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Baroness Byford: The noble Baroness rightly said that I was not in the Chamber at that moment and that she spoke to my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith. The truth of the matter is that we were told that the statement would be made; whether it was suitable was not discussed.
At this stage, at which we are talking about an individual vote, I urge the Minister to clarify the situation for the whole procedure of the Bill. If he does not, we will all keep speaking, perhaps unnecessarily. Perhaps a better steer could be given. At the moment, we have no steer whatever. I shall keep my remarks to the end, out of courtesy to all Members of the Committee, but we are going round the houses at much greater length because there is no clarification. I urge the Minister to respond to the requests of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe.
Lord Hoyle: I was not going to speak at all, but I want to come to the defence of the Minister. Cruelty is cruelty and the middle way does not alter that, but I shall not go into that. I listened with rapt attention to my noble friend Lord Donoughue when he moved the amendment, as I always do. He said that he was effectively introducing the Alun Michael Bill. The Minister pointed out that the amendments did not introduce the Alun Michael Bill because deer hunting, which was banned under it, has been included. If I am wrong, I invite my noble friend to tell me so, but I understand that deer hunting is introduced in the amendment, because it is not referred to.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: I shall be very brief. It is ridiculous that this discourse should continue until we get an explanation from the Minister. He spoke about another form of compromise. We know that the Prime Minister has in his mindhe has said sothe type of compromise that is registered or licensed hunting. However, while the Prime Minister seeks that sort of compromise, the Minister says that he seeks a compromise that is not that but something else and he will not tell us what it is.
We can all make a speech, if we want to and if we can get in to do so. In the mean time, however, it is only right that the Minister should acquit himself honourably and let the Committee know what type of compromise he means. He used the word "government", saying that the Government would not accept the amendment. The Prime Minister will accept it, but the Government will not. Where are we getting? We are certainly in a deep hole.
Lord Campbell-Savours: I would like to help my noble friend. He will know that there is an amendment
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on the Marshalled List that fulfils the criteria of a compromise. Amendment No. 47A provides for the defence being the protection of sheep in grazing areas in designated national parks. Can he confirm that that is the kind of compromise amendment that would be seriously considered by the House of Commons, because it does not suffer from the problems that arise in the case of this group of amendments?
Lord Renton: I wish to make a fundamental point that has not yet been made. Foxes have to be killed, because they are very destructive to lambs, poultry and game and in various ways. I speak from experience that I shall briefly mention. The least cruel way of killing foxes is to hunt them. I have hunted. Being of light weight, I was able to keep up with hounds, and I never counted more than four seconds between hounds closing in and the death of the fox. Yes, there had been a chase, but I never thought the chase itself cruel; it did not damage the fox until the hounds closed in.
The well meaning but ignorant people from towns assume that the other ways of killing foxes are less damaging to them than hunting. What are those other ways? Poisoning is illegal, although often done. Snaring is legal and very painful. I have twice seen foxes snaredby someone elsethat have not died but have struggled while still alive. Shooting foxes is difficult; foxes are very evasive. Most of those that are wounded and get away die of gangrenea horrible death. Trapping, which is lawful but ineffective, is the other method.
The assumption is that the Bill has gone through all its stages and that amendments have gone backwards and forwards. The logical conclusion to the proposition that the subsection can be cut in two and the process stopped after the House of Lords declines to pass the legislation would be to sayI do not think that it would be the normal legal interpretationthat the Bill has only to be presented for First Reading and, if the public debate is such that the Government know that the legislation will not get through the House of Lords and Ministers will not give it time, the Parliament Act can be used in the next Session.
Nothing in the Parliament Act suggests that a difficult Second Reading is sufficient reason to assume that the Bill will not get through the House of Lords.
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The subsection has to be read in its totality. It assumes that the legislation is unamended or has amendments that are acceptable to the Commons.
Looking at the situation in its totality, I do not believe that the first part of the Parliament Act has been fulfilled. I think that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is correct on that. This is the first time that the Bill is being properly considered.
We have two difficulties. The Speaker's certificate has been mentioned. However, the Speaker's certificate will not apply to this provision until the Bill leaves the Commons with an attached certificate for the Queen. In the interim, the Speaker's certificate deals only with changes made to the original legislation in the Commons.
The second difficulty is a major problem. Do we have a court to which we can take this point for proper adjudication? I do not know whether this is a case for the Committee for Privileges. We do not have a proper separate Supreme Court, and nor will we under that legislation. So it is a problem.
The amendments present two positions: a total ban and, as at present, total freedom. Registration and licensing is the only possible compromise. I cannot see a logical compromise between the two position. Therefore, I support the amendment.
Viscount Astor: It would help the Committee if the Minister would say something. Will he stand up now, as many noble Lords have requested, and make his position clear? If there is a compromise, what is the Government's proposal? How are we to understand it? It would aid our debate if we knew the Government's proposal.
Lord Willoughby de Broke: I do not think that the Minister is going to get up and enlighten the Committee. I shall therefore assume that we are still speaking to Amendment No. 1, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, and the so-called gang of four.
I shall make my position perfectly clear: I have supported the middle way for some time. I have done so because it will improve animal welfare. I should like to ask some of those who wish to ban hunting how a ban will improve animal welfare. The noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, said that cruelty is cruelty. That is all he said before sitting down. He did not go into any detail. I invite him to elaborate on that a little, perhaps when I have finished my remarksor he can intervene on me now.
Lord Willoughby de Broke: I am delighted to say that I have done so, but I could not find anywhere in his speech anything about improving animal welfare. When pressed, however, the noble Lord said he believed that lamping was the answer. As he will know perfectly well, lamping is dangerousas we know
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from a recent accidentand is possible only in certain parts of the country. So, lamping is clearly not the whole answer.
None of those who spoke at Second Reading made a case for their method of control. They addressed only one pointfox hunting. The question is not whether we will kill foxes; it is how. We have not heard any reasons why fox hunting is any more cruel than lamping, snaring, trapping or illegal poisoning, which does happen. It is incumbent on those making the case to ban hunting to tell us why their particular method of controlling foxeslet us not mince words; killing foxesis better than the methods put forward in Amendment No. 1.
Noble Lords should listen to what the noble Lord, Lord Burns, said in his report. The noble Lord also took the trouble to come to the House to speak at Second Reading. He made his position clear. Other noble Lords have already quoted his speech on that occasion, so I will not quote it again. However, that was the Government's own inquiry, and he was its chairman. He came to the conclusion that there was not enough evidence to ban hunting. Why do those who wish to ban hunting not answer the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Burns? Where is the evidence on which we can ban hunting?
Some keen hunters, and I am among them, have strong reservations about the registration solution. However, it would be acceptable to the broad generality. The extremes on either side may disagree with it. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, will never agree. He will never compromise at allcruelty is cruelty. On the other side are those who say, "We can self-regulate. We do not want to be messed about with". Generally, however, I think that the compromise solution as tabled by the gang of four is the sensible one. I think that, were it given the chance, it would be followed by the country at large.
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