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Lord Graham of Edmonton: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, a colleague of mine for many years in the other place and up here, for giving us the opportunity to concentrate on the use of land.

There are two sides to every question. Most Members opposite, and those who take the opposite view from me, are much better versed in the operation and behaviour of hunts, in the past as well as today. At Second Reading, I said that I had heard from a number of people, as we all did—there are lobbies on both sides of the main argument which might or might not encourage people to write. I indicated then that one of the most distressing things that had been drawn to my attention was the arrogance of the hunts, time after time. They went on to people's lands, their gardens or their back doors, causing distress and annoyance, with not a word from Members opposite about how to deal with the problem. People in the locality had to live with it, because the hunt had been in existence for a long time and those who belonged to it were used to getting their own way.

Perhaps I may read this into the record again, because until we get some honesty in acknowledging that there is a problem, the problem will remain. I referred to the hunts in,

Those were only a tiny few; people tell me that there are hundreds if not thousands of hunts.

I venture to suggest that the hunts in operation have been guilty of trespass and causing distress and being bullies in their communities without let or hindrance. The Members opposite, who, as far as I am concerned, are good colleagues in the Chamber, ought to reflect that they have been negligent in their so-called defence of their communities and the ancient rights—that is, hunts—over the years.

Whatever happens with the amendment and whatever is said under it, we have to be fair and recognise that there are nasty people about who do not

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hesitate to frighten people. On Second Reading, I referred to a certain individual and what she had written to me. In a roundabout way it was drawn to my attention that she had been visited, within a week of Hansard coming out, and that certain unfair and distressing words were used. That is not right. I am not saying that everyone on the opposite side of the Chamber knows that that happened; of course they did not. But they know that it does happen. If we are to have equity and fairness in this issue, we ought to be honest and recognise that there is a problem—and it is not a problem on one side alone.

9.15 p.m.

Baroness Mallalieu: The noble Lord, Lord Graham, makes a good point. There can be no defence for people who are arrogant and do not respect other people's property. In recent years, with the setting up of the Independent Supervisory Authority for Hunting, there is a mechanism available to any member of the public who feels aggrieved to make a complaint. It will be fully investigated and, if it is found to be justified, there is no question but that penalties will be imposed on those responsible.

I do not believe that any responsible hunters now behave as the noble Lord, Lord Graham, suggested. I accept that there are occasions—they have been made known to the noble Lord, Lord Burns—when trespass takes place inadvertently. In my personal experience, people go backwards to avoid upsetting their neighbours. That may be something relatively new, but it is right that it should happen, and those incidents should not have happened in the past. They have been a cause of friction.

Part of the problem is the difficulty that many rural areas are experiencing with people who may have moved from elsewhere, who have competing interests in life and who have to find ways in which to adapt to other people's ways of life. One notable thing about the Bill and agricultural communities is that the Bill has caused serious polarisation on the issue for the first time. In the past, in rural communities, people have taken views on both sides on hunting. They may have argued and muttered about it, or they may have had open words, but they live side by side and tolerate other people in those communities, because in rural areas one has to live cheek by jowl with other people. The Bill, and the thinking behind it, is saying in effect, "We're going to tell you how to live your lives, and if we can't convince you by argument, we are going to pass legislation to make you into criminals". That is causing real division and real difficulties, not only between town and country—although it has aggravated differences there—but in the country itself, where communities should be getting on together.

I am troubled by what the noble Lord, Lord Graham, has said, because he raised the matter on amendments dealing with the role of landowners. I am troubled about what is being got at by the provisions in this clause. Is it intended to put a landowner in a worse position than someone would otherwise be under the criminal law? If you aid, abet,

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counsel or procure the commission of an offence by someone else, you, too, are guilty of the offence. Looking at the wording of the subsection, it would appear that someone who himself does not hunt or encourage it or participate in it, may none the less be guilty if he does not take active steps to stop other people doing so on his land. I wonder where that leaves people—this will come up later when we deal with hare coursing—who have illegal hare coursing (poaching, as it should rightly be called) taking place on their estate now. Would they become criminals if they did not inform the authorities about that matter straightaway? Often there is no response when they go to the authorities as there simply is not sufficient rural policing to deal with the matter.

I am also troubled about these amendments and about the relationship that they have to the Bill due to something that the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, said which I am afraid rings a bell with me. I shall try very hard not to upset the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, by straying into Second Reading, but the noble Lord said that the measure was an attack on people. The measure is aimed specifically at landowners.

I do not know how many of your Lordships read the debates that took place on this Bill in another place in the summer of this year. They did not make pretty reading. The issues relating to animal cruelty—the issues relating to the Bill—were scarcely mentioned. There were a number of references to people who owned land. There were references, curiously, to the injustices that had been meted out to the mining community. I say curiously because, as many of us know, it is from those communities that some of the strongest supporters of coursing, particularly with whippets, come. They are the very people who would be penalised by the Bill.

In short, reading those debates—I do not think that I am being unfair; I invite Members of the Committee who think that I may be to read those debates—there was a refusal even to consider the adverse animal welfare implications which a ban would without question, on all the evidence, cause. It appeared that many of those who spoke, and no doubt voted accordingly in the debate, sought some kind of revenge for perceived or real past social injustice. Surely the Labour Party has grown up. Surely it was that very attitude which kept us in opposition for so many years. It was because the Prime Minister came to office saying that he would govern on behalf of the whole nation—and the nation believed him—that this Government gained two massive election victories.

My noble friend Lord Stoddart referred to previous Labour governments. We are, of course, repeating history here because in 1949 under a Labour government with a huge majority an attempt was made to abolish hunting. The Minister of Agriculture was Tom Williams. Both he and Chuter Ede, the Home Secretary, had previously sponsored anti-hunting Bills in the 1930s. Indeed, Tom Williams had actually moved a Motion against hunting at the Labour Party conference in 1928. Yet on examining the issues they both voted against the Bill, as did the Prime Minister Clement Attlee, Aneurin

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Bevan, Ernie Bevin and many other Labour MPs. Tom Williams, in a speech which the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, read in full to the House on a previous occasion, said then what perhaps cannot be said too often because it is still totally relevant. He said that the support for a ban was,

    "based on the false premise that its provisions would lessen cruelty; second, that the suppression of these sports without effective and efficient alternatives would lead to much less satisfactory activities; and third, [that] it would alienate the support of the rural population".

He finished with these words:

    "Finally, I ask Members to consider carefully whether the supporters of this Bill have really justified this interference with the liberties of the rural population . . . I hope that at this moment we are not going to forfeit the goodwill we have so rightly earned, and go down to history as a party anxious to abolish the pleasures of others".

I hope very much that this Government, who have allowed their agenda to be taken by the Back-Benchers and their Bill to be changed into one that bears no relation to the evidence that their own anti-hunting Minister found, will not find themselves tarnished as Tom Williams envisaged that a Labour government might be in the 1945 administration. That 1945 Labour administration faced up to this exact problem. They took charge and control, and ensured that their agenda and programmes were such that their achievements lasted to this day.

In looking at the amendments, I would very much like to know whether it is intended to impose a greater penalty and responsibility on landowners than on any ordinary citizen faced with a criminal allegation.

Also, I would specifically like the Minister's help. He may not be aware that on Exmoor, where I live part of the time, the sporting rights to a large amount of land—many thousands of acres—are owned by a limited company. That land is occupied by people who are sometimes freeholders and sometimes tenants, but none of them is in control of who hunts on their land. What is the position so far as they are concerned? Are they also likely to be made criminal, simply because they are occupiers and perhaps landowners of the land? In reality, they have no legal right to say no.

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