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Earl Peel: Can the Minister tell the Committee how we can get a compromise?

Lord Whitty: As I said yesterday, I am not the person with whom you have to negotiate. As I indicated to the Committee, you definitely will not find compromise on some matters.

The Earl of Onslow: Perhaps I may help the Minister. Yesterday, the Prime Minister let it be known via a Downing Street spokesman that he would like a compromise. May I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, that he trot up the street to Downing Street, knock on the door and say, "Oh, Prime Minister, what sort of compromise would you like"? Then, he could come back to the Committee and say, "I have seen the Prime Minister and found the compromise that he would like". After all, that is what the Lord Chancellor voted for yesterday. So I see that the Government are lovely and split over this.

Lord Whitty: I have one vote in this House, the Lord Chancellor has one vote in this House and the Prime Minister has one vote in another place. This is a free vote.

What I am pointing out to the noble Earl and the Committee is that, in order to change the mind of the House of Commons, one does not send back to it a Bill that, from its point of view, is worse than the one that it has already rejected. If the message has not got across to the Committee yet, then I despair. I shall not intervene all that frequently later today. I would just underline that this amendment, if passed, would add to that message which you are sending to the Commons and the country.

Baroness Byford: I should like to lower the heat of the debate. I think that it is rising slightly, and that does not help anyone. The problem for the Committee is that, whatever happens to the Bill after it returns to the Commons—and I am sure that all noble Lords want to return it to the Commons—we have no confidence that the Commons will debate one word of what has been said. That is why it is so important that we get it right now.

Lord Whitty: Whatever Bill this House sends back to the House of Commons, the House of Commons will give it due consideration.

Viscount Bledisloe: I fail to understand what the Minister is suggesting the Committee should do. He said, "The amendment, if passed". Yesterday, by a somewhat large majority—indeed, by a majority of Labour Peers—this Committee voted in favour of registration. It is inherent in a system of registration that there is a test to decide how one should register. However, only one test is being proposed to the
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Committee today. If the Minister is suggesting that anyone, including himself or any of his Back-Benchers, could vote against this test, he is proposing to wreck the vote passed yesterday and to end the Committee stage with a Bill that is meaningless if it provides for registration but no test.

If the noble Lord does not like this test of registration, he should either have suggested an alternative test or proposed an amendment to this test. Is the noble Lord really suggesting that this Committee stage should end with a Bill that says that there shall be registration but has no provisions for a test for registration? If so, the noble Lord is making a mockery of the parliamentary system.

Lord Whitty: I am deeply puzzled by that intervention. I have not sought to reopen the decision made yesterday on registration; I have accepted that we are working in a context of registration and that we have to have tests for registration. I am objecting to the fact that the tests proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, are nothing like those in the original government Bill, which several noble Lords have asserted they are trying to return to the Commons.

Yes, there is only one amendment before us today, but we have subsequent stages. If the amendment is passed, noble Lords will be sending a signal to the Commons that they do not want to go back to the original government Bill, but want to go way, way beyond it and dilute all its implications. If the amendment is defeated today, there will be a chance at subsequent stages of putting back something like what was in the original Bill. It is absolutely absurd to assert that I am somehow subverting parliamentary procedure by making this rather obvious rational point to the Committee and giving kindly advice.

Viscount Bledisloe: I am not suggesting that by saying this is not a very good amendment and that it will be improved later, the noble Lord may not be well in order in his argument. But surely it is the duty of the Committee to end up with a Bill at each stage which is coherent. The noble Lord appears to be suggesting that we should finish the Committee stage with no test for registration whatever. Is that really what he is proposing?

Lord Whitty: I think that I have made my position clear. It is frequently the case in this House that the Committee cannot agree on a particular part of a Bill and returns to the subject at a later stage. Quite why the noble Viscount is getting so exercised, I do not know.

Earl Ferrers: There is one point which the noble Lord has not made quite clear, and I should be grateful if he would consider it. Deer hunting and fox hunting are important, but we come back to mink hunting. As the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, asked, what does Defra intend to do? If you cannot hunt mink with hounds,
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how do you control them? You cannot shoot them, can you? How else do you control them? It is all very fine the noble Lord bringing in a Bill just to stop one kind of control, but you have to put something in its place. Perhaps the noble Lord would be good enough to address his mind to this question, which I have asked before: how does he propose that mink should be controlled?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I have to tell the House, on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who has patiently been trying to draw the debate to a conclusion, that I believe this is the appropriate moment.

Earl Ferrers: With the greatest of respect, the noble Baroness cannot get away with that. I asked the noble Lord a perfectly good question and he is perfectly capable of replying without the noble Baroness's intervention.

Lord Mancroft: I rather think it is the view of the Committee that we should try to draw these happy proceedings to a close. At one point, I thought we were having rather an interesting debate.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, said, it is widely recognised that you have to manage your wildlife. The noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, questioned that concept, and I understand why. The reality is that everybody around the world and in this country accepts that you have to do this. The culling of wildlife is only a part of that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, drew our attention to otters and badgers, which are very important in this context. Otters are on the protected list, and remain so to encourage their population to increase to a sustainable level. I am delighted to say that it is slowly reaching that level, and let us hope that it does so soon. On the other hand, the badger is massively over-populated, a result of which, as is widely known, is the increase in tuberculosis. If populations of animals increase too much because they are not managed, they become diseased. That is what has happened to the badger population since protection. So protection is not the only answer; it is one answer and it sometimes causes a bigger problem than going down other routes.

