Chamber.
What we have before us today is an amendment that says to the other place, "Think again. Think again about a system of regulation before you take that final step and deprive our fellow citizens of a freedom they currently enjoy".
Ours is a complex system of government and law making, but this House does have a unique role; my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton referred to it. It can say to the other place, "Think again". Indeed part of its very purpose is to do just that. It is for that reason that I shall be supporting this amendment today. The Minister, in his Second Reading speech, said about the arguments put forward on the grounds of civil liberties:
Let me say to the noble Lord that I do not agree with his view. Freedom, in my view, is a precious thing. You have to want freedom very, very badly. You have to want freedom badly enough to allow two men to walk down a road, holding hands and kissing. You have to want freedom badly enough to watch British Muslims burn a Union flag. You have to want freedom badly enough to allow people to get onto horses and hunt.
Freedom does not come cheap. It is a hard concept. You really have to work for it. It was never easy, it is never easy and it will never be easy because there is always somebody who wants to deprive us of elements of our personal freedom to make us appear more just, or simply to allow government to perform their function.
This debate has ceased to be about facts, evidence or reason and I suspect it was probably naive to believe that it ever could have been. It is about passion and belief and that is why it is here in this Chamber, because passion and belief are involved in what we do. I will never be convinced that the fox does not feel pain when the dog rips it apart. I will never be convinced that much of animal testing is right. I will not be convinced that the treatment of a veal calf is humane. I will not be convinced that stuffing grain down the throat of a duck or a goose is right or justified. I will never be convinced that fish caught on a hook, whether or not you throw them back into the river, do not feel pain. However I do not believe that because I do not fish, you should not and that we should use the criminal law to prevent you. Equally, I do not believe that because I do not hunt, we should use the criminal law to stop people hunting.
I have always thought that criminalising large sections of the otherwise law-abiding population is never a good idea. I say that with trepidation as I see the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, in her place and I refer your Lordships to the poll tax, or should I say the community charge?
I have listened to the animal cruelty argument, which I find in part unconvincing, but in the end this Bill is not about animal cruelty. If this Bill formed part of a wider package of animal welfare measures perhaps the arguments put forward on cruelty grounds might be more compelling, but it is not.
I say to the Committee, and particularly to those on these Benches, that I know that the hunting lobby has tried to put forward libertarian arguments before and I understand the sense of hypocrisy that you might feel at seeing those who have been among the most prejudiced and intolerant seeking final refuge in the libertarian tent. I have read speeches by noble Lords who talk of prejudice but who have resisted every piece of equal opportunities legislation and equal rights legislation and speeches by some noble Lords who think that universal suffrage is a step too far. I know it is difficult to listen to these arguments as they are deployed in a cynical and unconvincing way, but I ask noble Lords not to dismiss these arguments because of the people who make them.
I accept completely the legitimate right of the other place to disagree with registration. If it sends this Bill back much in the form that it was received today, I suspect we cannot stand in its way. But at this stage, in Committee, I believe we have a duty, that I have a duty, given the arguments that I have put forward, to say to its Members, "Think again". It is a difficult choice: individual freedom versus the views of the majority. It is a close call. I understand why for many cruelty overrides liberty. I have wrestled with this issue but in the end, for me, liberty must have her way.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page