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Lord King of Bridgwater: I rise briefly to support the Motion that Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill. I am
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suffering a certain amount of shock, as, I am sure, is the Minister, for whom I have a growing sense of sympathy due to the position in which he finds himself. He gave clear advice to the House and then found that his noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor had voted against him, as did a number of his ministerial colleagues, in what was, in my brief experience of this House, a fairly overwhelming vote in favour of the setting up of registered hunting.
I am concerned about Clause 2 because of the continual problem of registration, regulation, licensing, or whichever word one chooses, and the complexities that it brings with it. I am an unashamed admirer of, and would prefer to see, self-regulation, for the reasons that I gave a little earlier. There is no question that one success that those who are opposed to cruelty and hunting can claim is that hunting is now in the spotlight and that the hunting community is determined to see that its activities are conducted in an acceptable and fair way.
From the debates at Second Reading and earlier today, it is clear that a number of Members who are opposed to hunting, and who have expressed their views clearly, have had unpleasant experiences. Having heard a description of those experiences, no noble Lord will have had any difficulty in recognising them to be quite unacceptable and matters on which, in the current climate and the foreseeable future, the Masters of Foxhounds Association and others will have no hesitation in taking drastic action. That is a success.
Lord Hoyle: I think that the noble Lord will agree that it was disgraceful to invade the Chamber of the House of Commons. Can he explain to me what action has been taken against those people by any master of foxhounds?
Lord King of Bridgwater: As the noble Lord will know, that is a matter for the police. Of course, the invasion was wrong. I do not think that we want to overdramatise it. Although they should certainly not have been there and it was wrong that they were there, I do not think that those involved in the Chamber did any damage. I believe that they assisted the Deputy Serjeant at Arms to his feet when he fell over, and they behaved in an otherwise courteous way. However, the invasion was unacceptable, and the noble Lord and I, who have served in another place, would be the first to defend the sanctity of the House of Commons and its Chamber. I hope that the noble Lord is not suggesting that that is a reason to ban hunting, as I do not think that that argument would stand. However, he has had unpleasant experiences.
Lord King of Bridgwater: The noble Lord made his personal view absolutely clear. He thinks that hunting is cruel and he does not accept cruelty. Of course, he
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has not studied the matter with anything like the depth that the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and his commission have done. The noble Lord, Lord Burns, made clear that his commission did not find that hunting was cruel and they made that clear in their report. The noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, has his personal view, which he is perfectly entitled to have. But he is seeking
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I understand that the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, does not wish to give way at this point. It is Committee, and my noble friend can intervene later. I repeat my warning that we are debating at length whether a clause shall stand part of the Bill, but we shall come to that clause later. The Committee may like to know that the whole debate may be repeated then, and it may not wish that to happen.
Lord King of Bridgwater: In the interests of the Committee and of time, the noble Lord will excuse me if I do not engage in a running interchange. I know that his views are different from mine. I am simply making a valid point, and I hope that he will allow me the freedom to make it. He has a personal view about cruelty. It is not a view that I share. From the vote, it will be clear to him that it is not a view that the vast majority in the Committee shares. Against that background, I am obviously disappointed that the noble Lord feels that he should seek to impose his view, as have those in another place. They not only disagree with the other view but they are compelling other people not to pursue what they think is right.
The reason that I rose to speak is that the new clause proposed in Amendment No. 2 is the start of the process of debate on various amendments relating to registered hunting. That is the new clause that we shall add to the Bill if the Committee decides to vote for it.
The reason that I was disappointed with the comments of the Minister is that we in this Chamber have another duty. Having said that I think that it is the least worst alternative to my preferred optionI am compromising on that and am prepared to say that we should go for registrationif we put it in place, we have a duty to ensure that it is workable.
Having inherited a Bill which the Ministers responsible for it themselves say is not workable, the biggest crime that we could commit would be to introduce a registration system that was not workable. That is why I attach such importance to the amendments which are not before us at present and which, in the interests of the noble Baroness, I shall not discuss. But the principle of registration, establishing the new clause and ensuring that we debate the further issues and make it workable are very important.
Lord Jopling: I shall speak briefly. I have a great deal of sympathy for the remarks expressed by my noble
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friend Lord Astor a short time ago. I am uneasy about Clause 2(2). The noble Baroness will be glad to hear that I shall not go into the detail of Schedule 1, but that schedule is a very extended piece of literature.
It seems to me that if the Bill were to go through with Clause 2 in its present form, giving the Secretary of State the power to amend by order any class of exempt hunting in Schedule 1, a coach and horses could be driven through the Bill by the very simple parliamentary device of laying an order. It does not say here, although I imagine that it is stated somewhere in the Bill, whether it is an affirmative or negative order, and those are very different matters. I should have much preferred the Bill to say that the Secretary of State may by order amend Schedule 1 so as to extend, rather than vary, a class of exempt hunting.
We may go through the whole parliamentary process of this House and another place by making amendments to the Bill. It must go through the process of primary legislation, but the Bill could be changed completely by the device of laying a statutory instrument. I think that that is very dangerous and perhaps we should think about that between now and Report.
Lord Whitty: My reply will be slightly strange because issues have been raised on a schedule on which we have subsequent amendments and, with one or two honourable exceptions, on more general points in a debate on clause stand part. I do not believe that that is an appropriate use of a debate on clause stand part.
The key issue which relates to the clause stand part debate was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, and referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling. Almost all the other remarks were either general or related to something that will arise under Schedule 1. I shall deal first with the point that the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, raised.
The second part of the clause includes a provision allowing the Secretary of State, by order, to vary an exemption as provided in Schedule 1. That is a much more limited power than the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, feared. It does not permit new exemptions to be added, or ones that are there to be subtracted. But it enables the detailed conditions set out in Schedule 1, relating to those different mammals or operations, to be varied in the light principally of changes in best practice for securing animal welfare outcomes. In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, those changes would be subject to affirmative rather than to negative resolution.
To be honest, I believe that was the only point on Clause 2 as it stands, which is a clause that was in the original Bill. As it introduces Schedule 1, it applies
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equally well to a registration system and to a ban. I do not believe that any other points were made on the clause to which I need reply.
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