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Lord Mancroft: I, too, have some concerns around the amendments. I throw my mind back to the very long hours that we spent talking about the then Countryside and Rights of Way Bill. In a whole tranche of that Bill, the obligations of landowners to welcome peopletourists, walkers, whoeveron to their land were discussed. We also debated the difficulties that landowners might face with that from damage, people coming near their houses at night and so on.
In those debates, the wicked landowner was trying to stop people coming on their land. Now we have another piece of legislation where the equally wicked landowner has to stop a different lot of people coming on to his land. He has to let some on and keep some off. That puts two extraordinary and completely different new areas of responsibility on to landowners in a
The noble Baroness talked about the problems of illegal coursingpoaching, as she quite rightly called it. When landowners ask for help from the police and authorities, it is often not forthcoming. That is why there is so much of that type of poaching. There are other similar issues. Travellers are not such a bad problem now, but they certainly were a few years back, in terms of coming on to people's land and possibly committing crimes. Whether they were or not, the landowner had no ability to know what they were up to or even to remove them. He certainly did not welcome them.
I wonder how landowners will respond to this new responsibility, as it is very difficult. Let us compare the Bill to the CROW Act, as it now is. We talked so much on that about access and tourism, and how marvellous it was to welcome people on to places such as Exmoor, which the noble Baroness mentioned, the North Yorkshire moors and all the other beautiful parts of England to which people want to come. Yet here we have an activity for which landowners have welcomed people on to their land for goodness knows how long, on their feet or horses, or however they wanted to come. They were sometimes not quite so welcome on their quad-bikes and in their four-wheel drives, but those difficulties occur.
Putting aside whatever one may think about hunting from the welfare point of view, it is the ultimate access to the countryside. One reason why people enjoy hunting is that they get to see parts of the country that they would not otherwise. With one hand we are encouraging that, but with another, rather illogical hand we are discouraging it. It seems an odd thing to do.
I, too, want to turn to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, because the matter is serious. There is no doubt that occasionally people behave badly. Sometimes they might be hunting people; sometimes they might be walkers; sometimes they might be football fans. During the past few years, we have constantly seen football fans, not only in this country but abroad, behaving appallingly. I am not sure that that is a reason to ban football. Rather, it is a reason to see whether we can improve the behaviour.
I am a member of the hunting community and I have been all my life. I cannot think of another community which has recognised that it had a reputation, whether ill or well deserved, for arrogance and bad behaviour. That was one of the perceptions and, according to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, it still is. That is most sad, but regardless of what anyone may think about hunting, it is not bad behaviour.
I have never come across a community which has made a greater effort to be seen to be welcoming and well mannered. Only the other day my wife said, "It's a frightful nuisance opening the gate for the hunt because every single personperhaps 100 peoplesays good morning and thank you and they take their
I am certain that that does not happen all the time and occasionally people say things they should not say and do things they should not do, but a huge effort has been made by this community. As the noble Baroness said, the independent supervisory authority for hunting, which has been in operation for several years, has a sophisticated complaints procedure.
At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Graham, read out a list of hunts he had been told behaved badly. I felt like writing to him, but then I thought, "What's the point?". I read his speech carefully because I wanted to check up on it and I can inform him that three of the hunts he listed do not exist and never have, so they probably did not behave badly. However, I know two of the hunts very well because I was Master of one and I now hunt with the other. I went to considerable trouble to telephone those responsible in order to discover whether there had been complaints and problems and whether they had trespassed. It is true that hunts do occasionally trespassfortunately, now rarely. I took the trouble to telephone and ask, "Have you been anywhere you shouldn't have been?". Neither could think of anything they had done. However, if the noble Lord can find more details of the behaviour he mentioned, it should be and will be investigated.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: I will certainly let the noble Lord be privy to the correspondence on which I made my remarks. If people have misused the name of dead hunts, that should be seriously investigated. If I have been misled, I have misled the House on the basis of that information. I wonder how many equally honest professions will be made during the course of this debate.
Lord Mancroft: I do not know the answer to that, but if the noble Lord will let me know I will undertake to do my best. I do not for one moment suggest that he had any intention of misleading the House. Of course he did not. However, the important point is that these things happen and people do make allegations and sweeping statements. Sweeping statements have poisoned the debate and made it more difficult. The reality is that most of the issues the noble Lord raised are being addressed and will continue to be addressed, but they are not in themselves bases on which to use the criminal law to inflict one's views and ideas on people who are doing their best to behave in the best way they can every day in their activity.
But that was not the central point of these amendments: it was to put an added responsibility on to landowners. I am uncomfortable with that. I do not know whether the same reaction applies to other crimes, but one gets the impression that there is something so particularly awful about hunting that extra penalties and measures must be taken beyond any which exists in other laws in order to restrict this ghastly and terrible behaviour. One sits through
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: As a humble Back-Bencher, I must say that I was fascinated by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. I do not know whether it is in order in Committee to put a question to him or whether I should put it to his noble friend the Minister to reply on behalf of his noble friend or, indeed, on behalf of the Government.
It struck me that the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, gave a reasonably classic example of the saucepan calling the kettle smutty. We had wonderful images of high-handed huntsmen, huntspersons or huntspeople, or whatever one is supposed to call them nowadays, riding on their shining steeds with top hats and shiny boots "bullying lesser people"I believe those were his words. Of course, that sort of behaviour is unacceptable, as other noble Lords have said.
Speaking as someone who was fortunate enough to be able to give up riding on his ninth birthday and who has never had the misfortune to hunt, one agrees with the thrust of the amendment. However, does the noble Lord agree that, as a former formidable Chief Whip, he, if anyone in your Lordships' House, has been guilty of all the behaviour of which he accuses these hapless huntsmen, who, we are now assured by my noble friend and his noble friend Lady Mallalieu, no longer exist? In those circumstances, I hope that the saucepan will no longer call the kettle smutty and that the noble Lord might be prepared to withdraw his remarks.
Lord Whitty: This has been a rather wider-ranging debate on the clause than I had anticipated. I was going to comment on it fairly briefly, but I believe that your Lordships need to pause to think slightly. Before the dinner break, I momentarily had the impression that noble Lords were genuine in asking the House to adopt amendments which effectively would ask the Commons to reconsider the position in relation to the Alun Michael Bill
Lord Whitty: The original Bill. But almost everything that has been said in this debate makes it clear that noble Lords who supported some of those amendments are against creating any offence at all in this area.
Yet the amendment carried before the dinner break in relation to the registration of hunting naturally leads to the fact that there will be some non-registered hunting and some non-exempt huntingthat is, there will be illegal hunting. If there is a possibility that illegal hunting will take place, it is surely right that those who aid and abet it should be guilty of a criminal offence.
The noble Lord, Lord Renton, suggested that we should rely on the general criminal law here. But he will know, as will other noble Lords, that many statutes make it an explicit offence knowingly to abet or commit illegal activities. That is all that this clause does. It does so in the sense of an explicit permission by a landowner knowingly to allow people to engage in illegal activity on his land. When I use the word "landowner", that is not a class attack on landowners, as the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, implied; it would be whoever was in a position to give authority to use the land. It might be the manager or someone acting on behalf of a charity or a trustee or it might be common land. We would not necessarily be getting at a land-owning aristocrat here, so let us get that out of the way. But it would be someone who had knowingly and expressly given permission for someone to engage in illegal activity. That is a legitimate area for statute and one that should reasonably be in the Bill.
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