Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Twenty-Fourth Report



Memorandum by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


The Hunting Bill was brought from the House of Commons on 9 July 2003. This memorandum-

·  summarises the main provisions of the Bill,

·  identifies the delegated powers in the Bill, and describes the purpose and proposed use of those powers,

·  explains why the matters have been dealt with by creating delegated powers, and

·  explains the degree of Parliamentary control on the exercise of those powers.


The Hunting Bill (which extends only to England and Wales) contains 17 clauses in 3 Parts, with 3 Schedules. Its main provisions are as follows.

Part 1 prohibits the hunting with dogs of wild mammals except when that hunting is exempt. It makes separate provision to prohibit hare coursing. Part 2 provides for enforcement, and Part 3 makes general provisions (including in respect of subordinate legislation).

Schedule 1 sets out the classes of exempt hunting, Schedule 2 contains consequential amendments to other animal welfare legislation, and Schedule 3 provides for repeals.


The Bill contains two delegated powers, in clause 2(2) and in paragraph 2(5)(e) of Schedule 1.

Variation of exemptions

Clause 2(2) provides that the Secretary of State may by order amend Schedule 1 so as to vary a class of exempt hunting. This should be read with clause 14, which provides that such an order shall be made by affirmative procedure.

The purpose of the power conferred by clause 2(2) is to permit the Secretary of State to vary the detailed conditions of the exemptions from the offence under clause 1 of hunting a wild mammal with a dog that are contained in Schedule 1 to the Bill, if it is thought necessary to do so in the light of experience of the application of the Bill or as a result of future animal welfare or pest control concerns. The power does not permit the addition or removal of a class of exempt hunting, but would allow the existing classes to be modified.

It is considered appropriate that such limited changes to the exemptions should be made by delegated legislation rather than by further primary legislation. The use of the affirmative procedure ensures that before any order can be made by the Secretary of State it must be approved in draft by both Houses of Parliament.

Code of practice

Paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to the Bill provides for an exemption from the offence in clause 1 where a dog is used below ground for the purpose of preventing or reducing serious damage to birds being kept or preserved for shooting. The exemption is subject to conditions, including a requirement under paragraph 2(5)(e) that the manner in which the dog is used must comply with any code of practice issued or approved for the purpose of this exemption by the Secretary of State. Use of a dog below ground in a manner contrary to the code of practice would result in that person committing an offence under clause 1.

The use of a dog below ground has frequently given rise to serious animal welfare concerns which is why it will only be permitted when carried out in accordance with very specific conditions. This provision fulfils an undertaking given during the Commons Committee stage of the Bill. The purpose of the power in paragraph 2(5)(e) is to enable the Secretary of State to require any person using a dog below ground to adhere to the best practice followed by professional practitioners such as gamekeepers.

The code of practice will set out detailed matters concerning the handling of the dog during stalking or flushing out below ground which it is considered are too technical for inclusion in the Bill. The code will also give the necessary flexibility to reflect quickly any developments in best practice. It is thought that it is reasonable to require anyone wishing to rely on the exemption in paragraph 2 to familiarise themselves with the relevant code of practice. Given the limited scope of this provision, it is not considered that any special Parliamentary procedure is required.

22 July 2003

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