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Lord Carlile of Berriew: As the second member of the "gang", as we have been described, to speak in this part of the debate I hope that I may try to tempt the Minister into a further and informative intervention, which I am sure would prove most helpful certainly to myself and to the other members of the gang, and probably to the whole House.

In trying to tempt the Minister to make that intervention I remind him—I think that he was not entirely as fair as he would normally wish to be to members of the gang—of the history of attempts at compromise on this issue. The Middle Way Group and propositions connected with it have a very long history. Some Members of this House have for very many years sought a compromise both here and in another place on the issue of hunting foxes with hounds—some for much longer than the 20 years that I have been involved in one way or another in this place and in the other House. I remind the Minister that there have been many proposals, which have tended to come from one side of the argument only, to try to secure either a registration scheme or a licensing scheme or some other form of management of hunting which would be reasonably acceptable to all parts of the argument. There are more than two sides to this argument. For example, some hold different views on hare coursing than on hunting foxes with hounds.

My attempt to tempt the Minister to say a little more to the House is partly a result of what happened this morning. I am given to understand that this morning the Minister's right honourable friend the Prime Minister made some comments on this issue. I am informed that he said he hoped there could be a compromise, or that he was looking for a compromise. One is entitled to assume that that was said by the right honourable gentleman today in the full knowledge that there would be a debate on this subject in your Lordships' House today and tomorrow at least. Are we not entitled to assume that the Minister has been informed of those comments and is able to provide at least an interpretation of what they mean?

I invite the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, to go a little further. He said that we were in deep water. He is absolutely right but the reason we are in deep water, as I see it, is that his very genuine attempt earlier to help your Lordships was the very depth charge that deepened the water. Someone behind me uttered the word "Delphic" as a description of his statement. I echo that and invite the noble Lord to give us a little more straightforward information on where we can go. He spoke of his many years of experience of negotiation. I suggest that his mention of deer hunting was plainly an attempt to take that negotiation on to the very Floor of your Lordships' House. If that is so, will the noble Lord be more explicit? Is he saying to your Lordships, "If the Bill that reaches the Commons
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has banned deer hunting, the Government will use every endeavour they can to prevent the Parliament Act—it is a matter for the House of Commons, of course, not for the Government—being used in relation to the Bill that emerges"?

If I can be so subjective, I think that we are entitled to an answer to that question. I refer to the spirit in which the "gang" has been described. I am not a habitual member of gangs so I feel a little out of sorts with that description. The noble Baroness, Lady Golding, who is also a member of the gang, will confirm that although she and I have worked together on various issues in the past, we have never quite regarded ourselves as part of a gang, and we certainly do not carry bicycle chains or anything of that kind. What we carry is a willingness to trade in negotiations with the Minister, if only he will tell us what the trade is. The fundamental issue, as highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, is: what are the circumstances in which the Government will use every endeavour to stop the Parliament Act being used on this proposed legislation? Please tell us; I think that we are entitled to an answer to that question.

With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, who I think fell into this trap, I share the view that has already been expressed that we should not make our Second Reading speeches all over again. This debate is intended to be very constructive and to deal with issues of detail not merely issues of principle. It is perhaps worth adding in that context that the amendments would introduce a strict registration system. It is worth reminding those who have not had time to read the whole of the sheaf of amendments which have been tabled, and all the previous legislation, that automatic conditions would be attributed to registration; that is to say, inalienable conditions. They are set out in Amendment No. 35 on page 13 of the Marshalled List. I suggest that they show a genuine attempt not simply to avoid a ban on hunting by any means available, as has been suggested, but to introduce an enduring, constructive and well thought out settlement of this issue so that those of us on both sides who year after year have had to deal with it can lay the matter to rest for a generation on the basis that a proper settlement has been reached.

Lord Eden of Winton: Since this is the first of more than 80 amendments which are down for consideration it would be very helpful to have further clarification from the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. Given the observations that we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, there quite clearly is a difference of approach between the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister is asking for compromise. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, as I judge given what he said earlier, is inviting this House to tinker with the Bill but not to change it fundamentally in any way. He is inviting this House to return a Bill to the other place that will retain a total ban on hunting. That is what I understand to be his point and purpose and what he is saying to us in this House. He is saying that we may tinker with the Bill, make a few minor
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amendments and a few cosmetic changes but that we should not prevent a total ban, which was the basis of the Bill which was brought before us for consideration today.

However, I remind the noble Lord that the Bill proposing a total ban was itself an amendment to the Government's own Bill and was brought in by the noble Lord's colleagues in the other place as an amendment to the original government Bill. What we seek to do through these amendments is to reinstate with improvements the original government Bill and let the Commons think again. That is the point and purpose of this place.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I want to make a brief point in response to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. I am sorry that he is not still in his place, but the point is worth making. At Second Reading, he read out a number of letters that he had received complaining of some of the activities of hunts. I added to them and said that I would refer the letter that I had received to the relevant hunt, for it to take action in future.

It is not a peripheral or insubstantial matter that registration is to be the middle way forward if this and later amendments are accepted. The issues with which they deal are not unimportant. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, was too dismissive in speaking to them. As my noble friend Lord Carlile of Berriew made clear, the registration process will be stringent and, so far as I understand it, designed to exclude henceforward activities and ways of hunting that are offensive, unnecessary and peripherally cruel. In effect, it will apply best standards to hunting, retaining none the less the central issue of the hunt—the killing of foxes in a method that is, as was made clear in the report by the noble Lord, Lord Burns, as humane, swift and certain as any method known.

We are not dealing with some cosmetic exercise, but with a very substantial one that should satisfy a great many of our fellow citizens who do not like some current practices that would be made impossible in future.

Viscount Bledisloe: I urge the Minister to reply now to the many requests made to him to clarify the position that he stated earlier. He indicated that sending back Alun Michael's Bill totally unamended would not be an offer of compromise. He said, in what were rightly described as delphic words, that other compromises could be made. However, he has utterly declined so far to explain what he has in mind or what those could be. Unless and until we are told what sort of compromise he or his friend the Prime Minister have in mind when they use the word, one is driven almost inevitably to the conclusion that "compromise" means "unconditional surrender".

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: It may assist the Committee if I indicate that my noble friend will speak towards the end of the debate and answer points made to him to which he considers that he should reply. His
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speech at the beginning was discussed through the usual channels who were in the Chamber at the time, and was intended to be helpful. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, was not aware at the time, but I spoke to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. All that my noble friend sought to do was assist the debate. If he needs to come back on points later, he will do so in due turn. That answers the many questions.

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