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Lord Whitty: That is a hypothetical question. Indeed, the original Bill could have been dealt with on a rather more rational basis than that on which we have dealt with the Bill that we actually got. It is rare that this House seeks to destroy Bills that it receives from the House of Commons; it normally seeks to amend and revise them. I hope that that might have been the case with the original Bill as compared with the Bill that we received. Nevertheless, Members of the Committee have to recognise that this is a very unusual method of behaviour by your Lordships.
Lord Whitty: Unlike the noble Baroness, I refrain from commenting on procedures in another place. We have to deal, as we always do, with the Bills that we get from another place. We may not like them, but we normally deal with them within the framework in which they are presented. It is quite frequent that Bills change between their original introduction in another place and their final arrival here. I make no comment on that. What we have to deal with in this House is what we receive from the House of Commons.
The Earl of Onslow: Can the Minister give any example in the past 15 years of a Bill which has gone into the House of Commons stating one thing and come out stating something completely and utterly different? I cannot remember any. He is obviously cleverer and better informed than I am, so perhaps he will be able to tell me.
Lord Whitty: Many Bills change their nature as they pass through the House of Commons. The noble Earl's presumption is wrong. The Bill that we received from the House of Commons is not dramatically different from the original Bill.
Lord Whitty: And they know it. They know that had that Bill stood, there would have been drastic changes to the way in which hunting is carried out in this country. They would have resisted it as fiercely as they are resisting the Bill before us now.
The utility test would be broadened to allow hunting with dogs for purposes that can hardly be called necessary. That is the original form of the utility test, not the one amended in Committee. Whereas the original Bill required the quarry species to cause serious damage if hunting were to be considered, the test would now be passed if a deerthe hunting of which would be banned in any case by the original Billate a single leaf of any crop. That is a ludicrous extension of the test.
The revised utility test would also permit hunting for the purposes of population management and sustainable development. It is hard to see how either of those purposes could be achieved by hunting with dogs. Both can certainly be achieved by other means, without any need to inflict the suffering caused by chasing and killing wild animals with dogs.
The second test, the cruelty test, is also weakened by effectively reversing the burden of proof. The presumption would be in favour of allowing hunting. That underlies all the amendments which stem from that. That presumption is explicit in the changes to the way in which the registrar and the tribunal would assess applications. That is a reversal of the original government Bill.
That the proposers of the amendments are not serious about the two tests is also evidenced by the amendments which would allow hunting from an area. That would mean that hunting which had passed the test in one place would be allowed without any subjection to it in an entirely different part of the country and for an entirely different species. Again, that broadens, and in a sense drives a coach and horses through, the concept of the original Bill.
Lord Whitty: No. I do not think that "sympathetically" was a word I used to my noble friend. I said that I would be slightly more benign about it because it respected the structure of the Bill which we received from the House of Commons. I did
Other amendments would make changes to the openness of the registered hunting system by limiting the powers of inspectors and removing public access to the register. Therefore, noble Lords opposite and other noble Lords who support the amendments are not even in favour of transparency so that the public can examine the system. Indeed, if we go further down the list to amendments that we would reach somewhat later this eveningif we reach themwe find amendments to Schedules 2 and 3. There, the same group of noble Lords who have tabled amendments effectively propose to continue all the ancient and outmoded privileges that hunting enjoys; for examplemy noble friend Lord Graham alluded to this last weekthe right to trespass in search of game and to inflict cruelty on captive animals which are deliberately released to be hunted. The amendments would delete the exemptions in that respect.
The amendments propose a completely different tone, content, mechanism, process and outcome from that envisaged by the Bill the Government first put before the House of Commons. Let us not kid each other. We are now dealing with amendments which retain a little of the form of the original Alun Michael Bill but virtually none of the content and which, effectively, are designed to allow hunting to continue more or less in its current form. Frankly, the overall effect of this Bill would also make the job of the tribunals and the new form of enforceability fairly impossible.
Of course, Members of the Committee are entitled to take that view. It is unusual for them to do so in such a revolutionary way in respect of a Bill received from the Commons, but they can take that view. However, if we pass this amendmentas I said, subsequent amendments follow on from this one and I do not propose to make this speech more than oncewe shall be in direct conflict with the lower House and, indeed, with the Government's original intention.
It is clear that the proposers of these amendments have failed to convince me. It is only my judgmentalthough I believe it will be shared fairly widelythat they will fail to convince the House of Commons. The House of Commons, by a large majority, went dramatically further in some respects than the original Bill, even though both Billsthe original Bill and the final onewould have gravely restricted hunting. Therefore, if the amendment is passed and if the subsequent amendments build on it, we shall be in a position where this House is in serious and direct conflict with another place.
Earl Peel: I seek clarification from the noble Lord. Can he explain to the House why literally hours and hours were spent by the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and his committee discussing all the issues that have been raised in this amendment? Furthermore, those subjects were discussed at length at the Portcullis House hearings. I cannot believe that it was not the original intention of the Minister, Alun Michael, to embrace all these concepts as part of the system that would be considered by the registrar if he did not intend them to be part of the original Bill. Hours and hours were spent on it. Can the noble Lord really tell the Committee that it was never his intention to embrace these notions when the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and those at Portcullis House spent such a long time discussing them? That seems to me completely irrational.
Lord Whitty: The noble Earl has paid tribute to Alun Michael for engaging in this process and it was obviously important that the Government sought as wide a range of opinions as possible. A number of issues were raised. Some were taken on board in relation to the Bill that we eventually produced and some were not. That is part of the normal process of consultation. The fact that many hours were spent on this matter should have made that consideration sharper, but it does not necessarily mean that every point that was raised, even if raised by a majority of consultees, would necessarily appear in the legislation. That was never indicated.
Therefore, Alun Michael and the Government produced a Billthe original Bill before the House. It was a Bill that we, as government, believed could work and one which we considered we could recommend to the House of Commons. The House of Commons, both in Committee and on Report, then decided otherwise as, in its opinion, this Bill did not go far enough. However, I repeat that the original Bill would have very severely restricted the kind of hunting that Members who support the amendments now before us wish to preserve by the amendments and by the system that they are proposing. The Alun Michael Bill was very much closer to the Bill which came out of the House of Commons than it was to this Bill as the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and others are seeking to amend it.
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