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Baroness Byford: I support Amendment No. 28. We are addressing the issue of whether registered hunting should be allowed. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, referred to the 11th September 2002 news release which was quite clearly headed,

The release continued:

    "As three days of hearings of evidence from experts on hunting with dogs ended today, Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael commented:

    'This innovative process has brought together some of the country's top experts on this contentious issue. Together with the three umbrella groups I have been able to explore in depth the key principles of least suffering and utility.

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    'These are two principles on which I base my proposals for enabling the House to reach a resolution—so fulfilling our manifesto commitment'".

Well, we all know what happened to that.

In her earlier comments the noble Baroness also quoted from that particular brief, which states:

    "The future of hunting with dogs should not be decided on personal taste".

I shall not finish the quote. After it, however, there is a most important passage. It reads:

    "Taking account of the evidence given at these hearings, and of the response to my two consultation papers, I plan to set out proposals for Parliament which can form good and robust law and can take us forward into the 21st century, able to reflect evolving views on animal welfare and wildlife management".

The rejection by the House of Commons of the original Bill completely overturned that statement, following which a ban was proposed.

As many Members of the Committee said, we are proposing restoring the clause that deals with utility and cruelty. Reference has been made to the number of sheep taken. I should declare and remind the Committee that, originally, after leaving school, I became a poultry farmer. As evening approached I had to be very careful to ensure that my hens and chickens were locked up or the fox would come round. Please do not think that a fox kills only one or two because it does not. It will kill the lot regardless of whether it intends to eat them. Other figures—such as 300,000 lambs killed—have also been cited.

I should also remind the Committee that farmers are being encouraged to promote free-range activities in both pig and poultry farming. There is an acute risk that fox predation of those types of livestock will increase. My noble friend referred to the dispersal role played by hunts. We should not undervalue that role.

I turn to the issue of least suffering. As we know, hunts hunt only during a closed season. They do not hunt when vixen are carrying cubs as that is banned. If this provision is not reintroduced into the Bill, it is likely that foxes will be shot year round. Whatever happens, more foxes will be shot; of that there is no doubt.

Some Members of the Committee have mentioned the issue of controlling the fox population by snaring, gassing—which is illegal—and shooting. None is a good alternative. Snaring is probably one of the worst ways in which an animal can die. They are left in agony, perhaps for a long time, dying from the snare injury, starvation, cold or exposure. It is estimated that of animals caught in snares, 50 per cent are species other than the target one. That is very worrying.

As we know, deer are a great concern for the Woodland Trust and the Forestry Commission. In its evidence of 22nd October, the Woodland Trust said:

    "Deer are a major problem in both upland and lowland areas of the UK. The intense grazing by deer means that trees unable to regenerate and remain in wooded areas die off slowly from the ground up".

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The Forestry Commission in its submission to Burns stated:

    "Currently Forestry Commission policy is to implement deer management procedures involving assessments of populations and their impact followed by the control of the numbers to ensure that an acceptable balance between deer numbers and damage to the forest environment is maintained".

It is not just those of us who have hunted in the past, or perhaps are still involved in hunting, who are concerned about the way in which this Bill has been presented to your Lordships over the past few days. The original government Bill brought forward by Alun Michael was altered totally on Third Reading in the House of Commons.

Certain bodies have suggested that we need this statement regarding the whole question of registration, utility and cruelty. The NFU, the CLA, the Game Conservancy Trust and many others support this amendment.

I hope that we shall reach a swift conclusion on whether we support the amendment. I say to Members of the Committee who wonder whether it is wise to support the amendment that the alternative ways of killing and controlling foxes and deer are much crueller. I beg Members of the Committee at least to consider that. I support the amendment.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: After the two days of debate we have had in Committee no one can say that anyone has been inhibited either in what they have said or in how long they have decided to take to express it. From time to time comment has been made about a paucity of speakers on this side of the Committee among those who are favour of the ban. We have tried to exercise due diligence and caution in ensuring that the Bill gets back to the Commons as quickly as possible. Therefore, we have maintained a strict control upon the number and length of speeches. I make no complaint. We are all adults.

On the first amendment that we discussed last Tuesday I was the only person to express a certain view. Twenty-two others expressed an opposing view. That was the way in which they decided to use their time. When the Chief Whip spoke at the beginning of the two days of Committee debate, he pointed out that he had allocated two days for the Committee stage. Noble Lords opposite in their wisdom and maturity have decided to take the time that they have in speaking to a very small part of the Bill. That is their choice. I have certainly learnt a lot from what has been said and I respect the integrity of those who have said it. But at the end of the day these amendments we are dealing with now deal with qualifications that need to be complied with before a hunt becomes registered.

I have never been in favour of registration and a great many Members of the Committee were never in favour of registration until their original choice, the status quo, was seen to be absolutely out of order and out of sympathy. So they decided that registration of a hunt to kill—a licence to kill—was the best way forward. In their minds—they may be wrong—they see this as the best way of continuing the practice in

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which they believe and which they have enjoyed. So far as I am concerned, registration is not even a second best; it is a licence to kill and to continue hunting. If one subscribes to the qualifications and upholds them, one is allowed to continue hunting as one has in the past. I have said before that I am against that. If the amendment is pressed to a vote, I shall urge anyone who cares to listen that it should be voted down.

Earlier when I mentioned my co-operative interest I failed to declare that I have a registered financial interest in my relationships with the Co-op.

Baroness Byford: The noble Lord just said quite clearly that if the amendment is agreed to, it would constitute a licence to kill. Will the noble Lord acknowledge that if registration does not occur, more animals will be killed by shooting and other methods? I do not mind that he does not agree with those who want to hunt, but the fact is that more foxes, deer and vermin may well be killed than would have been killed had the registration amendment been agreed to.

The Earl of Caithness: I should like to add to that and ask the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, and the Minister two questions. The noble Lord, Lord Burns, stated that,

    "on those estates which favour hare coursing or hunting, rather than shooting, a ban might lead farmers and landowners to pay less attention to encouraging hare numbers. The loss of habitat suitable for hares could have serious consequences for a number of birds and other animals".

Does the Minister agree with that statement? In addition to the point made by my noble friend Lady Byford, there is the wider dimension of birds and other animals.

Does the Minister agree that the formula of the adhesive agent for round-up was changed because of research not by the Government but by the coursers? That research showed that it was the adhesive agent of round-up that was causing damage to hares and other wildlife and, because of the coursers' actions, the formula was changed for the benefit of all wildlife.

Lord Whitty: I do not really intend to engage in a repeat Second Reading debate, as many have today. I shall try to address the amendment. That is important, because it is a linchpin amendment. As a result of last week's decisions, we are in a situation where we have changed the Bill and moved to something like a registration system, with all the qualifications. The amendment and the subsequent amendments that hang on it would change to something entirely different.

The amendment and the subsequent groups—it goes right through to Amendment No. 57—purport to be the Alun Michael Bill, but are nothing like that Bill. The

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formal structure of registrar and tribunal is put back, but a lot of changes have been made to the original provisions. They are presented as improvements and clarifications, but they undermine the key intentions of those clauses in the Bill.

After some wide-ranging discussion, I was grateful in a sense to my noble friend Lady Mallalieu for taking us back to what the provisions are. In so doing, however, she betrayed the motivation of everyone who supports the amendments; namely, that they disagree with what Alun Michael presented in the original Bill. Therefore, they have tried to take it further, to dilute, weaken and reverse, while staying broadly speaking within a structure that the original Bill presented.

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