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(1) Hunting by an individual is registered if he is the subject of individual registration in respect of
(a) wild mammals of the species hunted, and
(b) the area in which the hunting takes place.
(2) Hunting by an individual is also registered if
(a) he participates in hunting by a group,
(b) at least one of the group is registered under a group registration in respect of
(i) wild mammals of the species hunted, and
(ii) the area in which the hunting takes place, and
(c) his participation in the hunting is recorded under arrangements made in pursuance of section (Automatic conditions of group registration)(5).
(3) Hunting by an individual is also registered if
(a) he participates in hunting by a number of individuals,
(b) one of the individuals is the subject of individual registration in respect of
(i) wild mammals of the species hunted, and
(ii) the area in which the hunting takes place, and
(c) the condition of registration imposed by section (Automatic conditions of individual registration)(5) (maximum number of hunters) is complied with.
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(4) In this Act
"group registration" means registration under Part 1A pursuant to an application under section (Application on behalf of group), and
"individual registration" means registration under Part 1A pursuant to an application under section (Application by individual)."
The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 3, I should like to speak to the remainder of the amendments in this variegated group relating to Wales. They are mainly probing amendments at this stage. We shall all wish to study the impact of the stupendous vote that has just taken place. The success of the amendments that have just been voted on has an implication for some of the amendments in this group.
The thrust of the matter is that there really is no demand for this Bill in Wales, for the full spectrum of reasonsthe full gamutwith which we are all familiar. All the letters that I have received have been against it; they come from hunting and non-hunting people, and from all parts of Walesfrom Rhondda, Cynon Taf and Pembrokeshire in the south to Towyn, Llanrwst and Wrexham in the north. The counterpartthe need for hunting to continueis also very strongly felt in Wales.
I did not speak on Second Reading because I had expressed my views on a previous occasionon the second day of the Committee stage of the Bill last year. I shall certainly not repeat that speech in case the Government decide to withdraw the Bill at this stage too. But I described the unique importance of hunting with dogs, usually far more than two, and a ubiquitous scattering of terriers, in keeping down the fox population in an upland mountainous country with literally millions of sheep. The pest control motivation for hunting with dogs is very strong in Wales and is largely maintained by the farming community in its own interests and that of its flocks.
The temporary suspension of hunting during the foot and mouth crisis in 2001 led to an explosion in the fox population, and lamb losses soared. I had foxes camping on the lawn that summer in my home in the Conwy valley. So I have considerable sympathy with the arguments put forward by those who wish to disapply the Bill to Wales. My favoured amendment is Amendment No. 59 to Clause 17, which would simply exclude Wales from the extent of the Bill. Nevertheless, I recognise that the total exclusion of Wales may not be an acceptable proposition to the Government and their diehard supporters in the other place. In that event, my second preference would be for the implementation of the Bill to be governed by the National Assembly for Wales. It is to achieve that end that the bulk of the remaining amendments in this group is devoted.
The National Assembly would, one hopes, be more sensitive to the requirements of different areas and interests in Wales. It did, in fact, ask the First Minister,
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Mr Rhodri Morgan, to approach central government with a view to ensuring that any decision to ban hunting with dogs should be taken by the Assembly rather than by this Parliament. I am bound to say that that made good sense, as the Assembly already has devolved to it some powers related to agriculture and animal welfare.
In replying to a question from Mr Glyn Davies, a Conservative Member of the Assembly, on 12 October 2003, on the steps that the First Minister might have taken to ensure that any decision to ban hunting with dogs should be taken by the Assembly, the First Minister said:
"I wrote to Jack Straw, who was the Home Secretary at the time, asking him to take into account the request of the previous Assemblyif I recall correctly, this was in 2001to allow us to make that decision. He replied that he could not see any way of allowing that, because many hunts near the Wales-England border hunt across that border. He therefore thought that it would be unacceptable".
It seems to me that cross-border issues of that sort are usually soluble. They occur in the context of many England and Wales Bills in which the Assembly has powers, so I am surprised that that was advanced as a substantial reason for denying the Assembly a role in the Bill's implementation.
"There are other areas where, as you correctly identified, there is a different pattern of hunting foxes, with gun and foot packs. That is much more common among the 56 hunts in Wales. As far as I am aware, and I will write to you if I am wrong, the Bill, as it is presently constituted, allows for the continued use of dogs to flush out foxes for the purposes of pest control. If I am wrong about that, I will write to you".
I should have liked to see a clause in this Bill similar to Section 214 in the Education Act 2002, giving the Assembly a role in implementing the Bill in Wales. But that has never been on offer, so we have no option but to try to excise Wales from the scope of the Bill altogether or, failing that, to prescribe a role for the National Assembly as in the amendments in this group. I do not propose to go into them in further detail at this stage, but other Members of the Committee are welcome to do so. I beg to move.
The rationale behind the amendments is that many Defra functions have now been devolved to Walesmany more of them relating to agriculture than was first envisaged. The latest transfer of powers relates to veterinary decisions, particularly over disease control. The situation with regard to foot and mouth was very unsatisfactory during the outbreak, because decisions were being taken in London when the situation in Wales was totally different. That change recognises the fact that there is a very different situation in the countryside in Wales.
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One problem in Wales is that there is a huge proportion of monoculture conifer softwood down the central Cambrian mountains area. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of softwood. One might refer to those trees with a wry smile, as they were planted deliberately between 1947 and 1960 for pit props. In retrospect, we know that pit props were themselves to become virtually redundant. Therefore, there is a lot of woodland of very low value, which cannot compete with the woodland from the Baltic states, which have a higher quality of wood on the international market.
That woodland provides a reservoir for foxes; there are hundreds of thousands of foxes in that unnatural monoculture. There are also, to compound the problem, massive numbers of sheep. There are more sheep in Wales than there are in the whole of Scotland, which is quite something when one thinks about it. The stocking densities are higher in Wales than they are in New Zealandand sheep farming in those two countries can be compared because of the similarity in numbers of sheep. The fox is unfortunately the main predator on lambs, and there are very substantial losses of lambs from the predation of foxes. Much evidence on that matter was given in the Burns inquiry and in the Portcullis House hearings. Local evidence will prove crucial with regard to licensing and registration.
There are 49 hound packs in Wales and another seven or eight that cross the border and hunt in both countries. Indeed, the number of amendments in the group is large to cover the differences between Wales and England in terms of foxes, and they give powers to the National Assembly. For example, Amendment No. 3 would allow the National Assembly to vary a class of hunting. Amendment No. 12 would amend Amendment No. 11, which refers to registration. It ensures that the Bill is specific to England, because Wales needs special attention in this respect. The same applies to Amendment No. 14.
Amendment No. 15 ensures that the National Assembly for Wales can appoint a registrar for Wales. That means that someone who is knowledgeable and truly independent and who knows the situation of foxes and hunts in Wales can assist from a completely objective point of view.
Amendment No. 54 concerns the time when the Act comes into force. The point behind that amendment is that we want a separate decision from the National Assembly for Wales, which may need to be different. That power is found in Amendment No. 55. Amendment No. 59 would take Wales out of the Bill, and action would be decided by the National Assembly for Wales. Under Amendment No. 86, appeals would be provided for in Wales and the tribunal would sit in Wales, so disputes could be heard and settlements made locally.
So there are specific amendments to recognise the differences in Wales concerning the Bill. From what I said earlier, it is clear that, especially concerning registration, it is necessary that all those differences are taken into account. There is a democratic body to do so, and those decisions should be devolved to it.
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