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Lord Sanderson of Bowden: I should like very much to support this amendment and to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, on one particular issue that he raised. When you can read the book you do not have to look at the crystal ball. I live in the area where a Bill has become an Act and hunting has been banned. All I would say to the Committee is that before you go ahead and completely ban hunting in England and Wales, think very carefully about those who are very uncertain about their future in my part of the world as a result of the Scottish Executive passing that Bill. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, put his finger on it when he said to his colleagues, "Think very carefully about those involved in this work". It is work. They are dedicated people and they do not deserve to lose their jobs.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Elton: While congratulating the noble Lords, Lord Alli and Lord Brennan, on making a contribution between them of notable and constitutional importance, might I remind your Lordships that we are discussing Amendment No. 5 to Amendment No. 4 and that we have been straying very close to the borders of order?

I rise merely, first, to support the inquiry of my noble friend Lady Byford about the advisability of Amendments Nos. 5 to 12 and 14 to 16, all of which seem to me to be plain right. Secondly, on Amendment No. 13, which addresses the issue of group registration, it really is impossible to form a view until one knows who will be registered. We have had this discussion once or twice before, but we really need to know whether it will be the 150 or 200 people following by all sorts of means—a handful of them perhaps on horses, perhaps more—or whether it is aimed at the master of the hunt, the

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huntsmen, the two or three whippers-in, the kennelmen, the groom at the stables or the committee which arranges the finances. Those are two quite different concepts. One of them is feasible while the other seems not to be. Keeping a record of all those who had followed on a bicycle three miles away is not feasible. We therefore need a definition of what hunting is. We have proposed inserting "intentional", but I suspect—and this is perhaps a point to return to on Report—that we need a closer definition before we can do more than nod at these amendments and then go back to the great sweeping oratory on Amendment No. 4, which I, like others, wholly support.

Baroness Golding: I support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Mancroft and shall speak to the need for the registration of the hunting of mink with dogs. As I said in a previous debate, the Government have signed up to the European Convention on Biological Diversity, which commits them to,

    "control and eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or native species".

Having signed up to the treaty, the Government have committed themselves as far as possible to the eradication of that very alien species, mink.

There is no evidence that mink can be eradicated or controlled by trapping alone. Indeed, the expense and inefficiency of the use of traps have without doubt led to the spread of mink in many areas of this country. The Game Conservancy Trust at Fordingbridge recognises the problem only too well and has recently successfully tested the idea of a raft which can identify the presence of mink. Subsequently a baited trap is placed on the raft to catch the mink and the mink are then shot. Those scientists have the good sense to recognise that mink are not easy to catch by traps alone and that there will always be a need for hunting mink with hounds. They are not the only scientists to recognise that need.

Scientists involved in the 1.6 million mink eradication scheme on the Scottish Hebrides have found themselves proved wrong by mink hounds in areas that they thought were free of mink. Indeed, the evidence produced by the scientists running the programme leads one to the conclusion that, unless trap-shy mink are recognised, and the very real need to train people in the use of mink hounds is recognised, then the large-scale and expensive eradication programme will not be successful and the 1.6 million spent will perhaps have been wasted.

Those scientists point to the fact that the Icelandic Government rely on dogs as their primary weapon to locate mink, which are then dispatched by shooting. About 6,500 mink are culled in Iceland every year, at an average annual cost of 150,000. No one knows how many mink there are in this country but estimates vary from 18,000 to 50,000. We can only guess at the cost of eradicating them. The nature department of the Icelandic Government have all the evidence to show that mink hounds are essential for the control of mink. The Government should listen to their scientific evidence and allow hunts to be registered. In doing so, the Government would recognise their commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity. They would go some way to answering the damning report of Defra's

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European wildlife division on the lack of action in their commitment to the convention. I most strongly support the amendment.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I support the noble Lord, Lord Elton. Most Members of the Committee who have spoken have spoken to Amendment No. 4, which is not before us. Unless any Member of the Committee wishes to speak to Amendments Nos. 5 to 16, which are amendments to Amendment No. 4, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, the Minister could reply and the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, could indicate whether he is prepared to accept the noble Baroness's amendments.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My understanding is that Amendment No. 4 is grouped with the other amendments.

