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Lord Moran: This amendment has been put forward by three very distinguished representatives of Wales whom we are lucky to have in our House. I am only sorry that the late Lady White, who used to speak up so passionately for Wales when I first came to the House, is no longer alive because I can imagine what she would have said tonight.
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In his admirable speech on Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, spoke of the importance of hunting in his former constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire. Like the noble Lord who has just spoken, I have always failed to understand how, having decided to devolve some important responsibilities to Wales, some matters of deep concern to Wales' rural population have not been devolved. This was brought home to me tremendously during the foot and mouth crisis when the whole of the government policy was run, not at all efficiently, from London although it affected people deeply in Wales, and all the decisions were taken by people far away who knew nothing of the local problems. Now we have hunting which is quite different in Wales from what it is in most parts of England. Here again policy is decided in London.

As has been said, there is very strong support for hunting in Wales. The other day my wife and I had to go to our local graziers' meeting, which is something I always enjoy as the meeting is very outspoken. Nearly all the members who attend are working hill farmers. When the meeting broke up I was pushed into a corner and told in no uncertain terms what the members thought about the possibility of a hunting ban. I will not repeat all the things that they said about the House of Commons and the Prime Minister, but they felt very deeply about it.

Where I live in Radnorshire is wild and rocky country that suits foxes to a T. Hunting is really the only way to control them in the countryside, and they need to be controlled. It would have been far more sensible had Wales been allowed to make up its own mind on such issues, particularly on hunting. Conditions are very different, and it would be much more sensible for policy to be made by those who live in Wales and understand them. Reality being that they are not allowed to decide on the matter, I agree with what was put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts—that the National Assembly be allowed to control implementation of the Bill. I am therefore very glad to support the amendment.

Lord Monro of Langholm: It would be appropriate if a Scot gave some support to the Welsh in the debate. They certainly deserve it; they have put their case very strongly. As one who has been around Westminster far too long, I think that the Government's manipulation of the procedure in the House of Commons and here is a disgrace. Under the guise of having a free vote, they think that they can get away with anything, whether it is a guillotine or no time for discussion at Second Reading, in Committee, on Report or at Third Reading in another place, where it was all rushed through in a day merely to suit the Government's wish. It is no use the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, saying that the vote is free, that the matter is up to the Commons and all that. The Government organise everything; they have led the way into the trap and muddle in which we find ourselves.

I support my Welsh colleagues on the amendment. My old constituency of Dumfries is very similar to parts of Wales, in having deep and steep river valleys
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in which the only way to hunt foxes was on foot. In my lifetime, we have had three foot packs, one of which was very good until devolution. Welsh Members of the Committee rightly want to give the devolved Assembly the power to make the decision. I hope that they get a better decision out of it than we got from the Scottish Parliament, which all too quickly banned fox hunting and has been singularly unhelpful to the countryside generally. It is essential to have hill packs in Scotland, as it is in Wales. The valleys are too steep for horses, and one has to go on foot to find the earth on the hillsides. They have to be carefully managed in terms of hill lambing each spring. It is vital that we do not have a superfluous number of foxes, which do so much damage to the hill lambs in April and May.

We want to give all possible power to the Welsh Assembly on the matter, because I suspect that it has much greater knowledge of fox hunting on foot than the Scottish Parliament does. We have already lost the eight Scottish foxhound packs, although they are being revived as gun packs. There has been a loss to the countryside. Farming has been hit hard by the removal of the fallen stock option in relation to the hunt kennels. The Government have certainly not taken that sufficiently into consideration.

We Scots have seen how important it is to have packs of hounds, and how sad it is that we have lost them through devolution and a Parliament that does not understand the countryside. I hope that the Welsh Members of the Committee are more successful than the Scots.

Lord Elis-Thomas: I will not follow the noble Lord in casting any aspersions at the Scottish Parliament, as it looked after me rather well at the opening ceremony very recently. However, it is a pleasure to concur with the remarks in relation to foot packs and the nature of the countryside. I had not intended to speak at great length on the amendment, but I want to support it. In doing so, I obviously declare an interest as Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, at least for the next three years.