My noble friend Lord King drew our attention to what is happening in the west country at Baronsdown where an artificial population of deer is being encouraged. As the Minister's vets will tell him, the deer have chronic infestation of worm, both lungworm and intestinal worm, and there is a significant reservoir of tuberculosis—the first major reservoir of tuberculosis infection in the deer population. Why? Because the League Against Cruel Sports is artificially concentrating wild deer, which is incredibly irresponsible. That is not management, it is exactly what we should not be doing. That is why we should be managing populations and managing wildlife. As I said, management is not just about culling.
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My noble friend Lord Eden drew our attention to the fact that the management of habitat is extremely important. The noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, asked whether most farmers now managed their habitat in such a way as to encourage biodiversity. The answer is, increasingly, yes, but as the Durrell Institute report last year said, the best examples of management of habitat for all species are on those farms and estates that are managed for shooting and hunting. If we take those voluntary motivations away, the subsidies that are given for that sort of habitat management are not of a sufficient level to encourage a high enough standard of protection and management of biodiversity, and added motivation is required. Added motivation means hunting and shooting. That is why Her Majesty's Government are subsidising projects that do exactly that in Africa and in other countries. That is what they are attempting to achieve.

The noble Baroness, Lady Golding, drew our attention to a similar problem in a more difficult area. Mink are not an indigenous species. I do not particularly wish harm on anything, but I rather wish that mink would go the same way as coypu and that we could eliminate them. I believe that a responsible government would be finding out how to get rid of this alien species which has done so much damage to our wildlife, because we are not adequately managing that.

This shows that management is extremely difficult but, more than that, it is incredibly important. If we do not manage our wildlife—that means protecting populations, protecting habitats to allow breeding and having closed seasons at one end of the scale and culling at the other—we shall not have any wildlife. That is why it is an international obligation for our government to adopt policies. Part of that is the responsibility of individual landowners and land managers to manage and cull the wildlife on the property they manage. That is a legal obligation in this country. The Government, by pushing the Bill through in the form in which it came to your Lordships' House last week, will be limiting farmers' and land managers' ability to do that. That is why we have suggested the change to the utility test.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, accused me of being disingenuous. I am not really certain how I can have been. When he opened the debate yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, explained exactly what we were doing with the Bill; I explained it at length yesterday, and the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, did as well. I explained the change and the reason for it as openly as possible and at as much length as I thought your Lordships could stand when I introduced the amendment. I am not really sure that that can be described as disingenuous.

I am also not certain that asking Her Majesty's Government, through a major piece of primary legislation, to accept their international and national obligations to manage wildlife can exactly be described as driving a coach and horses through a Bill. It is the responsible and correct thing to do, plain and simple.
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The problem, at which I hinted yesterday, is that after years and years of considering the question of hunting, it is entirely apparent that those who are opposed to it do not understand what it is about. Hunting is not pest control. It never has been; it never will be; it never was. Hunting is part of a complex system of community wildlife management, as described in all the international agreements that we have signed, are party to and have funded in other parts of the world.

We need to control populations not just because they cause damage, which is what pest control is about. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, drew attention to it; it is very important. That is why it is one of the criteria. If you are a farmer, a gamekeeper or someone who is getting damage from deer, foxes, hares or mink, of course you must manage them and you regard them as a pest.

I am not a farmer or a gamekeeper. I do not suffer from damage from deer or foxes but, like most noble Lords on all sides of this debate, I adore the wildlife that we have in this country and I know that if we do not manage it, which includes culling it as well as providing habitat, we will not have any. We manage it for its good and for our good because it is a national asset. That is why people visit Exmoor to see those amazing deer. They are a community asset and they are managed by the community.

So when the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, says, "I do not understand", I believe him. He clearly does not understand. He mentioned other deer. He is quite right: there are red deer herds in Thetford Forest in Norfolk and in the Lake District and, of course, all over Scotland. But let us look at deer management in Scotland. As my noble friend Lord Pearson said, it is extremely difficult. It is so difficult that the Scottish Executive has to use helicopters to drive the deer across the hill to a cull, to a line of waiting rifles where half of them are shot on the move and wounded, where the keepers are so appalled that they refuse to do it again, where the deer are then dragged through the faeces of other stock, breaking every national and international rule. That is management by the state. In anyone's book, that is unacceptable. That is how the Scottish Executive managed it. I hope to God that we never have to see that here in England.

So we must have wildlife management. It is absolutely essential. It is not gold plating or a coach and horses. It is none of those things; it is exactly what we should be doing. It is not just about welfare; it is about our responsibilities for this amazing island that we live in. The Bill before us today affects four of the most important—three of the most important and one of the most undesirable—species of mammals in this country. We must face the matter head-on and address it in the best way that we possibly can. That is the motivation behind the amendment: not a coach and horses; not irritating another place; not winding up the Government; but doing what we should be doing in a wildlife management Bill—managing wildlife.
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When we started our debates, the Minister described himself as an honest broker between this House and another place. I hope that he will fulfil that role: I think that your Lordships would appreciate it and I think that the other place would appreciate it. But in his winding-up speech, he did not come over as an honest broker in a way that would help us to find a way through. I do not know how we will end up, but I know that when you negotiate anything there are two prerequisites to negotiation. One is that all parties conduct themselves in good faith; and the other is that all parties demonstrate their ability to deliver. We are operating in good faith and I am pretty certain that we can deliver. I hope that the Government can. I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 10) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 194; Not-Contents, 57.

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