Lord Whitty: For clarity's sake, Amendment No. 5 and the rest of the noble Baroness's amendments are amendments to Amendment No. 4. But the first issue must be how we deal with Amendment No. 5 and, should the noble Baroness care to move them, the subsequent amendments to Amendment No. 4. Indeed, most of the discussion has been on the substantive amendment—that is, Amendment No. 4.

I did not agree with a great deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said, but he is correct to say that Amendment No. 4, of itself, is precisely the same wording as what had been the second clause of the original Government Bill in another place. For those Members of the Committee who think that it is wise to go back to the Commons, after it rejected overwhelmingly that approach, with something very similar to the original Bill, clearly there is an argument for voting for Amendment No. 4.

However, the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, was also frank enough to indicate that this is part of a package, although we have the right to vote in different ways on different parts of the package. As far as concerns the noble Lord and his colleagues who have put their names to the various groups of amendments—most of which come after Clause 5—the effect would be to change the original Bill quite substantially. At this stage, it is probably not wise for me to spell out how the subsequent amendments would change the Bill. However, if Members of the Committee buy into this clause, they are also buying into a potential strategy which does not deliver the "Alun Michael" original Government Bill, but delivers a Bill which is much wider, much more diluted and much more preserving of the status quo.

I say to my noble friend Lord Alli and to others that there are limits on liberty. In the "Alun Michael" Bill, which has been described as not a banning Bill but a registration Bill, there were a great number of things which were banned. Deer hunting was banned; hair coursing was banned; non-registered hunting was banned; and the hunting of all sorts was subject to some very significant restrictions. There therefore would have been banning and a significant restriction on the liberty of a minority of people in the "Alun Michael" Bill. The distinction is therefore not between liberty and

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authoritarian limitations on liberty, but just how far one wishes to restrict liberty. That is a legitimate debate, but let us not say that it is a central principle.

As regards the rest of the amendments tabled in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Mancroft and Lord Carlile, and my noble friends Lady Mallalieu and Lord Donoughue, if they are all carried we would move significantly away from the "Alun Michael" original Government Bill. It is also true that if the amendments before us in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, are carried, we would also move, maybe not quite so dramatically, but significantly, away from the original Bill. Effectively, the noble Baroness's amendments would allow someone to register for any species in any part of the country and be allowed to pursue hunting for any other species in any other part of the country.

Therefore, under the terms of the original Bill—to take my noble friend Lady Golding's point—if a person was registered and had passed the utility and cruelty tests in relation to mink, that person would, in an entirely different part of the country, be allowed to engage in hunting for an entirely different species. That was not the principle of the original Bill, which was to look at registration on a case-by-case basis and judge it on the terms of utility and least cruelty.

While the substantive amendment would be in line with the original Government Bill, the noble Baroness's various amendments would take us a significant way away from it. It is up to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, to decide whether he would be prepared to accept those amendments. Were he to do so, he would amend Amendment No. 4 away from what he originally claimed it was—namely, the basis for introducing the "Alun Michael" Bill. We shall return to the rest of his package of amendments—it is to be hoped in part, at least, this evening, but if not, next week—which, as I have indicated, move away from the "Alun Michael" Bill. In terms of the noble Baroness's amendments, we would already do that if the noble Lord accepted her amendments and Members of the Committee voted for them.

In respect of one particular amendment, the noble Baroness asked me to clarify, yet again—or for clarification even further than I thought that I had clarified before—the distinction between those engaged in hunting and those who are followers of hunting. This was in the terms of the original Bill, although some of the provisions would read across to the Bill now before us. It is clear that in any given circumstance for a given hunt, it would be a question of fact; that is, whether a person is hunting with dogs or merely watching people who hunt. That would be irrespective of whether such people were on foot or on horseback.

In normal circumstances, those who are hunting as part of the hunt would be deemed to be hunting under the terms of the Act. Those following, particularly those following, for example, in a road vehicle, would not be. In terms of judging whether an offence has been committed, if those people were not registered or if it was an unregistered hunt, clearly that would have to be judged on the facts of the case. In principle, those

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engaged in the hunt are required to be registered. Those following the hunt would not be required to be registered if they are not part of the activity itself.

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