I want to try to impress on the Government that the issue is one on which they can pursue the much-heralded compromise that we heard about earlier. I detect nothing constitutionally out of order about Amendment No. 3 or the consequential amendments. However, I was bemused to see that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy—we have shared a valley for many years—had suddenly become a separatist. I assume that he is only a constitutional separatist for the purposes of the Bill; I shall stop there. The rest of the amendments are consequential on the proposal to give the Assembly order-making powers in lieu of those of the Secretary of State within the Bill.

One of my duties in the National Assembly is to sign the orders proposed by government Ministers and made by the Assembly because, under the relevant Act, they are signed by the Presiding Officer. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has regular dealings with agricultural and countryside ministerial colleagues in Wales; Alun Michael himself was once a Minister of
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ours, but I should not stray down that avenue either. My point is that the issue is a good example of where an order-making power—it could vary the way in which registration would function in Wales—could work effectively. It could take account of all the views conveyed by other Members of the Committee. I live in the middle of Snowdonia, and have those views conveyed to me forcefully every weekend. We feel it important that we should not only represent those viewpoints, but look for a tidy constitutional way to deal with them. The amendments on a registration system in Wales set up by resolution of the National Assembly on a piece of subordinate legislation seem the clear and obvious way of doing that.

The matter is not for the House of Commons, but one on which we would expect a view from the Minister. It is very much on the same wavelength as all the other devolution that has taken place on animal welfare and agriculture, as has been pointed out. The Government could make a gesture this evening, and at least indicate that the subject might be returned to during the Bill's passage through this House—even that something might be considered appropriate to be introduced in whatever form when the Bill returns to the House of Commons. That would reflect precisely the form of devolution that we have, in terms of its principle and practicalities. It is not the form that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, hopes to bring to us, but it is the form that we have, whereby primary legislation designed for England and Wales is then adapted by order, with the National Assembly standing in place of the Secretary of State.

I commend Members of the Committee on producing the amendment, and earnestly hope that the Government can see that it is a fine example of the compromise that they seek.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: In rising briefly, perhaps I can declare my interest as a non-Welshman in this debate among the Welsh. I support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Roberts for two reasons. First, I have spent time hunting in Wales, both on foot and mounted. I have also spent summer holidays in Wales riding there. I know very well all the reasons for this amendment and why it should be a separate matter. I agree entirely with what the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said. He has put the case for why the Welsh case is separate extremely well and I shall not go over it again.

Among those reasons are the number of sheep in Wales and the amount of money involved. We are always being told by those who seek reassurance from the inquiry of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, that only 2 per cent or 3 per cent of lambs are killed by foxes. However, if 2 per cent of the approximately 3 million ewes and 4 million lambs in Wales were killed by foxes, it would amount, at £50 per lamb, to a cost of about £5 million to the Welsh rural economy. I think that that should be taken into account. It is not a point that can be put on one side and forgotten. It is a lot of money to Welsh sheep farmers. I agree with everything that noble Lords have said on that.
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The fact that this amendment had to be tabled shows how utterly inadequate the Bill was when it came from the other place. It was railroaded through the other place. It did not have a Committee stage; it was deemed to have had a Committee stage, rather like Alice in Wonderland. So none of these points were examined there. Surely that is what we are here for. That goes to the heart of the weakness that we have to accept the Bill whole or reject it whole if we are not to be threatened with the Parliament Act. It seems utterly absurd that the whole problem for Welsh farming and the depredations of foxes on lambs and on farming should simply be dismissed with no discussion at all. It is so astonishing.

I hope that this amendment at least will find favour with the Committee, the Government and the other place. Surely it is a matter of natural justice. I strongly support the amendments in this group and what has been said about them. If there is a vote, I shall certainly join noble Lords in the Lobby.

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