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Lord Whitty: First, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that I have never accused him of being, nor do I find him, boring; he can be a little lengthy at times, but he is always interesting. On this occasion he is being quite deliberately disingenuous. He referred to this
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as a small, although important amendment, whereas some of the subsequent contributions have clearly shown that this is designed—whether it will do so or not—to drive a coach and horses through what was the utility test as set out in the original Alun Michael Bill.

Noble Lords who opposed the original ban, and who have proposed this amendment, are trying to convince the outside world, and presumably the House of Commons, that all they are doing is bringing back the original government Bill. This debate shows quite clearly that that is not their intention. Their intention is to go much wider than that. The amendment purports to reinstate the tests of utility and least suffering, which were the key tests of the original Bill, but it extends it substantially.

The test of utility in the original Bill, as introduced, would have permitted hunting only for pest control; that is to say,

That was the original Bill, which was further clarified by an amendment made in Committee which expressly referred to pest control. But that did not change the effect of the test; it merely clarified it.

This amendment goes much wider than the original Bill by including a whole new category of purpose for which hunting can be undertaken—the management of wildlife, which in itself is a fairly wide term. There was good reason for not including that in the original Bill and that good reason remains. In the case of the main quarry species, it is hard to see what population control measures are necessary other than those needed to prevent the damage that they caused to livestock, to crops, to other property, or to biodiversity, all of which is covered by the reference to pest control.

Even if there were a wider need for population control, the Burns report, which I have not hitherto quoted in this debate—it has been referred to again today—makes it clear that with very limited exceptions, hunting with dogs makes little or no contribution to the management of foxes, hare or mink.

Baroness Golding: Can the Minister tell me why in Iceland 6,500 mink are caught every year using dogs?

Lord Whitty: My noble friend has a greater experience of Iceland than I do. I am sure that the conditions in Iceland are somewhat different from the conditions here because, as my noble friend Lord Hoyle has pointed out, a very small proportion of mink which are culled are culled by hunting with dogs. That is also the position with all these other species. I do not understand the argument of the alternative methods of control of wildlife; we are talking about a Bill dealing with hunting with dogs.

In the case of foxes, about 7 per cent of all foxes are killed by hunting with dogs. The vast majority of the rest are killed by other methods of culling. Of course, we need management of wildlife for reasons of biodiversity and the rest but, of course, we will have some culling. The culling operation will be similar to
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that which operates already in the vast majority of cases, and which the Bill does not touch. Therefore, I think that those are pretty spurious arguments.

It is true, and I come to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord King, that a slightly better case was made to the noble Lord, Lord Burns, on the management of the deer population, specifically on Exmoor. But it is also true that similar deer populations are now flourishing in other parts of the country without the intervention of hunting with dogs.

The Earl of Onslow: To which red deer populations does that apply? I accept the point in relation to muntjac, roebuck and sika deer, but I do not think that the Minister is talking about red deer.

Lord Whitty: I think that one would find red deer flourishing in Scotland and in places in the northern counties of England. If the noble Earl wishes, I can identify those places more accurately. But, of course, we are talking about all species of deer and not solely one species.

Let me spell out what we are doing with these amendments. The original Bill prohibited all hunting with dogs of any species of deer. We have already—by what amounts to a sleight of hand—deleted that prohibition. The Committee is now, by widely extending the quality definition, decrying a justification of the deletion of that exception so that deer hunting with dogs can pass a much broader utility test than the original Bill intended.

Under that new broader definition, deer hunting may well pass the utility test, but it is doubtful whether it will pass the least suffering test. The Committee is therefore diluting the final position that the House of Commons took on the least suffering test. It is providing belt and braces for a coach and horses—if I may mix my metaphors. It is effectively creating a huge hole in the Bill by adding to the cumulative changes made to the Government's original Bill.

So let us not go on pretending that, in very important respects, what the Committee now seems intent on sending back to the Commons at all resembles the Alun Michael Bill. Much of the detail will be the same, but in important key respects, including the one covered by this amendment, it is not the equivalent of the Bill that the House of Commons received.

Lord King of Bridgwater: Did I hear the Minister say that deer hunting would not pass the test of least suffering? That is a serious repudiation of the Burns report. I should be very interested to hear on what basis he makes that statement.

Lord Whitty: I think that what I actually said was that if deer hunting passed the utility test, there must be doubt about whether it could pass the least suffering test. We have claimed—I think that I have consistently claimed—that we proposed the original prohibition on deer hunting because there was no way that hunting deer with dogs could pass the least suffering test. Stalking and
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shooting or the straightforward shooting of deer would cause less suffering to the animal than hunting with dogs. Experienced hunters are considerably less likely to miss a deer than a rabbit or a fox. That has been the argument throughout.

I am not saying that it is an absolute certainty that they would not pass the least suffering test, but I am saying that one of the motivations for not only hugely widening the utility test, but diluting the least suffering test, is to justify the deletion of the prohibition on deer hunting. I do not think that that will be understood in either the House of Commons or the country generally. There is substantial support for banning deer hunting.

Lord Monson: Is not the Minister's case based on a misconception? At Second Reading, he said:

Is he not aware that this does not happen in deer hunting? It might have happened in the past, but it does not happen any longer.

Lord Whitty: I agree that the issue of fox hunting is not entirely analogous with deer hunting, although there are still occasions when that does happen. The point is that we are creating serious distress for the animal, and we are ultimately destroying—and, in some cases, tearing apart—the animal. It is unnecessary cruelty, both in the chase and the ultimate destruction. In this Bill, we are trying to ban—by registration or by a direct ban—unnecessary cruelty. We recognise that the countryside sometimes requires some cruelty, but that is unnecessary cruelty. That is why the test of least suffering is important and why any dilution of that test over and above what the Commons intended is a very serious dilution of the Bill and its intent.

Baroness Mallalieu: The Minister may have made a slip of the tongue, as I am sure that he has been properly briefed, about the way in which a deer meets its end at the end of deer hunting. The end is by a direct shot to the brain—something that is almost never possible with stalking—which results in instant death. The deer is not torn to pieces or touched by the hounds, and death is instantaneous.

Lord Whitty: That is after several miles of chase, and that is not absolutely always the case, as we know.

My point is that people will take different judgments. No doubt, now that we have a registration system that the Committee would want in the Bill, the registrar may take different judgments on what constitutes least suffering. However, the motivation behind this amendment is to justify a deletion from the original Bill. That deletion requires justification. The Committee is broadening one of the tests and diluting another. That is not the way in which to reach a
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compromise with the House of Commons. Nor is it a way to convince the country. I therefore oppose the amendment.

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