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Lord Northbrook: The Minister appears to be drawing the definition wider than the Bill does. Clause 3(1) mentions "a person" and Clause 10 mentions "a body corporate". The Minister appears to be drawing a wider definition.
Lord Whitty: A person or someone acting on behalf of a body corporate would have the authority. The body corporate or a person who has been devolved that authority from the landowner, or whoever exercises control over the land, would have the authority.
Lord Whitty: It is whoever controls the land. The Committee will know that when a charity owns the land, the board of trustees does not open and close the gate. Someone acts on behalf of a manager of the land and if the manager gives permission for someone to engage in illegal activity, whether illegal hunting or anything else, he or she will be abetting illegal activity. The result of the amendment that was carried, against my earlier advice, envisages there being illegal hunting. Therefore, there should be an offence of knowingly abetting illegal hunting.
Lord Whitty: There is the matter of what the word "belongs" means. I am informednoble Lords who have legal training will understand thisthat there is an established legal precedent for that, which would include the owner of the lease to the land.
Lord Renton of Mount Harry: The Minister said that before dinner we passed an amendment by a substantial majority that allowed registration. He then implied that given that amendment, he believed that I was going rather far in pushing these amendments for the reasons that he has just stated. I accept that abolishing the two subsections in Clause 3 is a substantial step. Could he give the Committee a promise that he will recommend the amendment on registration, through the Government, to the House of Commons? If so, I agree that it is not necessary to move these amendments but, if not, I have no option because I do not know what will happen to registration.
Lord Whitty: The Committee is entitled to a free vote on all these matters. Should the Committee pass this amendment, and no doubt other amendments that will be tabled at later stages, the question of what the totality of the Bill will look like, and whether I or any government Minister will be prepared to recommend it or parts of it, is premature.
I was making the point that the noble Lord's opening remarksbefore he spoke about the specific amendmentand many other comments, suggested that it had not been accepted that there should be some form of heath hunting that had been made illegal, when the act of registration implied that some existing hunting may be deemed illegal and that, therefore, the supplementary offences were needed for anyone who aids and abets by giving permission for illegal activity to take place.
That is the only point that I am making. A more general point is that if the Committee is serious about asking the House of Commons to think again about the original Bill, one should not delete all the other parts of the Bill that support that approach.
The Earl of Caithness: I have listened with care to what the Minister has said and I agree with him about illegal hunting. I shall return to that when we discuss hare coursing. That needs to be attacked in a stronger way than is being done at the moment. However, when talking about the landowner giving permission the words that he used were exactly those words in Amendment No. 20, tabled by my noble friend Lady Byford. The noble Lord did not use the phrase "knowingly permits", but the words "gives permission for". There is a great difference between those two phrases. If the noble Lord could agree to the amendment of my noble friend Lady Byford, which uses the words "gives permission for", that would solve many of the Committee's concerns.
Baroness Byford: I finally get to the Dispatch Box to say that my noble friend has just said exactly what I wanted. While I support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry, I think that mine clarifies the issue better. The Minister has just indicated that it should be clear that that person has given permission. If so, I cannot see whyalthough at the moment we have not reached my amendment, which is partly the problemthe Government cannot accept my amendment. It definitely clarifies the position quite precisely.
I shall not go over the ground that other noble Lords have talked about. Certainly, the position regarding tenants is quite right. If, as the noble Countess, Lady Mar, says there is a problemand the Minister said there is notI believe, as I am sure do other noble Lords, that the issue should be on the face of the Bill. We are seeking clarity. I do not quite know how to get out of this mess because we are already debating Amendment No. 20, which I support. I would much rather that noble Lords support my amendment, which gives greater clarification and perhaps does not quite go to the lengths that the Minister is accusing various parts of the Chamber of trying to obtain.
Lord Whitty: I have to leave it to noble Lords to sort out which of the amendments they want. However, I would caution the noble Baroness that giving permission without using the term "knowingly" could catch more people than the current clause does.
First, I thank the Whip on the Government Front Bench for telling me that she thought I was transgressing in my first remarks. But she allowed me to continue none the less. That is a rare privilege and as an ex Chief Whip I realise what a privilege it was. I thank her very much.
I was particularly grateful during this interesting and wide-ranging debate to have the support of both the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, particularly given the fact that we sat on opposing Benches in the Commons for a great many years. It is particularly pleasant, therefore, to have their support.
I thank all noble Lords who have supported me. I have sought and received contradictory advice during the course of the past hour but, on balance, I take the Minister's point that we have moved forward on the issue of registration: that if there is registration, there may be illegal hunting. On that basis, I shall not press my amendment to a vote. I should like to hear what my noble friend has to say from the Front Bench, but if registration is not accepted by the Commons, I have no doubt that we shall want to return to the matter when and if the Bill returns to this House. On that basis, and having listened carefully to the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.